Born in 1998 so the Roland Sp-808 Groovesampler turned 20 this year. It’s a versatile machine being more than a sampler. It offers a lot of effects, a mono virtual synth, a step modulator and a 4-track recorder. So yeah….it’s versatile so I can understand you want one. Before you buy one on the second hand market, I’ll give you these tips to make sure you buy a nice piece of gear instead of a large brick.
The ‘mistake’ made by Roland was putting in a Zip Drive as the main drive. Without a Zip Disk the first unit (the black one) even wasn’t able to startup. When Roland released the e-mix Studio (the red one) you were able to use the SP-808 in standalone mode. Which meant that you had access to all features instead of the sampler/recorder. Nowadays it’s easy to upgrade your OG SP-808 to the e-mix Studio. Too bad is that you can’t put any IDE-card reader replacement. Only the original CF-cardreader from the Akai MPC-2000XL will work but the sellers know its price….Meanwhile we (all SP-808 users) keep on being depended on the heel of Achilles.
You’ve made the decision to buy one. Before buying I suggest to enter the Diagnostic Mode of the SP-808 to make sure the machine is working fine. Press Status + Effects above D and turn the power on to enter this mode.
You’ll enter a menu with 16 different tests.
2. LCD CONTRAST
9. ZIP (atapi)
10. ANALOG I/O
13. DIGITAL I/O
15. FOOT SW.
After every test the SP-808 will go to the next test.
When the test is done, the according pad is lit.
In this video you see all tests.
Also you can do more tests, like an audio test to make sure the unit can really grab audio.
So, bring a RCA-mini jack cable to connect your phone to the LINE input.
Also a MIDI-cable for the Diagnostic Test.
If you have any ideas, please let me know this in the comments below!
Good luck on buying this beautiful piece of gear!