SP-808 Zip Drive Upgrade

Roland SP-808 Groovesampler OS + Zip Drive upgrade

So you have that magic black box, the Roland SP-808 Groovesampler, and you’re still struggling with 23 minutes of sampling time. Well, let me tell you that you can have 1 hour of sampling time. Wouldn’t that be nice? How? I tell you!

Updating the OS of the SP-808

Check out my YouTube Video about updating the OS and/or read the instructions down below.

What do you need?

  1. The SP-808 (obviously!)
  2. MIDI Sound card
  3. MIDI Cable
  4. SP-808EX_v Operating Sytem File (download HERE!)
  5. UPD SMF : Software program to send the OS to the SP-808 (download HERE!)

You have to connect your SP-808 Groovesampler to your computer using a MIDI-sound card. I will use Komplete Audio 6 from Native Instruments.

Connect the MIDI-out from your sound card to the MIDI-in of your SP-808 Groovesampler. Press the following buttons and turn your SP-808 on. (Locator) 1/5 + EFX A ½  and  POWER. This puts the SP-808 in MIDI-mode. Display says: MIDI UPDATE – waiting MIDI..

Now start the UPD SMF software and choose the connected MIDI-Sound Card. Choose now the folder of the downloaded OS and press OK. Now your SP-808 Groovesampler will receive the new OS-files. Wait until it’s done.

When the files are transferred to your SP-808 the following message appears on the display. ‘UPDATE OS Y/N?’. Press the ENTER/Yes button to start the update. DON’T TURN YOUR SP-808 OFF! After a countdown the Display will inform you when to turn of your SP-808.

Upgrading the Zip Drive

Changing the Zip Drive of the SP-808 Groovesampler is easy. Check out my YouTube video about how it’s done or read the detailed instructions down below.

This update will work with your existing 100Mb Zip Drive or can easily be updated to the 250mb Zip Drive.

It is recommended that you do not full format or full cleanup your 100Mb disks with the new operating system.
It will make your disk unreadable. This is the only flaw we have found in the update. If you wish to update your Zip to a 250Mb version here are the instructions:

Obviously: Disconnect the power supply and all other cables from the SP-808. Observe the usual precautions about electrostatic etc.

***IMPORTANT*** You must use an internal IDE/ATAPI Zip250 Drive.
Use of any other drive type could damage your sampler.

Disassembling the SP-808

As you disassemble, keep the screws in three separate piles as you remove them. Prepare places beforehand for all three sets so you don’t lose them or get them mixed up.

Turn the SP-808 over and rest it on something soft and pliable, like several towels, so that the knobs on the panel are not subject to unnecessary pressure.

(1) Remove all the screws in this order:
(a) Removing the SP-808’s bottom plate:
Remove the 13 screws on the bottom of the SP-808. Do not remove the two screws in recessed holes at the top; these can stay put. Don’t forget the interior screw just above the middle rubber foot at the bottom.
Note that not all holes have screws in them (at least on my unit). Lift off the bottom plate; it should slip off easily. Put it aside in a position allowing you to remember which way it fits.

(b) Removing the Zip-drive housing/frame from the inside of
the SP-808:

Remove the 5 screws attaching the drive housing/frame to the inside of the SP-808 (2 on the right, 3 on the left; the screw on the upper left is a little hard to get to if you don’t have small fingers. When you’ve removed these screws, the housing/frame still won’t come out all the way because the cables are still attached to the Zip drive inside it.

(c) Removing the Zip drive itself from the drive housing/frame:
The Zip drive itself is attached to the drive housing/frame with 4 screws, all on the top of the housing. Remove these screws and put them aside. The Zip drive will now be loose, but because it still has its two cables attached, you can’t lift the Zip drive all the way out.

(2) Remove the two cables connecting the old 100 drive with the SP-808 innards:
(a) the power cable
(b) the ribbon connector

(3) Remove the old 100 drive from the drive housing.

(4) Put the two drives side-by-side for comparison and install the jumper/shunt into the 250 drive to set it to ‘CABLE SELECT’ just the way it is already installed in the 100 drive.

On the back of the Zip drive, between the ribbon-cable port and the power-cable port, there are three rows of two pins each. If the Zip drive is lying on its back, the power-cable port will be on your left, and the ribbon-cable port will be on your right. The three rows of two pins each will be between those two ports.

You’ll see that the first row of two pins on the left is covered by a little jumper/shunt. This jumper should have come with your 250 Zip IDE drive (mine came in a little ziplock plastic bag).

If you’re unsure, you can hold the jumper/shunt up to the one on the back of the 100 drive you just removed to see how it will fit onto the two left-hand pins on the back of the 250.

Slip it onto the two left-hand pins on the back of the 250 to cover them. Press firmly till it is seated. This sets the Zip drive to ‘CABLE SELECT’. The backs of the two drives should now look the same.

Assembling the SP-808

Now the whole process is exactly reversed:

(4) Slip the new 250 drive into the drive housing/frame with the cable ports to the back.

(5) Reconnect the two cables to connect the new 250 drive with the SP-808

(a) the ribbon connector
(b) the power cable

(6) Screw all the screws back in (in this order):
(a) to secure the Zip drive itself to the drive housing (4 screws on the top of the housing)
(b) to secure the Zip drive housing to the inside of the SP-808 (5 screws on the bottom, 2 on the left, 3 on the right)
(c) to secure the bottom plate back to the bottom of the SP-808 (13 screws; the one with the washer goes at the top left)

Neither Roland nor me are responsible for any damage caused to you or your machine by performing these proceedures. By opening your SP-808 you could void your warranty. (Its best to save your old drive in case you do need to send your machine back for repair.) This should only be performed by individuals/professionals who are competent in computer hardware , its proper usage and care.

Enjoying your ‘new’ SP-808

Once you’ve installed the new OS and the new 250MB Zip Drive you can enjoy your ‘new’ SP-808

You will notice that the sampler will start up without inserting a Zip Disk. This means you can already enjoy the effects and the synthesizer.

Keep on grooving with the Roland SP-808 Groovesampler.


  • Marco

    I’ve installed the e-Mix studio OS and everything works as it should but when I replace the stock Zip drive with the ZIP250ATAPI my SP808 takes long to finish booting up and then behaves like it froze. No response with any of the buttons and no light pattern movement on the sample palette. However it does accept the 250mb zip disk and makes the usual noises as when trying to read it and the eject button also works. Please let me know if there is something I can do to fully complete the upgrade.

  • Dan

    So, just had this problem loading my 750MB zip drive.

    Ejected the drive. Moved the jumper from cable select to master. Restarted, and BAM it works.

    Now I have over 2 hours of stereo sampling time per disk.

    BTW, the effect I got was EXACTLY what the midimaniac showed in his attempts to add the CF drive. I can’t imagine that was the issue with the CF drive, but thought I would mention it.

    Thank you so much for all the work here. It is amazing.

  • Ken

    Hi ! Tq for sharing ! I hav a few question …. Recently my sp808ex started up and lagging , looks like freezing and response very slowly … can’t even play a tune …. I wonder do u face any this problem … my Zip drive is spoiled looking for replacement …. Does it need a Zip drive to play any sampler on it ? Is this machine problem with memory ? Main board issue ? I really hope I can get an answer // positiverotation@gmail.com

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