Roland SP-404 A Wave Sampler

Powerful Sampler and Sequencer
The Roland SP-404A Linear Wave Sampler is compact but jam packed with powerful pro features that can make not just simple beats but entire music tracks all by itself. The sampler sequencing based tracks provide you with the tools you can use to make complex beats or minimal simple tracks. Quantization modes on this sampler can get the groove you’re looking for with shuffle and swing that create that drum machine sampler feel that you hear on so many of your favorite electronic music or hip hop tracks. Nine banks of samples are pre filled with professional sounds from loopmasters but with this kind of sampler it is designed to give you every advantage for getting your own sounds loaded onto it via several different ways like a mic, line in, or loaded from your computer. The creative potential can be vastly expanded when you have so many ways to get unique sounds on to the sampler and integrate them into your live set or studio creations.

Battery Powered
As with many of the new entry to mid level drum machines the Roland wave sampler can be powered with six AA batteries and give you 5 hours of music creation time on that set of batteries. This of course means you can take this little beast of a drum machine just about anywhere and make beats and tracks any time the inspiration strikes you. Sometimes there may be a jam session going on and there is no power adapter or setup that allows you to sample but you’d really like to get a sample from what you hear, when you have a battery powered drum machine like the 404 you can not just capture the sound but get going with your samples right away creating something from literal scratch, or starting with nothing but what you just sampled.

Onboard Mic
Another powerful creative feature that most drum machines do not have is an on board microphone for sampling on the fly on the go, in the moment. Located on the lower right corner of the 404 is an on board microphone that you can either sing, talk into, or capture what you are hearing and get it into the mix of sounds without needing an external microphone. Of course if you want to sample with a higher quality microphone the SP 404 also includes a 1/4 inch mic jack to plug in a more professional mic and get that sound into the sample banks.

The effects on the SP 404A are beyond what you’re used to for most sample based drum machines, with the 404 you get 29 Digital Signal Processed effects (DSP).

  • Filter – Drive (low pass filter with overdrive, distortion effect)
  • VOICE TRANS ( transforms voice sounds into different characteristics)
  • Delay (digital delay or “echo” effect)
  • Isolator (isolation of sound to remove low, mid or high frequencies, especially useful for remixing, grabbing vocals etc…)
  • DJFX LOOPER – (grab a short portion of the live inpout sound and loop it, very powerful for live performance)
  • Reverb (spacey room sound)
  • Tape Echo (dub like effect)
  • Chorus
  • Flanger
  • Phaser
  • Tremolo Pan (wobbles and pans the sound)
  • Distortion (powerful overdrive)
  • Overdrive (more subtle overdrive)
  • Fuzz (guitar like fuzz pedal sound)
  • WAH (guitar, Jimi Hendricks style wah wah sound)
  • OCTAVE (shift sound up or down octaves)
  • COMP (compressor)
  • Equalizer (eq sound shaping effect)
  • Bit Crash (crunchy 8 bit or even 4 bit style sound.)
  • Noise Gen (inserts white noise into sound)
  • Vinyl Simulator (make it sound like sampled off of a record)_
  • Radio Tuning (make it sound like it was sampled from a radio)
  • Slicer Flanger (applies slicing and flanger together)
  • Ring Modulator (classic ring modulation sound)
  • Chromatic Pitch Shift (shift sound up and down chromatic notes)
  • Pitch (shift sound up or down)
  • Canceler (blocks mid portion of sound)
  • Subsonic (deep low frequency sine wave that matches your sound)
  • BPM Looper (loops input sound in short bpm based intervals)


SD Card Storage

SD cards are the standard in file storage and transfers between computers and other devices, with the SP404A you can transfer WAV and AIFF files to and from your computer with ease and make as many backups as you need to, this is virtually unlimited once you understand how much HD storage you need for backups.  With a 32 Gigabyte SD card you could store/sample up to 180 minutes of samples, far more than anyone could need on one sample set.

Control Knobs

At the top of the Roland SP 404A are three assignable control knobs that give you easy access to your effect parameters for live performance capability to control effects, sample parameters, and BPM of playback.

  • Control Knob 1  (Controls starting location of a sample and/or
    playback time of a sample)
  • Control knob 2 (Controls the BPM (tempo) of the pattern
    The ending location of a sample)
  • Control Knob 3 (Controls the type of MFX or the sampling level or
    the volume of the sample)



With ease of access to the SP 404A’s functions via the shift knob you can control the following functions.

  • TAP TEMPO PAD – PAUSE Stops all sound
  • PAD 1 – COPY Copies a sample or pattern
  • PAD 2 – EXCHANGE Exchanges the patterns or samples of pads
  • PAD 3 – IMPORT Imports WAV/AIFF files from the SD card
  • PAD 4 – AUTO TRIG LEVEL Adjusts the trigger level for auto sampling
  • PAD 5 – BACKUP LOAD Loads backup data
  • PAD 6 – BACKUP SAVE Saves backup data
  • PAD 7 – ILLUMINATION Display illumination and sleep settings
  • PAD 8 – EFFECT LIMIT Used to make settings for Effect Limit mode
  • PAD 9 – MIDI CH Changes the MIDI channel
  • PAD 10 – MIDI SYNC Synchronization with an external MIDI device
  • PAD 11 – INPUT GAIN Adjusts the input gain
  • PAD 12 – OUTPUT GAIN Adjusts the output gain

Is the 404A for me?

The SP 404A is an entry/mid level drum machine at a somewhat reasonable price of about $500.  It is best suited for someone who is looking for a sample based drum machine and values portability and improvisation, live performance capabilities.  It can be a stand alone device if it is all you can afford, it does have some integration capabilities via the midi-in jack and audio in and out with RCA jacks.  Other drum machines near the same price have better integration with your studio computer DAW (digital audio workstation) but few match the capabilities of the 404 regarding raw sampling and fewer still have the ability to be on the go with battery operation and on board microphone to sample on the go. There are included stock samples that can get you started, but the device is more geared to the sampling artist.  So if you really like sampling and taking samples to make up a track rather than using sound libraries, the Roland SP 404A is worth checking out.