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Roland MC-101 Review: Beats, Bass And Batteries


March. 16, 2020

If you think Roland's nostalgia-infused music gear is a new thing, think again. As far back as the mid-'90s (and maybe beyond), the company was cashing in on the gravitas of some of its legendary instruments. In 1996, the company introduced the MC-303 groovebox. It might have had "303" in the name, but the similarities with the iconic TB-303 pretty much stopped at the color scheme. The real news with the MC-303 was the birth of the beloved groovebox series -- all-in-one music-production machines.
The latest in that line is the MC-101, and it's small, somewhat affordable ($500) and surprisingly powerful -- and a welcome addition to the oft-forgotten family. Notably, it doesn't trade in nostalgia (at least, not in the way the MC-303 did), but it should still appeal to music enthusiasts who love Roland's classic music boxes.
Highly portable
Solid sound selection
Sample friendly
Advanced features for its size
Battery life isn’t the best
Slight learning curve at the beginning
Sound design features are lacking
Roland’s rich experience with making grooveboxes is clear in the MC101. For something so small, it has a lot of high end features that even more advanced users will appreciate. While the UI might take a little getting used to, once you have the muscle memory, you’ll be able to make complete, layered productions. It would have been nice to see a little more on the sound design front, and there are a few practical issues (like battery life and headphone volume), but nothing that’s a deal breaker, or that can’t be solved with a little creativity. All this conspires to make the MC101 a very attractive proposition for the musician on the go.
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