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Roland MC-202 users, unite!
View Poll Results: Would you be interested in a commercial mod to bring the MC-202 into the XXI century?
Yes, count me in! I would pay gladly
84 Votes - 88.42%
I'm okay with what there is right now, not spending more money.
11 Votes - 11.58%
Voters: 95. You may not vote on this poll

Old 3rd July 2017
  #1
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autoy's Avatar
Roland MC-202 users, unite!

The Roland MC-202 is a quirky synth. Yes, the sequencer can be a little hard to learn but not a big deal once you have the general scheme in your head, at which point it becomes a fundamental part of the instrument’s expression, it’s almost a breeze to work with. The notes can be input fast enough, and so does the accents, slides and note durations (there’s that default to step length 1/8 which is dumb but easily changed quickly to 1/16). And then you have to work with bars instead of patterns, which make it more linear, oh well…

The sequencer itself would not be much of a problem if there wouldn’t be two other additional issues. First and frontmost, the sequences get lost on power off, forcing you to save your work in an audio file via tape interface. This is a cumbersome process in this day and age.

And then there’s the issue of useless CV/Gate inputs that get quantised and delayed by the CPU, for which there are well documented mods to hack into the synth engine bypassing the CPU entirely (and not losing internal sequencer functionality, using switched jacks) when something is connected to CV/Gate ins. Very neat but you don’t get the nice accent and slide without further modifications, and then find a way to send CV to all that without some expensive Kenton kit.

The rest of the machine is really neat: SH-101 synth engine in a much smaller box, DinSync in with no less than 2 DinSync outs, tape sync (sync to any sequencer just by using an audio cable) and dual CV/Gate outs for the two internal sequencer tracks. All this is a huge potential, sadly shadowed by the couple of downsides of the machine.

This can remedied. Traditionally, all retrofit companies have been reluctant to tap into the MC-202’s potential for one major factor: the CPU is surface mounted. This gets mentioned every time the MC-202 topic comes up (so far, Tubbutec is not considering it. I heard some whispers on Social Entropy and even Colin Fraser showing some interest but other products are understandably prioritised right now) but I think there could be a big opportunity and community enthusiasm if some kind of upgrade kit gets produced, even if it involves being installed by a professional technician because of SMD mount.

In my opinion the order of issues to be addressed could be:

1 - Internal storage. This is the big showstopper, loading and unloading patterns cuts the natural workflow of the machine. Even if we can now save the patterns to audio files, if we make changes and lose the edits because we forget to backup it’s still a usability nightmare.

2 - Pattern based sequencer. Let’s face it, it’s much better to manage patterns rather than bars, besides being obviously more useful for live usage.

3 - Direct CV/Gate. It hurts having to mod the PCB currently, cut various tracks and drill a couple of holes just to do something that could be managed by a new CPU directly.

4 - MIDI I/O. If there is to be a CPU replacement this would be a no brainer to add really.

The number of MC-202s produced is low (around 4000), much lower than SH-101s but I think we must express if we are interested in putting our money where the mouth is and vote if we feel committed to pay for an upgrade that brings the MC-202 to 2017 standards without losing its original personality. This is a call to Tubbutec, Sequentix, Kiwi Systems, Social Entropy or whoever is interested to take on such endeavor.

If you own an MC-202, please vote. Thank you.
Old 3rd July 2017
  #2
I looked at a picture of the CPU, and I can see why people don't even bother. Removing a chip like that cleanly and replacing requires quite a bit of skill. I bet many pro techs wouldn't even attempt it because of the risk of damaging the unit.
Old 3rd July 2017
  #3
Lives for gear
 

haven't voted at this point (actually thinking about x0xlarge for a
x0xbox atm..). obviously in agreement that pattern memory is
what the 202 has always lacked. i reckon there could be a mod
with a C cell battery somehow, and the direct cv+gate in is a
must that doesn't look too hard to do (with a little care).

were there really only 4000 made, or is that myth? i've seen it
said a few times, but not really sure, as you see them for sale
as often as 101s. and how many owners would go for this, if
it is such a rip-up of a classic machine? plus current 2nd hand
price being quite high, and at least one manuf hinting at bringing
out a modern 202 type synth.

i did tape backup to laptop recently, that was really quite
convenient. not tried to restore yet! (and it wasn't the 202,
but a dr550)

and you have to consider the 2nd cv+gate channel. that gives
a 'B' pattern, if you want, and well, if you've got the bypass done,
and have a x0x or TT or similar sequencer, do you need an onboard
pattern sequencer?

