The SP-404 was discontinued and replaced by the SP-404SX.
But is the SP-404SX better? How about the even newer SP-404A?
There are some changes you should know about in each of these models.
Read on and I’ll break down what sets them apart.
SD memory cards have been the standard for a number of years. The SP-404SX and SP-404A both use SD cards.
The SP-404 uses Compact Flash, which has some drawbacks.
Compact Flash cards and their sockets are much less durable. They’re more expensive. They’re getting harder to find.
In the case of the SP-404, you can only use up to a 1GB card.
The 404SX and 404A support up to 32GB SD cards.
You can get as much as 48 hours of stereo samples on the 404SX/404A. Compare this to about 4.5 hours on the SP-404 with the largest card.
While 4.5 hours of samples may be enough for you, keep in mind that all samples on the SP-404 are compressed to make this possible.
This means there is some loss of fidelity.
Some perceive the SP-404 as having a “warmer” sound. This is likely due to the high frequencies being squeezed into a smaller range.
Samples on the SP-404SX and SP-404A are uncompressed and true to the source.
Most would consider the SX to have a “clean” sound. However, if you’re looking for a warmer or grittier sound, you can always add that in later.
A side note: make sure any samples you import are in .WAV or AIFF format, 8 or 16-bit, and 44.1kHz. This ensures you’re working with the good quality audio from the start.
Due to slower memory, a number of functions on the SP-404 take longer.
Saving longer samples and patterns results in waiting on the dot in the display to stop blinking – that indicates the save has completed.
You’ll hardly ever see this delay on the SP-404SX and SP-404A.
Deleting, importing, and exporting also take longer.
Overall, workflow is as faster on the SP-404SX and SP-404A than on the older SP-404.
You may wish to change out an entire group of samples or patterns. For example, multiple drum kits.
These groups are stored in the banks numbered 1-12.
To change them out without losing them, you’d want to make a backup.
On the 404, you can only back up internal memory banks A & B.
When you do a backup on the 404SX, it backs up all ten sample banks, labeled A through J.
So, you can back up and load 10 banks of 12 samples on the SP-404SX and only 2 banks of 12 samples on the SP-404.
The SP-404SX lets you copy a pattern to another pad. This is not available on the 404.
Copying patterns can save time in your workflow. It allows you to play around with changes while keeping the original intact.
It’s simple to do:
- Hold the [FUNC] button and press pad (COPY)
- Press the source pad, then the destination pad
- Press the [REC] button to complete the copy
SP-404SX vs SP-404A
The SP-404A became available in late 2017.
It’s very similar to the SP-404SX, with some minor differences.
At first glance, a couple of things are obvious. The paint finish is black on the 404A compared to silver on the other models.
The button layout is identical, and so are nearly all of the features.
Digging deeper, we see that the same SD card support for up to 32GB cards is included.
The performance and sound are identical.
So other than appearance, what sets them apart?
The included samples may be helpful if you’re just getting started. On the other hand, if you plan to record and source your own samples from the start, the Loopmasters samples aren’t much of a selling point.
Are you familiar with the Roland TR-8 rhythm performer?
It’s a modern version of the TR-808 and TR-909. These drum machines are legendary, being used to create more tracks and live shows than any other drum machine.
The SP-404A’s interface with the TR-8 is easily the biggest difference between the 404SX and 404A. Read more about how to set it up here.
SP-404 Series Parts
The 404 models each have the option of running off AC power or AA batteries.
If you need a replacement AC adapter, it’s the model PSB-1U used by various Roland equipment.
While you can use AA alkaline batteries in a pinch, they’ll only last you 4-6 hours so you’ll be replacing them often.
I recommend either Eneloop or AmazonBasics rechargeable AA’s. You’ll get more battery life than alkalines. You can simply recharge them before each gig and be good to go.
Flight cases are the most durable choice for transporting a 404.
To save some space, you can instead go with a padded case.
Just keep in mind soft cases don’t have the same drop & crush protection, so you’ll need to be a bit more careful with them
StyleFlip is a good place to get full wrap skins. They have the option of both existing designs, or you can create your own.
Or, you can go with the sticker bomb look. Collect your own, or buy a pack of stickers. Keep in mind that the labels next to the buttons will be covered this way, so you’ll need to have them memorized.
DJ TechTools has a good selection of colors for their 404 knobs. They come in two different shapes – tall & thin (Super Knob) or short & fat (Fatty Knob).
Here are two of the best Q&A resources for the 404 models I’ve found online:
Search for or ask any question, and you’re bound to get some help.
Next up are the user manuals. They’ll detail all the functions and capabilities.
Ricky Tinez has some good walkthroughs on the 404 and 404SX.
Lofi Chops has nearly 20 feature tutorials.
The differences between the SP-404 and SP-404SX are fairly significant, especially in regard to the storage.
Each of these samplers is portable, durable, and relatively easy to learn. Which you choose largely comes down to your budget and what’s available to buy.