Synth Site: roland: MC-505: User reviews Add review
Average rating: 4.2 out of 5
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cdsp a part-time user from France writes:
This box is definitely cool (although most of the presets really suck) and you can make some really good music with it. Still, it has a polyphony bug (even with the latest OS 1.07) which can be VERY annoying depending on what kind of music you use the box for. I suggest you took a look at my web page http://www.eleves.ens.fr:8080/home/deseguin/groovebug.html to find out about it. This bug isn't old news, it's definitely HOT NEWS !! Anyway, the box still deserves a 4 out of 5 mark. If Roland doesn't fix the bug, a 2 out of 5 would fit better.

Rating: 3 out of 5 posted Monday-Dec-13-1999 at 13:07
Flip a hobbyist user from USA writes:
This box is pretty revolutionary. I had OS 1.05 and upgraded to OS 1.07 and have found the 505 to be remarkable. Editing patches is easy, and despite being a rompler, it's fun. I think far too many folks are anal about having a true analog. If you treat the MC-505 as its own beast, and program it, you'll find it's a pretty rewarding machine to own. Definitely a must buy.

Rating: 4 out of 5 posted Saturday-Dec-11-1999 at 01:12
Jason a professional user from EU writes:
Very nice looking peace of equipment which I gave to my little brother to play with while he grow up and realise that sound are outdated (decade back) and drum sounds are samples from some analogue classics which will sound OK in a big hotel band gig or somewhere else where people can not notice the difference or if you are seriously high on cr*** like mr. Roomarang and not able to realise that. It does have a sinth engine from older Roland digi siths but for the money it is very expensive. E.G. in Japan was 600$US new for what I paid, so no serious damage there. Maybe this will look good to some people who still use old sinths from 80´s but you can achieve the same and better results with just a sampler and some kind of sequencer will do better that sequencer in MC-505 which is really basic.

BTW Yamaha RM1x is a awesome sequencer not found in any of workstations today. I am sorry Roomarang for your bad investment I was angry as well when I realised that MC-505 was a toy.

Rating: 2 out of 5 posted Friday-Dec-10-1999 at 16:17
JR Chandler a part-time user from USA writes:
It is a good piece of equipment for the money. It is the end-all be all machine, no. I use the MC-505 as a counterpart to my XP-80 & K5000. You cannot sample, but you do have a great amount of control in sound creation. You can edit the drum kits. I like to use it as a sketch pad to write rhythms upon. It is fun instrument to play. Outside of Yamaha's own groove box, I don't see to many other devices that can do this much for around $1100 bucks (even less used). The sequencer is perfect for someone who is just getting started working with MIDI. I like it. Is it perfect, no. I wish it didn't use the smart cards, or at least used the more common cards. The sequencer could be better (or at least more like the XP-80). It would be cool if the filter could be put upon external sound sources. Overall, I like mine and have no regrets purchasing one. But, if I had to keep one piece of gear, I would keep my XP-80. 'nuff said.

Rating: 4 out of 5 posted Thursday-Dec-02-1999 at 16:02
Tom S a professional user from Australia writes:
A lot of the reviews here are clearly from people who have never even used a 505, or have only ever played around with the thing for about 5 minutes in a shop. The fact is the 505 is very, very powerful once you learn how to use it.

The patch generation process is extremely complicated but simple to edit and can really pay off (tone control is awse), and although the sequencer might be a bit different to those of you who are used to Logic, Cakewalk or Cubase, in the end it is simple and powerful (a linear record mode would have been nice but working in 32 bar pattern "chunks" is a fine workaround for song writing).

This machine really comes into its own in live applications. Live I use it with a DJ-2000 (also Roland) and a crappy NAD deck and a T1210 deck; at home I use it with the aforementioned gear and a PC-200MKII MIDI controller keyboard (a piece of crap but it gets the job done). By using the two pairs of direct outputs from the 505 and running them into the 1st and 4th channels of the 2000 i can access the EQ and FX on the mixer for more sonic manipulation. (I run the mix outs on the 505 into the XLR line on the MIC1 channel of the 2000 via an adaptor cable... the 2000 wasn't meant for this but it works OK, just keep the mic1 volume WAAAY down or the mixer will top out)

If you are careful with the resonance and get the hang of the filter envelope you can come up with some very cool sounds... those who criticise the filter for being too digital and the synth for not having oscillators are expecting way too much from an 8 part synth (true the supernova has 8 parts with loads of FX but it has no internal sequencer and the reverb FX is pretty cheap... still the supernova is another awse synth (i have used the Supernova extensively and I used to own the standard nova and what a joy that was... I sold it after i left home because no longer had access to a reasonably fast computer for seq. duties and lacked funds to purchase a new one... :-(

ATM I use my 505 live in conjunction with a partner who owns a Korg EA-1 and a Vestax pro 08 mixer and two T1200's. The Korg is great for lead synth lines but in terms of backing leads and straight bass etc the 505 is really just as good, and has 8 parts + RPS as opposed to just two. Still to any one who owns any analog/analog emulation gear (except maybe analog rhythm synths, which in my opinion the 505 can easily replace) and is considering selling it to buy a 505... KEEP THE ANALOG GEAR and continue saving for a 505... you will find the two pieces will complement each other and will have a combined value far more than the sum of their parts.

