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

Table of contents


Software / System settings

Patches / Default settings

Patterns / Sequencing

Data management/exchange



Editor software


What sort of ram do i need?

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.

Can i order DIMMS for the MC-808 on the internet?

Yes, there are some sellers on the internet. Try one of the following links:

My MC-808 does not recognize any memory. What should i do?

There is a mainboard modification that lets the MC-808 recognize more DIMMS. If you got problems with this, call roland support.

Which memory card should i buy for my MC-808?

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.

My MC-808 is noisy, what now?

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.

My MC-808 is unstable, i have dropouts in samples, weird characters in the display. What can i do?

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.

How does the MC-808 compare to the MC-909?

The MC-808 is very close to the MC-909 with the following differences:

MC-808 MC-909

How dows the MC-808 compare to the fantoms?

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 roland clan.

The midi connectors do not work. What can i do?

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.

Can i use an external midi keyboard with the MC-808?

Of cause you can. There are different situations that require your attention:

Software / System settings

How do i check my OS version?

Press [SYSTEM], then [SHIFT]+[INFO]. Cursor right 3 times. Now the display shows the OS Version.

Where can i download the latest 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 page.

How do i perform an OS update?

See the instructions that come with an update. If you have no card reader you can take the following steps into account:

Where can i download the latest usb driver for my MC-808?

Try roland us website.

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.

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.

How can i create a backup and store that on my computer?

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

Is the MC-808 compatible to any other MC? Can i load patches and/or patterns from earlier models?

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 sample rom.

Can i expand sounds with an SRX board?

No, you cannot apply an SRX board to the MC-808.

Can i simulate multisampling through the tones of a sound?

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.

What are "samples", "tones", "patches", "parts", "channels" and "tracks"?

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 one key.

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]+[5] to [SHIFT]+[8]. To mute/demute a tone press [SHIFT+1] to [SHIFT]+[4].

I saw that Roland has a set of preset patterns for the U.S. and another set for the rest of the world. Does anyone know if those in the U.S. will be able to download those other patterns and vica-versa?

All units got the same preset pattern. Its just the sequence that differs between the U.S. and other regions.

How can i build a rhythm kit from samples i imported?

You can only do this through the editor software. Make sure you know how to get that working before going on to this.
  1. Select "patch/sample" button on the MC-808
  2. 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
  3. 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)".
  4. Click the edit button on that channel, in the software, to bring up a window
  5. 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.)
  6. 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.
  7. Assuming you have drum samples on your card already loaded, select "Sample > Card" under the "Wave group" pulldown
  8. 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.
  9. Assign all the envelope parameters etc to whatever the selected wave/note is. You can assign 4 waves per note.
  10. select the next note and repeat the above starting with 7.
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.

How can i make a sample sound complete without having to hold a pad the whole time?

You can lift up the release time of the amp envelope. Press [PATCH] and select the right part with the part buttons [1] - [16]. 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 [CARD] area.

Where can i find information on patch programming?

If you are new to synthesizers at all, search the internet for general documents about digital synths first.

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.

Sequencing, Patterns

Can i export/import SMF files?

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.

How can i change the tempo in a song?

You can change the tempo in a song through the tempo of the patterns in that song.

I created a pattern with 16 bars but i want to shorten it to 8 bars. How can i do this?

Use the [DELETE] function. In pattern mode press shift+3, select start and end bar and press enter.

How can i copy a complete pattern with all settings to another location?

Simply [WRITE] the pattern to the new location.

I recorded fader movements on a track with note data. Now i want to remove the fader movements without loosing the note data. How can i do this?

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.

How do i erase or initialize a part?

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].

Can i route the metronome to direct out?

No you cannot. But you can record a track with click sounds on a part and route that part to the direct out.

Can i use the MC-808 to control my DAW?

Yes. All the fader send mid control changes depending on the mode (volume, pan, synthesizer 1, synthersizer 2).

Can the MC-808 record system exclusive messages?


Even if i set a part to "EXT" if i press a pad on the MC-808 the internal sound is heard. What can i do?

Build an internal sound called "silence" with all tones switched off and set this sound for the part that is routed to "EXT".

When changing patterns effects are also changed and long delays will stop suddenly. What can i do?

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

I set the MC-808 to "storage" mode but there is no drive coming up on my computer. Why?

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...

Can you explain the directory structure on the MC-808 and the CF memory card?


I activated a COMP, MFX, REV or mastering effect but nothing happens.

See "How can i route a complete part to a MFX?".

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 [1] - [16] of the part you want to edit. Now press [SHIFT] + [PART PARAM] and cursor right 4 times. Now select the part destination, one of

Can i send instruments of a drum set to different effects?

Yes you can. Set the part assignment to RHY.

A part is much louder if it is routed through the COMP (compressor). Is this normal?

Yes. This is a result of the operation of the compressor.

How can i edit effect parameters?

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".

If you want to make more detailed effect settings you must use the editor software on your computer.

How can i make detailed effect settings?

You need the software editor to do this.

How are effect settings stored?

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.


How do i import wav/aiff samples from my computer?

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.

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.

Must i import every single sample or is there a faster way?

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 ...

How can i copy samples from the MC-808 to the computer?

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 your computer.

How can i move samples from CARD to USER memory?

Copy the sample file to the "\TMP\AUDIO_IMPORT" folder of the other area and import from there.

I imported samples but i do not find them in the software editor?

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.

How do i get my song as a wav/aiff file back to my computer?

You have some possibilities:

How do i set the default sample file format (wav or aiff)?

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].

Long samples are cut when changing patterns. What can i do?

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.

I adjusted loop start and sample end to zero level, but clicks are heard as the sample loops?

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.

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.

I found a perfect loop but after truncating the sample looping clicks appear.

Rarely, after truncating a sample, the clicks may appear in a previously-perfect loop. The workaround for this is very easy:

Is there an UNDO function for sample modify?

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.

I sampled on the MC-808 but i cannot find that sample in the sample editor. Why?

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...

Now lets do it step by step. Lets sample a drum loop via the input jacks...

How many seconds of sampling time do i get on my MC-808?

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.

I get the message "sample memory was insufficient". What should i do?

Install a DIMM.

After importing my samples are sounding distorted or changed in a way. Whats wrong?

Make sure that the part the sample is assigned to is routed to the main outs (setting DRY).

Editor Software

When in software editor all sounds get an unwanted phasing effect. What is going on?

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.

When i start the software editor is says "Midi not configured correctly". Why?

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.

Must i save the settings i made in the software editor as an *.mc8 file?

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.

What is the best way to exchange sounds with other MC-808 users?

Save the pattern settings including the sounds from the software editor as an *.mc8 file.

How can i use an external keyboard to start samples in the sample editor software?

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.