Transform Roland SP-808 into a Roland A-6
Roland A-6 VideoCanvas
Before the SP-808 Groovesampler there was the Roland A-6 Video Canvas. An equal looking unit but with some differences. The most important difference is that the A-6 has an hard drive installed with a maximum capacity of 2.1GB = 8.59 hours of sampling time. Besides the HDD the A-6 doesn’t have the Mono synth and no D-beamer. But you have access to all the effects of the Groovesamper and the recorder functions.
Next to each other!
Turning your SP-808 into an A-6
The procedure is very simple and I’ve created a video with all the steps to be taken. What do you need for this change?
- SP-808, of course
- A-6 OS MIDI file
- UpdSMF – program to send MIDI files to your SP-808 (Mac OsX or Windows)
- Soundcard with MIDI (I used Native Instruments – Komplete Audio 6)
- Standard MIDI cable
- IDE hard drive (I used a 2.5″ HDD from an old laptop)
- 2.5″ to 3.5″ adapter (I bought one from the brand StarTech.com)
- Roland A-6 Manuals (in English and Spanish!)
Here is the video with all the to be taken steps:
ZIP back into the SP-808
In the video you will learn to create a copy of your SP-808 Groovesampler OS. To put it back you need to put the Zip Drive back into your SP-808. Otherwise you will not be able to install the SP-808 back to its original OS.
I hope you like this transformation. Leave your experience in the comments below and subscribe to my YT-channel, https://www.youtube.com/c/rogerthemidimaniac
Great video, I wonder if the a6 conversion would work with an ide to sd card adapter?
Do you have access to a freshly formatted 808 disk and a freshly formatted A6 disk? I’d love to look at a disk image of each to see if there’s anything obviously different about the formatting that makes one work with Zips and the other with HDDs.
Thanks for asking!
I can create a freshly formatted 808 disk to share what’s on it.
The problem with the A6 is that I can’t connect my IDE-HDD to my computer without initialising it.
The computer asks automatically to do that because it’s a different format…
Buuuut….perhaps you’re interested in the so-called *.PRG files.
With a start-up-buttons-down-thingy (Locator 2 + clear) both machines ask to save the *.PRG file.
I can’t read those files but perhaps you have an idea.
I will post the SP-808 *.PRG file on the download page.
The A6 is a little more complicated because I have to replace the HDD with a Zip drive (YES…YOU ARE READING THAT CORRECTLY!!!…the A6 needs a ZIP drive to have the *.PRG saved)
To save the *.IMG file of the SP-808 you have push Locator 1 + clear + turn on.
I also will put those files on my download page.
Soon the A6-files will follow. First let me know if you can handle the files of the 808.
Ah…if you hold Locator 3 + Effect C + turn on you get in the ‘Develop monitor’ mode.
I don’t know how it works, but with the right software you should be able to do something.
I recently purchased an a6 VideoCanvas, have you ever found the manual? I’ve looked everywhere and can’t find anything.
Yes, I’ve got the original manual here as well in Spanish as in English.
170 pages to scan when I create some time for it.
That’s why I’ve uploaded a Quick Start Guide on my Website to have at least something.
But I think it would be great to have a PDF of the original available. I will put time on that.
Good luck and thanks for your message!
That’s great, I’ve been inspired by your excellent SP808 videos. I did so much work with the SP808 when it first came out, including many remixes for signed artists, I still have all the zip discs with their vocals that I used at the time and they still all seem to work.
The other day a Roland A6 came up on eBay that I purchased for a reasonable
price . It’s just arrived and seems to have all the original factory sounds on the hard drive. Some of these are quite good.
I’m wondering how I can backup these sounds?
You’re the real SP-808 master! I still have your song here 🙂
Amazing that I inspire you. Grateful for that.
Wow…those samples from those artist are worth something. Cool that you still have them.
How to backup those samples? The only way is to take out the HDD and to connect it to your computer.
Your computer will recognise it and you will be able to copy and paste the content.
If you have the original A6 HDD then you only have to remove the small faceplate which is tightened with two screws (Location of the Zip Drive of the SP-808)
Then you have to unscrew 4 screws of the HDD.You can see that those screws are not attached to the bottom plate.
If that’s done, you should be able to slide out the HDD.
This HDD is attached to a special adapter. Detach the IDE-cable and find yourself a IDE to USB-cable.
I use this product: https://gmb.nl/item.aspx?id=4178
It happens to be that I work for this brand in Spain/Portugal. I sell this brand so easy access to this kind of products. 🙂
Hola Roger, podrias facilitarme el manual del A6 en español? Me da mucha curiosidad y creo que debo estar preparado para cuando no consiga más zips. Hace un tiempo te envié una fotografía de un raro sp808 a tu cuenta de Instagram.
Porque es que hay tan poca información del A6?
Gracias por tu tiempo!
Gracias por tu pregunta.
Voy a preguntar a una empresa si me puede escanear los manuales que tengo aquí. Los tengo en Castellano y Inglés y quiero compartirlos con los interesados.
