Korg Polysix Synthesizer Madness!

I’ve really come to enjoy the Korg Polysix Synthesizer. It’s such a joy to use each day and the attention it requires is amazing. I’m not sure why, but if I let the Polysix sit without playing it for more than a couple of days, strange things seem to happen inside the machine. It’s funny, I don’t even keep the cover screwed down anymore because I’m constantly lifting up the hood and cleaning something. The Polysix kind of reminds me of the daily repairs on my old VW Bug during my University days. That actually was a very trusty vehicle probably because I knew it inside and out. I feel the same with the Korg Polysix. I sometimes see double with the LEDS on the front panel. Occasionally a key triggers a few times too many, but sometimes it sounds kind of cool. Everyone so often, I also get a glitch or two which seems to be triggered by what I don’t know…laugh.

What’s interesting is that if I lift the hood and rub some alcohol cleaner around the circuits ( With the Polysix unplugged of course ), it then fires up on all cylinders just fine. It’s probably the cleanest Polysix I know of. I have another Polysix to the right which actually works perfectly yet, I keep migrating to this particular one which is older in serial number. For some reason it just seems to have quite a bit of character. I know a lot of people who get those KIWI mods, but I’m not quite ready to spend more than what I paid for this Polysix for the upgrade. The Korg Polysix sends me into madness sometimes but it can also transport me into another realm of sweet music and fun. I just love the modulation you can get out of the Polysix. I think the video posted above illustrates pretty well the effort in trying to tame the mighty machine and keep it running.

I feel extremely fortunate to not just have one, but two Korg Polysix synthesizers. However, the one in this video is special to me. I don’t know if I’ll ever sell it primarily because I have this strange feeling it won’t ever work again the minute somebody else turns it on. Yeah, I’ve had a lot of cars in my life and they’ve gotten nicer since my VW bug days. Yet, it’s that VW bug that I remember the most. The bond we had working together to get back home safely in the wee hours of the morning after a night at the club was amazing. The bug always came through for me just like this trusty, but mad, old Korg Polysix. Cherish those struggles in life I say, as they are the very things that define us.

Have a great weekend and happy jamming!

Note about the video: All tracks were looped with the Boss RC-300. I toggle between several patches on the Korg Polysix itself. I use a drum machine for the drum midi’d to the Boss RC-300.

Korg Polysix Synthesizer
Korg Polysix Synthesizer

Fantastic Analog Korg Poly-61 Patches

Today I bought a set of patches from “AnalogAudio1” on Youtube and I can’t recommend them enough. It has totally rejuvenated my Korg Poly-61 and it’s such a pleasure to play now. The original patches I loaded were the factory presets if correct and they were really uninspiring. From there I spent quite a bit of time programming my own sounds, but found myself dinging around too much with the clunky button way of programming on the Korg Poly-61. I basically wanted to just play and tweak a little when necessary. I ran into the Youtube video I posted below and thought ANY set of new patches would be better than what I had currently inside.

If you are stuck with the preset patches, this is a MUST have Korg Poly-61 custom patch set. Even if you don’t like the sounds 100% which is unlikely, you can easily use them as a basis for modifying to your own taste. There are some really fantastic patches that successfully illustrate the capabilities of the Korg Poly-61. I definitely found out it can do more than I expected.

I can’t thank “AnalogAudio1” enough for putting life back into my Korg Poly-61. The Korg Poly-61 is now out of storage and sitting pretty in the mix! Thank you!!

Note that the patch set I received was in mp3 format and I simply loaded it into Audacity on my old trusty winxp laptop. I enabled tape load on the Korg Poly-61 and turned off memory protect. On the very first try, I played the file all the way through without stopping and the Korg Poly-61 reported a “Good” notice on the screen. The patches all sounded perfect!! Easy as could be!

Roland S-50 Vintage Sampler Workstation

Roland S-50 Sampler
Roland S-50 Sampler

Happy New Year everyone!

