Roland MC-808

Manufacturer Roland
Dates March 2006Early 2008
Price £715 UK, $1249 US
Technical specifications
Polyphony 128-note
Timbrality 16-part
Oscillator Yes
Synthesis type Sampler (musical instrument) (rompler)
Filter Yes
Storage memory 16MB; expandable to 512MB
ROM: 1,024 patches, 128 rhythm sets,
RAM: 256 patches, 128 rhythm sets, CompactFlash slot
Effects reverb/delay, chorus/flanger
Keyboard No
External control MIDI in/out, USB

The Roland MC-808 is Roland's latest and final Groovebox, announced at the Winter NAMM in 2006. It is the successor to the late Roland MC-303, Roland MC-307, Roland MC-505 and Roland MC-909. Though cheaper than the Roland MC-909, it has a number of features the Roland MC-909 lacked including double the polyphony (128-voice) and motorized faders. It lacks SRX card expandability, and turntable emulation, which the Roland MC-909 has. It supports more flash memory (1GB CompactFlash,) and more RAM (up to 1GB,) than did the Roland MC-909. It has a 2-line segment built-in LCD that is less flexible - similar to the late Roland MC-505, and much smaller than the Roland MC-909 large LCD screen. It also has a large LED display, similar to the late Roland MC-303. The Roland MC-808 requires a USB connection to a computer for full patch editing, unlike the Roland MC-909. (However, the OS v1.03 update available on the Roland website allows for some patch editing without a computer, most notably sample chopping, including auto-chop.)


The key features of the MC-808 are:[1]

The factory box comes with the following accessories: owner’s manual, sound and parameter list, AC adaptor, CD-ROM (with editor and USB MIDI driver), ferrite core, a band for fastening the core, and a leaflet ("Attaching the Ferrite Core").

Sound Generator

The 808's sound generator produces sound from two different kinds of patches. A "standard" patch is made up of four tones. Each tone can have two different waveforms, one for the left channel and one for the right channel. Waveforms can be either preset waveforms, or samples (both work the same way.) Rhythm patches are made up of 16 tones, each one assigned to a note. Rhythm tones can be made up of up to four waveforms.[1]

Tones are generated by a wave generator then sent to a Time Variant Filter (TVF) and then to a Time Variant Amplifier (TVA). The WG, TVF and TVA all have an envelope which controls their operation. Standard patches have two LFOs available, which can be assigned to modulate the WG, TVF or TVA. This design is similar to many synthesizers using subtractive synthesis. Rather than being restricted to a small number of waveforms, any wave file can be used as a waveform.[1]

Some parameters can be modified in a patch using a fader. For more complete patch editing, the 808 must be hooked up to a computer via a USB cable running the 808's patch editor.

The sound generator allows for the routing of parts into two Multi-Effects(MFX) units. There are 46 different effects. Each MFX can be set to one of the 46 effects.


The sequencer can play patterns, or songs which are made up of a series of patterns. Each pattern can have up to 16 parts. Each part is assigned to a patch.

Parts contain a sequence of MIDI events such as notes and control changes. There are three ways to record data to a part. Step recording, realtime recording and TR-Rec. Step recording allows the entry of notes step by step. Realtime recording allows both notes and control changes to be added. TR-Rec allows each of the 16-pads to represent a beat, and makes it easy to enter percussion tracks. There is also a "microscope" editing mode allowing detailed event editing.[1]

Songs are made up of steps with each step having a pattern associated with it. Muting and unmuting parts can be done for each step. The overall level of each part can be modified at each step as well.


The MC-808 can import samples (as WAV or AIFF files,) and can also record samples from its input. Editing of samples can be done using the sample edit feature of the patch editor program. Some basic tasks can be done from the MC-808 without the need for the editor program. Newly recorded samples are stored in sample memory. Samples must be loaded into sample memory to play them as well. The MC-808 will automatically load samples into memory when needed. There are also some manual operations for loading samples into memory and unloading them. As shipped, there is 4MB of sample memory. Samples can be saved in user memory or card memory.[1]


The Roland MC-808 was used prominently in the album Téo & Téa by French composer Jean Michel Jarre, who used some of the preset patterns as the base for a number of the tracks of that album.

DJ Uplighter and Friends uses the MC-808 on the albums "Planets and Moons: A 'Stomp the Spider New Edition' Spin-off" and "Lighten Up New Synthesizer". The extracts used from the MC-808 are looped sound samples recorded with Audacity and trimmed to be used in Sony Acid Music Studio.

Unsolved bugs

Some operating system bugs were gradually being solved since its release; the last operating system upgrade (Version 1.03)* was introduced on January 15, 2007. (Note OS v1.03 update available on the Roland website allows for some additional patch editing without a computer, most notably sample chopping, including auto-chop.)*

There are current unresolved issues with the implementation of effects when switching patterns, but the MC-808 was "designed by specification". Roland might refer to the end users' requests for effects that sustain past the point when the pattern switches as they "developing a future new product".


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 Roland MC808 review, Sound on sound magazine, May 2007

MC-808 PDF Manual Links:

Other Links:

Additional MC-808 Studio Tools:

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