Roland SP-404 Mk2 (Part 1)

Sleepynumb suggested I post this over here, and not just in SP-Forums. I’ll try and look for suggestions here as well as I have time, and given the thread is over 3k long so far, I am willing to bet that there are plenty of good tips and thoughts already.

I dumped a bunch of thoughts on the 404 mk2 on MPC-Forums over the last couple months, and I’ve been kicking around the idea for a few weeks about putting together a free guide book for the SP-404 mk2, and spent the last week working on getting it kicked off.

Not going to lie, the current state of the guide is absolutely a work in progress right now, but figured that there’s enough in place to get some feedback, and see what folks might like to see getting written up first.

I’ll try to get updates to this thread every couple of days, but in the meantime feel free to go grab it off of the dedicated guidebook url page. Just remember, work in progress :D

NearTao Guidebook URL: NearTao’s Guide to the SP404-mk2 – NearTao's Blog
SP-Forums URL: SP-FORUMS • View topic - NearTao's Guide to the SP-404 mk2


Since this is an elektron forum: the lack of sequencing capabilities of the 404 was immediately made irrelevant for me once I tested to sequence it from the DN. It’s pretty basic as the 404 only allows to trigger the pads from external devices and not much else, velocity works fine though.
I haven’t even bothered with the 404 sequencer yet. I mostly use the 404 to resample with the internal metronome. But whenever I want to do something I can’t play, I just punch in the sequence on one of the DNs midi tracks and resample the pattern that way. It’s also another way for happy accidents. Each bank reacts to another midi channel, so keeping the same note pattern and just changing the midi channel can yield so unexpected results, depending on what kind of samples there are in each bank.


@NearTao Your guide book is very welcome, appreciate it!

Maybe this topic is also useful to watch for you : tips/tricks etc. for the SP404 MKII


is the guide for experienced sp users or total first timers on the 404mkii?
the point of view is gonna be different for each.
i see the mk2 becoming a whole different beast of a machine than the previous versions. new workflows gonna cum out of it probably.
if you go up in this thread (or the other 404mkii thread) there is somebody giving a link to a site that measures exactly where the end loop point is ( i think.) based on some parameters. a useful tool for some, me i dont mind imperfect loops, and acually now the combo of sequencing and resample method works great by resampling a pattern, so no need to cut a loop perfectly just resample it from the seq at its bpm. done. and instead of having a sample looping with the loop button u get a sample of several bars. thats how we did it when resampling on another sp.

i was a long time user of the OG, whose worflow is full of workarounds and “hacks”, so my perspective on the mkii is like “wow! this does make my life so much easier!”.
just watching parts of the roland manual video was enough for me to get the hang of it and start using it in a really familiar way.
just some bugs need fixing and a physical manual if possible. to find any hacks.
everything seems pretty self explanatory with all the secondary button functions written. on the og it was all obscure combos to do the simplest shit.
(imagine! to copy a pattern u had to move the pattern to the A/B bank, save the bank into the internal memory, with a ridiculous combo DEL + Bank A, i think, and then move the pattern back to its original bank, and then reload the internal memory to get a perfect copy of ur pattern in bank A!!! Ridiculous hack!) maybe we’ll find obscure stuff in this machine too who knows. if i come up with anything i’ll share it.


So far the guide isn’t exactly targeting newbies or OG users, though I suspect it will be a mix of both. Personally I’m more interested in the obscure areas of the mk2 (and other instruments in general), and will definitely be calling those parts out, but it also feels like it is valuable to cover more specific topics as they relate to the mk2 such as gain staging or AD/DA converter distortion… just as examples.

In that way, maybe it makes it a bit less readable as it may just end up having bits of information and details all over the place, but I figured I’d start someplace to explain the device, make notes of oddities or issues, and then roll into workflows or tips for making specific types of music.

Perhaps that sounds a bit manic, and for sure I am bouncing around filling in different sections or adding notes/thoughts as they come to mind, but I’m also more than happy to hear from what people want and try and get some sections filled out with a higher priority if anybody would find them useful.