I was very busy over the New Year Holidays, but found a spare moment to run into one of my favorite used music shops called “Hard Off” here in Nagano-city, Japan. To my surprise, I found a bundled Roland S-50 for $10 bucks! Geez, I’ve been tinkering with my other one for ages with the Static Output problem and so I thought Wow! Might I get lucky and find a Roland S-50 in perfect working order? Well, not quite. I actually found the Roland S-50 to have “almost” the same static output problem as my other one. However, what’s different is that it outputs static across the entire polyphony range instead of just a couple of voices on the my other one.

What came with the Roland S-50 became a bit more rewarding after I found the Roland S-50 to be a bit flawed with the distorted output. Bundled along with it was the original Roland stand sold with the S-50 long ago in Japan. It also had the Roland DT-100 with Stylus pen in perfect condition. Plus the SYS-503 Sequencer dongle along with disks and manual thrown into the mix. Finally, I snagged an RGB cable, but still requires an old monitor which I don’t have. I didn’t think to look for it in the store so I might go back just in case. These days, any vintage GK, RGB, RC cable is valuable in the Roland world.

The Roland S-50 itself is in mint shape. So I also figure I have a spare display, floppy drive, joystick, and other spare part inventory now for the Roland S-50. As I reported back in my earlier articles about the Roland S-50, there is a major static or distorted output issue on many units. What exactly is the cause I am not 100%, but I can say that cleaning the Relay has pretty much reduced if not negated all static output for a short while. There also is a 3-way toggle switch on the back that adjusts the L/M/H level output of the S-50 which when wiggled can cause instability as well. However, I found the toggle switch had no direct connection to the static output as it appears to be a “post” audio leveler adjustment. Something tells me, the issue is likely very simple, but unfortunately I’m not quite at the level of expertise nor do I have all the tools to diagnose the problem. Until then, I feel the S-50 will not see the stage until I can get it more stable.

Beware for anyone looking to buy a used Roland S-50. In my research, I have encountered a significant number of Roland S-50 Samplers with the Static/Distorted output issue. Be careful when buying one because the problem is becoming more of a common one and there is no 100% fix yet. Cleaning the relay helps. I also found turning down the volume and raising the gain on the mixer to help quite a bit as well. I play hard on the keys so the distorted output really stands out when the pressure is on the keys more. If you play softly there is almost no issue at all. Of course it’s rather difficult to jam playing softly…laugh.

With that said, the addition of the DT-100 and SYS-503 dongle are wonderful. If one day I get the Roland S-50 static issue solved, I no doubt will go gang busters with it because I simply LOVE the sound it produces.

Here is a recent video uploaded to Youtube that I found to be an excellent demo of the Roland S-50.

Roland S-50 Static Output Solution

Aromat NL6X 5V DC Coil
Aromat NL6X 5V DC Coil

My goodness! This Roland S-50 Sampler of mine has really been an interesting ordeal in getting the board back into shape and in near perfect working order. Probably if you do a Google search about the Roland S-50 Sampler Static Output problem you’re likely to easily find both my blog and name attached to it. You’ll also likely find several comments about what I “think” is the problem. After several weeks of really tackling the problem “again”, I finally think I have found the solution.

If you are getting static output, especially when playing hard on the keys or at high volumes with the output set to “H” on the back, then likely the problem is as I expected…the Aromat NL6X 5V DC Coil Relay located on the Jack Output Board. You can see the attached photo of the exact “pain in the neck” part. It is this relay that appears to be both the problem and answer to ALL of my issues with the Roland S-50 output including static, voice skipping, and any distortion in the sound. I have done significant testing to determine that the relay is the checkpoint of just about everything and in my opinion the “heart” of the Roland S-50.

How do you fix it? Well, first of all, the replacement part is virtually non-existent. I have called Roland in Japan and have been searching both Ebay and Yahoo Japan Auctions for over a year. Absolutely nothing has materialized. I then bought a second Jack Board off ebay as replacement and got the exact same problem. So it was obvious the guy selling it to me couldn’t get his Roland S-50 working probably for the same reason. So I ended up buying the problem all over again…laugh. The good news is that this purchase gave me a second test board to hack away at and that’s pretty much what I did. So, here is what I accomplished.