something that's never mentioned is that if you run 2 together,
using different sequence lengths, you get another type of play,
where the shorter sequence waits for the longer one to end, so
if you have all 4 channels written, you can play around with that.
obviously not realtime because you have to stopstart.

and mc202 with novamod could be pretty juicy.
Old 3rd July 2017
  #4
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autoy's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by BM0 View Post
I looked at a picture of the CPU, and I can see why people don't even bother. Removing a chip like that cleanly and replacing requires quite a bit of skill. I bet many pro techs wouldn't even attempt it because of the risk of damaging the unit.
I disagree, pro techs swap SMD FireWire and USB chipsets all the time, with a much smaller manufacturing process than this. Difficult for the typical DIY afficcionado as they don't usually have heat guns, but should be doable for any decent modern pro.
Old 3rd July 2017
  #5
Gear Head
 
tubbutec's Avatar
 

Hi,

thanks for the poll and to the rest of you supporting this cause.

We were actually working on this as a side-project in the last months and believe we have found a solution to create an 'easy'* to install CPU replacement.
Wanted to go public later with this, but what the heck..

Here are some (but not all) of the planned features:


- Midi in out + din sync without drilling any holes
- A better sequencer, something like the 1oh1, but two channel
- several additional envelopes and lfos, as well as midi control for:
filter cutoff, Pulsewidth and pitch
- an optional replacement of the crappy lcd with an OLED display
- also turns the 202 into a 2-chan midi-to-cv interface
- bigger internal storage of course, but also midi-sysex upload/download
- getting rid of the CV/gate delay
- quite a few ideas more, but those need testing


As soon as we have a proof of concept ready and some time, there will likely be a crowd funding campaign... so stay tuned please. thanks

*Easy means: There is some SMD-level soldering skill necessary, but nothing impossible. Pitch is 1mm, so this is absolutely doable. If not by you, than certainly by a tech - and it is cheap to ship the 202. There will be a 'socket' that is soldered in place of the original CPU and a mod board that plugs into it. This means if you mess up soldering, you don't destroy the whole mod, just the socket. It also means you can plug back in the original CPU if you feel like it.
Old 3rd July 2017
  #6
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autoy's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by tubbutec View Post
Hi,

thanks for the poll and to the rest of you supporting this cause.

We were actually working on this as a side-project in the last months and believe we have found a solution to create an 'easy'* to install CPU replacement.
Wanted to go public later with this, but what the heck..

Here are some (but not all) of the planned features:


- Midi in out + din sync without drilling any holes
- A better sequencer, something like the 1oh1, but two channel
- several additional envelopes and lfos, as well as midi control for:
filter cutoff, Pulsewidth and pitch
- an optional replacement of the crappy lcd with an OLED display
- also turns the 202 into a 2-chan midi-to-cv interface
- bigger internal storage of course, but also midi-sysex upload/download
- getting rid of the CV/gate delay
- quite a few ideas more, but those need testing


As soon as we have a proof of concept ready and some time, there will likely be a crowd funding campaign... so stay tuned please. thanks

*Easy means: There is some SMD-level soldering skill necessary, but nothing impossible. Pitch is 1mm, so this is absolutely doable. If not by you, than certainly by a tech - and it is cheap to ship the 202. There will be a 'socket' that is soldered in place of the original CPU and a mod board that plugs into it. This means if you mess up soldering, you don't destroy the whole mod, just the socket. It also means you can plug back in the original CPU if you feel like it.
Well color me impressed! This is beyond what I and I guess many have hoped for many, many years (decades?). Please take your time, it seems like the 202 is at last getting the attention it deserves!

Kudos and keep up the good work!
Old 3rd July 2017
  #7
Lives for gear
 

yeah, but, tbh, it is absolute heresey and sounds a bit
horrifying. wouldn't it be easier to have a new machine from
scratch, and leave the (rare) classic design alone?
supply some new white keys for all the ones that have gone
yellow first, and lcd replacement seems like a good idea.

interested to see what a prototype will be like.

ah yeah, the other project: malekko 'manther' (...?)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=luWkaqkod4o
Old 3rd July 2017
  #8
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autoy's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by islandmonkey View Post
yeah, but, tbh, it is absolute heresey and sounds a bit
horrifying. wouldn't it be easier to have a new machine from
scratch, and leave the (rare) classic design alone?
supply some new white keys for all the ones that have gone
yellow first, and lcd replacement seems like a good idea.

interested to see what a prototype will be like.

ah yeah, the other project: malekko 'manther' (...?)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=luWkaqkod4o
What's horrifying is having to save sequences via tape for 3 decades.

