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Roland’s SP-404 MKII sampler gets powerful new sequencing features and effects

Once I went hands-on with Roland’s SP-404 MKII again in October I stated it was “turning into” my favourite sampler. Quick ahead a couple of months and it’s firmly entrenched in that spot. In fact, no piece of drugs is ideal, and there is all the time room for enchancment. So Roland is pushing out a 2.0 firmware replace that solely additional cement’s the 404’s place on the high of my checklist.

Maybe the largest addition is a brand new TR-style (as in TR-808) step sequencer. Whereas the SP sequence has all the time appealed extra to people who need the unfastened really feel of dwell instrumentation, with the ability to punch in a primary four-on-the-floor kick that is proper on the cash is all the time good. That is very true in case your sense of rhythm is simply so-so, however it additionally makes the 404 extra helpful for genres which might be all about being proper on the beat like home and techno. And in some methods, it is really extra versatile than your common TR-style sequencer since patterns may be as much as 64 bars (or 1,024 steps) in size. 

Along with with the ability to program beats by manually punching in particular person steps, it’s also possible to now report to patterns in chromatic mode: load up a pattern of a single observe and simply play a melody right into a sample. Beforehand this needed to be finished by way of resampling, i.e. creating a wholly new pattern of the melody you performed.

Roland SP-404MKII

Terrence O’Brien / Fullgist

However wait, there’s extra! Now chromatic pattern playback has three totally different modes — plain previous monophonic, legato (nice for sliding bass traces) and polyphonic — so you’ll be able to flip a single piano observe right into a chord. And, I can not imagine I am saying this, however it will get higher nonetheless. Roland has vastly improved the time stretching algorithm. Frankly, it was borderline ineffective earlier than. Now, along with the default “vinyl” mode of pitch shifting (simply enjoying issues again quicker or slower), there are two Variphrase modes (these change pitch with out altering playback size): Backing, for issues with distinct assaults like drums and guitar; and Ensemble for sustained appears like strings and synth pads. Backing remains to be somewhat tough sounding, although it handles drums decently sufficient. However Ensemble is lightyears past what the 404 beforehand had, and is vital to creating that new polyphonic pattern playback mode useable.

Now if this was all Roland added, it will be a fairly large deal. However the firm additionally included 4 new bus results: SX Reverb, SX Delay, Cloud Delay and Backspin. Plus there’s now a Harmonizer on the enter FX menu and a second model of reverse playback borrowed kind the SP-303 for people who actually wish to lean into the lo-fi heritage of the vary. And, on high of all of that, the Skip Again function can, at any time, recall audio from as much as 40 seconds up to now the place its prior iteration had a 25 second most.

In brief, Roland took what was already a fairly nice piece of music gear and made it much more alluring. Now if solely they weren’t utterly out of inventory in all places. 

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