Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Roland MC 505 - Groove box

The Roland MC 505 came out in 1998.
This is much larger & heavier that the MC-303 which kicked off the
GrooveBox family for Roland in 1996. It's starting to become collectable.
I picked up this on Ebay for $300.
There is a long list of notable users such as Beck, Radiohead & New Order.

The 505 has 64 voices (the MC 303 had 28) and the sequencer has 714 preset pattern,
200 user patterns, 50 user songs.

There are also 256 user sounds & 26 rhythm sets which include some picked from  Roland classics such as the CR-78, TR-808, TR-606, TR-909, TR-707 and R-8.

I use mine mainly for its 8-track MIDI sequencer. You can record up to 32 bars per pattern.
As a midi controller it's quite flexible. The sequencer is easy to program and can be recorded in real time or step time.
You can input notes three ways : from the MC505's own black/white keyboard, the D-Beam controller or from an external MIDI keyboard.  All knob & fader movements can be recorded just like in today's Elektron synths. --- all this knob & fader tweaking can be "exported" via midi to external gear, making this a very powerful midi controller.  Ie, the 505 transmits MIDI Controller & System Exclusive data. WOW !!!!
(The MC-303 didn't have this function).

The heart of this synth is a 64 voice polyphonic digital subtractive synthesis engine that is based on the Roland JV-2080. It's all based on samples & is actually a compact version of the Roland JX-305 Groovesynth without the full set of 61 keys. There are 251 different oscillator, acoustic and drum sample waveforms.

There is built in Reverb, Delay and 24 different EFXs - they are not too bad.
 The verb & delay are pretty standard. The Verb has the usual settings of Room, Stage and Hall. An interesting delay effect occurs when you sync your delays to the patterns.
The EFX includes a 4-band EQ,  compressor, overdrive, phaser,  chorus, flanger, etc etc.
I quite like the phono setting which adds pops & crackles - like on a vinyl record. There are 33, 45 and 78rpm settings.

The nfrared D-Beam controller for hands-free sound modulation is very cool. You can tweak you sounds in real time by passing your hand over the beam. You can control one parameter (eg filter cutoff, pan resonance) at a time. The movement can be recorded into a Pattern - its a bit like the parameter locks you will find in most Elektron gear.

The mixer section is very useful. The faders let you control the volume of the 8 sequences.There are 7 synth sequences & one drum sequence
R = rhythm / drum part. 
The faders also control panning, keyshift and effects. At the bottom of each fader channel is a select/mute button

There is a a headphone socket and six outputs.
You can use these as three stereo pairs or as six individual outs.

RAM card slot at the rear (2Mb or 4Mb SmartMedia cards).
For more info on the history of Roland Drum Machines click here


  1. What would the best way and least expensive to split the 1 midi out and utilize the 8 tracks to be able to control 1-8 different hardware synths/drum machines/samplers etc...?

  2. Hear the Roland MC-505 Groovebox in action in this EP video.