Roland Updates SP-404MKII Sampler With v2.0 Firmware, Adding TR-REC Style Step Sequencing & More

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Roland has released a free firmware update for the SP-404MKII SP Sampler.

The revamped sampler and effector is better than ever, with an enhanced VariPhrase Encoder algorithm and an expanded MFX library, including Harmony Effects for endless performance possibilities. For the first time, creators can also use TR-REC style step sequencing, an all-new recording mode existing alongside traditional real-time pattern recording.

Roland’s info on the update is pretty minimal – they’ve shared release notes and some tips and tricks – but we’ve embedded their official overview video above.

Topics covered:

0:00 – INTRO
1:45 – TR-REC
8:38 – UNDO
13:36 – SKIP BACK
14:12 – DJ MODE

Sonicware Launches Kickstarter For SmplTrek Portable Production Sampler

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Sonicware has launched a Kickstarter project to fund production of their new SmplTrek portable production sampler.

SmplTrek is a portable sampler and music production system that lets you record sounds with the built-in microphone, your microphone, electric guitar connected to the input, or even a USB-connected smartphone or PC/Mac.

Sounds can be recorded with or without effects, edited, and then quickly assigned to pads for sequencing. Once you have created the samples you want, you can use them to build complete songs.

Each song project has 16 sequential parts called “Scenes”. Each Scene has 10 sequencer tracks which can behave in different ways, as described below:

  • Loop Track: Sequencer for a looping sample
  • Shots Track: Sequencer for a single one-shot sample
  • Drum Track: Step sequencer for drums
  • Instrument Track: Piano roll type sequencer for musical instruments
  • MIDI Track: Piano roll type sequencer for external MIDI equipment

Three additional Global Audio Tracks are available for longer recordings like vocals and external instruments. These tracks can record multiple takes which can be spliced into a final perfect version. Traditional “punch-in” style recording is also supported.

More than 500 samples and over 100 drums kits are included internally, so you can get started right away.

Pricing and Availability:

Production of the SmplTrek is being funded via a Kickstarter project, and it’s available to project backers for about $291.

Note: Crowdfunded projects involve risk, so make sure you read the project details.

Configuring The Elektron Workstation

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This series of videos, embedded in the playlist above, discusses the idea of ‘The Elektron Workstation’ – using an Elektron device as the brain of a complete music-making system.

The series offers a deep dive into both making the physical connections to setup up an Elektron workstation and the settings to configure. The goal is to squeeze as the most functionality possible out of your Elektron device.

The video focuses on the Model:Samples, paired with two upstream MIDI controllers, the Arturia Keystep 32 and Akai MPX8, to create a complete and budget-friendly setup. Many of the concepts covered in this video, though, extend to other Elektron devices, though they may have additional connectivity and features.

The second video in the series covers incorporating a hardware synth, the Korg NTS-1, into the setup. In the third part, a Korg Volca is added to the setup.

Check it out and share your thoughts on an Elektron-based rig in the comments!

Free Update Doubles Isla Instruments S2400 Polyphony To 16 Voices

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Isla Instruments has released a free, ‘game-changing’ update for their S2400 sampler that doubles the polyphony from 8 voices to 16, adds assignable outputs and more.

Here’s what’s new in the Feb 2022 S2400 OS update:

  • 16 voices (upgraded from 8)
  • Dynamic voice allocation
  • Assignable outputs
  • Choke groups
  • Bounce pad, pattern, or song to WAV
  • Enhanced 6 octave pitch range
  • USB keyboard support for naming, navigation, etc.
  • Multi Mode capability in TR Mode
  • Many other small improvements and fixes

See the Isla Instruments site for details.

BOSS RC-505 mkII Loop Station In-Depth Review

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In his latest Sonic Lab review, host Nick Batt takes a look at the new BOSS RC-505 mkII – a major update to the popular Loop Station design.

Video Summary:

“The original Boss RC-505 is seen by many as the pinnacle of loopstations, with countless musicians using it as a gateway to success during the 15+ years it’s been available. Surely time for an update then?

Here’s the RC-505 MKII then, with expanded IO, improved audio quality, increased FX (4 input, 4 track), more algorithms, increased record time – 13hrs over 3, bounce feature, Mark back and undo, more rhythms, way deep button and controller assignments.”

Topics covered:

00:00 Intro
01:08 Key Differences
04:44 Making Loops + Input FX
10:51 Bouncing
12:51 Vocoder and live MIDI input
17:44 Mark, Undo and Button assignments
23:26:03 Input settings
26:37 Timestretch
28:57 Wrap and Conclusion

Free Novation Circuit Rhythm Sample Expansion Pack Features 550+ Royalty-Free Samples

Novation has released the Circuit Rhythm Sample Expansion Pack, a free collection of over 550 new, royalty-free samples for the Circuit Rhythm.

The Circuit Rhythm Sample Expansion Pack features a wide array of samples, ranging from vinyl samples and soulful chords to slick beats and organic instrumentation.

