Recently I picked up a few used Roland musical items that I rather like but use the zip drive format. I found a Roland VS-840EX in mint condition along with two Roland SP-808 samplers at rock bottom prices. The Roland VS-840 already was an EX version and I upgraded the two SP-808 samplers to the EX software version using OS midi files found online. Both the Roland SP-808EX and VS-840EX are excellent for triggering samples. I use the SP-808 WWAC converter program on my computer to import WAV files. I then use the BR WAV converter to import WAV files into the VS-840. Both machines sound fantastic, especially the SP-808EX. All in all, these are two very capable machines and are both a joy to use even though they are older devices. The SP-808 in particular sounds really good.
It’s important to note that my main uses for both machines is to simply trigger samples and apply effects. In other words, I like to use them as back track machines that I can use to play along with using my keyboards or guitars. For this the SP-808 and the VS-840EX work very well. Of course one can expand on the SP-808 and create sampled grooves plus one can record tracks onto the VS-840EX no problem. Both however are older machines so you have to expect limitations at times if you want to really use them for their intended purposes. I like to buy used gear and think outside the box a little bit. The SP-808 is a great groove box for backtracks and for the prices they are going in Japan now it’s crazy not to pick up a couple. The VS-840 are also a dime a dozen here too which is great on the wallet.
This week I was researching on some forums that the Roland VS-840EX could successfully be fitted with a Compact Flash Card to IDE converter in place of the zip drive. This allows you to use 1GB flash cards and to operate the Roland VS-840EX in silent fashion. A place where these CF to IDE cards are purchased is from an online vendor called Deal Extreme (An Absolute HORRIBLE company. Read comments about Dealextreme experience! Buyer Beware!) which are based in China if correct. These have been confirmed to work and once my order has arrived I’ll update this article with whether indeed it does. It’s apparently quite simple to swap the zip drive out and attach the CF to IDE adapter. In addition I picked up the SD to IDE adapter as well because both the CF and SD apparently work. These are very cheap from Deal Extreme although the company is very slow to ship I must say.
In addition, I will be installing both CF and SD card adapters into the Roland SP-808EX for testing and hopefully they will work. There are reports of CF card drives that work in the Roland SP-808 but no confirmed reports of exactly which drives or adapters. This is a huge thing if a CF or SD card adapter can be found for the Roland SP-808 Sampler. I’m not expecting it work really as so many adapters have been tried on the SP-808 and it’s been reported the OS firmware is the reason behind all the failed attempts. However, some do work and it is my hope that what I’ve recently purchased will be successful.
Currently I have a ton of zip disks and both 100 and 250 zip drives around the place. So it isn’t an issue of finding zip disks or working zip drives. I also have never really had any “drive too busy errors” because I mainly used the SP-808 and VS-840EX for sample track playback. However, the noise of these zip drives can get to you after a while especially in a quiet studio environment. So it would be really wonderful to get the zip drives out of these boxes.
I’ll update this post after I get the CF and SD card adapters into the Roland SP-808EX and Roland VS-840EX. With any luck I’ll have extra storage and a nice quiet place to work. Although the zip drives and disks work great with these machines and the with the computer, the CF and SD card versions should make the work flow a bit smoother. There are a ton of used Roland SP-808 and VS-840EX boxes in Japan. They are all super cheap too so if this works I pick up some more for the kids and the whole family….laugh. Stay tuned!