So, in our last episode, I had sold off the SP-808 and brought in an SP-606. I had hoped that it would be something of an update to the 808 to bring it into the 21st century and, in many ways, I suppose it was.
First of all, the compact flash storage is a huge upgrade from the tired old Zip drive the SP-808 uses. Velocity sensitive pads are a nice touch, as is the fact that the SP-606 has two MFX units to the 808’s one. The larger screen allows for much easier waveform editing, which is nice, and the 4 track sequencer actually works on the 606 (the 808 would constantly give the “Drive Busy Error” message. The sampling process and storage structure remains just as simple as it was on the 808, maybe even simpler because you don’t have to spend time menu diving to route your effects.
But on the downside, while the 606 has decent effects, they are not nearly as editable as on the 808, where you would have several pages of parameters you could edit and save the result as an effects patch. I found the reverb to be much, much nicer on the 808, while the Lo-Fi effect was better on the 606. But all in all, I did end up missing all the control over the effects. Also, the 606 carries over the sample chop function of the SP-505 (absent on the 808) but it is somewhat crippled because it does not allow you to move the automatically placed chop points. This I really don’t understand because the 505 allowed you to do this. It really is a problem because the 606 places most of the points just a little bit off so, if you want any accuracy, you really would need to copy your sample to all 16 pads and truncate each pad down to the small bit that you need and that completely defeats the purpose of having an auto chop function.
Other considerations? At first, I thought that the 606 had lost the excellent timestretching of the 808 but it is actually there. To utilize it, you must first set the target sample as a “Phrase” in the parameter section and then go to the “BPM Sync” menu. Set it as “Fix” and dial in the BPM you want. It does actually work very well.
And if you’re buying the 606 for much touted PC integration, don’t. The P606 software is long outdated and you would need to be running XP or Vista. I found that even the drivers are outdated, as I was not able to get the USB sampling to work or get the 606 to be recognized as an audio interface.
So, all in all, the lack of manually adjustable chop points and the lack of depth in the effects section really turned me off. Rather unfortunate, as I quite liked a lot of other things about the 606.
So now I turn to the MV-8800. In this one, I’m really looking forward to hooking up a monitor and a mouse and truly having a studio centerpiece. The few times I have tried Ableton Live, I actually got quite a bit done in a short amount of time. And the MV appears to have a very similar workflow. See, I really only used Live for arrangement purposes and I liked how I could grab sections of audio from my machines and copy/paste them into a visual, linear sequencer. From what I understand, the MV functions in this same basic way but without all of the distractions of having unlimited samples and VST’s at your disposal because that is what would always screw me up (“Ok now, where did I save that again?” etc). I’m hoping that it will give me the few things I liked about using a DAW but also be an awesome hardware sampler with nice pads to bang on, 3 deep effects units and a nice big screen for editing samples (one of the things I loved about my MC-909). I don’t play out live, so portability is not an issue. I think this might be the one I’ve been waiting for, a real studio brain around which I can build a permanent set up with all of my favorite machines running into it.
So I am very much looking forward to seeing how this one works out.