Roland Super-MRC Sequencing Software
Competing with the flexibility of computer-based recording systems is a problem for a dedicated sequencer, but Roland's latest MC500 software update makes it as competitive as ever. J Eshleman begs for MRC.
AS ONE OF the first and few software-based dedicated sequencers, the MC500 has become popular both in the studio and on stage. Since the release of the initial MRC sequencing software (which comes with the MC500), Roland have released a series of new MC500 programs covering such tasks as song-chaining, SysEx storage and so on. Now they have a new sequencing package for the MC500 MkII and updated MC500s called the Super-MRC.
All the features that were included in the original MRC software have been improved on, or had new functions added, in the S-MRC program. S-MRC has five modes of operation: Standby, Disk, Link, Utilities, and Configuration. Each mode has a menu and sub-menus.
Standby mode contains most of the basic operating commands for the sequence functions: Record, Play, Modify and so on. Eight recording tracks are available, in addition to rhythm and tempo tracks. Rhythm parts can now be entered in real time by "looping" patterns and overdubbing parts from an external MIDI device. A new Mix Record feature has been added which allows you to overdub onto tracks without erasing the original data. S-MRC also features a new programmable ten-point autolocator and a clearer display readout.
The Edit section is basically the same as before (Erase, Delete, Insert Measure, Merge, Extract, Transpose, Change Velocity, Change MIDI Channel, Quantise and Copy), but with enhancements. Extract now allows you to specify what range and type of data is to be extracted, and whether it replaces or is mixed with data in the designated track. Velocity changes can be rate scaled (higher sounds can be louder and lower sounds softer, or vice versa), and have gradual or immediate crescendo or diminuendo effects. Quantise features new Rate settings that allow you to select exact Quantise resolutions, or slightly "off" settings. Additionally, there are five new edit sections which allow gate time changes, clock shifts, data thinning, track exchanges and Multi Edits. These Multi Edits allow note numbers, velocity, aftertouch values, control changes or pitch-bend values to be companded or reversed.
Microscope mode allows detailed editing of individual events, and it now has a new Event Memory feature which allows you to store individual MIDI events in memory to be recalled later. A new Utilities section contains a Time Calculator (bravo!) which calculates segment times in minutes and seconds, including programmed tempo changes. This mode also has Data Check and Tune Request facilities.
An option called Real Time Modify allows you to edit gate time or velocity information in real time from an external MIDI controller. This can be performed using pitch-bend, velocity, note range or control changes to modify existing velocity during playback - or by using one finger to rewrite steps in real time. Other features include a Song Link option, and a separate mode for system configuration settings (which can be stored on disk). There is also a conversion function that allows you to convert data recorded on the original MRC program over to S-MRC, but it can't be converted back. (The logical way around this is to borrow another MC500 and use your own MC500 with S-MRC to edit your work, and play it back into the other MC500 using the original software.)
I put the S-MRC through two exhaustive production projects that used most of its features and for the most part it put in an exemplary performance. At first, I had some problems with keyboards "freezing", but discovered that it was due to the programmable system configurations - they have to be set for your own particular layout so that you aren't echoing MIDI data. There does seem to be a bug in the program which causes the MC500 to ignore edit commands from time to time. Thankfully, nothing caused a complete crash, so the final work didn't suffer in the least.
By the way, users of the original MC500 or MC300 should know that this software will work on your unit, but Roland don't recommend it because it eats up some of the RAM that was formerly available for data storage and it's very slow because of multiple disk accesses. This program was intended to run on the more powerful MC500 MkII for delay-free editing, but MC500 owners can have an optional memory update (OM500) installed in their units to turn it into a Mark II if they desire.
One final (common) complaint: the owner's manuals (there are two) are full of typos, and some things didn't quite make the translation into English (the explanation of the Gate Time Ratio's functions on Page 189 is exquisitely baffling).
All in all, I think that Roland's Super-MRC sequencing software program is a "must have" for serious MC500 users. Some might be put off by the software's complexity, but that's really at the core of its advantages. Where the old MRC software allowed very good "first-aid" editing, Super-MRC allows editing with previously-unavailable precision. For those of you who use the Roland MC500 in any professional capacity, the Super-MRC program will turn your MC500 into a new animal. And for those of you who've never worked with one of Roland's hardware sequencers, the combination of MC500 MkII and Super-MRC software is an extremely tough one to beat. Now if Roland could just find an English typesetter with a dictionary...
Price £150 including VAT
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Review by J Eshleman
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