1. First I removed the output jack board from the Roland S-50 for easier accessibility. I then removed the plastic cover of the relay. For now I plan to keep it off because during my testing I found out that moisture or residue ( whatever you call it ) will build up inside and it “seems” to be a part of the problem. So eliminating the cover appears to have helped. Don’t throw it away, but just keep it safe somewhere just in case you need to put it back on.

2. This is hard to explain, but I then had to pry or bend the clamps ( left and right at the bottom and at the metal cross at the top ) in order to lift up the square metal piece holding the middle copper coil. The does NOT come off, BUT it will bend upwards allowing you to both squirt some Deoxit and using a Q-tip to clean each copper contact leg sufficiently. There are 8 copper legs in total and you need to THOROUGHLY clean each leg contact and the little metal round contact points they rest on. If you accidentally bend the copper legs, that is fine but do try to bend them back so they lay flat.

3. Now bend the copper coil with metal frame back down and using some tool of your choice, try to bend the clamps back into place so that the relay is in position and will not pop out. This is tricky. I never got mine back in perfectly because the left and right clamps are so small, but I did get it pretty firm back into position. After that I leave off the plastic cover and then slid the jack board back into the Roland S-50.

Now, when you power the Roland S-50 back on, it should start right up and boot off your floppy. You should experience “ZERO” static when you play the keys right away. If you still get static output, you then need to repeat the entire process of cleaning. I did this procedure to two Output Jack boards with unbearable static and distortion. They both work 100% now. It took an absolute thorough cleaning of the Aromat Relays, especially focusing on the “eight” copper legs and 4 contact points in between. I then left the plastic cover off. I used CAIG Deoxit for the spray which works very well. You should also spray the output jacks and the L/M/H toggle switch on the back.

I usually have the Roland S-50 output toggle switch set to the middle “M” position. I then have the volume slider set at the 7 mark. From there I set my mixer to get a good volume. Now I tend to play VERY HARD on keys. I have big hands and I when I get a funk groove going, I really get into it. I found a fantastic RHODES disk for the Roland S-50 that has great bark with a really gritty sound. It’s a superb sound which is one reason why I have been at it fixing the Roland S-50 for such a long time. It’s a great sampling keyboard and I really love the sound. When I now play the rhodes sound I get zero distortion or static output. It’s clean, clear, and very analogish sounding. It’s got that super funky rhodes sound now and I love it!

I truly believe the problem with static output now is the relay. Fortunately it’s big and built tough, because it definitely requires one to scrub and get in there with a Q-tip to get it properly cleaned. You wouldn’t want this to be a delicate piece to clean. It definitely requires a major wash. It took three rounds of cleaning to completely eliminate the static. Yes, it may take multiple cleanings, but you’ll hear the progress as the static will start to diminish and stay that way. I wouldn’t put the screws back in until you’re satisfied. Just keep cleaning that relay and it will eventually come back to life “hopefully” as good as new.

I should also clarify, the problem is NOT any bad chips on the motherboard. I thought it was, but after further testing I am utterly convinced it’s the relay.

Please comment if you have any knowledge or experience with bad relays on the Roland S-50. I’m confident I have fond the problem, but I’m still not sure exactly what aspect of the Relay is causing the problem. Thank you!!

Roland VP-9000 VariPhrase Processor – An underrated Gem!

Roland VP-9000 VariPhrase Processor
Roland VP-9000 VariPhrase Processor

I’ve always wanted a Roland VP-9000 but here in Japan they have always been quite expensive and elusive to find. Especially way back when the Roland VP-9000 was first released it was a VERY expensive sampling module. Nowadays it’s quite cheap but still a little hard to find here in Japan. Luckily one popped up on Ebay from a friend I frequently buy from and it’s now on the way! I’m quite excited about it because although the technology is not that unique or new anymore ( software has replaced a few functions ), it still is quite a useful sampler to plug into my Roland A90 for sample manipulation. I am particularly interested in the real time pitch and tempo change ability, especially adding harmonies in real time. That legato mode sounds really cool as well. If you watch the video below you’ll know what I mean.