Overall, just trying to put something out there that can get people information on using this cool instrument, and know that this is the kind of gear where rules are meant to be broken. Like you, I find beauty in the imperfections and oddities. An artists job is knowing when to lean into imperfections just as much as it is fixing what is wrong.


gainstaging might be a pain in the ass in this machine as there is no peak meter. right??? also there is a clipper supposedly at the end of the signal path, that might make distortions less audible if peaking. also no fx limiter as in the old ones which is good but different, so i have to get used to it.
still havent delved into its manual really. but saw a couple of people complaining about perfect loops so here you go, i think i gave an answer for it. but still its not a perfectly looping answer. heh
i think there is too many bugs that annoy me, to try to make whole beats on it yet. i dont like how bus (3/4 especialy) were implemented, and how the fx stop after resampling, or how you need to hit that exit btn 100 times, or the seq-chain-samples stop playing thing, or the chromatic mode not being able to be recorded on the seq, or make chords, even if i think i get why its not possible, i think. hope i’m not right.

also i found a kind of trick for one shots when choping dont mind the end mark so much as you will then go and edit that with the envelope too, knob 2 is a hold.

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You are correct, there is no peak meter… so the only things you have are when the EXT SOURCE shows red, visually inspecting a sample in Start/End, or using external gear. I suspect some things are possible, so experimenting with it a bit… but the volume difference on USB-C audio is making things… more difficult for that to be a reasonable approach at the moment.

See… I don’t mind the Bus FX stopping after resampling… what annoys me is that the EFX stays on after resampling… record a sample over 1/4" with a compressor or 303 vinyl sim on EFX, then play the sample back and enjoy the whooshing…

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you mean the master fx? yes also this…i wanna be able to turn the on/off whenever i want!

Err yeah… Master FX… slowly loosing my mind over here.

On the plus side, had some interesting results from the tests I have been running to see if EXT SOURCE is clipping when the pad turns red. Preliminary… but I can see that a triangle wav from my Moog is in fact getting crushed when the pad lights up red at all. This tells me that the red pad is not just a warning, but is in fact letting you know that you are introducing digital distortion.


Master FX (Bus 3/4) doesn’t bother me, but that’s because I only use them at the end of the beatmaking process, when I’m resampling my pattern chain or sequencing the beat.

I put it on occasionally to check stuff, but that’s about it. I only only use light effects on that to glue the track together, reverb and a little cassette sim, or something like that. Same way I might use the master bus in the DAW.

The one thing I need fixed is the crash I’m still getting, and with the help of someone on Reddit I determined it’s something to do with Tape Delay and not Amp Sim (one other person has reported the same issue to the Reddit guy compiling a list of bugs).

Other than that I’m pretty happy. Definitely no showstoppers.

Also, I realized why I’m finding the sound so “beefy”, I think. This is the first time I’ve worked with all stereo samples on a hardware machine. I might actually start putting some stuff in mono, as mono definitely has more of an old school vibe and will fit some tracks better I think.

Also, @NearTao, thanks so much for all of your hard work on the manual and experiments!

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0.7 is uploaded to NearTao’s Guide to the SP404-mk2 – NearTao's Blog

I started some information about gain staging, and then got side tracked. I mean it is important, but maybe doesn't make a *ton* of sense in the context of the mk2, still... will keep it in here for now, and see what makes sense as the book progresses. If anything, having the gain staging section prompted me to go off and try an experiment with EXT SOURCE and the pad turning red. Short answer if you don't want to read the book is that the pad turns red if you are digitally clipping. If you want this or want to avoid it is definitely up to you.

At least I now have a bit of an idea for a format to run the experiments, and it will help to fill out stuff in the frequently asked questions section. Also, had a few requests for some workflows, so I might try and drop a beat making section. Finally... uhm... tried to start to explain sampling, but got entirely side tracked by the rest of my day, so... will get there eventually, but boy is it so dang simple... I doubt anybody is waiting for me to cover how to record new samples straight in, but there are some cool things you can do... so we'll see.



Awesome. It really is a breeze. When sampling off of my computer, I often seamlessly switch between dragging stuff on via the software interface and sampling directly over USB.

One thing I would like Roland to do is update that software interface. I can’t believe you can’t type in numbers or batch change things by highlighting multiple things (unless I’m doing something wrong). Using those sliders is a pain.

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On the topic of the companion software, there should be a one-button solution to backing up / restoring the state of all 16 projects at once.


I have to say that I love being able to backup and delete projects knowing that I can reload them so quickly. It totally gels with my personality type of being able to start with a totally blank slate when I finish a project and not have a bunch of clutter.

