The 404 is a hype machine. Sadly, most buyers don’t know this and it does not live up to its hype still in 2022.
The SP404 was not originally made to be a Lofi/experimental machine. Thanks to Madlib, Dibia$e, Flylo and Jay Dilla this is another example of a Roland product gaining fame directly through it’s use in Hip Hop culture. It is reminiscent of a Tb 303 in operation and cult status. Extremely cumbersome, but if you spend enough time with it, you can get some funky and creative results.
Be warned, if you have never used the SP404 before, unless you are prepared to make that time investment, the machine is nothing more than a glorified sampler with one of the most backward sequencers I have ever used bar the TB303.
Die hard sp404 users will claim that you get other results and it is a “creative” machine that makes you think different. This is absolutely true because you are constantly challenged to workaround the problems the SP404 has. Most SP users don’t realise this can be an essential part of creativity and the results. TB303 again is a good example.
Build is good. Solid and sleek. Knobs are solid. Oled display is clear and crisp. Pads are Velocity sensitive and 16 pads instead of 12 (SP404SX)
Soundwise I have heard way better. I have used many samplers and test them in detail with my own custom samples. I know how the samples sound and what I will see in analysis. But what you hear is always different and subjective. Bad sample in, bad sample out. Good sample in ??? I was surprised by this but then again not really. There are other samplers such as the Electron Digitakt that have more definition and thump to samples, particularly drums.
Now you would think that Roland would have worked on the sequencer. No really, seems that they worked on everything BUT the sequencer. The new additions are shiny and necessary to bring the concept into 2022 but nevertheless the overall clunkiness is still there.
If you live for the Vinyl Sim effect, maybe consider using a VST plugin for less money. They are cheap and will serve you better. RC20 or Goodherz are good examples.
If you are looking for a Groovebox, something like the MPC One will serve you better and is more straightforward in operation and sound. Alternatives could also be iOS based for iPad or just decent software such as Reason,Logic, GarageBand or Live and a controller.
If you can close your eyes to the shortcomings, this feels like an update worth buying but I would argue it feels like equipment that should be priced at 250-350€ and not 500€.
If you live for Instagram and TikTok videos this is your machine. If you want to sidecar the SP404 with a more capable drum machine or sequencer, again please spend those hard earned bucks. If you want to get started in hardware, please look elsewhere and save you investment. Choose wisely. The secondhand SP404 sx and og market shows you the signs.
Once again, Roland is being Roland and only half realising that they could redefine music culture (small size mini replicas of classics anyone?!!) with something truly innovative. They were much closer this time, yet still so far away. They did more research this time but built on top instead of from the ground up. The result is a company jumping on a hype train with the help of internet celebrities to extort money from unsuspecting customers. Big GAS Moment. This is not a bitter rant but a sincere warning for new users. Please, please, please ignore the promo driven YouTube marketing of every influencer and their influencer buddy telling you how dope this machine (or any other machine) is. You don’t have to go all Gearspace but find a balance. All influencers are paid “handsomely“ (sic) to “explain” how cool something is. Sometimes they are right but rarely are they objective about it. Notice how the same suspects all release the product videos on the same day and even comment on each other’s video. However, when you find out about the private online forum where they all “hang” it all seems rather insincere.
Marketing and affiliate marketing has become very one sided with no one telling you how a product really is in comparison to similarly priced gear on the new and used market.
Now back to finishing all those unfinished projects 😅🤔🤓