Synth Site: roland: MC-505: User reviews Add review
Average rating: 4.2 out of 5
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Phochos (Jos Lieffering) a hobbyist user from The Netherlands writes:
This is a very nice and fat synthesizer and groovebox, with lots of rhythms, rps and sounds.

Rating: 5 out of 5 posted Thursday-Oct-19-2006 at 05:06
c a part-time user from mass us writes:
so i just bought the mc 505 again, after owning it a few years ago. the reasons i sold it originally was that i wasnt too happy with the sound. and the resonance (as someone said before) really exposes the digital nature of the samples. other things was the less than "VA simple" style sound shaping interface, which, call me lazy, really irritated me. anyway i eventually bought an rm1x in place of it, and although the rm1x's sequencer is streets ahead of the 505 in power its also at the same time behind it. the mc 505 has some nice bonuses that the rm1x doesnt, such as the metronome having its own button on the panel, (rm1x's buried in menus) the rehearsal mode, being able to switch tracks, switch measures (in grid or step) all while in the midst of recording is something the 505 can do that the rm1x cant, the very easy to use realtime erase is also better. for laying down some tracks im finding the 505 faster. everyones looking for something different in the 505, some people want lotsa hands on VA style control, some (like me) will have this as theyre only box (if only temporarily) and are hoping to get some decent piano, organ, bread and butter sounds out of it until they get some thing else, some just need a great on the fly live sequiencer, etc etc. so im just gonna list everything ive noticed about it.

I'm not going to say anything about presets cuz it should be a non-issue. this thing is either a toy or a tool, depending on whether you're a little kid, or an artist.

as a live sequencer it IS absolutly the shit! the dedicated volume/pan/effects send mixer, dedicate knobs for effects, all the part mutes, mutes for each drum in your drumkits, pattern changes, sound shaping knobs. i ownd the rm1x and although this one only has 8 tracks its easier and more fun to control shit live with this. as well as easier to record, like i said before.

the resonance *can* sound like very digital brittle and aliasy depending on the waves your using and how much you crank it. but you can get most of what youd want out of it without veering into that shitty sounding area. this is not a box that sounds good no matter what you do. it isnt all *sweet spots* like say a virus, it aint no VA. theyres plenty of shitty spots, but theres enough good ones that the majority of the time you'll get the sound you want. and i want to say that YES this can defnitly sound very fat and "analog"! but it takes some tweaking.

doesnt really have a solo violin sound, string ensembles, synth strings, but no solo strings, the preset violin patch really just sounds like another ensemble, or an analog string sound. there are no solo violin waves to make sounds with. not really much of a loss i guess considering 90% of solo violins on machines are barely usable anyway, if it DID have one, it would probably suck and you'd never use it.

the piano sounds are ok if edited, especially if in the mix. i took the epic piano preset put the cutoff to between 1 and 2 o'clock, res all the way down of course, and the filt env depth to zero and it sounds pretty good. this is the best piano sound ive gotten so far out of it. all the piano sounds have a far too bright and resonant "house piano" sound to them that's pretty terrible. a lil tweaking goes a long way. although the turning the filter down can sometimes make it *too* muffled, or rather, gives it a kinda lo-fi character (which sounds good if you want taht) maybe leaving the filter open a bit using an outbaord eq to cut off some of the high end might give a better result.

recording (i use realtime with an oxygen 8 controller) is dead easy. press record. you can switch recording tracks, erase mistakes, turn on and off the metronome (with dedicated button), jump in and out of rehearsal mode, where your pattern keeps playing but all your playing is not recorded so that you can get your riff right, all while your loop/beat/whatever youve recorded so far keeps looping around. quantize on record feature also saves the pain in the ass of having to quantize after each take. one less pain in the ass is always a good thing.

sound shaping. those depths on the envelopes and lfo's arent crazy seeeoooopp! steep. but theyre decently steep. more so than an ms2000 at least, which i noticed had rather shallow modulation depths.

the FM (fxm in roland speak) is crap. well not crap. but dont expect it to give you ANYthing like a dx7 type sound of even an cross-modulation type sound youve heard on VA's. it sounds nothing like that. and it never will. it sounds different. and not that good. of course, a good programmer will find its magic. but whatever that magic will be. it'll be nothing like dx or cross-modulation. if you're looking for that, look elsewhere. promise. while im at it that goes for rolands fxm technology in any of its jv-xxxx/S&S boxes, including the fantom which i had. same thing in those.