The Sample Expansion Pack includes 6 distinct sound packs:

  • Coastline Bliss – “Drift away to a golden coastal sunset” with these grainy vinyl samples and tight beats.
    Trap Hop – Filled with dark hip-hop influences, with warped sound-design and tight Trap beats.
  • East Coast Soul – East Coast Soul offers an set of electric pianos, vibrant chord progressions and shimmering digital leads.
  • Wonky Hip Hop – A chilled collection of guitars, tight hip-hop beats and smooth bass lines.
  • Neo Soul – features a rich set of organic instrumentation, laid-back beats, and top lines.
  • Daybreak Trap – This bass-heavy pack blends chill guitar melodies with deep sub basses and trap beats.

Audio Demos:

Pricing and Availability

The Novation Circuit Rhythm Sample Expansion Pack is available now as a free download via the Novation Components site.

SP-1200 Reissue Now Available To Pre-Order

Rossum Electro-Music has officially introduced the Rossum SP-1200, described as ‘an authentic reissue of the iconic classic SP-1200 sampling percussion system’.

The Rossum SP-1200 reissue is engineered by the original designer and built and tested in the United States to his standards.

E-mu Systems co-founder and original SP-12 and SP-1200 designer Dave Rossum has duplicated the original analog and digital electronics of the landmark 12-bit drum machine sampler as closely as possible. As a result, Rossum was able to, with very few exceptions, use the same components used in the original. Rossum also took care to maintain the circuit board layouts of the original.

The original lines and shape of the original SP-1200’s structural foam plastic housing have been closely recreated with finely-textured, black powder-coated steel panels joined with bead-blasted, anodized aluminum black side/end caps. The SP-1200 panel legends are reproduced in high-contrast metallic ink across the top and rear steel panels. The placement and spacing of all original controls have been maintained exactly in the reissue.

The Rossum SP-1200 maintains exactly the same 12-bit linear data format and 26.04 kHz sampling rate as all vintage SP-12 and SP-1200 units. As a result, the unique character of SP-1200’s original pitch shifting and its audible aliasing and imaging artifacts are preserved identically.

Here’s Dave Rossum discussing his approach to creating the SP-1200 reissue:

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New Features Of The Reissue

Changes and enhancements were made where they were compatible with the original design and classic sound.

Sampling memory has been expanded to the maximum capability of the original sound engine. An all-new memory card storage solution with new functions is seamlessly integrated into the operating system. This is designed to let you easily save, rename, and delete files and folders, and supports importing vintage SP-1200 disk images packaged in the popular .HFE format.

The Rossum SP-1200 also uses an updated version of the original’s software. A 3.5” “floppy” disk, containing modified software for original vintage SP-1200 units, adds a new Set-up Special function, allowing users to transfer all sounds and sequences from an original SP-1200 to the Rossum SP-1200 reissue over a standard MIDI cable. Whether using 3.5” disks or the popular floppy drive emulator modification, users of classic SP-1200 units are able to recall and remix their work on the SP-1200 reissue.

On the rear panel of the unit, users will find new dedicated jacks for filtered and unfiltered channel outputs, as well as a new sample input monitor feature.

Four sliders allow users to tune the initial cutoff frequency and the resonance of the SSI2144 analog dynamic filters on channels 1 and 2.

Other updates:

Users can now monitor the input to sampling (the output of the SP-1200’s input filter and amplifier) at the mix output, or it can be switched out of the mix output by plugging a cable into its new dedicated monitor output jack, just like SP-1200’s individual channel outputs removes them from the mix output.

The SP-1200 reissue features dedicated TRS jacks for balanced audio output on dedicated jacks for each of the filtered and unfiltered outputs as well as the mix output. Connecting a mono unbalanced (TS) duplicates the original SP-1200 output, with the original output impedance.

Rather than the fluorescent-illuminated backlight included with the first original SP-12 units, the classic 2-line, 16-character display is backlit using RGB LEDs, inspired by the LED-lit backlight displays equipped in later SP-1200 units. A new Set-up Special Function (#26) integrated into the Rossum SP-1200 reissue’s operating system allows users to adjust the brightness and color of the backlight.

SP-1200’s black play buttons use custom replica button caps and durable, low-resistance switches, chosen for their ideal travel and rated to keep their same feel for years. Dynamics can be performed using exactly the same classic technology invented specifically for SP-12 in 1984, and is faithfully maintained in the reissue.

As with all SP-12 instruments, the dynamics can be optionally disabled (Set-up 14) and Multi-Level mode is featured, allowing any dynamics to be performed with a lighter touch.

Memory Bank

SP-1200’s all-new memory card storage solution is integrated seamlessly into SP-1200’s operating system.

When the Disk module is activated, users can choose files and folders from the memory card using the arrow keys and the LCD. The Disk module functions for formatting and copying software to magnetic media have been replaced with Save All As / Rename.