What has annoyed me most about the samplers I’ve owned is that I always end up accumulating all sorts of crap and it ends up being too much work to get it organized and space becomes something you have to think about. That drove me nuts about the Digitakt.

The SP is like a dream in that respect. Hopefully they will keep improving the companion software.


Can I ask where you bought it? Been waiting months for mine.

I just posted 0.8

This latest update is quite a bit more than I’ve done over the last few days, a lot of links added to the reference section… some day I’ll get ahold of a service manual link to add in, or figure some things out and add some of that documentation, but for now just a lot of links mostly for videos people posted about the mk2, technical information, various forums. I’ll probably end up pruning it down a bit, but figured I’d see what it started to take shape as.

I also took some time to check if the microphone or guitar input had any interesting overdrive or distortion characteristics. They don’t, same old digital clipping as the line level inputs. I’ll see what I might be able to do on the USB-C inputs, but I suspect that is likely to be just more digital clipping. So… I continue to say that unless you want digital clipping, don’t let your EXT SOURCE go red… you’re much better off using a compressor if you want to increase the overall loudness of a sample.

There’s a few other things, but it’s been another day of bouncing around a lot as I tie of on another experiment, and a handful of things I wanted to research.


New SP404MKII Update VER.1.14


Nice list of SP404MKII Updates. VER.1.14 Includes:

  • Sample (pad) playback can now be independently muted (Pad Mute).
  • Pad-muted samples can now be monitored via headphones (CUE).
  • The PITCH and SPEED parameters of multiple samples in a mute group can now be changed simultaneously.
  • Samples selected in the chromatic mode can now be played by MIDI input from an external source (CH16: C2 [36] through C4 [60]).
  • The end point of a sample can now be set automatically during sampling or resampling by pressing [START/END] (END SNAP).
  • It is now possible to change to the pad mode (for sample playback by pressing the pads) by pressing the [HOLD] button while in the DJ mode.
  • It is now possible to change the bus destination by holding down [REMAIN] and pressing [CUE] (pad 14 or pad 16) while in the DJ mode.
  • Note numbers received via MIDI IN during pattern recording can now be simultaneously recorded in the pattern.
  • During pattern recording, the GATE parameters of respective samples can now be changed.
  • In the PATTERN EDIT mode, patterns in a loop passage can now be deleted as a group for each respective pad.
  • Patterns can now be changed immediately during pattern playback by holding down [SUB PAD] and selecting a different pad.
  • Note numbers corresponding to pads can now be output externally via MIDI OUT during pattern playback.
  • The display can now be turned off after a specified interval has elapsed.
  • How samples are played back at switching between patterns during pattern playback can now be specified.
  • The displayed time of popups can now be set.
  • The gain for audio output via PHONES OUT can now be set to a lower level.
  • The BPM SYNC parameter for all samples in a bank can now be set to ON or OFF.
  • The GATE parameter for the [EXT SOURCE] pad can now be set and can now also be recorded in a pattern.
  • Operation when split samples are assigned to respective pads in the CHOP mode has been improved.
  • Operation when importing samples from an SD card has been improved.
  • Buttons that are not used in a live performance can now be disabled (LIVE MODE).
    (Hold down [SHIFT] and press and hold [REMAIN] for 3 seconds or larger.)

The following bugs have been fixed.

  • During sample playback (GATE set to ON and HOLD set to ON), playback stops when the BUS destination is changed while pressing [REMAIN].
  • During pattern recording, in rare cases, the final note sometimes fails to be recorded.
  • When a sample having a fixed velocity is played in the chromatic mode, the velocity is unfixed.

This is a fantastic update! So many good things in here. It really shows they are listening. Based on my experience with the SX, I didn’t expect much in the way of change with the MKII and was actually okay with that. However, some of my top updates from this are

  • Pad Mutes
  • Note numbers received via MIDI IN during pattern recording can now be simultaneously recorded in the pattern.
  • Note numbers corresponding to pads can now be output externally via MIDI OUT during pattern playback.

Because of these, I should be able to play a pattern I’ve made on the MKII while a DAW (or my MPC) are listening and be able to record the pattern onto a piano roll. That way I can nudge single samples in the middle of the pattern and tweak to my hearts content before re-recording the pattern onto the MKII. Then when I’m satisfied with everything I can resample and have my finished track!

This really is the perfect sketch machine for me now as I can take it anywhere, record my ideas and be able to tweak them later if necessary.