the lfo's dont go very close to fm modulation type speeds. but theyre fine as standard lfo's. again im mentioning these things cuz they might something someone thinking of purchasing this might be looking for. not because these features necassarily *should* be there, although it wouldve been nice.

you wont get any pitch warping delay effects, ala electribes. its just your standard delay, nothing special, but does the standard delay job.

the lo-fi effect is alright. but not great. the lo-fi effects on the sp samplers have more variety, theres bit rate and sample rate, sample rate does what it should. but bit depth is weird and seems to fade in when a note is held as opposed to the usual where the bit reduction is just plain audible from the beginning of the sound. very weird. still glad its there tho, sample rate reduction usually is the better of the two anyway imo.

ive always thought the D-beam was stupid. and still do. but its turntable effect is fuckin awesome. i think maybe theres a theramin effect in there too, not sure tho. the turntable effect is good for slowing down the tempo and such, but it sounds just like slowing down a looped sample (and im not takling timestretching here, im talkin old akai s2000 shit), very lo-fi, digitally degraded, and hot! VERY usable.

sound its good for. analog, organs, electric pianos, string ensembles, sound effects, bass, leads. even some of the acoustic guitar sounds are good (shocker!). ok for pianos, not good for solo strings, or probably even pizzicatos, unless you want to use the preset pizzicato string wave. but thats the only pizz sound you'll get. cuz like i said, no solo strings, so you cant change the envelope to make em pizz.

if you want crazy fun realtime mad scientist control of the sounds, you might find satisfaction here. but a few points worth making. the waves (osc's), wave volumes, pan, coarse and fine tunings, are only available in the menus, or under a shift key (called the *func* on this) to give the onboard knobs an extra function, the extra adsr envelope params are only available in the menus, lfo2 is only available in the menus. so changing a fine tune param of one wave for example requires that you press the button to select which of up to 4 waves in your sound you want to edit (or pressing all 4 at the same time to edit the tuning on all at once) and then hitting the func key and turning the knob, alpha dial, or the part slider on that part. for changing one of the more advanced adsr stages you have to hold edit and press the A-env (or p-env, or f-env) button numerous times (including going past all the velocity settings) to get to one of the seven stages of the envelopes that you want to edit, then using the part mixer or alpha dial to change its value.

But an absolutely fantastic part of the sound editing system is that ALL parameters are always accessible even during sequence playback in pattern mode. not in song mode tho. waves tunings ive noticed, and probably all other menu params too, do not change in realtime tho, only on the next note on. whether in playback or not. still cool tho. but getting the exact value you want is difficult or near impossible with the sliders. I will often use the slider to get to where i want the value to be and have to resort to the alpha dial to get it exact becuase i'll keep going between 11 and 14 for example when i want, say, 12 for a coarse tuning and it just wont stop on that value no matter how hard i try.

so anyway as far as realtime tweaking the easiest stuff to use is the filter, the simple adsr stages and the lfo1. but that gets old. changing waveshapes, mixes, and tunings is where the real fun is, in my opinion, those are all after a few button presses. but by the way, the waves CAN change in realtime! not just the next note on. lots of opportunity for a sort of manual wavetable sequencing here, or thru use of sysex i imagine. definitly sounds cool. a serious bonus for this box. you can scroll thru waves while patterns play back. nice.

about sysex, i dont know much about it but i do beleive that with the right controller and sysex all the params hidden in the menus could be assigned to knobs and controlled in realtime. this would be a dream. i know the roland PCR controllers can do sysex, and some of the newer alesis and novations too. If anyone knows if this is possible please email me. i would lovvve to do this!!!! my email is above, minus the spam protection measure.