Looking over the reviews on this page, it is shocking to notice the number of people who have judged the machine solely on the preset patterns & patches. These simpletons are most likely the sought of people who looked at the machine in the shop for five minutes, or who purchased it simply because they liked the false sense of creativity they achieved when tapping the mute buttons on a preset button... a thrill that would no doubt wear off pretty quickly. Like any machine, the 505 has its strengths and its weaknesses.

It's strengths are its use of cycling patterns and RPS (both great for the live performer or DJ), its multiple outputs which are great for external FX, its impressive recording options (step 1 is a bit dodgy but step 2 is great, just like on a TRx0x, and the realtime mode is typical of hardware synths; MIDI microscope is where a mix can be perfected), and its pattern editing features (individual note hits can be deleted and transposed, copied between patterns, overall gate and velocity times can be adjusted for a whole part in a single edit, etc; i.e. you can perform edits that a lot of computer -based sequencers can't even perform. As I said before, patch creation is excellent, just be careful with your filter envelope & LFO Filter depths and LFO rates and be precise with the resonance levels.

One of its major weaknesses in my mind is the ridiculous amount of time it takes to actually save a pattern or a patch. A patch is made up of less than 1000 parameters... that is a hell of a lot for a person to edit, but nonetheless it is really not much at all in terms of stored information on the 505 internal disk... I am not sure what sought of processor the 505 is using but the write speed is longer than it should be, although you do get used to it. The machine has also been criticised because its sequencer can get kind of unresponsive when playing back a pattern with loads of CC changes etc... usually an application of the data thin function will get around this and wont cause any noticeable change in the sound of your pattern.

On the weakness side of the machine, most of these have already been mentioned: most of the preset patches suck, with very few of them having predefined modulation values etc... like I said before, patch generation should always be approached with a DIY attitude, but nonetheless the lazy programming on the preset patches is still pretty shocking. It is rare to find one using tone control, XFM, an active LFO2, comprehensive envelope parameters (most preset patches are just constructed from the 5 sliders on the front panel, without change to the other envelope parameters only accessible from the patch menu), pitch bend parameters or mod parameters. The majority of the preset patterns are crappy as well, with some occasional nice programming but generally having no real emotion to them. Also, the D-beam is useful, but is nowhere near as useful as the hype makes it out to be. It's best use is probably the function that triggers a note of your choice and then controls pitch bend once your hand has passed over it. It is useful for modulation and pitch bend, but I still think a lever on a controller keyboard is of more use.

One point worth mentioning is the criticism the 505 has received for its lack of expendability. First of all, the wave boards that Roland makes for its JV and XP series synths can be purchased as completely external boards (which are a little bit more pricey than the internal boards but give you more polyphony), and the 505 can be used to build patches and play patterns on these external boards. I borrowed the Roland M-VS1 board from a failed producer with a hobby studio (hope you r reading this Jez... :-)) and it worked great with the 505.

It's major competition comes in the form of the Roland JX-305 and the Yamaha RM1X. True, the JX-305 has a few more waveforms, but most of these are "real" instrument samples that a dance music producer is unlikely to use, and the 305 has no extra outputs and has less realtime controllers (no part mixer - the CC knobs can be used as a mixer but this still involves pressing extra buttons, extra hassle). The 305 might be more attractive to beginners due to its built in keyboard, but anybody who has been writing trax on MIDI machines for a few years should already have a controller keyboard of some description for use with the 505. As for the RM1X, its major shortcoming, like the 305, is its lack of extra outputs. However, the Sequencer on the RM1X is a lot easier to get to grips with initially, and the time stretch function on the sequencer is pretty cool. The fact that the sequencer on the RM1X is 16 parts means it is possible to be able to use only one pattern to write a whole song (something pretty much impossible with the 505's 8 part sequencer), but then you can overcome this on the 505 by stringing patterns together. Importantly, the RM1X has no RPS function, not a major problem for a guy looking to write trax at home but a big piss off for a DJ or live performer. And no, I'm not even going to comment on the JV synthesis (used by the 505) vs. the AWM2 synthesis (used by the RM1X), except for saying that neither method can stand up to analog/analog modelling, and the 505 synth does have twice as many voices as the RM1X synth. Some people have also compared the 505 to the two Korg electribes, but I don't think this is a realistic comparison as the Electribes both use their analog modelling as their strengths, and as such are designed to play very different roles to the 505.

In short I would say that the 505 gets a well deserved 5 stars. Although a handmade patch can sound great, a well made sound on an analog/analog emulation synth will still knock the 505 around... but there are no analog/analog emulation synths with onboard 8 part sequencers and RPS functions... The 505 is compact, sounds great (especially if you output the bassdrum, claps, hats and bass to a separate channel from the rest to a mixer with EQ, then EQ up the top and bottom frequencies), has a sequencer which might be a little different to the norm but is still bery powerful, and absolutely kicks ass in the live arena. I would recommend it to anyone, especially to someone who owns a one or two part analog modelling synth (like the JP-8080, JP-8000, Korg EA-1) looking for a machine to provide backing rhythm, chords, hits etc, or a DJ looking to spice his/her set up. For the obscenely rich who don't like using computer sequencers, you could even use the sequencer on the 505 to control a Novation Supernova... that would make for a pretty awesome live setup I'd imagine.

Rating: 5 out of 5 posted Monday-Nov-08-1999 at 04:29
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