Roland SP-404MKII Review: Great New Sampler and Drum Machine by Roland! (2023)

Roland SP-404MKII

Roland SP-404MKII Review

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.
  • 16 bit / 48 kHz – Supports WAV, AIFF, and MP3 import
  • 16 GB Internal memory
  • 3 Knobs for real-time control
  • 17 Velocity sensitive pads
  • 32-Voice polyphonic

Roland SP-404MKII Review

Roland’s SP-404 MKII is an up-to-date model of the beloved beat-making, lofi-vibing, sample-slicing instrument now with 17 velocity delicate pads, 16GB of inner memory, and lots of different additions, whereas staying true to the first generation’s model. Some tweaks to the sampling and sequencing have made it simpler to use, however, the core intuitive structure stays faithful to the original.

A crisp, OLED display now sits front-and-center, performing as the window into the thoughts of the gadget, sample modifying is a breeze with a zoomable waveform viewer permitting you to auto-splice or manually insert your markers. Treat your samples to your liking with envelope and pitch-shifting parameters, in addition to a redesigned resampling workflow to re-record patterns and effects.

New Skip Back Sampling permits you to grab selection moments from the previous 25 seconds of time, so you do not miss the right part. You too can stream out of your telephone instantly into the SP404 MK2 utilizing a USB C port cable.

Roland Logo

Effects, such as the Vinyl Sim and DJFX Looper, have at all times been an integral part of the 404’s legacy and the MKII expands on that heritage with a Cassette Simulator, Resonator, and Lo-fi effect with new routing so you’ll be able to layer a number of effects. There’s nonetheless a Mic/Line Input so you’ll be able to take advantage of real-time effects just like the Vocoder, Auto-pitch, and Guitar Amp Simulator effects.

Purposeful upgrades like expanded 16GB inner memory means you do not have to hold around additional cards and 16 pads, well 17 including the SUB Pad offers you extra compositional choices, plus you could have a total of 160 samples loaded throughout every project.

Moreover, 32-voice polyphony is accessible, and upgraded I/O offers you 1/4″ Line In/Out, 1/4″ Mic/Guitar In, and 1/8 and 1/4″ Headphone Outs. MIDI out and in can be obtainable over 1/8″ TRS. Power choices have additionally been expanded with the flexibility to be powered through USB-C and AA batteries along with the usual AC adapter.

Sequencing choices embrace an adjustable input quantize and shuffle for customized swing and a Pad-Link for triggering a number of samples without delay. A Roll button for adjustable note repeat, and BPM-per-bank for fast tempo change. Pattern changing is a brand new choice permitting you to concentrate on manipulating effects, or playing one other instrument.

Whether or not you have been utilizing the 404 for years or are simply attempting to get into hardware music production, the SP-404MKII will provide you with the pliability to create on the go and in a single unit, if you choose to. You have heard the original in all places, and the MKII is bound to proceed to make itself recognized, from beatmakers to experimentalists.

Roland SP-404MKII Rear Panel

Roland SP 404MKII Sampling

Relating to sampling, it’s all fairly easy: you hit Record, select an empty pad and record! You’ll be able to then normalize, set start/end factors, and so forth.

You’ve got choices like count in, gate recording (it only begins when it “hears” a noise), you may record with a metronome, and usefully, you may resample – in different words, record yourself playing back samples.

We preferred the “Chop” mode, where you may simply chop up longer samples manually, but auto-mark them too on time divisions or transients – however, we really liked the always operating 25-second buffer, which records every part whether or not you’re recording or not. In case you by accident perform some gold, it’s there and you’ve got what’s left of these 25 seconds to recover and put it aside.

Roland MKII SP404 Effects

They’re broken up into two “Types”. “Input effects” embody vocoder, chorus, reverb delay, auto pitch, guitar amp, saturation, vinyl/cassette, compressor – numerous choice in a single FX “slot”.

There are 4 “main mix” effects slots with 37 to select from, 5 of which may be accessed through the top panel (configurable), 16 of that are selectable through pads, and all of which may be managed with the 4 knobs. Assume resonator, delays, EQ/isolator EQ, DJ-style loop, lo-fi, vinyl sim, phases, wah-wah, phaser distortion, compressor, and so forth.