i mentioned before that i sold it originally and what my complaints were. well, i have to say "not happy with the sound" had more to do with not being able to stand tolerating those shitty preset 303's and such. and the patterns, not that i used them. but just the fact they were there sort of nauseated me. and it had to do with the "not all sweet spots" factor i mentioned above. as well as the less than "va simple" interface. but i bought it again knowing those flaws. yea, im definitly a "control freak" like the synth ads say, but synths never live up to satisfying that need. i think its time we get beyond thinking of realtime control as a filter sweep and start expanding it a lil more. filter sweeps will always be great, but it sure as hell gets old. anyway, i bought the unit again knowing the above flaws, and really just decided i was being too lazy or picky or whatever. this is an amazing box and its fuckin sexy too. i would never be embarrassed to be seen on stage with it. although maybe a lil embarrassed by the "roland" name on it. they have quite the ego dont they? bragging so much about how they invented "the machine that revolutionized dance music" when really all the did was make a shitty bass guitar synth that sucked and couldnt emulate a bass guitar to save its life. and then some OTHER guys took it and "revolutionized dance music". maybe someone will now take that shitty sh-32 and revolutionize chiptune music and roland will walk over and say "your welcome."

well this has been a long review. i made it long cuz i know when im looking for some in depth details on a machine, its often hard to come by in the reviews. im hoping this'll will help someone know if this is the right machine for them. alot more couldve been said of course, but alot of it already has and im getting tired of typing, heh.

this thing is flawed, its limited, but then again so am i. and so are you. im content with it. its a great box and its one of a kind. i love it more than than its competition, (rm1x, emu command stations). rm1x has a more easy to use and powerful sequencer (when it comes to editing sequences after the fact, that is) he emu's have better sound but arent not very intuitive and a paltry effects system with few effects. but in the end this one has a great balance of powerful sound, capable sequencer, intuitive control, enough effects and it just *feels* right. those mixer sliders *feel* right. the location of the filter and adsr's and lfo's *feel* right. the recording process is like a four track, is natural and feels right. for these reasons its gets a 5 from me. peace and love.

Rating: 5 out of 5 posted Sunday-Oct-15-2006 at 15:44
Jonathan Donley a professional user from USA writes:
This is a great machine. I had my doubts at first because roland makes some really "cutsie machines" My buddy has a 303 606 combo but this 505 has more potential. If you want it to sound more analog run it through an analog signal like a distortion pedal or a moogerfooger!

Rating: 5 out of 5 posted Thursday-Sep-22-2005 at 10:07
P R Duffy a hobbyist user from New Zealand writes:
It is what it is. Pre sets are always going to be crap- who hasn't heard them before ? as an alternative to virtual synth and for "retro" beats this box serves it's purpose.

Rating: 3 out of 5 posted Saturday-Sep-10-2005 at 07:37
MK writes:
Why is it that so many people say that the MC505 ‘sounds’ terrible and the JV1080 is ‘indispensable’? Don’t you guys know they use the SAME synth engine and UI? You can program a JV1080 (waveform assignments aside) with a MC505 and vice versa.

To anyone who bashes the MC 505, but still owns it, I recommend that you take some time off of it and learn the JV series synth engine. Then you would really appreciate what the MC 505 has to offer. In fact, if you already have a JV 1080(2080) the MC505 would be the Ultimate patch controller for them!

Another thing I would recommend is that, if your MC 505 is an Expansion module to your current studio setup, you should take some time to take it in another room with headphones and compose some patterns with a cheap midi keyboard for a couple of days.

Pretend there are NO presets, Initialize preset patches, and learn how to do step drum, live input recording, live quantized recording, and step recording. If you have trouble programming a sound you are after, use a preset patch as a reference to understand HOW a particular sound was programmed and reprogram it to taste. The modulation matrix in the JV1080 synth engine is SUPERIOR that of a Korg Triton! In addition to ‘Hard Wired’ modulation assignments you have an additional 4x4x4 Freely Assignable Modulation sources and destinations. Use it to your advantage. You should always have Velocity, Pitch Bend, Mod Wheel, Aftertouch, and Tone Crossfade assignments on all your preset patches for maximum dynamic flexibility.

The learning curve is not that steep. Once you know how to cut/copy patch program and map your patches, you will find that the mc 505 will become an indispensable tool for production and live electronic performance.

Please believe me when I say that, Computer Sequencers do not do you justice when it comes down to sequencing and programming sounds, as opposed to a $300 box like the MC 505.

If you like to sequence into a computer sequencer, the MC505 is great for that also!


Rating: 5 out of 5 posted Wednesday-Aug-17-2005 at 10:00
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