Torso Electronics S-4 is out now: a portable 4-track “tape machine” sampler for modern sound designers

Update

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Torso Electronics S-4 is a new portable sampler device bringing the tape workflow into the modern era paired with advanced sound sculpting features.

And there you go. The Torso Electronics S-4 is out now. The first batch was delivered at the end of April. According to TE, the second batch is already sold out, and shipping will start at the end of May.

But you can pre-order the device for 899€ in the third batch, which will then be delivered in July 2024. 

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Update From January 17th, 2024

In November 2023, the makers of the inspiring T-1 algorithm sequencer announced the S-4.  t is Torso Electronics’ second product and is also unique.

It’s a sampler and sound processor with a tape machine’s workflow. For the announcement, there were only a few demos available. Over the last weeks, Torso uploaded several small video demos showcasing the device. 

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Article From November 16, 2023 

The T-1 was the first product from the young Danish company Torso Electronics. A MIDI sequencer that broke new ground thanks to intelligent and user-customizable algorithms.

But it doesn’t stop with a MIDI sequencer. Today, Torso expands its portfolio with its first instrument. This is just as different and playful as the T-1.

Torso Electronics S-4

“Sound is not just an auditory experience; it’s a tactile, living entity that evolves in real-time. The S-4 Sculpting Sampler is designed to be an extension of the artist’s imagination, offering an infinite canvas to mold, carve, and transform sound in the most intuitive way possible,” says Lars Buchholtz, CEO of Torso Electronics.

Torso Electronics S-4

The S-4 is a new portable sound design exploration machine or, in Torso’s words, a sculpting sampler. Sampling is only a part of what the instrument can do. It’s more of a door opener for many sound-sculpting adventures. 

Torso’s first instrument is made of aluminum and has a beautiful, classic matte black finish. At only 820g, it is a very portable and light device that easily fits into any bag. I kind of get Monome Norns vibes looking at the hardware; who else?

The core of the S-4 is powered by a quad-core 1.5 GHz processor with 4GB flash memory. Sufficient power for long sound design sessions. 4GB, on the other hand, isn’t very much, I hope you can expand it externally via USB.

There are no surprises on the interface side: a high-resolution LCD color display, 21 tactile RGB buttons, and nine high-quality endless encoders. 

Torso Electronics S-4

A Sound Sculpting Engine

Small device, but big, powerful, and fun engine. Interestingly, Torso doesn’t go the groovebox direction with the S-4, but adapts the immediate, fun workflow of vintage tape machines to a modern area instrument. This is also reflected in the S-4 operation. Everything is very direct and made to do live experiments

The engine’s center is a stereo sampler with four parallel stereo tracks. You can feed them with live audio via the line inputs (real-time sampling) or import ready-made samples. You can use various modes, including stereo tape, offering a wide range of live audio and looping capabilities.

Since the device is still in full development, Torso can’t say all the details of what the sampling engine can do. But expect features like start and stop manipulation, time-stretch, and more. This material can then be routed to other processors, which opens further the sonic door.

Colorful Bouquet Of Creative Processors

First, it hosts a live granular processor with time-warping and pitch-shifting algorithms. The full feature set, including the maximum grain amount, are not yet fixed. But it shows in which direction it goes and that you can use the S4 as a quad granular sampler.

In addition to granular processing, the S-4 also offers exciting filtering options. But not the classic lowpass/highpass filtering. The Torso developers have implemented a morphing resonator powered by a 48-band tuned filter bank, giving you unique sound-shaping options.

All the in-depth details about the filter block are still missing, but I can imagine that you can achieve physical modeling-like, organic tones with it.

In two further engine blocks, you can add color and space to your sample content. The color section will feature a collection of effects made for sonic destruction, like bit-crushing, drive, distortion, and compression.

Space, on the other side, gives you everything to raise your soundscapes into sound clouds with a reverb/delay combo with pitch-shifting and shimmer.

