The Boss and Roland line of SP samplers (particularly the SP-303 and SP-404) are among the most vital devices in hip hop historical past. Proper up there with the MPC and the Technics SL-1200. They’ve been utilized by the likes of MF Doom, Madlib and J Dilla, and are a favourite amongst lo-fi hip hop artists in all places. They’ve additionally been utilized by loads of different musicians like Panda Bear, 4 Tet, Oneohtrix Level By no means and even Radiohead. However, the unique SP-404 was launched in 2005. And despite the fact that it was succeeded by the 404SX and the 404A, these have been extraordinarily minor updates that did issues like swap from the growing old and gradual CF Card format to SD. The brand new SP-404MKII, although, lastly updates the traditional sampler for the fashionable age with out sacrificing what made the OG so alluring.
Bodily, the 404MKII is similar to previous variations of the 404. There are 4 knobs throughout the highest; a round window under them, flanked by six results buttons; and pads on the underside for triggering samples. The MKII does look higher than the A, no less than. The 404A was designed to slot in with the remainder of Roland’s AIRA line — meaning stark black accented with garish crimson and inexperienced. It’s… a glance. However not one that everybody (myself included) can get behind. The brand new model is a way more subdued grey and black, with white and muted orange accents.
Past pure aesthetics, although, there are some enormous upgrades within the MKII. The 2 most evident variations are the detailed OLED display that has changed the old-school seven-segment LEDs, and the transfer from a 12-pad structure to a 16-pad one.
The display represents the most important change to the SP expertise. Modifying samples on an OG 404 could possibly be painful. The three-digit LEDs gave you solely generic begin and finish factors, and due to the excessive decision wanted to create good loops, the vary was very small. That might result in having to crop a pattern a number of instances to take off all the surplus. The OLED on the SP-404MKII is excessive sufficient decision to point out the precise waveform because it’s being edited. You possibly can zoom out and in as wanted to crop as little or as a lot as you need. I’d go so far as to say that recording and modifying samples on the MKII isn’t solely simpler, however really kinda enjoyable.
The 16 pads provide you with entry to extra samples and patterns to assemble your beats out of. Additionally, the four-by-four grid has turn into one thing of a regular. It’s the structure utilized by Akai on the MPC, on Pioneer’s DJ gear, on the Native Devices Maschine, Ableton’s Drum Rack and even among the bigger members of the SP household just like the 808 and the 606.
There are different extra delicate modifications as effectively. For one, these 16 pads on the entrance are all velocity delicate, a primary for the SP line. That stated, it’s nearly unimaginable to get full velocity out of them with out simply turning on fastened velocity. Some finger drummers particularly might desire to show fastened velocity on to maintain melodic and percussion parts constantly combined, however it may well additionally depart issues sounding a bit robotic and unnatural. Simply one thing to remember.
Roland added MIDI out to the again of the SP-404MKII as effectively. The earlier variations had MIDI IN solely. Now the 404 can be utilized to sequence exterior gear, and even be hooked as much as a PC to regulate your DAW through USB-C. That makes the 16-pad structure much more vital, as a result of it’ll map higher to no matter you’re connecting it to more than likely. Oh. and that USB port will also be used to stream audio to your PC.
This additionally marks the primary time that Roland has ditched RCA in favor of ¼-inch jacks for the audio ins and outs on an SP. Now, it is a web constructive however there’s a down facet. Typically an SP is getting used to pattern immediately from vinyl and most turntables use RCA. Meaning there will likely be an middleman step to getting loops from a report to the 404. However, it does make it simpler to pattern immediately from an instrument. Synths, drum machines, guitars and basses all usually use ¼-inch plugs. And, because the ins and outs on the MKII are balanced, it needs to be much less vulnerable to noise and interference.