Manipulating vocal performances is my primary interest but I understand being able to manipulate drum beats is also quite interesting. I was also able to acquire the V-Producer and V-Trainer software for the Roland VP-9000 which allows you to edit and import files much easier as well. I’m not really excited about using a Zip drive again, but I’m not sure I’ll pumping that many samples in and out of the VP-9000, rather just work with a few on projects to start out with. I’m also curious about the “alternate” method of creating multisamples across an octave or two which apparently works pretty good.

The Roland VP-9000 is one of those unique or one trick pony sort of devices that I think will be quite fun and useful to add to a sort of minimal band performance. There are some limitations to the Roland VP-9000 but coming from the likes of the Roland S-50, W-30, and a few other samplers, I don’t think it should bother me much. I enjoy thinking outside the box with such devices and I know at the end of the day I’ll “make it work” as they say.

I’ll update more here in the comments section when I get the VP-9000 probably early next week. Stay tuned!

UPDATE #1

The Roland VP-9000 arrived today and I had a chance to load some samples into it and give it a test run. It’s fantastic!! It connects really easy to any midi keyboard controller and is very useful to play once you have some good samples loaded into it.

On Windows 7 I have a program called V-Producer with V-Trainer for the VP-9000. The V-Trainer allows you to batch encode WAV/AIFF samples and then save them to a Zip drive. Ecoding the Wav file is necessary to allow you to play the file in a polyphonic manner without it changing the tempo when plyaing it up and down the keyboard. I took some voice samples from the Datafile Series 1 Cd-Rom and quickly encoded the voice wav files in a few seconds. I then put the zip into the VP-9000 and encountered my first real annoyance. The VP-9000 so far doesn’t allow you to bulk load or select several samples at a time to load. Instead you have to load each one. A work around though is that you can save all the samples in memory with a performance. Performances are kind of like projects as with newer samplers. So you only have to load one at a time only once.

After you get the samples loaded in, you then need to do a couple of tweaks:

1. First go to MODE > PLAYBACK and set the parameter to “RETRIGGER”. This will allow you to play up and down the keyboard without samples having a delay in triggering. By default, the playback is set to something different which causes the sample triggering to operate in a sort of glitch manner.

2. Second go to MODE > AMP and set the parameter “FADE” to something like In = 3 seconds and Out = 10 seconds. This will eliminate all of the pops and crackles you hear when playing a particular sample across 2-3 octaves. The FADE parameter is kind of a crude way of setting the attack and release for a sample although it’s not quite the same. Note that the VP-9000 does not have envelopes on board so the FADE parameter is the best bet for removing any unwanted noises.

Another tweak is to add multi-effects to the sample. I particularly like the tap delay which gives the sample a sort of synthetic sustain or release. It’s a very cool effect as with most all effects on board the VP-9000. Sure, a few necessities like envelopes were forgotten on the VP-9000, but the effects processor will likely make up for it for some users.

I have found the key to getting a good set of sounds on the Roland VP-9000 is to use short samples. The internal 8MB memory is fantastic coming from 720/1.44 on the Roland S-50. I found pulling vocal samples from old Roland, E-MU, Akai, and Ensoniq sample libraries to be awesome for the VP-9000. They pitch excellent up and down the keys and with 6 note polyphony with the VP-9000 you can record pretty much play any one track “piano type” groove with any sample. The polyphony is a drawback but if you record to an audio recorder, loop station, or just play one track you’re perfectly fine.

The Roland VP-9000 is an absolute creative monster and a very underrated machine. I’ll write more once I further explore the Roland VP-9000. Thanks!

UDPATE #2
I figured out that you can load multiple samples by pressing the VALUE dial and adding a “+” next to each sample. Excellent!

Here is the Roland VP-9000 Promo Video found on youtube.

