About this document
This is a collection of answers to frequently asked questions
concerning the Roland MC-808 groovebox.
Author: Dirk Schnorpfeil aka dr_boehm.
Notes on the instructions
- [ACTION] - you need to press a physical panel button, e.g. [PATCH], [PATTERN], etc.
- "Action" - you need to find this option on the display
- [ACTION1] + [ACTION2] - press and hold button labeled ACTION1 and the press button labeled ACTION2
- Sometimes the MC-808 asks "Are You Sure?". Press [ENTER] if you are or [EXIT] if you are not. These safety
questions are not always mentioned in this document.
Table of contents
Software / System settings
Patches / Default settings
Patterns / Sequencing
You should use PC100 or PC133 RAM DIMMS of the following specs:
Although the PC100 and PC133 formats are quite old now, you should still be able to purchase these modules
from most good computer component retailers. The MC-808 supports one DIMM up to 512 MB. Since the MC-808
needs the same DIMMS as the Roland Fantom workstations, you can by RAM if it is advertised for the fantom
keyboards and fullfills the above given specs.
Yes, there are some sellers on the internet. Try one of the following links:
There is a mainboard modification that lets the MC-808 recognize more DIMMS.
If you got problems with this, call roland support.
The MC-808 uses standard compact flash cards up to a size of 1 GB.
There are no problems known with standard CF cards. Even it is not clear,
if a faster CF card speeds up the loading of samples.
Some of the early models were shipped with a wrong power supply.
If you got this problem contact roland support to find out if you need
a replacement for the power supply.
Most often faulty ram will be the reason. If you have a DIMM memory installed
remove the DIMM and operate the unit for at least some hours to see if it is
now stable. If yes, it is most lilely a failure in the RAM. Try to
replace it first. If that does not help contact your roland support for service.
The MC-808 is very close to the MC-909 with the following differences:
- Package: 168-pin DIMM
- Feature: SDRAM, PC100 or PC133
- DIMM Type: Unbuffered
- Error Checking: Non parity or non ECC
- Speed: 100 MHz or 133 MHz
- Voltage: 3.3V
- 8 Motorized faders
- Up to 512MB SD-RAM
- Up to 1GB CompactFlash Card
- No SRX Extentation
- 128-voice polyphony
- New Waveforms
- Sound and sample editor only with a computer
Well, think of the MC-808 as a fantom without multisampling that is permanent
in performance mode. Many of the sound programming tips that apply to the fantom
also apply to the MC-808. Therefore have a deep look into the brilliant fantom
tweak book of Artemio in the documents section of
The midi ports do only work if the MC-808 is in "storage" mode. Press [SYSTEM],
then [SHIFT]+[USB]. Select Storage with the dial. Close the software editor before
you change to storage mode.
Of cause you can. There are different situations that require your attention:
- No motorized faders
- Up to 256 SD-RAM
- Up to 128MB SmartMedia Card
- With 1 SRX Extention Slot
- 64-voice polyphony
- Velocity sensitive pads
- Big color display
- Only midi keyboard and MC-808: Connect Midi-out of the midi-keyboard with
midi-in of the mc-808. Set USB-Mode to Storage (midi ports do not work when
usb mode is set to midi). There is a parameter that routes all midi messages
from the midi in to the selected part (i do not remember the name at
the moment). Works without problems. One Point: Midi messages can be filtered
in the 808. In System mode you can select which message types will be received
- Midi keyboard, editor software and MC-808: Now you have to set your usb mode
to midi, otherwise the editor wont work. You have to specify your midi keyboard
output as an midi - through input in the options setting of the editor software.
With this, the editor will route your keyboards output to the usb midi input of
the mc-808. Works without problems.
Software / System settings
Press [SYSTEM], then [SHIFT]+[INFO]. Cursor right 3 times. Now the display
shows the OS Version.
Check the roland page under Downloads. The latest OS version is 1.03. It adds the
auto chop function to the MC-808 without using a computer. On the U.S roland web
page you wil find the download at this
See the instructions that come with an update. If you have no card reader you can take the following
steps into account:
Try roland us website.
Press [SYSTEM] and then [SHIFT] + [PANEL]. Cursor right 5 times. Here you can set
the motors of the faders on or off. If you want to keep this setting you must
press [WRITE] after adjusting the setting.
