How does a Roland MC-505 stack up against a TR-808?
February 22, 2008 10:01 AM   Subscribe

Does the Roland MC-505 produce TR-808 sounds using synthesis or samples? Is there anything that the TR-808 does that the MC-505 wont?

I'm a hobbyist, passionate about electro, techno, and bass music(and the sub-genres). I've played around with the reason demo and have had pretty decent results with redrum and an 808 patch. I am, however, itching to try the real thing.

I'm seeing inexpensive MC-505s pop up on local gear forums. They claim to have the abilities of a TR-808 but do they have the sound and the legendary timing? I'd like the sounds to be generated, rather than played-back samples.

Or would I be better off sticking with a full version of Reason? I already have a small 25-Key O2 midi controller that has a couple of knobs. I can't use ReBirth because I'm on an Intel Mac and I don't have a VMWare+XP license.

I'm not looking to quit my day job by any means. I am fascinated with the production of electronic music; I can lose myself in the Reason demo for hours.

Of course, a real 808 is out of my budget; some of these used 505s are not. I haven't really looked around for other machines in the Groovebox series.
posted by neilkod to Media & Arts (13 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
What info I can find refers to the MC-505's tone generator as a ROMpler, without any analog modeling. Thus, it will share no timing characteristics with the TR-808 except by accident.
posted by mkb at 10:13 AM on February 22, 2008

Incidentally, have you looked at Nepheton?
posted by mkb at 10:17 AM on February 22, 2008

Nothing can match the 808. 808 is the Stradivarius of drum machines -- can never be reproduced.
posted by afx114 at 10:19 AM on February 22, 2008

mkb, doesn't nepheton require Cubase?
posted by neilkod at 10:30 AM on February 22, 2008

Reason comes pretty darn close to the real thing, but afx114's comment is spot on about the 808. I'd stick with Reason for now, simply because you can emulate an entire rack for a fraction of the cost....but continue saving up for an 808...if you're lucky enough you'll find one that's being let go for a good price.
posted by samsara at 10:38 AM on February 22, 2008 [1 favorite]

neilkod: it requires a VST host, of which there are many. These can be integrated with Reason using ReWire.

Even a perfect sonic emulation of an 808 will be missing it's ease of programming, unless you are really good at tweaking Monomes or DIY Doepfer controllers or something.
posted by mkb at 10:44 AM on February 22, 2008

I can't believe noone has mentioned Rebirth here. The Propellerheads made it to emulate these sounds - and it's sounds damn close - too close for my ears. Oh, and it's free now.
posted by bigmusic at 10:55 AM on February 22, 2008

Well, damn you mentioned rebirth - but I don't think it would run very well under a VM solution anyhow.
posted by bigmusic at 10:58 AM on February 22, 2008

I have an MC-303. It's all samples. I haven't used it in years, but I remember always being dissatisfied with the drums -- they were either clipped with no bass, or bassy with no snap to them. I had more fun with tweaking the synth samples.

I last used that about 8 years ago (at least i think it was Reason: it had only the TB and TR modules in it, so it might've been some predecessor). It does about the same stuff, but is much easier to work with the patterns and timing. I picked up the 303 mostly to have physical controls, but programming patterns was cumbersome and left me mostly frustrated.

Plus after screwing around with these things for a couple years I finally accepted that I have no rhythm whatsoever and no amount of fiddling with buttons, knobs, sliders or software would make my disastrous lines sound good. Which is why to this day the 303 sits in a box next to a DJ mixer (both for sale, btw).
posted by jma at 11:09 AM on February 22, 2008

Thinking about this question though, sound like what you really want is a MachineDrum. I really think the early roland drum machines have been squeezed pretty much all the life you can get out of them. But this MachineDrum - it's magical.
posted by bigmusic at 11:12 AM on February 22, 2008

I am an owner of the MC-303 since and still use it when I need a live drum track that I can fiddle with in between sequenced tracks/samples. My cohorts were owners of the MC-505 for a few years and I had plenty of face time with it. I've also had plenty of face time with Rebirth and Reason.

Go with the piece of hardware. The 303 is severely limited but the 505 has way more 808 samples that can be jazzed up with the multitude of on board effects. Real time 'bass boost', pitch, cutoff, resonance..etc knobs make your performance dynamic.

When you speak of the original 808's 'timing' is it the trills you're speaking of, or something on a micro level that only an aficionado would notice?

The 16 step sequencing live machine-I-can-touch is a way more intuitive and creative interface for live fiddling.

The software based solutions are great for sitting in the bat cave and churning out beats that you'll probably just sample and loop / chop anyway...
posted by mnology at 11:29 AM on February 22, 2008

+1 for reason, just because it's cheap, practical, and can make near infinite amounts of electronic sounds. doesn't do great 303's though, and tbh i never thought rebirth was all that great at the 303 thing either, so that doesn't answer your question.

a good hardware 303 emulator might be what you're looking for? here's a forum discussion of which one is best - i think if you are REALLY obsessed with getting just that squelchy acidy sound but can't afford an actual 303, one of these might be your best bet.

however, you probably need some other gear on top of this (sync it to reason maybe?) cause listening to a plain 303 on it's own has got to be a bit boring after a while!

some people like the mc-505 simply because it's a physical object and not software, which may be important to you. however, but many others find the sounds to be a bit rubbish, especially the 303 stuff. btw i'm pretty sure it's sample-based, not true analog.
posted by messiahwannabe at 9:33 PM on February 22, 2008

oh! stupid me, you're looking or an 808 emulator, not a 303. i thought rebirth did a pretty kick ass 808 actually!

i'm a professional prducer doing a lot of house and hip hop, and i'm always looking for a good, practical answer to this question. probably the simplest solution is to find is a good sample cd/download pack, and load it into a good sofware sampler/drum machine - that should at least sound a touch better than redrums almost-808's.

i'm thinking about buying this one, it comes highly recommended:

for the moment practicallity has lead me to simply use my guru software drum machine, the 808 patches that come with it seem to fulfil most of my 808 needs. though this thread (and a crunk listening binge last night) has made me think about shelling out for some better samples.

a real 808's on my wishlist when i make a million bucks off my first platinum single ;)
posted by messiahwannabe at 10:52 PM on February 22, 2008

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