The SP-505 is an advanced entry-level sampling workstation aimed at the electronic, hip hop and dance market that fits somewhere in between the economical BOSS SP-303 and the professional Roland SP-808. The SP-505 is centered around working with one-shot samples, loops, grooves and drum beats through a fairly basic set of sampling, sequencing and performance-oriented features.
The machine has 8 voices of polyphony and 4MB of internal sample memory that can contain up to 250 samples organized among 16 sound banks (4 preset and 12 user). Sampling specs are limited to CD-quality 44.1 kHz (which yields about 2 minutes of sample-time) as well as 22.050 and 11.025 kHz sample rates (more sample time, but less sound quality). The sampler is expandable via SmartMedia cards (3.3V only, up to an additional 128MB). It imports AIFF and WAV audio file formats. Of course, it also samples external audio coming in from any of its four input sources. As the machine is based on flash-RAM, every sample is instantly available to play, there's no need to load and wait. In addition to sampled sounds, there are an additional 64 onboard Tones with drums, bass, keyboard and synth sounds.
The samples can be manipulated in various ways: A graphic LCD display allows you to edit a sample's start and end points or boost the level of a specific waveform range. A Pitch function can map a sample to the 16 pads chromatically like a traditional sampler does. There's a BPM Sync feature to instantly match up to 16 phrases to the same tempo. The new Chop function divides a loop and maps it in to individual samples and assigns them to the pads. The Chop function thus allows you to rework a loop in to an entirely different groove - on the fly.
There are 16 pads (not velocity sensitive) to trigger the samples that also light up to indicate whenever the sample assigned to them is playing. The Pattern Sequencer has 4 tracks with independent quantization and groove/shuffle settings. This allows you to create complete music productions with a loop track, additional sequenced drum track, bass track and synth track, for example. Pattern creation is possible with realtime recording or microscope editing (a sort of step sequencing that lets you edit the sequence while the pattern is playing). A Pattern Select feature makes changing patterns easy using the 16 pads, which is great for live performance.
Also onboard are 26 effects (same as the SP-303) including Isolator, Filter+Drive, Slicer, Reverb, Tape Echo, Vinyl Simulator and more. All of the effects can be controlled in real time using the knobs, or even re-sampled to another pad. There's also an "EXT SOURCE" pad to mix/process the external audio-in source in real time. Speaking of connections, the SP-505 has the typical DJ-oriented options: stereo RCA ins/outs, MIC in (1/4 inch) and Headphones (1/4 inch). But it also offers a Digital Input (optical and coaxial), MIDI In/Out and a foot switch input jack.
The SP-505 is a compact, all-in-one groove machine, phrase sampler, sequencer and effects processor that sounds really good for the price and is also very user friendly. For budding musicians and especially the DJ-oriented bunch looking to create their own beats and sample-based music, the SP-505 is a good place to get started.