Roland MV-8000 and Akai S2000 Sample Import

Roland MV-8000 Sampler
Roland MV-8000 Sampler

Recently I picked up a used Roland MV-8000 at a small second hand shop in a remote area of Nagano-city, Japan. I actually had my eye on this for the past two years and gradually watched the price hit rock bottom and to the point where I thought it was only a matter of days before someone saw the great deal. So I snagged it while I could and I must say it’s been a blast working with it. So far it does just about everything I’ve asked it to do and what it does, it does very well.

Working with phrases, the pads, and sequencer are all pretty straight forward. What particularly interested me was the ability for the MV-8000 to work fully with creating instruments using multisamples imported or created by sampling. Not only could I create a beat, or loop a phrase, but I also could playback any sort of Akai, E-MU, Ensoniq, or Roland multisample from a collection of sample CDs that I have acquired. I also mentioned the Akai S2000 in my title because I have also found a new way to work with importing samples to the S2000 which in turn I can create a CD-Rom for import into the MV-8000 which works flawlessly. Thus I thought I’d outline my workflow below in case it helps give ideas to others interested in doing something similar with either of these devices.

I must stress that the main task I am trying to achieve is to import samples into the Akai S2000 / Roland MV-8000 as instruments for playback using a midi keyboard controller. In my case I usually use a Roland A-90 Expandable Controller.

The Akai S2000 is a fun sampler and I’ve always liked the sound, BUT, it’s never been easy to import and map samples across the keys. I finally found a solution that works incredibly well and I’ll use my “Universe of Sounds” for the E-MU Emulator II series as an example. A while back I successfully converted the E-MU Universe of Sounds CD Roms to Emulator X2 format on my computer. I then found that if I did the following I could import these into the Akai S2000 perfectly.

1. Convert the Emulator X2 Universe of Sounds patches into Akai S5000 format using Extreme Sampler Converter. I’ve used Awave Studio and Translator 6 without success. They alter the patch settings too much, but ESC keeps them virtually untouched.

2. For the second step, I translate the Akai S5000 files into Akai MESA format using CD Xtract 4. Again if I use Awave Studio or Translator 6 it alters the patch files and they don’t sound correctly. Translator 6 works fine if I import into the Akai S2000 only, but later when I want to import into the Roland MV-8000, I notice major patch issues which I isolated to Translator 6 changing the original patch attributes.

3. I now take the AKAI Mesa files created by CD Xtract 4 and import them into Millenium Pro which is a program I found on an old hard drive from WAAAY back. I can’t remember where I got it but I remember a guy named Jan used to program it. It works perfectly for importing MESA patches into the S2000. It’s VERY stable and most importantly it keeps the true nature of the multisample patches in tact. It’s amazing how well it works. Note that I use a Windows 98 computer with an INTERNAL SCSI card connected to an Akai S2000. I found that using any sort of PCMCIA SCSI or USB SCSI will not work. It must be a card slotted inside the computer. I can also use Windows XP which works fine too, but like Windows 98 a little better. In both cases you need an internal SCSI card and not a PCMCIA card SCSI device.

4. Once I have the sample imported into the Akai S2000, I can stop there, OR, I can import them into the Roland MV-8000. What I do for that is first save the multisampled patches from the Akai S2000 to an MO disk drive connected via SCSI. The Akai S2000 can only use 230MB MO disks so I can only create a maximum 230MB CD-Rom.

5. I then have to rip an image of the MO drive using again the highly useful “Extreme Sample Converter”. It creates an exact image of the MO disk with which I can then use a image burner and create an Akai S-1000 formatted CD-Rom. I found that saving the patches FROM the Akai S2000 and then ripping the MO image to be the BEST way to keep all the settings safe and untouched. Any use of a software application like Awave Studio or Translator 6 alters the files. I have done this extensively and on my computers they 100% change the files so I can’t comment anymore than the fact that something is changed and I can’t explain it. An Akai S2000 created MO disk works 100% perfect so I’m all over that…laugh.