- Connect the mC808 with PC in USB-storage mode
- Drop the Bin file in the Roland folder of the Card
- Get out of the storage mode and power off
- Power On and the update automatically begins
- If mc808 say "Completed" remove the card and power the unit off and on again.
Now get again in USB-storage mode and delete the Binfile from the card.
The motor faders are loud. How can i stop them from automatically
going to new positions?
Press [SYSTEM] and then [SHIFT] + [PANEL]. Cursor right 5 times. Here you can set
the motors of the faders on or off. If you want to keep this setting you must
press [WRITE] after adjusting the setting.
When you execute the "User Backup" by pressing [SYSTEM] and then [SHIFT] + [CARD]
and then pressing [ENTER] twice the MC-808 creates a directory "\BACKUP" on your
CF card. In this directory you will find a copy of the "Roland" folder from the
user area. Copy the "\Backup" folder to your PC or MAC. If you want to restore
that backup, just copy it back on your CF card and execute the User Restore function.
Patches, Preset Patterns
I am sorry, you cannot. The sound generator on the MC-808 is very close to the
MC-909 or the JUNO-G but the MC-808 has a complete different sample set in the
No, you cannot apply an SRX board to the MC-808.
Since a part can consist of up to 4 parts you can assign a different sample to
any part. With the BIAS Position/BIAS Level you can define a range of 1 octave
for one tone.
On your MC-808 there are 16 parts. Each part is assigned to the corresponding midi
channel. Each pattern consists of 16 Tracks. Every track is assigned to the
corresponding midi channel. If you e.g. record midi events on track one,
they will drive the patch on part one. And all messages will be on channel one.
For each part you can select either a sample, a normal patch or a rhythm patch.
Each normal patch consists of up to 4 tones. Each each tone is based on a sample.
A rhythm path consists of 16 "normal" patches, where each patch is assigned to
Samples can be modified by the faders where selecting [SYNTHESIZER 1] or
[SYNTHESIZER 2] but to keep this changes you must save them as a patch.
Attention: To save a patch press [WRITE]. To save a changed sample press
[SHIFT]+[WRITE]. To select the tone to change press [SHIFT]+ to [SHIFT]+.
To mute/demute a tone press [SHIFT+1] to [SHIFT]+.
All units got the same preset pattern. Its just the sequence that differs between
the U.S. and other regions.
You can only do this through the editor software. Make sure you know how to
get that working before going on to this.
Through the "Tune" feature and the fact that you can assign 4 different samples
all with different envelopes to each note, you can actually create pretty complex
sample sets, but it is VERY time consuming. The software could be streamlined
significantly from a UI perspective which would save some time, but for now it
is just cumbersome.
You can lift up the release time of the amp envelope. Press [PATCH] and select
the right part with the part buttons  - . Now press [SYNTHESIZER 2].
With fader 2 you can now adjust the time that the sample plays after releasing
the pad. If you want to keep this you must save this as a patch in the [USER] or
If you are new to synthesizers at all, search the internet for general documents
about digital synths first.
- Select "patch/sample" button on the MC-808
- move the cursor on the 808 screen to where it says "PATCH" and change it to
"RHYTHM". Change the UsrA001 or CrdA001 to a blank (ie. "init") patch
- Link up with the software and you should see the track you selected on the MC-808
in the interface labeled as "INIT PATCH" w/ a category of "RHY (Rhythm Set)".
- Click the edit button on that channel, in the software, to bring up a window
- Click the "WAVE" category which brings up another window that says
"Rhythm Key Wave". This shows you the 4 assignable sounds for the note that you
are on (WMT1, WMT2 etc.)
- Press the note you want to use (let's use the first pad which is B3) and the
corresponding note will show in the upper right. alternatively you can change
the note using the software interface.
- Assuming you have drum samples on your card already loaded, select
"Sample > Card" under the "Wave group" pulldown
- Under "Wave number", drill down using the pulldown menu until you find the
sample you want to assign to that note. If no samples show up, go into the
Sample Edit area (same place where you do chopping etc.) and it will load all
the samples in a list, then you can go back to your Rhythm Key Wave window and
all the waves should be now listed.
- Assign all the envelope parameters etc to whatever the selected wave/note is.
