sequencer :: MC-505
I finally bought a 505. I bought it because my beloved MC-303, is showing signs of coming-soon-death due to old age.
The 303 is one of the common inhabitants of our bed: the best is my wife, second comes our little dog Aki then me and the 303 whose red flashing pattern screen (001>005) often is the last thing I see before falling asleep.
I always take the 303 with me when we travel. I made countless tracks on it, strangely none of them is remotely connected to techno or DJ-type electronics -in fact I use it for synth and noise ambient, with a scarce beat here and there. Last Moon album on Brise-Cul Records features 2 tracks exclusiveley made with the 303.
So, apart from my personal life no-one (including myself) gives a shit about, I thought if it ever failed, I'd instantly bought another one. And I stepped on this super-affordable and almost new 505 and I thought, what the hell let's buy one.
Here we are. First glance is a little disppointing: the machine is real big and heavy and, although it fits without any trouble on my lap in bed. First sound is what I expected: demo songs are utter crap, like on the 303, but the sound quality on headphones is surprisingly good, like I had changed them (I didn't). Try and do some simple pattern without even looking at a manual. PADS!!!! Blimey, those pads are incredible and instantly remind me of my nightmarish D-110 (the nightmare is programming the beast, the sounds are among the best I ever heard coming from a digital synth). I soon realize I'm going to need to take a look at the manual: too bad. But worth it, really.
Two hours fiddling with preset patterns and trying to read and complete the manual's tutorials and here we are again. This is by no means a little-more-advanced-303-with-more-knobs-and-sliders (what I thought it was)... Hell, it's a whole new world. It's like a herd of D-110s inside an oversized MC-303 with a built-in digital multi-effect and a real filter (unlike the MC-303, the 505 has a LPF/BPF/HPF/additive filter and it really sounds good for a digital one: "steps" a little when pushed to the limit but definetely convincing).
All in all it shares some of the drawbacks of the 303:
- the step sequencer has the name and isn't a step sequencer at all (intuitive realtime step by step programming like on the TR-808 is not possible and that's really annoying for electro I think, although since it's unimportant for my use of the machine)
- some of the effects sound super-digital -which can be used on purpose
- it's extremely difficult to program compared to an electribe for instance (manual? over 300 pages... even if a part of it is the midi implementation chart...) but quite easy if you're familiar with the 303 -and flawless compared to the E-Mu grooveboxes
Has a few drawbacks of its own:
- the LCD screen is often faulty (you can fix it yourself easily, provided you find the LCD screen -Roland is quite a big company remember so that's easy too)
- the machine is too big and too heavy: fine to look impressive on stage but a burden for me
- uses the roland smart-medias to backup (super-expensive) and there's no simple way to back things up on your computer (you can: it's not simple)
Shares the quality of the 303:
- quite robust (not to the extent of the 303 though, lot more knobs sliders and buttons means more potential for crashes and faults)
- excellent sound quality (terrific sounds compared to the 303, which I already liked a lot)
And has a new set of qualities of its own:
- realtime edition of patterns is so much easier
- synth/patch edition although difficult is worth the time -pad sounds, wow, thick, heavy, "wallish" (I have a real Juno 106 so I know what Roland pads should sound like ;-)
- separate outputs
- THE D-BEAM!!! people always tell me it's useless... Did you notice the Theremin (and the Alesis air-fx and air-synth) was a visually great instrument on stage? Could you please tell me why the D-Beam isn't?
- backup is possible provided you have the smart media, which I do.
All in all, for 350-400 euros, that's the best groovebox I've seen, period.
I think I'm going to buy a bigger bed.