6. Finally I insert the newly created Akai S1000 CD-Rom into the MV-8000 and import the patches into the instrument area of the sampler. PRESTO!! I now have my E-MU Universe of Sound instrument collection mapped perfectly with pitch, root notes, envelopes, and names all appropriately placed. I literally don’t have to change a thing, but of course the MV-8000 is different than the Akai S2000 so I naturally tweak things a bit to my liking.

I can now use the Akai S2000 to effectively create a working and very accurate Akai S-1000 CD-Rom full of multisamples that can be perfectly imported into my Roland MV-8000, S-760, Yamaha A3000, etc sampler. The Akai S-1000 is still pretty much a universal format for most samplers and by being able to create multisample instrument CD-Roms in Akai S-1000, I can fill up other brand samplers quite easily.

Note that there is an MV Kit Creator program that I hear works very well with the Roland MV-8000, BUT it cannot handle the creation of multisampled instruments. I primarily use samplers for creating patches or instruments most of the time. I should also note that Translator 6 can translate samples into MV-8000 instrument format, but honestly that doesn’t work for me. I have to spend WAAAAY too much time tweaking the result. By using ESC, CD Xtract, and Millenium Pro in the manner above, my success rate is near perfect which allows me to “Tweak to play” rather than “Tweak to fix” a patch. I would LOVE for Translator 6 to work but it doesn’t. I did however register Translator 6 so that hopefully an update will work, but until then I have found a suitable workaround.

I really enjoy tinkering with hardware samplers. I recently also just picked up a Roland VP-9000 and am anxious to dive into that as well. It should be fun. EnjoY!!

Roland SP-808 converted to Edirol A6 with Hard Disk

Roland SP-808 Groove Sampler
Roland SP-808 Groove Sampler

Currently I have three ( yes three ) Roland SP-808 Groove Samplers with the crappy Zip Drives in them. I don’t use them much simply because the noise caused by the Zips are sometimes unbearable when using these devices. I have tried many times to install CF/SD and HDs to the SP-808/EX Samplers but none have worked. Thus today, I decided to take one of the SP-808 Samplers and convert it to an Edirol A6 Audio Workstation. The conversion, upgrade, or downgrade depending on your point of view went super smooth. The conversion process was done via midi using eight files and along with an IDE 3.5 to 2.5 adapter I was able to install successfully a laptop hard disk. My Roland SP-808 is now a fully functional Edirol A6 and the Zip noise is now GONE! My goodness, the silence is awesome and the SP808/A6 is now a joy to use.

There are some major differences between the SP-808 and the A6. I’ll write a few below that I’ve encountered. There may be some workarounds, but you will lose some functionality by converting the SP-808 to the A6.

1. If you have the OP-1 expansion board installed which I do, you will NOT be able to use the SP-808 WAV converter software anymore with the A6 external zip drive. The Format/Backup/Recovery of zip disks when attached externally to the OP-1 expansion board is radically different. You can kiss the WAV converter goodbye as all compatibility is out the window.

2. In addition, the SP-808 WAV converter will not work with the Edirol A6 hard disk when connected to the PC. The way to import WAV files it seems is to use a separate zip disk drive connected to your PC with an SP-808 zip disk inside. Using that SP-808 zip disk you can import you WAV files using the SP-808 converter software. Once you disk is complete, you then open up the disk contents in explorer and drag/drop the files into the Edirol A6 hard disk partition of your choice. When you re-attach the hard disk to the Edirol A6, it will now read the samples you imported. There’s just no escaping that zip disk or drive…laugh. I have all the SP-808 converters from 1.0 up to 2.2 and they all don’t allow me to directly import WAV files onto an Edirol A6 formatted Hard Disk.

3. You LOSE the SP-808 pad event sequencer, mono synth, D-Beam, BPM functions, and Midi sync abilities. It’s all gone folks and there is no workaround period.

4. You lose six sampling pads. Thus you now have 10 pads rather than 16 for sample playback, however you DO get 4 sample pads back as favorites. These 4 pads though apply to all sample banks so you do not get 4 favorites for each bank. In addition, the remaining two lost sample pads are used for sequential playback of sample pads which is a unique feature to the A6. Pad Favorites and Pad Sequential playback are cool features and may allow you to apply them in creative ways to your mixes.