And about the Manther: Malekko have been vocal about being a synth "inspired by" but no direct replacement. It's gonna be a great box but I prefer my 202 right now (even much more so with the advent of these news), thanks.
Old 4th July 2017
  #9
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volg4's Avatar
wow,this sounds immense! would be up for trying this

love the 202!

i always figured id try the modular type mods on mine at some point... just not got round to it so far

Roland MC-202 Mods1 - CV/Gate - cykong.com

anyone use mc202 hack?

MC-202 Hack

seems like you can probably use the pc for backup... record to audacity and playback later?
love this idea of using a sampler to playback sequencer info!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Toddio View Post
If I remember correctly (it's been awhile), we used to dump 106 data to DAT at 44.1/16 with only the occasional failure. I would always verify the dump. Not sure if there was a trick to it other than watching the recording level. This worked for patch data, jam sync tracks, sequence data (SH-101, MC-202) etc.

Roland related... you can also try saving the data as an audio sample and simply trigger the sample (one-shot) to reload. I had 2 MC-202's (tape in) patched to dedicated E4x outputs to load sequence data on the fly for our live sets, and for track recalls. Great set-up!

2 lessons learned the hard way:

-To avoid loading the wrong file at the worst possible moment, I assigned each data sequence to a dedicated patch with an exhaustively descriptive name, and all mod/control parameters zeroed.

-Leave a second of silence (pre-roll) at the start of your sample file. If you use the audio trigger function found in most hardware samplers, it will drop the first few critical bits of data.

Old 4th July 2017
  #10
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by volg4 View Post
anyone use mc202 hack?

MC-202 Hack

seems like you can probably use the pc for backup... record to audacity and playback later?
love this idea of using a sampler to playback sequencer info!
I used it a fair bit back in the day and it actually worked. Haven't used it in a while but I do remember it being fairly painless.

Without knowing the cost and how easy this would be to install I'm hesitant to say yes, but in principle I would pay for an upgrade (I installed Io for my Jupiter-4 for instance).
Old 4th July 2017
  #11
Gear Maniac
Oh, the MC-202 is one of my absolute favourite synth and use it all the time.

Been thinking of getting the tubbutec upgrade for my 101, but haven't pulled the trigger just yet. One or two of my 202's would definitely be upgraded the very minute it was possible to do so.

I've got the Social Entropy QS303 and QS606 and just love them. Have been asking John at Social Entropy a few times regarding QS202, but it seems it won't happen.

BTW - One of my 202's has the Analogue Solution Breakout box. Very handy when using with modular gear.

Another one has a mod a friend of mine did that lets you decide which sequencer channel should control the internal synth with two switches. One for CV and another for gate.
You can actually switch on the fly which channel should be playing and you can let channel 1 control the CV and channel 2 control the gate. Very fun!
Since that 202 also has a filter CV in mod, you can for example play the 202 the regular way but at the same time let the sequencer channel that usually plays external instruments control the filter instead.



(Not my picture)


(My video)
Old 4th July 2017
  #12
Lives for gear
 

hahaaa, excellent, 4x 202 ... 8 x cv+gate channels possible.

any chance you could get hold of details for the channel swap mod
and put it up here? that would be a major improvement.

-------
re: restoring from sampler: that must have been a pretty expensive
way to use an E4. depending on length of audio dump/restore (i've
never done it - must get mc202hack some day)
Old 4th July 2017
  #13
Here for the gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by BM0 View Post
I looked at a picture of the CPU, and I can see why people don't even bother. Removing a chip like that cleanly and replacing requires quite a bit of skill. I bet many pro techs wouldn't even attempt it because of the risk of damaging the unit.
As a 202 user who has changed the CPU I say to all pro techs: get a grip, google drag soldering.
Old 4th July 2017
  #14
Lives for gear
 

yo: tell us about this ! you replaced the original part for part?
Old 4th July 2017
  #15
Great thread u started OP … Been wanting a 202 for nearly a decade now ; and every time i was on the go to buy one ; there has always been something leading to unluck … Anyway ; really interested in those mods …


PEACE

MORDICUS
Old 4th July 2017
  #16
Lives for gear
 

(and how i *nearly* bought this one ...but it didn't happen)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gIzSZH6oqeM
Old 4th July 2017
  #17
TNC
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TNC's Avatar
 

