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Boss Dr Sample SP202

DJ Looping Sampler By Chris Carter
Published January 1998

Boss Dr Sample SP202

Boss's popular 'Doctor' range of inexpensive and useful studio gear is now over 15 years old, but remains very much alive, and the Dr Sample SP202 is the latest newcomer, offering quick and easy sampling for DJs or beginners in the field. Chris Carter gives it a full physical...

First, let me ask you a question: hands up anyone who can tell me the criteria for deciding whether a product is released under the Roland or the Boss moniker? After all, both ranges are made at the same factory, are probably designed by the same R&D team, and are both produced for musicians. Maybe Roland products are perceived as more pro while Boss are more hip? Answers on a £50 note please...

The Boss 'Doctor' range started way back in 1980 with the original Dr Rhythm drum machine, the funky DR55 (sadly, my own is long deceased and gone to silicon heaven), and although the SP202 is the latest product in the long‑lived range, it isn't the first portable sampler from Boss. The DSD2 Sampler, produced in 1986, was a 12‑bit, single‑sample footpedal which could drain a PP3 battery in about 15 minutes (believe me — I used to have one!). Happily, things have improved a lot since then; the SP202 will happily run on six AA‑sized Duracells for up to eight hours of continuous use.

Trust Me, I'M A Doctor

Before I get I get down to the nitty‑gritty, let me just give you a quick run down of the vitals. The Dr Sample is a 4‑voice, 16‑bit stereo sampler, with a bpm calculator, a 3‑digit LED display, built‑in effects, a built‑in microphone, stereo audio line in and line out, and MIDI (in a very basic form). It's designed primarily as a portable DJ looping sampler, and with this in mind, Boss have not only made it quick and easy to sample and loop with the Dr Sample, but have also endowed it with options for mains or battery power, and given it the capacity to retain samples even without main batteries installed or external power. Very useful indeed, particularly if your batteries have run flat and you can't get replacements in a hurry. On the rear panel, connections to and from the outside world are via four phono sockets, a MIDI In socket, a power input socket (9V) and an on/off switch. Round the front, there's a stereo mini‑jack headphone socket, a standard mono quarter‑inch jack socket for an external microphone, a mic/line selector, a Source Mix on/off switch and a small slot for Smart Media memory cards.

All The Style Of... A Tricorder?

Straight out of the box, the stylish Dr Sample catches your eye immediately, with its minimalist black casing, oversized orange lettering and generous complement of buttons. This feeling is enhanced when you switch on the power; 18 of the 30 rubberised buttons and pads glow bright red when pressed, and there are plenty of flashing LEDs. Also, I'm apparently not the first person to point out that the SP202 bears an uncanny resemblance to Dr McCoy's Medical Tricorder in Star Trek (the original series, of course, not The Next Generation). Perhaps the Boss design team are Trekkies...?

Even though it's slightly larger than a house brick, the Dr Sample weighs only 850g (with batteries) and could, at a push, be described as hand‑held (if you have big hands). The build quality is up to Boss's usual high standard, and the main control surface is fairly busy, but even so, everything is logically laid out with all the controls clearly labelled, and because of the contrasting colour scheme, nobody should have any trouble using it on a dim stage.

What's Up, Doc?

Up to 16 mono or eight stereo samples can be recorded into the two internal banks, and samples can be recorded at four sampling frequencies: Hi‑Fi (31.25kHz), Standard (15.63kHz), Lo‑Fi 1 (7.81kHz) and Lo‑Fi 2 (3.91kHz). Using Hi‑Fi mode, the maximum sample time in mono is 32 seconds, and this jumps to an amazing (but distinctly grungy) 4 minutes 27 seconds mono in Lo‑Fi 2 mode. This is quite impressive, because by my reckoning the internal memory is only about 500K, which means there must be some serious data compression going on inside this Doctor. Sampling times and the number of samples available can be increased dramatically by plugging Smart Media cards into the memory slot on...

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Published January 1998