It’s worth noting that FXs are global, not saved with projects, and never saved when the unit is turned off – though they are often saved as favorites. We guess Roland wants you to select your favorites and use them universally.

Roland SP-404MKII DJ mode

Yup, you may really DJ on this! By dragging full music tracks into your slot and banks (which is simpler on a computer utilizing the companion app), you may construct up a “set”. The unit has pitch bend/BPM change, and you should use the knobs on the top to mix.

There’s a sync button (naturally), you may tap tempo, and even slightly crossfader on the screen, plus with cue mix accessible within the headphones, it’s certainly attainable to carry out DJ sets on this.

Roland SP-404MKII Brief Features:

  • Compact and portable sampling workstation for production and live performance
  • Includes 144 pre-loaded samples and patterns across 9 banks to get you started
  • Huge sample storage capability, with 16GB onboard storage and support for 32GB SD cards
  • 16 velocity-sensitive, 9-color RGB pads for finger drumming, sample triggering, and launching patterns
  • Vibrant OLED screen for visual waveform editing
  • Powered by USB-C, mobile battery, 6 AA batteries, or AC adapter (included)
  • Can sample from mobile devices via USB-C or even stream audio directly to your device
  • Dual headphone outputs make it easy to collaborate with other musicians without a mixer or headphone splitter
  • Envelope and pitch shift for shaping samples
  • Updated resampling workflow makes it easier to re-record samples through various effects
  • Skip Back Sampling captures up to 25 seconds of a performance
  • Adjustable input quantization and shuffle
  • Up to 4 pads can be triggered simultaneously with Pad Link
  • Roll button for triggering note repeats at speeds of 1/2 beat up to 1/64 beat
  • DJ mode allows you to mix and manipulate 2 audio files with 8 controls per side
  • BPM can be set per-bank for scripted tempo changes

Why You Need the Roland SP-404MKII

It’s clear that Roland desires the SP-404MKII to be your musical best friend, and in this respect, they’ve succeeded. The model has beefed up the sampler’s connectivity choices for the modern producer, significantly within the laptop and tablet department, and it’s additionally ideally formed to slide into your backpack. Plus, with the capability to run on battery power, it needs never leave your side.

Roland has at all times marketed the SP-404 range towards hip-hop producers and people making sat-back, lo-fi beats. However, there’s actually no limit to what’s attainable in any form of music with the MKII’s sampling potential and adaptability at your fingertips.

Pressing a pad and then the Start/End button reveals a wonderful visible read-out of a sound’s waveform – sufficient to light up the eyes of anybody used to the sample editing interface of the previous SP-404s.

9.2Expert Score
Roland SP-404MKII Review

Roland’s SP-404 MKII is an up-to-date model of the beloved beat-making, lofi-vibing, sample-slicing instrument now with 17 velocity delicate pads, 16GB of inner memory, and lots of different additions, whereas staying true to the first generation’s model.

  • Vastly versatile with virtually limitless musical functions
  • Simple to make detailed edits to samples
  • Highly effective effects and routing
  • Extremely portable
  • Wonderful use of the OLED display
  • The button and knob labels may be unclear
  • Takes some time to learn the unit


General Roland has given the 404 an improvement without altering its core workflow, which relies on having the ability to do nearly every part you need to without looking on the screen or menu diving (regardless that there’s a little bit of menu diving on this new iteration of the 404).

Given the massive access to samples and sounds, the plethora of effects, and the brand new DJ mode and Skip Back Mode, a whole lot of beatmakers are going to find the SP-404 mk2 at the center of their DAW-less setups.

In case you are having any questions in regards to this unit, please let us know in the comment section below or reach out to Roland customer care for more in-depth explanations!


Nikoloski is the founder and main content writer and editor of Mixing Tips. With his experience in audio engineering, mixing, and mastering for over 15 years, will provide hands-on experience and expertise in all the matters covered on this website.

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