You can assign 4 waves per note.
- select the next note and repeat the above starting with 7.
If you are already somewhat familiar with synthesizer programming and/or you have
programmed a roland synth like the JV, XP, XV or fantom or JUNO-G before, you will
find the sound programming very easy and familiar. To get more tips you should read
the fantom tweak book in the document section of
roland clan. Although written for the
FANTOMs this document can give you a very deep understanding of your MC-808 sound
architecture and many, many, many very good hints on sound programming.
Yes, i you have at least OS version 1.02. This update adds the import and
export functions. Great to bring your work from the MC-808 to a DAW on a
computer. To import copy your midi file in the "\TMP\SMF" folder. Now
pres [SYSTEM], [SHIFT]+[UTILTY], cursor right 2 times and press [ENTER].
Now select the midi file with the [VALUE] dial and press enter. Next select
the pattern to store into by pressing [USER] or [CARD] and selecting the pattern
number with [VALUE]. Press [ENTER] and reply with [ENTER] to the Question
"Are you sure?". Done.
To export a pattern as a midi file first copy an empty midi file e.g.
"myfile.mid" to the \TMP\SMF folder. Now press [SYSTEM], [SHIFT]+[UTILITY],
Cursor right 3 times until you read "Save as SMF" and press [ENTER]. Now
select "myfile.mid" with the value dial and press [ENTER] and reply with
[ENTER] to the Question "Are you sure?". Done.
You can change the tempo in a song through the tempo of the patterns in that song.
Use the [DELETE] function. In pattern mode press shift+3, select start and end bar
and press enter.
Simply [WRITE] the pattern to the new location.
Use the erase function. Press [PATTERN] and then [SHIFT]+[ERASE]. Now make sure that
only the part buttons are lit for parts that you want to edit!!! select now start bar,
cursor right and select end bar and cursor right again. Now change the event type
with the value dial to "CC", which means control change. If you press [ENTER]
now, only control change messages like fader movements will be erased.
Press [PATTERN] and then [SHIFT] + [ERASE]. Select source bar 1 and the the maximum
end bar. After that select event type "ALL" and press [ENTER].
No you cannot. But you can record a track with click sounds on a part and route that
part to the direct out.
Yes. All the fader send mid control changes depending on the mode (volume, pan, synthesizer 1, synthersizer 2).
Build an internal sound called "silence" with all tones switched off and set this
sound for the part that is routed to "EXT".
Not much. You can make the MC-808 to change effects only if you are going to
another pattern and to keep settings if the next pattern in the song is the same
pattern. For this change "Song Play Mode" to "MODE2". If you have the same effect
in two consecutive patterns always make sure that the effect is assigned to the
same effect processor. If the same effect is on the next pattern the effect will
not stop on the pattern boundary.
Data Management, Exchange
First you need to install the mc-808 usb driver that came with your unit.
Second after selecting the storage mode you must activate it. Press [SYSTEM],
then [SHIFT]+[USB]. Select Storage with the dial. Now cursor right 2 times so
that the display shows "USB Storage [ENTER]". Now press [ENTER] and select
internal or card area to open up. Press [ENTER] again.
To stop USB storage mode stop the connection on your computer.
If you activate the storage mode and nothing happens on your computer press
[EXIT] and then [ENTER] again. Sometimes it does not work the first time and
computer are also only human...
- \ROLAND\SEQ: sequencer data, patterns, songs, ...
- \ROLAND\SMPL: The imported or sampled sample files. They are called smplxxxx
where xxxx is the sample no in the MC-808.
- \ROLAND\SND: Contains the grvb.svd file. This file contains all the patch data.
- \TMP\SMF: Write the SMF file here to import or copy your exported SMF files from here.
- \TMP\AUDIO_IMPORT: Put your WAV/AIFF files here you want to import.
See "How can i route a complete part to a MFX?".
Press [PATTERN] and make sure that "Part select/mute" is not lit. No press the
part button  -  of the part you want to edit. Now press [SHIFT] + [PART PARAM]
and cursor right 4 times. Now select the part destination, one of
Yes you can. Set the part assignment to RHY.
Yes. This is a result of the operation of the compressor.
