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Fun FX, but let down by sluggish, sloppy timing
This was my first "real" piece of music gear that wasn't guitar-focused. It got me through a late-90s live performance obligation that required some live sample triggering and manipulation, but it proved to be an unworthy studio hub during my first year of ownership.
The FX were fun, the flashing lights were fun, and the layout was straightforward enough, but I recall the (MIDI) event timing was noticeably sluggish, even to someone as inexperienced as I was at the time... and, if memory serves, it only got worse when more FX and disk-streamed tracks where added at the same time.
I'm lucky to have sold it while the original SP-808 still being produced; I remember being relieved that the eBay auction closed for only a few bucks below list price... at least my (ultimately) bad decision didn't cost me too much $$.
If you see one at a yard sale, skip it. This is NOT an SP-202/303/404 on steroids, it's a 90s Roland VS-series multitrack recorder taking on more sampling and sequencing duties than it can successfully handle.
my first sampler
The effects and editing of the effects is much more extensive than a SP404 or 303. However, the effect when applied to the sample bank applies to all samples, as opposed to being able to choose single samples for effects like the 404. You have mute groups on this, clicks can be pretty noticable tho. Sequencer is basically useless and too often produced a "DISK BUSY" type error. There is a vari-speed option which is like playing all sample at a fixed slowed down rate on tape, changing frequency response and all, as well as sample time, and of course pitch and speed. Resampling is your friend here. I always felt like I could give my drums character using this unit with all the effects and eq.
Pretty powerful, but not what I needed
Picked this up at a time when I needed a sampler and was about to become unemployed, so it was a bit of a desperation purchase. And as it turned out, it really wasn't the sort of tool I needed. I eventually ended up getting an SP-505 and a Korg ES-1 to replace it, and between the two of them they do what I need better than this thing does. And my SP-808 has been stored away in a box for about 12 years.
That's not to say that it's not useful or powerful, though. It's got some great capabilities, great effects and such. But it has a bit of a split personality. It's best thought of more as a studio workstation, rather than just a sampler, yet it's designed for live performance. And it uses a zip drive and zip disks, which can develop the click-of-death issue from being moved around too much.
the sampler is awesome, just dont expect the mpc workflow. the sequencer is actually a 4track recorder and the pads are super small. also, it works with zip discs and its very hard/impossible to switch to hdd or cf.
great for remixing, awesome customizable fx, dbeam is fun but useless in dark clubs, can be upgraded to the EX software.