Can one of you guys that have 2 give me one of them pleass thank you
Old 4th July 2017
  #18
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autoy's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by TNC View Post
Can one of you guys that have 2 give me one of them pleass thank you
They can be grabbed for half an SH-101 or less right now. Not sure if that'll hold up for much longer if this project comes to fruition, and I really hope it does.
Old 4th July 2017
  #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TNC View Post
Can one of you guys that have 2 give me one of them pleass thank you
but you only have one gear. you said so the other day.

odd that they are less than 101s. some people do seem to hate them.
or maybe that 101s cost so much now.
Old 4th July 2017
  #20
TNC
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TNC's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by islandmonkey View Post
but you only have one gear. you said so the other day.
I do have one gear. It's a Monomachine.
You won't give me your MC-202 because I only have one gear!
Old 4th July 2017
  #21
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Never! it was my first synth love

(what, no-one's seen the red and the blue mc202s?)

edit: ffffffffffckn L ... are these real prices?
https://www.ebay.com/sch/i.html?_fro...202&_sacat=619
Old 4th July 2017
  #22
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autoy's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by islandmonkey View Post
Never! it was my first synth love

(what, no-one's seen the red and the blue mc202s?)

edit: ffffffffffckn L ... are these real prices?
https://www.ebay.com/sch/i.html?_fro...202&_sacat=619
No, look for "sold items" and it will be half of that. It's not uncommon to see them for 550-650. The rest is there to inflate and create expectations.
Old 4th July 2017
  #23
Gear Guru
Weird timing... Friend of mine just found a really old track I did on his 202 and 606 around 2003 ... and this thread pops up...
I just recorded into a mic.. after the track you can hear me reprogram the synth line to double time and such.

Fun exercise of trying to make 3 parts out of one very simple sequence. mid low high
Old 4th July 2017
  #24
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nice reverb on that. (like the 202 on high as well)
i've dinsynced a DR110, it's like a little tick box to run along with it,
officially takes 'no' space, so it's like an accessory.
have to try to mod it more. well, i have to get into modding these
things full stop, because just doing the dinsync was traumatic
enough.

anyway, someone paid 900usd for one. ? what's the exchange rate
for euro/pounds? ...
Old 4th July 2017
  #25
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natefrogg's Avatar
 

i recently re bought an mc 202, i like it for what it is and can work with it as such, however a "quicksilver 202" would be nice though for multiple pattern storage and ability to write into the sequencer as its running, without all of that its just fine as long as the cv fix is done, i've got a multitude of cv sequencers available to use so thats no biggie.

200ish i'd do it, if it were over 300 it wouldn't be worth it to me given how much i can do over cv already
Old 5th July 2017
  #26
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autoy's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by natefrogg View Post
i recently re bought an mc 202, i like it for what it is and can work with it as such, however a "quicksilver 202" would be nice though for multiple pattern storage and ability to write into the sequencer as its running, without all of that its just fine as long as the cv fix is done, i've got a multitude of cv sequencers available to use so thats no biggie.

200ish i'd do it, if it were over 300 it wouldn't be worth it to me given how much i can do over cv already

Which begs the question: my 202 is unmoded but I'm guessing many already are modded for CV. Would the Tubbutec kit need the previous mods to be undone? Not that it's impossible or anything, should be pretty straightforward anyway.
Old 5th July 2017
  #27
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and would the board fall apart?
mine isn't going in the post again anyway.
it survived the trip to me, and that's enough.
i don't really feel comfortable posting this gear.
mc202 is perfect in it's imperfections as it is.
all sorts of things could go wrong with this.
basically, you can drive a 101 with a TT303,
and you're there, and the TT sequencer is
probably going to be more sophisticated than
one provided by a mod - and this project is
going to take ages to come to fruition, i reckon.

but go for it if that's your trip.

Last edited by whatever17; 5th July 2017 at 11:29 PM..
Old 5th July 2017
  #28
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silent5's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by djugel View Post
Fun exercise of trying to make 3 parts out of one very simple sequence. mid low high
Did you post this on em411 perchance? I swear I've heard this before.

As for the tubbutec upgrade, count me in! Excellent news.
Old 5th July 2017
  #29
Gear Guru
Quote:
Originally Posted by silent5 View Post
Did you post this on em411 perchance? I swear I've heard this before.
YES!! and I lost it... my friend found it again (salvador on EM411)
Old 6th July 2017
  #30
Gear Head
 
tubbutec's Avatar
 

[QUOTE=autoy;12720064Would the Tubbutec kit need the previous mods to be undone?[/QUOTE]

Depends on the mod of course, but very likely no. The mods are usually analogue (Novamod for example) and the 2oh2 just replaces the CPU.

SH-1oh1 works perfectly well with Novamod for example.
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