Ai…yo y Instagram…Es que tengo poco tiempo para seguir todo. Mientras trabajo y estoy haciendo una reforma grande en casa….Y cuando tengo un hueco yo grabo videos…
Pero acabo de ver tu mensaje en Insta y esta maquina está guapísima.
Acabo de subir los manuales en mi pagina web!
I don’t know which comment you read first, but in case you were wondering this ist the same comment as I left for the video on YT 🙂
First of all many thanks for your fantastic videos. You inspired me to go out and buy a used SP808EX on eBay. I already had one until a couple of years ago but never got my head round it and so eventually sold it (stupid me 🙂
As I vividly remember the limitations and especially the sound of the ZIP drive I wanted to try the path from SP808 to A6.
I have downloaded everything required and set up a connection between my Macbook and the SP808 via a Steinberg UR22 MKII interface (with dedicated midi ports).
The SMF updater starts fine and I can start sending files to the SP808. However, I almost immediately receive a “Midi Data Error” message. Have you got any idea how to fix this?
Best regards, Joachim
You noticed that I first answered on YT 😀
I leave here your own solution for others.
The files were not in alphabetical order so the SP-808 was not able to read the file well.
You sent the files one by one to make sure the SP-808 could handle the files.
This worked for you (and for sure for others too!)
Thanks and grtzzz,
I thought you might be interested in the results of my experiments. Prepare for a long read though 🙂
As I mentioned in an earlier post I installed the A6 OS on an SP808 EX and afterwards a 32 GB IDE SSD hard drive.
Formatting the drive and using it worked out perfectly fine. However, after a while I decided to go back to the original OS. Three cheap but pointless attempts with various card readers later I decided to try out the A6 formatted SSD hard drive in the SP808. The system recognized the drive and booted up very fast, which suprised me to be honest 🙂
Strangely though all 16 pads were lit but there was not content on any of the 64 banks (and a strange bank without number which shows up only straight after the boot).
Trying to record/sample something in this initial state triggered a “no file space” message, the available time was also shown as zero.
Next attempt was to format the drive under the SP808 OS. Generally speaking this seemed to work both with the 44k and the 32k setting (flashing disk light, completion message and all).
At 44k though the remaining sample time was displayed as zero.
At 32k the picture was somewhat different and I was shown a sample time of somewhat over 2 hours (a very weird number).
I was also able to initiate sampling without an immediate error message and the system seemed to start recording but simply stopped reacting soon after which only left a hard shutdown.
After the next boot I got the exact same results as after first connecting the drive (i.e. all pads brightly lit).
I just hooked the drive to my Macbook to see if I can find out something and in the disc utility am presented with three partitions of around 500 GB each (SP-808TS25E, SP-808TS25E 1 and SP-808TS25E 2).
Next up I will probably wipe the disc clean, remove all partitions and try to get the SP808 to format the “fresh” disk.
Obviously the SP808 EX does not have a “disk unmount” routine as the A6 prior to shutdown so even if sampling worked this most likely cannot be a long term solution but I found the results worth mentioning anyway.
If you are interested in any pictures etc. please let me know!
Enough for today 🙂
Best regards, Joachim
Thanks for sharing your experiences.
It wasn’t a very long read at all hahaha.
I’ve had the same results on this kind of tests.
The SP-808OS can format all kind of IDE-units but the result keeps the same. Always the flashing lights and then not able to start without formatting…It’s such a pain in the yes…
And correct…when connecting the drives to a computer you get this list with 808TS25E-folders.
I copied once the demo-disks to one of the folders with the hope to see it working.
But all the time the message to format the disk.
A few months ago I almost bought a SP-808 with the MPC2000XL card reader in it but someone else came just before me.
Last week I tried another IDE-CF reader but pfff…nothing….
I was able to sample but then the system hangs. No way to stop sampling.
So, after reboot again ‘format?’.
My SP-808 and A-6 are now more fx-machines because that can be done in stand alone mode. Also the d-Beam can trigger external hardware so that’s also kind of fun.
Hopefully, one day, the solution will fall in our hands.
Thanks again, Joachim. Really appreciated.
ps. I think I have to grab a vid about this situation. Just to see if someone will say ‘hey, now you have to do that and then it’s done…”
What do you think?
thanks for your reply!
I assumed that you had made similar attempts and achieved similar results but was not sure about it as I have not managed to see all your videos yet (bloody work keeps me off the important stuff :-).
An additional video might be a good idea. I still have some hope that we are somehow missing an easy solution.
Talk to you soon!
Just as another data point, I was recently successful in getting the drive from an MPC2000XL (the blue one with the factory MCD drive) to work in my SP-808. Since the MPC is less picky about drives, i bought an aftermarket drive and put that back in the MPC and sold it on eBay.
This is not a cheap solution as i had to buy the MPC and the replacement drive before reselling. it wasn’t quick either because I had to watch eBay for that exact MPC at a reasonable price. but in the end, i think it only cost about US$125 and now i can use CF and SD cards!