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 number of months and it’s firmly entrenched in that spot. In fact, no piece of drugs is ideal, and there’s at all times room for enchancment. So Roland is pushing out a 2.0 firmware replace that solely additional cement’s the 404’s place on the prime of my listing.
Maybe the largest addition is a brand new TR-style (as in TR-808) step sequencer. Whereas the SP sequence has at all times appealed extra to those who need the unfastened really feel of reside instrumentation, with the ability to punch in a fundamental four-on-the-floor kick that’s proper on the cash is at all times good. That’s very true in case your sense of rhythm is just so-so, however it additionally makes the 404 extra helpful for genres which are all about being proper on the beat like home and techno. And in some methods, it’s truly 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, you too can now document 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 completed by way of resampling, i.e. creating a completely new pattern of the melody you performed.
However wait, there’s extra! Now chromatic pattern playback has three completely different modes — plain previous monophonic, legato (nice for sliding bass strains) and polyphonic — so you possibly can flip a single piano observe right into a chord. And, I can’t imagine I’m 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 sooner 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 feels like strings and synth pads. Backing continues to be a bit of 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 might be a reasonably 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 prime of all of that, the Skip Again characteristic can, at any time, recall audio from as much as 40 seconds prior to now the place its prior iteration had a 25 second most.
In brief, Roland took what was already a reasonably nice piece of music gear and made it much more alluring. Now if solely they weren’t fully out of inventory all over the place.
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