5. You also will have differences in the number and type of effects. I can’t detail them right now, so you’ll have to check the manual but so far the changes aren’t that critical. If you are heavily into effects and if you have a few favorites, I strongly suggest you consult the manual beforehand to ensure you can either replicate or create the needed effect.

6. I can’t verify this, but some have indicated the sample pad response is a tad slower on the A6. Thus if you press the sample pads you they may not react as snappy as you like. They seem fine to me, but I’m not a hardcore beat sample user. My initial feeling is that complaints are a bit on the picky side, but I could be wrong.

Roland Edirol A6 Audio Workstation
Roland Edirol A6 Audio Workstation

So with all these “missing” or “crippled” functions on the A6, why on earth would one want to convert their SP-808 Sampler box to an Edirol A6? The following reasons my not be the ideal reasons for everyone, but for me they work great and so far I’m happy with the conversion.

1. The Zip drive noise and unreliability is gone gone gone!!! I can now sample in silence and enjoy the SP-808/A6 in a quiet atmosphere. That zip whine gives me a headache after a while so I’m happy to say the A6 box runs silent. For me that adds to my creative whim.

2. I can substitute lack of MIDI clock sync with MTC Time code linked with a Roland XP-80, VS-840, or few other devices I have. Synchronization is excellent and I don’t think about the midi issue at all. Most people only have Midi clock experience and little with MTC so I understand the apprehension, but if you have the hardware it’s a non issue.

3. By using the 2.5 HD, you can easily remove the drive and plug it into your computer with an easy to find USB/HD cable. The HD will appear on the PC and you can access it via the SP-808 wav converter. You can also access the data folders and build your banks for later transfer to the HD as well. Getting LOTS of wav samples onto the HD is not a problem UNLIKE the external zip if formatted with the A6 and the OP-1. You will also have to adhere to the 10 only pads that allow sample triggering. Any other samples allocated to the remaining 6 pads will go undetected. Also note that all partitions will show up on the computer. So you can import WAV banks to all partitions which is cool. Then insert the HD back into the A6 and jam away.

4. If you have a 2nd or 3rd SP-808 like I do, you can utilize the D-Beam, Mono Synth, Sequencer, etc. on that machine. Then you can use the A6 to record if you like.

5. Triggering the A6 sample pads via midi is simple and very flexible. You can even trigger the sequential pads and pad favorites 1-4. Thus you could use the second SP-808 to trigger the A6 pads if you like while at the same time triggering the SP-808 pads. It’s like using the A6 as a sound module. I have a Roland VS-840 converted to SD card reader which operates really well. Using this with the A6 is a great combo. In fact, the Edirol A6, SP-808EX and VS840 would make a nice triple threat.

6. The A6 is actually thought of more as a Hard Disk recorder than a Sampler now. You get additional V tracks for each track so that you can record multiple takes and toggle between them. This allows for some additional creative usage unavailable on the SP-808.

There are likely more positives and negatives for whatever side you take above, but for now these are the main ones I’ve encountered. If you have converted your SP-808 to the A6 or have made any modifications, please comment. I’m about 99% sure that NO hard disk can be used in the SP-808 and I only ever heard of one CF card reader out of hundreds that claims to work. That reader is no longer available and I don’t have any info on it unfortunately. Thus right now, the only option is to make due with the Roland SP-808 as is, sell it, or convert it to an A6.

I do know this though. Should anyone develop or find a way to get an HD or CF/SD card into the SP-808, the value will go up with these samplers. Despite the low polyphony of 4, I think the SP-808 could become a real classic provided that nasty zip drive gets dropped in the near future. We’ll see. Until then, I have three Roland SP-808s that I’m trying to find uses for. I’m sure quite a few other SP-808 owners are in the same boat.

Note: I originally bought one SP-808 when it first came out used. The second one was given to me broken but I repaired it. The final third I bought at a rock bottom price because it had the OP-1 expansion board installed. Just FYI for those wondering why I would have three units.