Roland MC-707 and MC-101: two Grooveboxes that are just getting better with age

Both the MC-707 and MC-101 from Roland have been significantly updated since their release in 2019 that it’s time we revisited these Grooveboxes to see what’s new and why you should consider getting into some standalone jamming.

Zenology

Roland Zenology Pro

(Image credit: Roland)

The Zen-core sound engine can also be found in Zenology and Zenology Pro virtual instruments. With the 1.5 update, Roland has added the ability to load sounds files (.sdz) into the MC Grooveboxes. Perfect for MC-101 users who want to immerse themselves deeper into '707-like sound design, with the aid of a computer.

Designed as the ideal hubs for a dawless setup, the ‘707 and ‘101 feature all the perfect elements to create and perform full tracks without the need to go anywhere near a computer, whether you want to connect to other MIDI devices, or dive into an array of over 4000 sounds courtesy of the Zen-core sound engine.

However, what makes these two machines indispensable for producers is that when you do connect to a laptop, even more functionality is revealed with the onboard soundcard affording you the ability to send and receive MIDI and audio when using your DAW of choice.

When we first reviewed the MC-707 12-months ago, we were more than impressed with the onboard effects, with over 90 onboard effects there is plenty there to get creative with your productions. All in all, the ‘707 felt very much like an accomplished instrument that brought back some of that production-in-a-box charm from the original MC range. 

Perhaps, though, one of the more impressive points to the new MCs has been the slew of updates that have followed since launch with version 1.60, the most recent, arriving in September.

Updates

Throughout the past year, Roland has thrown a lot of love at both machines to improve their workflow and performance, but most importantly address some of the misgivings highlighted in our original review.

Zenbeats

Roland Zenbeats

(Image credit: Roland)

If you're thinking of expanding your setup even further then you can find your artistic flow with Roland's Zenbeats multi-platform music creation app. Designed to meet the needs of beginners and pros alike, Zenbeats is a powerful creative tool that can either be the software centre of your setup or seamlessly integrate with an existing one.

The pick of the bunch is the ability to now record audio and assign it to a Drum or Tone track, which was sorely lacking on release, which along with Sample Editing, albeit for the ‘707 only, improves the machines’ sampling capabilities for the better.

On the performance side, there has been plenty to get excited about, including the Scale Performance and Chord Designer functions, which were teamed up with an Arpeggiator in the most recent update. Together with the new Clip Chaining feature and increased number of Scenes from eight to 128, both machines have even more creative functions at your fingertips.

The cherry on top, for the flagship model, utilises the MC-707’s eight channels. Roland has seen fit to add an Audio Insert function which turns the unit into a mixer and gives you the option of exploring the onboard effects even further.

These improvements alongside a new USB Generic Driver, allowing you to connect both machines to a smartphone or tablet, and sample browsing within the SD card all add to more reasons why you should consider getting either the MC-707 or MC-101 in your life.

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