Reviving the Roland MC-303 Retro Groovebox

I have been utilizing the Roland MC-303 on and off since I introduced it in (1996). I’ve used it on a number of the early Anjelicas Child recordings reminiscent of “Crawling Again To You” and “Blame It On You”. I believe it’s a nice little machine second hand for its worth about £100 – £200 relying on situation. Nonetheless, I’m going to be trustworthy about my previous experiences with it. The MC-303 in its time was a revolution and the primary of many so-called groove bins. It may do something from techno to bop, jungle and drum & bass to call however just a few. It was rammed with sounds from basic synths such because the Roland Juno and Jupiter sequence and had the basic retro sounds of the Roland TR-808 and TR-909. Additionally, it had the Roland TB-303 bass sort synth sounds on board as effectively. To personal such devices on their very own would have set you again 1000’s upon 1000’s of {dollars} or British kilos. You then wanted the room to place your classic gear in.

It regarded very very like the outdated classic TB-303’s and TR-808’s. It was primarily a sequencer-arranger with 8 tracks of recording. It even had inbuilt FX reminiscent of refrain, flange, reverb and delay. Its real-time features made it nice enjoyable to play with. It had filter reduce off, resonance, stereo panning and arpeggio. The panning and delay FX would maintain time with the tempo of your patterns or songs, which on the time was a extremely cool advance. It was 24-voice word polyphony, 16-part multi timbral, and on board there have been 448 preset PCM ROM sounds, 300 preset patterns and 50 consumer patterns. Fairly extraordinary again in (1996). No sooner had it made a splash within the music magazines like Future Music, Sound On Sound, and The Combine, it was shortly outmoded by the Roland MC-505, JX-305 and the Yamaha RM1x. I suppose this was as a result of it was virtually too good to be true for the unbelievable worth of round £500. Sure you guessed it, there have been some main drawbacks to the machine that made utilizing it a maddening expertise at occasions.

1 The very first thing I seen was it had a some what over compressed form of sound and lacked any actual punch. It may reproduce dance music very effectively utilizing the TR-909 sounds. Should you ever evaluate the sounds off the MC-303 to shall we say a JV1080 which had the same set of sounds you will see that the JV has much more presence and punch to it. To make an analogy right here, it’s like evaluating a wave file to an mp3 file. I believe to get all these sounds into the MC-303’s inner ROM, sacrifices needed to be made, and possibly the bit charges of the MC-303’s pattern library have been diminished. Do not get me mistaken, the sounds have full readability and lots of are in stereo, however you undoubtedly really feel you wish to virtually seize the sounds out of your audio system and provides them an excellent kick to uplift them. That is one difficulty I’ve seen about Roland synths and particularly drum machines from this era. The sounds virtually sound too good and clear as in the event you may invite them again to your father or mother’s home for Sunday dinner figuring out they’d not offend their musical tastes.

2 The actual sounds reminiscent of trumpets, guitars and many others have been frankly horrid. Much less would have been extra in my view on this machine. Every little thing and the kitchen sink have been stuffed in to it. In consequence on the pre-installed patterns it had an amateurish form of sound to it.

3 It solely had two audio outputs so including exterior FX reminiscent of reverb or delay meant you wanted to file the sounds on separate tracks of your audio recorder. On the time mine was a Fostex DMT8 arduous drive 8-track recorder. Arduous drive recording with 16 tracks or extra actually got here at a worth again then.

4 Most irritating of all was its virtually non-existent midi implementation. Once they meant retro they actually took it to coronary heart right here. They principally designed it to work as a stand-alone machine. So in the event you needed to make use of some other gear then you definitely needed to get the MC-303 to be the grasp sequencer. Nicely at the moment the sequencer was no match for Logic or Cubase. Consequently, I needed to file the patterns for the MC-303 from its personal reminiscence then do a bulk dump save to an Alesis datadisk of the tune. I then needed to set my Atari 1040 laptop sequencer to set off the MC-303 as a slave. So, nice sorted. Oh no, wait a minute, you needed to set off the MC-303 from the beginning of the tune each time. As quickly as I fast-forwarded the Atari sequencer the MC-303 misplaced the plot, and effectively who is aware of what a part of the tune it will transfer to.

5 Any sound you needed to play into your individual sequencer transmitted in on omni mode throughout all 16-midi channels. What a loopy thought for the late 1990’s. To make issues even worse, the true time controls that made the machine a lot enjoyable have been rendered impotent whenever you tried to file for instance real-time filtering of a bass sound into your sequencer. Come-on Roland, you would file the management actions of a Juno 106 into your sequencer way back to 1985.

Nicely as you possibly can collect, I used to be lower than happy on the time with these limitations. Regardless of this, I had religion within the little beast. I noticed the sunshine and hoped that over just a few years and extra audio based mostly recording merchandise on PC’s and Mac’s, a breath of hope can be breathed into this machine. So with the passing of time, right here come the positives.

1 It really works nice as a stand-alone unit. You’ll be able to midi all of your different gear to it. Then you can also make use of its actual cool arpeggio to carry some life again into your outdated boring synths.

2 It has hundreds and a great deal of PCM samples, which simply overcome a number of the limitations of the true sounds on board. That is very true in case you have a number of different delicate or {hardware} synths to make use of alongside facet of it.

3 With fashionable expertise you possibly can file a sound into your sequencer, after which play with the MC-303 controls in real-time and file straight onto an audio monitor in your laptop. This will actually jazz it up with fashionable plugins.

4 It is extremely cheap second hand for a retro {hardware} unit with so many features on it.

5 You’ll be able to set it up as a normal synth module.

6 It has a helpful little bass increase knob on the again of the machine for including extra backside finish to the audio output.

7 Should you do not overdo it, and use different tools so as to add to your monitor you’re recording, it actually can sound very skilled certainly.

So that is the Roland MC-303 execs and cons in my subjective opinion. It is an ideal little version to anybody’s arrange if used rigorously and sparingly.

Source by Paul Mitchell Leishman

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