Boss SP-505 Groove Sampling Workstation Review

The Boss SP-505 is a pretty sweet sampler. There are many limitations compared to other samplers, but it has some tricks up it’s sleeves. It has ample sampling time with memory cards and some pretty wicked effects. I had originally just wanted to get an SP-202 for basic sample playback, but this has so many more features, plus I didn’t need to hunt down any specialized memory cards. The operating system is a little convoluted and things can take a second to get ready, but since I had very low expectations for this it totally blew me away.

I think the power of this sampler is that it can load .wav and .aif files (44.1kHz, 16 bit) from the smartmedia card, so you have an endless array of sounds available. 32 banks (16 sounds to each bank) can be loaded into the machine at once. All the sounds are always available to you. No need to “load” new programs or banks. Turn the unit on and you are ready to go. One more major advantage is that when you turn it on, everything is there ready to go. No need to autoload like an MPC. Also, when you make a sequence, there is no need to “Save” is like other drum machines or sequencers (I’m looking at you MPC1000).

The effects are pretty cool, although you only have one effect processor. You can re-sample a sound through the effect very easily which allows you to re-trigger the sample with the effect applied. Then you can use the processor to effect another track or sample. The effects can be warped in realtime, but the knob movement is not recorded into the sequence. The foot pedal can be assigned to turn the effect processor on and off, which as a guitarist I found pretty intuitive. I was able to create some cool beats with effects cutting in at rhythmic times. The pitch effect is awesome, it sounds like Ableton’s Grain delay. You can change the pitch without changing speed, but it gets metallic and glitchy when you change the pitch value in real time. By far my most favorite effect, and one of the gripes I have about selling it is that this effect sounds so cool.

For a 10 year old sampler it has some nice features, and can make a nice supplement to anyone’s setup who is looking for a lightweight and portable sampler which is mostly aimed at drums and loops. Check out the band PLANT PLANTS to see what can be done with a little ingenuity and a few SP-505 samplers…

Some of the nice features about this sampler:
• Up to 64 MINUTES of 44.1kHz sampling time with included 128mb Smartmedia card
• Footswitch can be set to turn effect on or off
• Pitch effect is awesome for warping / modifying samples. Has a cool “Feedback” knob which makes it sound metallic. Similar to Ableton’s Grain Delay.
• Can be setup so that 8 banks are mapped across 127 keys for live performance playback via midi keyboard/controller. Way better than the lower SP series like SP-404, SP-303, SP-202.
• With included Smartmedia card it has 32 banks of samples (each bank has 16 samples).
• 4 Track sequencer, plus any bank can freely be assigned to any track of the 4 track sequencer.
• Uses standard 3.3V Smartmedia cards which are more common (although discontinued) than the ones used with SP-202’s
• Independent swing toggle for each track.
• Realtime record with selectable quantize or no quantize.
• Re-sampling so you can capture the sample with effect applied in order to free up the effect processor for other sounds.
• Sampling with BPM auto-slice. If you know your tempo of the loop you can set the SP-505 to automatically chop it to the right length for you.
• Records velocity in sequencer (although pads themselves are not velocity sensitive)
• Auto Chop to slice up breakbeats
• Auto chromatic assign to stretch a sample over 1 octave chromatically.
• Some basic built in ROM samples
• BPM Sync. Loops at different speeds can be synchronized. This works best with percussive sounds, non-sustaining and non-pitched sounds can get a little garbled.
• Track select buttons double as track “mute” buttons
• Can process audio input in realtime, including running it to the effects.
• 26 types of effects
• Has the infamous SP-303 effect called “Vinyl Simulator”

A few “Cons” about this unit are:
• No “filter” per voice like other traditional samplers
• Pads are not velocity sensitive.
• Pitch Bank (like MPC 16 Level Tune) has to play and resample sample to new pitches in realtime before you can use it.
• Knob movement not recorded.

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