SP-808 Hacking

Hi! The Roland SP-808 is an awesome machine. To date, probably the greatest single hack ever done was by a user on the mailing list who managed to modify a sysex file to make it upgrade the Operating System of the SP-808. I can't give that file out there, because Roland's search engines would find it in a minute (apparently, they don't believe in giving out free upgrades to their O.S.'s), and harrass me, like many other websites.

In the meantime, though, I'll try to present some other hacker info for the SP-808.


Some people have expressed interest in modifying the O.S. of the SP-808. Unfortunately, though, the CPU doesn't seem to be a standard one. Nevertheless, I put these pics up here so you can see for yourself if you can do anything with the CPU's on board.

Pix of chips inside the SP-808

Effect Processor/ Step Modulator Reverse Engineering!

Probably the 2nd most successful hack on the SP-808 has been the reverse engineering of the "EFFECT__.VS2" files. You can see these files on your SP-808 disks when you put them into a PC's Zip Drive. They're about 25,600 byte long, and contain info on all of the user presets in the effect processor. I've taken the time to figure out the first few parameters in the EFFECT__.VS2 file, but I keep getting distracted by making music with the SP-808. I recommend if you really want to know what the file format is, you get on the 808 yahoo mailing list and encourage me to reuptake the project. In the meantime, here are the first few parameters:
  • Readme.txt
  • My perl tools directory for doing this

    Step Mod Editor

    Using the step mod info, it would be possible to create a home computer-based editor for the effects. Another interesting possibility would be to generate sequences for the effect synth. For example, you could translate 16-step MIDI note sequences into note data.

    One list user has already begun a program to edit the effects, but everyone on the list got distracted actually making MUSIC (imagine that!) with this cool box. Anyway, you can find his half-written program here. I recommend that if you want to see the program written, you join the 808 mailing list on Yahoo, and give the author some encouragement.

  • Step Mod Editor