Roland SP-404MKII hands-on: Dragging an iconic sampler into the trendy age – Engadget

Roland SP-404MKII hands-on: Dragging an iconic sampler into the trendy age – Engadget

The Boss and Roland line of SP samplers (particularly the SP-303 and SP-404) are a few of the most necessary 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 every single place. 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 regardless that it was succeeded by the 404SX and the 404A, these have been extraordinarily minor updates that did issues like change from the getting old and sluggish CF Card format to SD. The brand new SP-404MKII, although, lastly updates the basic sampler for the trendy 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, a minimum of. The 404A was designed to slot in with the remainder of Roland’s AIRA line — meaning stark black accented with garish pink 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.

Roland SP-404MKII

Terrence O’Brien / Engadget

Past pure aesthetics, although, there are some big upgrades within the MKII. The 2 most blatant variations are the detailed OLED display screen that has changed the old-school seven-segment LEDs, and the transfer from a 12-pad format to a 16-pad one.

The display screen represents the most important change to the SP expertise. Enhancing 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 excellent loops, the vary was very small. That will result in having to crop a pattern a number of occasions to take off all the surplus. The OLED on the SP-404MKII is excessive sufficient decision to indicate 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 enhancing samples on the MKII is just not 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 an ordinary. It’s the format utilized by Akai on the MPC, on Pioneer’s DJ gear, on the Native Devices Maschine, Ableton’s Drum Rack and even a few of the bigger members of the SP household just like the 808 and the 606.

Roland SP-404MKII

Terrence O’Brien / Engadget

There are different extra delicate adjustments as properly. For one, these 16 pads on the entrance are all velocity delicate, a primary for the SP line. That stated, it’s nearly unattainable 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 components constantly combined, however it may well additionally go away issues sounding a bit robotic and unnatural. Simply one thing to remember.

Roland added MIDI out to the again of the SP-404MKII as properly. 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 by way of USB-C. That makes the 16-pad format much more necessary, as a result of it’ll map higher to no matter you’re connecting it to most probably. Oh. and that USB port can 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, this can be a web optimistic however there’s a down aspect. Usually an SP is getting used to pattern instantly from vinyl and most turntables use RCA. Meaning there can be an middleman step to getting loops from a document to the 404. However, it does make it simpler to pattern instantly 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 ought to be much less inclined to noise and interference.

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