Modulation A La Torso

Torso’s first product was an algorithmic MIDI sequencer packed with exciting, inspiring features. This know-how will be found in modulation. S-4 will feature four modulators per track supported by a unique modulation system, allowing you to bring life to any parameters. 

Choose between a range of different modulators, from complex LFOs, and generative sequencers to envelopes, says Torso Electronics. That sounds like a lot of flexibility and fun.  

Connectivity 

On the back, the S-4 offers everything a live musician and studio producer needs: a stereo input/output on two mono 6.35mm line inputs/outputs, a stereo 3.5mm headphone socket,  and a TRS-MIDI in/out.

Plus, you get analog sync in/out for working seamlessly with external gear and, a USB-C port, and a power supply input.

Not to forget, it also features a WiFI module with Ableton Link support. And you can turn it into a class-compliant USB audio interface with the option to expand the inputs and outputs via another USB interface. 

 

(Early) First Impression

Since the device is still in development, it is difficult to make a first impression. But I really like what I see so far. Above all that Torso doesn’t go the groovebox route but of a modern tape sampler without being fixated on a grid. 

Features like real-time granular processing and resonator are very promising, and I’m excited to see what will be possible.

Torso Electronics S-4 is available now for pre-order for 899€. Shipping starts in March 2024. 

More information here: Torso Electronics

Hardware Sampler News

34 Comments

  1. Looks really interesting. Yet, unfortunately memory could be a dealbreaker at that price. No SD card then?

    I foresee Denmark vs Holland granular cage fight 😊

    • No SD card, but just connect a USB-C-stick and happily use all the samples from there. It is a great machine and I am thoroughly enjoying it so far.

  2. Interesting, but expensive. Lots of new samplers on the way. The wofi, chompy, tempera, and now this s4. I would buy them all up if I could but I’ll stick to my sp404 mk2, it really can not be beat for bang for the buck. If I was looking for granular I would probably put my money on the tempera or try out the lemon drop from 1010music for cheaper options. I’ll wait to hear more about it though.

  3. I owned the T-1 and liked it a lot, but sold it bc it’s just not worth the price. This is even more expensive with obvious deficiencies from the get go, too many companies following the TE pricing route. Meant for an industrial design showcase in a museum, not someone’s studio.

  4. On the homepage it says: “4 GB flash memory (sample pool)”
    Hope that there is more memory for the “tape machine” functionality !?
    Also NO SD card is an oversight imho.

    All other specs and that it can function as an effects processor as well as a sound card is impressive!

    • as I commented above, you can connect a USB-C memory stick, so yes, there is a “SD-card” 😉

  5. just read: “load samples from the S-4’s flash memory or an external drive.”

    external drive could save the day …

    • It’s doing the sort of thing that I would use the MacBook for. I guess there’s some sort of synergy between hardware and software that’s cool in a tractor product but explain to me why this can’t just be software.

      • You have to see the difference between hardware and software and if you dont or are unwilling to see them as different platforms then there is not much convincing to be done here. Midi controllers have a market because they are hardware that controls software, aka, people like knobs and sliders. Others like single pieces of gear with a purpose, limitations that spark creativity with a singular focus of managing a single platform. But this is an age old argument, similar to the “my ipad can do that”. Its like why own a pino when you can have a piano sampler instrument and a midi controller. Boils down to “people like hardware”. The End.

  6. This is definitely an investment that should be justified by its capacity as a standalone unit. The need for external memory (and not battery power) is such a letdown. Why do companies keep doing this! A terrible example is the MC-707. They neutered it. I love the idea of a tape machine style recording. But then you need the memory to back it up right. There is a gap in the market for a great desktop sampler/groovebox with a smart UI.

      • But that is where the external SSD goes, or how the unit is to be powered if you don’t want to bring along the big power brick… now we are into USB-C hub territory to plug in all these different things. Not elegant.