On the MC-808 for MFX1 and MFX2 you can edit 2 effect parameters each. Therefore
press [PATCH] and then [SYNTHESIZER 2]. With fader 5 and 6 you set the parameters
of MFX1, with fader 7 and 8 you set parameters for MFX2. In the Sound & Parameter
List for each effect the parameters that can be changed by the faders are marked
with a "#1" or "#2".
- DRY: route that part to the stereo main outputs
- MFX1: route that part to MFX1
- MFX2: route that part to MFX2
- COMP: route that part to the compressor
- DIR: route that part to the direct outputs
- RHY: route every one of the 16 pads/sounds of a rhytm set to the
destination defined there, e.g. you want the snare go to comp but
not the bass drum, define that in the rhytm set and set the parameter
here to RHY.
If you want to make more detailed effect settings you must use the editor software
on your computer.
You need the software editor to do this.
Effect settings are stored with each pattern. If you have f.e. a delay effect that
should stay the same in all patterns of a song make sure that the effect is allways
assigned to the same effect unit (EFX1 or EFX2) so that delays are not stopped at
the end of the pattern.
First you need to copy the sample files (wav or aiff) to the \TMP\AUDIO_IMPORT
folder of the user or card area. To do so, you must activate the usb storage mode.
After that press [PATCH] and then [SHIFT] + [IMPORT]. Select with the [USER] or
[CARD] button from which area you want to import. Now select the sample with the
value dial and press [ENTER]. The MC-808 now asks "Are You Sure?". If you are,
press [ENTER] again. Now the sample will be loaded to the RAM of the MC-808.
The sample will get the lowest free number in the area selected. You can check
that if you
Please be aware that stereo samples allocate 2 sample numbers. The left channel
always is on an odd and the right channel is on the following even number.
- make sure that a patch and not a rhythm set is selected: cursor to the upper
left of the display and change it from "RHYTHM" to "PATCH" with the value dial
if it not already shows "PATCH".
- Now press [USER] or [CARD] again to show the samples. The display shows "USAM"
or "CSAM" on the upper right corner.
- Now go through the samples with the value dial. The new sample will have "*" in
front of the name. This means that the sample is loaded in the RAM but was not
yet saved to the permanent storage [USER] or [CARD].
- By pressing [SHIFT]+[WRITE] you can save now this sample permantly.
- When the sample was save permantently you can erase the wav or aiff file from
the "/TMP/AUDIO_IMPORT" folder.
You must not save every sample direct after importing it. You can import a bunch
of them and save them all together in one operation. Therefore press
[SHIFT]+[SAVE ALL] in [PATCH] mode.
The official manual only shows this way. On the german roland MC-808 web page you
can download a official tutorial from Michal Pougin, one of the pattern creators.
In this tutorial he states that one can copy the wav files directly into the
"\ROLAND\SMPL" folder. All the samples are stored there and have a filename in
the format "smplxxxx.wav" where xxxx is a number between 1 and 9999 with leading
zeros if smaller than 1000. Name your sample that way and copy it into the folder
but be aware that a stereo sample always starts on an odd number (1, 3, 5, ...)
and needs 2 sample numbers. This means that the even number after a stereo sample
file must remain free.
Since it is stated that you MUST NOT TOUCH anything inside the "\ROLAND" folder,
be aware that you are on your own when doing so. On the other hand roland published
it on the german product web page ...
The samples are stored in the "\ROLAND\SMPL" folder. There you will find a list
of files called "smplxxx.wav" where xxxx is the sample number. Copy that file to
Copy the sample file to the "\TMP\AUDIO_IMPORT" folder of the other area and
import from there.
The software editor will not get any changes to sample names when you are doing
operations directly on the MC-808. This was done because reading in all sample
names every time would be to time consuming. Therefore if you changed,
imported or deleted samples on the MC-808 while the software editor was running
you must execute the "Read sample names" command in the edit menu of the program.
After that if you go the software sample editor you will find your samples.
You have some possibilities:
Press [SYSTEM] and then [SHIFT] + [SAMPLING]. Now select the file type with the
value dial. If you want to keep that setting you must press [WRITE].
Set the patch remain mode to on. To do this press [SYSTEM] and then
[SHIFT] + [SOUND]. Cursor right 5 times. Now change the value from "OFF" to "ON"
with the value dial. If you want to keep that setting press [WRITE] now.
