Roland MC-202 MicroComposer

Roland MC-202 Image

This is an analog synthesizer/sequencer. It sounds very much like the TB-303 and SH-101 bass synths. Sometimes considered the "poor man's 303". It has a very evolved form of TB-303 like programming (more like the MC-4) and SH-101 like controls of the VCO, VCF, VCA, LFO, Envelope and Mixer sections. The LCD display is a great feature too.

The MC-202 was sort of a next-generation TB-303. So the idea was to program sequence/patterns into it internally which would give you those 303 basslines that we've come to love. But programming the MC-202 is a bit too intense and over done for the simple monophonic bass line. However you can control it externally by hooking up a MID-CV/Gate converter. Then you basically have yourself an SH-101!

The sequencer is actually a 2-channel CV/gate sequencer, with both channels being capable of driving a separate external synth. It's a very useful unit, also, for its DINsync capabilities; it can receive on one port, and send over two, and also can 'split' DINsync to branch a sync signal out to multiple devices.

Roland MC-202 Image

This machine is best for those who want to get 303-like patterns (it has accent just like the 303) and basslines with an SH-101 sound. If you can handle programming the notes into its sequencer you can have a lot of fun. It is used by Autechre, Future Sound Of London, Coldcut, The Human League, Underworld, Aphex Twin, LFO, Jedi Knights, Plastikman, Astral Projection, Sabres Of Paradise, Freddy Fresh, Jimmy Edgar, ProtoType 909 and Taylor 808.

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58 Visitor comments
May 16, 2009 @ 10:38 am
I've been looking for one of these for a long time now, they are quite common on ebay but the shipping costs are way too outrageous from here :/ Next time I'll see one for sale here in Sweden I'll definately will check it out, it's an amazing synthesizer and very underrated I think, It won't replace a 303 for the typical acid-sound but this synth is way more versatile and better in almost every way, and way cheaper too.
May 9, 2009 @ 10:02 am
Hi Nayr,

I'm not sure if 202s are actually rare, though they are old, of course.

I guess the only advice I could give, would be to try before you buy, and don't expect a 303 replacement. 202 sounds very different, and is not as popular of course.
May 7, 2009 @ 6:51 am
Thanks Oli

I have an MC-505, some old piece of crap Casio and loads of experience with software like Reason, Ableton Live etc. I would maybe just want it because of its age and rarity maybe. I had a TB 303 ten years ago but sold it to a friend and have never forgiven myself.
May 6, 2009 @ 1:49 pm
Hi Nayr,

$US230.00 may not be a great bargain for a 202 today; depends on your situation. ~$US300.00 can get really capable and versatile more modern synths in used market, and can go a long way with VSTs. I doubt many owners would be willing to sell an MC-202 for less than 230 though, so it may be a bargain if it's what you really want.

The 202 has its own character. Many don't like it much. It's not the easiest synth to pull out common bassline sounds. If you can, really get to know how to use the synth, how to get the sounds want. In a sequence, sounds can bring out more character again, with filter sweeps, accent, portamento, effects, etc.

For me, it's not an SH-101 or TB-303 replacement.

If it's your one and only synth, I would suggest getting something else instead, or at least trying to use it with some free software, of which there are of course plenty of high qulaity choices.

Hope that helps.
May 6, 2009 @ 7:33 am

Just been looking for a service manual - my MC-202 needs tuning. Found this site for a rack mount conversion, plus a few really decent mods:

I like the additional sonic capabilities of the mods, and I don't use my onboard sequencer any more, so it's a good fit for my situation. Have a listen to the samples there.

I had seen the site ages ago, and forgotten about it completely. I will try to do these mods to my MC-202 this year, time and effort permitting. I think I will fit mine in a 2U though. I have a couple of spare racks, rescued from a bin at work, that I can retro-fit into.

If others are interested, there are various affordable and excellent quality DIY MIDI-CV converters around, just right for this kind of project.
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  • Check Price
  • The link above will take you to an eBay search for this synth to see active listings. If you don't find it there, try looking in our forum marketplace or post a wanted classified.
  • Specifications
  • Polyphony - Monophonic
  • Oscillators - Single VCO : Simultaneous sawtooth and square/pulse width waveforms and 1 Sub-Oscillator
  • VCA - ADSR Envelope or gate.
  • Filter - Resonant 24dB lowpass with cutoff, res, env, mod, kybd
  • LFO - 1 sine wave with delay and rate controls
  • Memory - Volatile sequence memory using batteries or do a Cassette Tape Dump
  • Sequencer - 2 Tracks, 2,729 notes capacity
  • Control - CV/GATE and Tape/Clock/DIN Sync
  • Date Produced - 1983
  • Resources & Credits
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