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Jon Johnson

Topic: MC-202 MicroComposer

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The Roland MC-202 (MicroComposer) is a monophonic analog synthesizer/sequencer released by Roland in 1983. It is similar to the TB-303 and SH-101 synthesizers, featuring one voltage-controlled oscillator with simultaneous saw and square/pulse-width waveforms. The unit is portable and can be operated from batteries or an external power supply.

Synthesizer

The internal synthesizer features one voltage-controlled oscillator with simultaneous saw, square/pulse-width and sub-octave square waveforms. Additionally there is a 24dB Low Pass filter, an LFO and a single ADSR envelope generator.
In terms of circuitry, it is nearly identical to the earlier SH-101 synthesizers but lacks the noise generator, choice of LFO shapes and modualtion/pitch bend controls. However, unlike the SH-101, it does include a delay on the LFO. The two units also share a design aesthetic in terms of the control layout, casing, lettering, knobs and slider caps.

Sequencer

The MC-202 includes a sequencer that can play back two separate sequences simultaneously. Two sets of CV/Gate connectors on the rear of the unit allow for routing the sequences to external synthesizers. One of the two sequences is used to control the internal synthesizer. The sequencer is programmed much like Roland's early digital MC-4 and MC-8 Microcomposer sequencers, whereby notes are entered with pitch, length and gate length. Additionally, each note in the sequence can have an accent and slide, which is similar to the TB-303 and the SH-101 and allows for so called acid sequences.

The sequences are lost if the unit is powered down, however a tape interface is provided so that sequences can be stored to and recalled from an audio tape recorder.

There are DIN sync inputs and outputs which allow the unit to synchronize playback, either as master or slave, with other DIN sync-equipped instruments such as the TB-303 or the Roland TR-808. The unit can also generate and sync to frequency-shift keying signals from a tape recorder.
The MC-303 was built in 1996 and is a digital successor of the MC-202.

In 1997, Defective Records Software released MC-202 Hack, a software application that enables programming of the MC-202's sequencer on computer. It works by creating audio that is routed into the MC-202's cassette input port. It allows for MIDI files to be converted to MC-202 sequences. This eliminates the need to use the MC-202 keys to enter sequence information. Version 2 of the software (released in 2009) also allows sequences programmed directly on the MC-202 to be converted back into MIDI files.

View full synthesizer

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Cool review Jonathan. I never really knew or was aware of this machine myself over the years or I just ignored it when I saw it listed until the hub bub of revival of MC-ism in the mid 90's. After reading about and seeing what an MC-202 is I think they would be great to have in the arsenal. I was disappointed to see how expensive they are in the used marketplace. Consider yourself lucky and never sell it (Y)

Love to hear some of your music with it. Feel free to post clip or song with it here.

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