        • don’t forget the unit has 4GB of internal memory. Filling these with audio takes a while, especially with the workflow that you don’t have 10,000 samples on the device but record using tape-style method, loop the content on the fly, etc. It doesn’t want to be an MPC or Maschine where you buy tons of expansions etc. where you need a lot of GBs.

          • Yeah, I think people forgot how much 4 GB of memory is. Didnt stop the digitakt. 4 Gb sounds small until you look at your octatrack 8GB CF card and realize you only have like 3Gb on there and a bunch of full songs ready to go. I think 4GB is fine, go external, load and unload.

  7. iPad with a soundcard, 4 tracks, 8 tracks, 32 tracks… all the same effects, midi, plugins, softsynths, inter-app audio.
    This is just 4 tracks, limited by a hardware paradigm that plugging a soundcard into an ipad would totally destroy?!!?!?

    • sure, iPad is a killer device but requires additional things. Two different workflows. There are musicians who don’t want to use iPads or any sort of personal computer things but prefer standalone devices that runs on its own. I uses both worlds, iPads and standalone devices.

      • Well, both have CPU’s, RAM, Storage and the ability to interface, both have an OS, both are computing devices and I’m going to break it to you gently…the iPad is a standalone device.
        The very slight drawback of having to plug in an audio interface is utterly outshone by the incredible software available for the iPad.
        The S4 is a $300 device wearing the naked suit.±
        There’s just no little boy laughing and pointing.

        • As I said, I’m using both and I support both worlds. There are price difference sure, a good iPad Pro also costs $799 minimum + a good interface ($200 min) so it’s also not on the super cheap side. I mean with standalone that you turn it on and it works without extra installation of apps or so.

          I love to use iPads for live performances. I had good and bad experiences (audio glitches using an audio interface, app crashes…). I can’t understand that people don’t want to deal with extra audio interface, OS updates, etc.

          Both worlds are fine and good to have the choice on the market. Everyone should work the way they like.

          • Don’t need an iPad Pro, the base model would destroy those tasks.
            Even the cheapest iPad is ridiculously OP these days, it can run iOS Logic without breaking a sweat.
            The problem is that this is a phase we see way too much of recently, super costly one-off devices (see Teenage Engineering etc etc) that only really appeal to people with overblown G.A.S. and a weird need for bragging rights.

          • I uses an OP-1 Field and an iPad. I don’t see the OP1 as a “one-off devices”, it inspires more than my 200+ apps on my iPad. It just how the workflow is and how quick you come up with ideas. And again it’s a workflow thing. Maybe I have weird needs but I’m happy with it. That’s the most import thing. One part can be happy with iPads, others with standalone devices.

            It doesn’t have to be a fight which is better or cheaper. Everyone should use gear that inspires.

            No matter how much power they have or how much they cost more or less. Good examples are Trentemoller or Alessandro Cortini with NIN. They use the OP-1 on the big stage. They could also use an iPad. Why, probably because the device fits their own workflow.

          • “Far from everyone wants to support Apple”
            Who cares about that?
            It’s just a box.
            They’re all just boxes with CPUs and RAM.
            Some cost way more than they should, some don’t.
            One thing is true, incontravertably true.
            IN-CON-TRA-VERT-ABLY TRUE.
            An iPad could do this in it’s sleep and WAY more to boot.
            Nerd GAS on steroids.

  8. I have the T1. When it’s good it’s great but it can be totally mystifying and frustrating also. I’m really not feeling this device though. A 1010 Music BlackBox (three stereo outs) plus some decent FX pedals will absolutely beat this hands down IMO

  9. There is no „iPad vs. hardware“ war zone needed, but I expect a serious publisher of synth news to always discuss the question how some piece of hardware compares to iPad nowadays. Still you are very lucky that your readers do this for you, but that might change if they feel that this site is just a marketing outlet.

    • in case if you don’t yet: there is no iPad vs hardware thing. It’s simply a workflow thing of musician. If a musician feels more home on hardware than on an iPad, it’s fine. Same if you are more on iPads. There are tools on hardware and software, what an amazing world. So take that what you enjoy more.