The default Sample Edit screen doesn't show the true zero level. This is because
the default horizontal and vertical zoom scales are set to values which in most
cases don't let see the true zero level (1:128 and 1:1, respectively). Zoom the
sample in vertically (Shift + cursor "up") and horizontally (cursor "right") to
the max, and you will see that you are not at the zero level exactly.
- If you have a good soundcard with a stereo input connect the MC-808 to the
soundcard and simply record the output of the MC-808. On Windows there is a
free usable program called "Audacity".
- If you have a mp3 player with a record function you can use that device and
transfer the sound file to your computer.
- You can resample the complete song on your MC-808. Resampling means that the
output of the MC-808 is sampled again. If your song is longer than some seconds
you need at DIMM expansion to do that.
When making precise loops (for sounds such as synth waves and similar), always
zoom in vertically and horizontally to find the zero-level points for sample/loop
start and sample end.
Rarely, after truncating a sample, the clicks may appear in a previously-perfect loop.
The workaround for this is very easy:
No. But there is an easy way to simulate this. [WRITE] the sample to storage card
or user storage before modifying the sample. It you want to undo the changes simply
"Unload" and "Load" the sample.
First make sure that the editor software is working. This means when you start the
software it will say something like "reading values..." and no error message...
- Find the perfect (seamless) loop
- Decrease the Loop Start by one single sample, increase the Loop End by one
- Truncate the sample
- Now increase the Loop Start by one single sample and decrease the Loop End
by one single sample
Now lets do it step by step. Lets sample a drum loop via the input jacks...
With a DIMM of 512MB the maximum sampling time is about 50 minutes of 16 bit 44.1Khz
stereo samples. If you use mono samples you will get up to 1h 40min of sampling time.
Install a DIMM.
Make sure that the part the sample is assigned to is routed to the main outs
- Select an empty pattern (fore sure now) and there an empty part (say part 1)
- press sampling start/stop (system shows "sampling menu"), if not shown select
"[sampling]" with the value dial
- press enter
- Now start the audio source and set the input volume
- start sampling
- at the end of sampling mc-808 asks you whether to store that sample to the
current part. If you say yes, it will show you the name of the sample f.e.
card xxxx where xxxx is the sample no. It will then create a patch too, but
this is not needed if you f.e. want to later chop the sample.
HINT: Normaly samples are appended at the end of the list. The mc-808 will search for the first free
block of 256 consecutive free sample numbers.
- IMPORTANT NOW: If the editor is already open you need to exexute the function
"Read Sample Names" in the edit menu. Since it takes a few seconds this is not
done automatically by the software. So everytime you add a sample outside of the
software editor you should execute "Read sample names" from the menu. If you miss
this, it can happen that there are samples in the 808 that you will not
see in the editor!!!
- Now you can see your sample in the card or user area (remember the no from the part)
- Attention again: The sample is now only in sample memory. If you want to keep it,
close the sample editor, go to your mc-808, select the sample by pressing [USER] or
[CARD] button twice and then select the sample number with the value dial and then
press [SHIFT]+[WRITE]. This will write the pure sample and no sample patch.
- The same for chopped samples: If you want to keep them, save them by selecting on
the MC-808 and then press [SHIFT]+[WRITE]!
In the setup midi devices dialog of the editor software you have selected the MC-808
also on "Through - Input" and "Through Output". Now every note will be send from the
MC-808 midi out to the MC-808 midi in again. Every note will sound twice, resulting
in the phasing effect. Remove the MC-808 from the "Through Input" combo box and the
effect will vanish.
First you have to set the MC-808 input and output port in the options dialog of the
software to MC-808. Second, for the editor to work you must change the usb mode from
storage mode to midi mode. Press [SYSTEM], than [SHIFT]+[USB] and set the mode to
midi. After that restart the editor.
No. You can save all data in the MC-808 (patches, samples, rhytm kits). When you
start the editor next time, it will read all the data from the MC-808.
Save the pattern settings including the sounds from the software editor as an
In the "Set Up Midi Devices" dialog select the keyboard midi out in the
"Through Input" combo box and the MC-808 in the "Through Output" combo box.
Now every key on the keyboard will be routed to the MC-808.