Roland’s acclaimed SP-404 performance sampler takes an exciting leap forward with the new SP-404SX. In addition to the fun, fast, hands-on features of the original, the new model offers enhanced sound quality with pure 16-bit linear sampling, improved DSP effects, smooth FX switching, a more versatile pattern sequencer (with a new shuffle feature), and easier data management with SD-card compatibility. It’s a creatively stimulating, powerful tool for DJs, musicians, producers, and live-sound engineers who trigger jingles.
Sampling is pretty straightforward on the 404SX. Plug in your source (mic, line or the internal mic) hit Rec, select the pad you want to sample onto, hit Rec again and sample away. Then hit Rec to stop.
The sample can be marked and truncated (this is still a bit hit-and-miss without a waveform display), and sampling can be done in mono, stereo or the lo-fi mode. Resampling with FX is possible, too.
Sequencing patterns is relatively simple. Hit the Pattern Select button, then record, select the bank you wish to record to and press the pad you want the pattern assigned to, press the Length button and use controller dial 3 to select the number of measures from 1 to 99. You can also quantise and there’s a new swing function, too.
Pattern building involves layering single or multiple samples to form a beat. Patterns can be triggered from one pad, enabling songs to be put together by triggering patterns in sequence from their respective pads and the next pattern can be cued while the current one plays.
New features include a Function button for accessing utility functions via the pads – press and hold the Function button and hit the pad to adjust in and out gain, save and load, select MIDI channels, copy and exchange sounds/patterns, import WAVs and AIFFs, auto-trigger sampling and more.
Other changes include the Pitch button, which was next to the display on the old 404, but has been replaced by a formant-shaping Voice Transform function for warping voices and other material on the 404SX. Additionally, the Vinyl Sim button of the old 404 has now been replaced by a DJFX looper that enables DJ-style pitching, looping and stuttering to simulate vinyl or CD deck functionality (this works great and is a lot of fun).
The old effects are still there, but have been moved to the MFX menu. Included main effects (which now switch smoothly) are a low-pass filter with overdrive, a delay and an isolator that removes frequency content to isolate sounds in a loop.
Other major changes involve the use of an SD card rather than Compact Flash, increasing the number of patterns the SX can hold on a card. Depending on the size of card used, sampling time can be up to 48 hours in stereo and 96 hours in mono!
There’s also a handy software wave converter app included with the hardware that enables you to import WAV/AIFF files from your computer and save them onto an SD card formatted for the SP-404SX. This means the 404SX is also a great bet for playing long samples live.
In addition, it appears that the sampling/sound quality has been improved. While AIFFs and WAVs could be imported on the old 404, it previously used its own type of sample format with compression to keep file sizes down. The 404-SX uses AIFF and WAV as its standard formats and the overall sound quality seems improved. What you put in comes out fully intact (unless of course you want to use the lo-fi mode) and will impress even the most discerning of ears.
Effect Types – Chorus Flanger Pan Phaser Reverb Tape Echo Tremolo
Dimensions – 178 x 257 x 72
Available Inputs – phono inputs MIDI
Patterns – 120
Weight (kg) – 1.2