      Comparing both worlds doesn’t make sense to me as they are very different: from the developer side, from the user experience, etc. Like comparing a real Prophet 5 and a virtual Prophet 5. Both things gives you almost the same sound but it’s a different playing experience. Both has advantages and disadvantages.

      “Still you are very lucky that your readers do this for you, but that might change if they feel that this site is just a marketing outlet.”

      That’s the point of a discussion. I don’t have a 48 hours day, sorry! And if it feels like a marketing outlet, well everything related to product news, reviews, presentations, comparisions is kinda marketing. Every media outlet, yes every on this planet, has a relationship to X developers/companies they write or make videos about. So it’s always marketing in a weaker or more intense form. This media outlet has a difference to many others. I answer on your questions, while other don’t. They often operate in the secret.

      And as serious media, I don’t compare these things in a news article! If I do this then in a separate article where I compare things and where people see it’s not a news. This is not a comparision, nor a review of this product. Just a news with updates on the development!

  10. I pre-ordered and received mine this week. Torso earned my trust with the T-1 and I felt confident putting the money down on this based on my customer experience.

    Pros:
    – The build is super-solid and I suspect some would call it premium (I’m not the best judge of that)
    – It’s more innovative in its approach than any of the videos shared so far suggest. A very complex and unique sound engine, but getting results does not require the kind of menu-diving that so many complain about WRT compact hardware
    – Tons of modulation options, and it’s relatively easy to set these up.
    – The manual is very comprehensive and pretty user-friendly. If you are curious about this device, I’d recommend browsing the manual to get a sense of the device’s capabilities and workflow. https://downloads.torsoelectronics.com/s-4/Manual/The_S-4_Manual_1v0v0f.pdf

    Cons:
    – The price is still a bit ouchy. But it’s not beyond the pale.
    – Incomplete firmware. Several dedicated features – e.g. “Scenes” – are still “Coming soon,” which is a bit of a bummer. But this is trend we are seeing with so many manufacturers these days, so I’m not going to beat Torso up over this too much. Also, Torso has clearly indicated this; it’s not like things feel broken. Nevertheless, it’s not a trend I love.

    I’ve not yet gotten around to importing and/or managing my own samples, but that experience will go a long way toward firming up my impressions of this machine.

  11. “there is no iPad vs hardware thing”
    Hate to say this,
    It’s a piece of hardware with software in it.
    The iPad is a piece of hardware with software in it.

    One has some hardware rotary controls and switches, the other has an incredible touch interface with haptic feedback.
    One does just one thing.
    The other can do thousands of different things, but also the thing the other box does.

    Just be honest.
    It won’t hurt you.

    • And still not the same thing, for me! (personal opinion) If you follow me, you know that I’m using iPads and hardware synth combinations (videos, performances…) etc. And for me there is still a difference between using hardware and iPads.

      I had many performances where apps crashed, produced unwanted feedback or audio interface recognized only after 3 attempts. Stuff with which I can live but hardware setups were simpler to setup in my live things.

      I uses iPads/iPhones a lot in live, it’s fun, and but they have a different workflow/play experiences (touch a glas surface vs turn a knob/press buttons…) making them not better or worser. But if we only focus on the price, then yes, the iOS apps are unbeatable, but you have already invested in the hardware beforehand.

      And it won’t hurt to accept that there are different music production workflow with which you can work. Either in the hardware, “in the box” software only, or hybrid. Maybe it’s not your favorite way to make music but maybe of many others. That should be accepted. Happy music making!

    • Now THIS is “semantics” stretched to the very thread of the meaning. Who on Earth calls an ipad “hardware”? No one. That’s crazy. Just like no one calls the Roland System 8 a “Software” synth because it’s digital and you can load new programs on it.

      A Torso S-4 is a dedicated tool designed for one purpose (like a synth or groovebox) but the ipad has pr0n and dank internet memes. Just because it can run VSTs doesn’t make it hardware.

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