21/05/2024

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Reviving the Roland MC-303 Retro Groovebox

Reviving the Roland MC-303 Retro Groovebox

I’ve been employing the Roland MC-303 on and off since I brought it in (1996). I have employed it on some of the early Anjelicas Child recordings such as “Crawling Back To You” and “Blame It On You”. I imagine it is a excellent little equipment 2nd hand for its rate about £100 – £200 based on situation. Even so, I am heading to be honest about my earlier ordeals with it. The MC-303 in its time was a revolution and the first of many so-known as groove boxes. It could do anything at all from techno to dance, jungle and drum & bass to name but a several. It was rammed with seems from typical synths this kind of as the Roland Juno and Jupiter series and experienced the traditional retro seems of the Roland TR-808 and TR-909. Also, it had the Roland TB-303 bass form synth sounds on board as properly. To own these types of instruments on their possess would have set you again countless numbers on countless numbers of dollars or British pounds. Then you essential the room to set your classic equipment in.

It appeared really a lot like the aged classic TB-303’s and TR-808’s. It was in essence a sequencer-arranger with 8 tracks of recording. It even had developed in Fx these kinds of as chorus, flange, reverb and hold off. Its authentic-time capabilities built it great enjoyable to play with. It had filter cut off, resonance, stereo panning and arpeggio. The panning and delay Fx would maintain time with the tempo of your designs or tracks, which at the time was a genuinely interesting advance. It was 24-voice observe polyphony, 16-element multi timbral, and on board there ended up 448 preset PCM ROM seems, 300 preset patterns and 50 person patterns. Fairly extraordinary again in (1996). No quicker had it designed a splash in the tunes journals like Potential Music, Audio On Audio, and The Mix, it was swiftly outmoded by the Roland MC-505, JX-305 and the Yamaha RM1x. I guess this was simply because it was practically too excellent to be correct for the unbelievable price tag of close to £500. Yes you guessed it, there were some main downsides to the device that produced using it a maddening expertise at instances.

1 The initial matter I observed was it experienced a some what in excess of compressed kind of audio and lacked any authentic punch. It could reproduce dance audio really perfectly making use of the TR-909 sounds. If you ever compare the seems off the MC-303 to lets say a JV1080 which experienced a identical established of sounds you will locate that the JV has a good deal additional presence and punch to it. To make an analogy right here, it is like comparing a wave file to an mp3 file. I suspect to get all individuals seems into the MC-303’s internal ROM, sacrifices experienced to be designed, and perhaps the little bit prices of the MC-303’s sample library had been lessened. Really don’t get me erroneous, the sounds have total clarity and many are in stereo, but you unquestionably come to feel you want to practically grab the sounds out of your speakers and give them a excellent kick to uplift them. This is one particular situation I have recognized about Roland synths and specifically drum equipment from this period. The sounds just about seem also good and clear as if you could invite them back again to your parent’s house for Sunday evening meal recognizing they would not offend their musical tastes.

2 The genuine appears such as trumpets, guitars and so forth were frankly horrid. Much less would have been additional in my belief on this machine. All the things and the kitchen sink ended up stuffed in to it. As a result on the pre-put in designs it experienced an amateurish type of seem to it.

3 It only had two audio outputs so including external Forex such as reverb or hold off meant you wanted to report the appears on individual tracks of your audio recorder. At the time mine was a Fostex DMT8 hard drive 8-track recorder. Hard push recording with 16 tracks or additional genuinely came at a value again then.

4 Most annoying of all was its practically non-existent midi implementation. When they meant retro they seriously took it to coronary heart below. They generally built it to do the job as a stand-by itself equipment. So if you desired to use any other gear then you experienced to get the MC-303 to be the grasp sequencer. Properly at that time the sequencer was no match for Logic or Cubase. For that reason, I had to file the designs for the MC-303 from its individual memory then do a bulk dump help you save to an Alesis datadisk of the song. I then had to set my Atari 1040 laptop or computer sequencer to trigger the MC-303 as a slave. So, wonderful sorted. Oh no, wait a moment, you experienced to result in the MC-303 from the get started of the tune just about every time. As shortly as I fast-forwarded the Atari sequencer the MC-303 lost the plot, and effectively who knows what element of the song it would move to.

5 Any seem you needed to participate in into your personal sequencer transmitted in on omni mode throughout all 16-midi channels. What a insane notion for the late 1990’s. To make matters even even worse, the true time controls that designed the machine so substantially fun were rendered impotent when you experimented with to document for case in point authentic-time filtering of a bass sound into your sequencer. Arrive-on Roland, you could document the manage movements of a Juno 106 into your sequencer as far again as 1985.

Well as you can acquire, I was fewer than pleased at the time with these limitations. Despite this, I had faith in the very little beast. I observed the light and hoped that above a couple yrs and extra audio primarily based recording products on PC’s and Mac’s, a breath of hope would be breathed into this device. So with the passing of time, below arrive the positives.

1 It will work good as a stand-by yourself device. You can midi all your other gear to it. Then you can make use of its authentic interesting arpeggio to carry some life back again into your old boring synths.

2 It has masses and hundreds of PCM samples, which conveniently get over some of the restrictions of the real sounds on board. This is particularly accurate if you have lots of other tender or hardware synths to use along facet of it.

3 With fashionable technology you can history a seem into your sequencer, and then enjoy with the MC-303 controls in serious-time and file straight on to an audio observe on your laptop or computer. This can actually jazz it up with modern plugins.

4 It is very reasonably priced 2nd hand for a retro components unit with so quite a few capabilities on it.

5 You can set it up as a conventional synth module.

6 It has a handy minor bass improve knob on the back of the machine for adding more bottom end to the audio output.

7 If you really don’t overdo it, and use other tools to incorporate to your track you are recording, it actually can audio incredibly professional certainly.

So which is the Roland MC-303 professionals and cons in my subjective impression. It truly is a great minimal edition to anyone’s established up if applied diligently and sparingly.