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Roland MC-202 Microcomposer

The Roland MC-202 – The 101’s Eccentric Brother!

An analog synthesizer and music sequencer produced by Roland from 1983 to 1985, the MC-202 was the original product that coined the term “groovebox.” With a similar sound to the TB-202 and SH-101, the MC-202’s power lies in its bass and lead synth capabilities. Its single voltage-controlled oscillator offers simultaneous saw, square/pulse-width, and sub-octave square waveforms, while its circuitry and layout closely resemble the SH-101.

Indeed, users familiar with the synthesizer released by Roland just a year before the MC-202’s launch will find comfort in the placement and operation of VCO, VCF, VCA, LFO, Envelope, and Mixer controls. However, that’s not to say the MC-202 lacked novelty. Squeezed between its stubby 32-pad keyboard and the sliders, knobs, and buttons adorning the synth section lies a small LCD screen that displays editing sequences—an element that was, at that time, considered somewhat of a rarity. 

Where Can I Buy A Roland MC-202?

Often viewed as a more affordable follow-up to the TB-303, the MC-202 boasts internally-programmable basslines similar to those produced by its predecessor. The MC-202 contains a two-channel sequencer designed to play two separate sequences at the same time with one track generated by the internal sound and the other sourced externally through CV and Gate inputs located on the back.

Some of the MC-202’s biggest flaws came when its design theory met practical application. It is capable of storing 2,600 notes on its two tracks, but the compressed layout of the keys—perfect for creating a consolidated and portable (when loaded with batteries) unit—makes for a clunky method of inputting the desired monophonic effect. Luckily, modern technology has provided a fix for this issue.

A MIDI-CV/Gate converter can be used to simplify the sequencing process, while the MC-202’s DINsync capabilities can eliminate lags in signal by diverting a sync signal to multiple devices. Similarly, MC-202 Hack, a Java application released by Defective Records Software in 1997, introduced sequencer programming via computer by converting MIDI files to MC-202 sequences. A second version of the software, updated in 2009, further advanced the system by transferring sequences programmed via MC-202 keypad to MIDI files, thus alleviating many headaches and finger cramps. 

How Much Does A Roland MC-202 Cost?

If you’re lucky enough to find a Roland MC-202 for sale they’ll normally* range anywhere between £750 and £1,100

*prices generally seen on auction sites. If you see them cheaper, you may be on to a bargain.

Who Uses Or Used The Roland MC-202?

Famous and not so famous users of the MC-202 are: Universal Indicator, Richie Hawtin, Beathaven, Daft Punk, Mathew Jonson, Venetian Snares, Autechre, Luke Vibert, Alessandro Cortini, A Guy Called Gerald and many more!

Alternatives To The Roland MC-202?

There are many different alternatives to the 101 whether as hardware, software, analog or digital. These are as follows: The sexy brother Roland SH-101, Roland Boutique SH-01A, Roland SH09, Roland SH01 Gaia, Intellijel Atlantis, Behringer MS-101, TAL-BassLine-101 and other SH101 emulators and VSTs.

However, when we compare it to the real thing it’s noticeable that the alternatives don’t quite stack up. They are a great option though for people with a lower budget.

Classic Roland MC-202 Videos, Tutorials & Demos

This playlist of tutorials or guides show how you can sound like Aphex Twin and Squarepusher by using the MC-202. There are also multiple videos showing how to program this tricky but awesome machine. 

All in all, loads to watch, listen and learn before getting your own!

Classic Roland MC-202 Tracks

Some classic MC202/SH-101 bass tracks are featured in the playlist above including: Squarepusher – Theme From Ernest Borgnine, Aphex Twin – Polynomial C, Boards of Canada – Roygbiv and Olsen, Autechre – Nine, Mu-Ziq – Hasty Boom Alert, Dopplereffekt – Voice Activated, Mathew Jonson – Decompression and Christ – Pylonesque.

Other Roland Products?

The famous Roland synths, drum machines and effects include: SH 101, MC 202, TB 303, TR 606, TR 707, TR 808, TR 909, Juno 60RE-201 Space Echo.

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