Roland MC-50

Roland MC-50
Roland MC-50

This is my latest buy for my studio, from the lovely people at Music Swopshop in Carlton, Melbourne. I have a large collection of sequencers, and this one traces its roots back to the early MCs, the MC4 and MC8. Both of them had 4 and 8 tracks respectively. They came out in the late 70s, and were expensive. Only the biggest names in electronic music, such as Tomita, Kraftwerk, The Human League, and Georgio Moroder could afford them.

The MC50 is similar to Rolands 80s sequencers the MC500 and MC500 MKII, and the earlier MC300 which used Quikdisks to store data. It has 16 tracks, and 40,000 note capacity. It can store up to 8 songs, 8 phrase tracks, and a rhythmn and temp tracks. It also includes 32 MIDI channels and FSK sync. All this is stored on a 3.5″ DS/DD disk drive.

Other features include recording sequences in real-time or step-time. Data is compatible with the MC-500 and MC-300 sequencers. Unlike those sequencers, the MC50 stores its system software in ROM, not on a start-up disk. The shape has changed as well. Gone are ugly white brick-shaped MC500s, to a more slimmed down, almost flat surface.

How useful is it?

Is it useable in a modern system? Comparing it to a powerful DAW of today such as Logic or Ableton Live is impossible, and it limited in every function companred to a computer based system. On the other hand, if you are a keen hardware person, and create simple sequences it might be viable option. Compared to other hardware sequencers from the era, it falls in between Yamaha’s QX3 and the Alesis MMT8, both great systems. But as a serious music composing tool for 2016? Not really. It is from the early 90s, and time has not been kind to them. Yamaha and Roland would release “Grooveboxes” soon (which included a host of options like sound sets, drum loops, effects engines), and the decicated MIDI sequencer would be confined to a dusty attic, or used sparingly by someone with a certain inclination to these machines.