Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Roland MC-8

Update via Chris Carter in the comments:

"I owned an MC8 from 1982 to 2002 and used it on many recording (I bought it from Landscape, who recorded 'Einstein agogo' with it). An article I wrote about the MC8 can be found here."

Click here for shots via this auction.

"This is the Roland MC-8 MicroComposer. They called it a MicroComposer due to its diminutive foot print. Actually, that isn't true. It was designated as the MicroComposer as it was the first microprocessor controlled sequencer - the Intel 8080, to be precise. In addition to launching the 'MC' moniker, it also introduced other innovative features like copy and paste.

So, if you were an electronic musician in 1977, you could drop $8000 and string together 1000 or so notes with Japanese precision.

The MC8 provides eight channels of CV and gate outputs for controlling inputs found on synthesizers from Moog, Roland, Arp and others. I used this with a Doepfer A-100 modular, Prophet 5, minimoog and SH-101. There is no MIDI, this is all about a microprocessor coupled as directly as possible to analog voltage outputs.

If you're sequencing drums, you don't have to waste the normal CV outputs (and consume memory with unnecessary note data) by using the additional MPX outputs. You can even automate tempo and the presence of portamento. Or, you could use the MPX outputs in conjunction with a sequential switch to control which of several envelopes are used for a particular phrase. They were clearly thinking of serious, complete automation here.

Controlling it all is an impressive console that looks as if it were responsible for launching ICBMs. It certainly feels that way as all the controls and switches seem designed to withstand a nuclear blast. It worked, too. 30 years later, this machine still works great. If you're at all familiar with a 10-key keypad, you can enter data in by touch, without even looking at the unit. The response of the keypad is delightfully retro and a joy to use. All the buttons have satisfying physical feedback that seems absent on current gear.

The MC-8 was expensive for Roland to build, though. It is reported only 200 left the factory. This is a rare chance to own a unique piece of Roland history. I'm selling this and other items because my work area needs to occupy a smaller space.

Famous users of the MC-8 are reported to include: Kraftwerk, Human League (Dare), Tangerine Dream, Hans Zimmer, Toto, and Tomita.

Included in the auction is the original factory manual, interface cable, CV interface unit and, of course, the MC-8 itself."


  1. Thank U Annunaki!

  2. aaaah, those were the days... :)

  3. I owned an MC8 from 1982 to 2002 and used it on many recording (I bought it from Landscape, who recorded 'Einstein agogo' with it). An article I wrote about the MC8 can be found here:

  4. Yes, thanks to you Chris, I bought the damn thing.

  5. Wow, that went for cheap.

  6. Anyone know how to make a cable? Anyone have the manual or any technical information for this? Get in touch ! Even if you're reading this in 2010 or later ! ;-)

  7. The manual? Sure! Try

  8. If you (or anyone else who stumbles across this page) still need to know how to make an MC-8 cable, someone's worked it out over at