For the first time, musicians can save SP-1200 sounds and sequences in one step and delete and rename files and folders using its built-in display. Importing vintage SP-1200 disk images packaged in the popular .HFE format works frictionlessly, just like regular loading. A 3.5” disk containing modified software for original vintage SP-1200 units adds a new Set-up Special function allowing users to transfer all sounds and sequences from an original SP-1200 to the Rossum SP-1200 Reissue over a standard MIDI cable. Whether using 3.5” disks or the popular floppy drive emulator modification, users of classic SP-1200 units are able to recall and remix their work on the SP-1200 Reissue.

Double Time

For the first time, all Rossum SP-1200 reissue units feature 20 seconds sampling time.

Designed by Dave Rossum in 1984, the original sound engine at the heart of SP-12 and SP-1200 could accommodate up to 20 seconds sampling time, but 20th-century prices of the random-access memory (RAM) proved cost-prohibitive, preventing more memory from being integrated during the original production run.

One of the unobtainable parts featured in the original SP-1200 is the SSM2044 analog filter, a classic integrated circuit designed by Dave Rossum in the early 80s. In partnership with Sound Semiconductor, Inc, Dave has designed the SSI2144 IC, which recreates the analog circuit using contemporary IC processing and packaging, preserving its unique character.

The SP-1200 reissue also features a new power supply and newly-constructed, four-layer circuit boards that lower the noise floor and avoid undesirable hums, without compromising the unique artifacts and dynamics of original SP-12 series instruments. The rear panel runs cool to the touch, and no vents are necessary in the rear panel.

Pricing and Availability

The Rossum SP-1200 is available to pre-order for $3999 USD, with units expected to ship in January 2022.

Rossum Electro-Music Bringing Back The Classic E-Mu SP-1200 Sampler

There has not been an official announcement yet, but it looks like Rossum Electro-Music is planning to reintroduce the classic E-Mu SP-1200 drum machine and percussion sampler.

Rossum Electro-Music’s Dave Rossum was one of the founders of E-Mu, and last year introduced the 35th Anniversary SP-1200 Renovation – a limited edition of rebuilt SP-1200s, with updated software to support SD cards, along with other new features and updates.

Now, Rossum Electro-Music is teasing a Wednesday, November 3rd product announcement, with the catch phrase “Serious Repercussions”.  In the last few days, DJ Lethal has also shared images of a Rossum SP-1200.

The original SP-1200 was introduced in the ’80s and has been a favorite with producers since. Though they were made for an incredible 20 years, there’s still more demand than supply, with average used prices pushing towards $7,000 and up:

Pre-orders will open Wednesday, November 3rd at 10:00 AM PDT. See the Rossum site for details.

via Andreas Markusen

Akai S900 / S950 Vintage Sampler In-Depth Demo

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This video, via Tonelab, takes an in-depth look at the Akai S900 / S950 sampler from 1986, a hybrid digital + analog sampler.

Video Summary:

“I hope this helps to dispel some rumors and show you how to get around your S900 ..or perhaps, if you’re considering purchasing one, then I hope this helps you understand the kind of workflow you may be getting yourself into. Either way, here’s hoping you can turn confusion into creation with this walk-through of the amazing S900.”

Topics covered:

0:00 Intro / History & Specs
4:40 Workflow Concept
5:40 Navigating the S900
9:20 Record Section
9:47 Sample name
10:23 Monitoring
11:00 Sample Type
12:02 Audio Bandwidth
13:10 Recording Time
13:45 Pitch of Sound
14:10 Start With
15:05 Trigger & Rec Level
17:30 Pre-Trigger
18:51 Record Soft Sample
20:30 Record Loud Sample
21:40 01-Edit Sample
22:11 02-Select Program
22:57 03-Loudness Pitch
23:30 04-Replay Mode
23:55 05-Time Direction
24:15 06-Start Point
25:20 07-End Point
26:01 08-Loop Length
26:51 09-Discard
28:00 10-Splice Xfade
29:20 11-Xfade Time
29:38 12-Splice Order
31:54 13-Xfade Loop
33:45 14-VX Time Skew
36:10 15-Create VX
37:55 01-Edit Program
38:45 02-Key Loudness
39:55 03-Keygroups
41:20 04-Vel X-Fade
42:39 05-S Key Range
45:10 06-Filter, Pitch
46:36 07-L Key Range
47:29 08-LFilter, Pitch
47:48 09-Amp Env
50:20 10-Vel Sens
53:44 11-Warp
56:00 12-LFO
57:50 13-LFO A/T Bender
59:40 14-One Shot
1:01:29 15-MIDI Keygroup
1:03:00 16-Output Voices
1:04:24 17-VCF Env
1:06:33 01-Omni
1:07:09 03-MIDI Test
1:08:42 04-Pitch Wheel
1:09:23 RS232
1:10:15 Disk Section
1:12:05 Master Tune
1:12:12 Play Mode
1:13:00 RAM Check