ROLAND MV-8800 PRODUCTION STUDIO - EMusician

ROLAND MV-8800 PRODUCTION STUDIO

Roland has rolled out the red carpet to introduce the MV-8800, the latest addition to its MV-Series. With the look and feel of a master sequencing machine,
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Producer/Remix author Stoni

MORE STUFF

Click here to listen to the Mix Time MP3 file

Producer/Remix author Stoni banged out this track on the MV-8800 while working on the review. Find out more about Stoni and hear more on her music at www.stonisndz.com.

Roland has rolled out the red carpet to introduce the MV-8800, the latest addition to its MV-Series. With the look and feel of a master sequencing machine, the MV-8800 does more than just catch your attention. Designed to take your project to the next level, the MV-8800 covers all spectrums of music production. It's fully equipped with newer features that include a bright color display screen and a built-in VGA monitor connection. It also allows you to sample, sequence, record vocals, mix and burn your project to CD. Pre-stocked classic library sounds and drum kits include TR-808 and TR-909 classic Roland modules. Roland also stashed many of its signature effects models onboard, such as SRV reverbs, SDD-320 Chorus, 325 Flanger, the RE-201 Space Echo and Boss BF-2 and HF-2 pedals.

PUSHING WEIGHT

When you first turn on the machine, the bright and colorful built-in LCD display screen, centered at the top of the workstation, lights up. As a new feature, the MV-8800 displays a color screen with or without an external VGA monitor connected. A Contrast button sits directly under the bottom right of the LCD screen, and the viewing area measures approximately 320-by-240 pixels.

The Controller section has all the MV-8800's knobs, buttons, sliders and pads that make the MV-Series come together. There are five function keys [F1 to F5] positioned underneath the LCD. These buttons correspond to functions displayed at the bottom of the screen, giving you direct access to the same functions that live on the external monitor display for quick editing capabilities. Anyone who uses a laptop or other computer system knows how important the F keys are. To the left of the F keys are three function buttons: Sampling, Import and Menu.

The Sampling button puts you in sample mode to give you access to the MV-8800's audio inputs for sampling; the Import button engages the Import mode, which allows you to access the internal hard drive and sounds; and the Menu button will display a menu on a particular working screen. If there is a menu option available, it will be indicated by an “M” icon at the left of the function display area.

Positioned to the right of the F keys are the Exit, Undo/Redo and Shutdown buttons. Exit quits the current function and then returns to the previous screen. For example, if you are not sure what screen you need to view, you can simply start over. By holding down the Shift and Exit buttons simultaneously, you can switch back and forth between the LCD and external VGA monitor. Many other buttons on the MV-8800 also have multiple functions, but I will go on record in saying that the Undo/Redo button was most important for me when I needed to put down my ideas while recording and producing. This button allowed me the freedom to try different takes. When the Undo function is available, the button lights up orange. After you undo, the Undo/Redo button will blink to indicate that redo is available. To turn off the MV-8800, you must perform the Shutdown operation. If you do not save your work before you press Shutdown, all of your work and or projects will be deleted from the internal memory.

There is a Master volume knob as well as knobs for headphone level (Phones) and the input gain of the left and right channels of the stereo audio input (SENS L/R).

There are two rows of function buttons on the right-hand side. The first row consists of the Mixer button, for accessing the mixer section; the Project button, for calling up the project menu screen to load or save projects from your hard drive or CD; the Song button, for accessing the song screen used to play, record and mixdown songs; the Pattern button, for the pattern screen used to play and record patterns; and the Mastering button. You'll find the mastering toolkit necessary for adding finishing touches to the 2-channel audio data (WAV file) created by mixing down the sequencer's playback.

In the second row, when you press the Assignable Slider button, it triggers the eight assignable sliders that can be used as controllers to transmit MIDI messages. The System button accesses the system menu screen, for changing the system settings. In this row, the Sampler section has two subfunction buttons: Instrument and Audio Phrases. Instrument accesses the instrument screen, where audio data recorded using the sampler or imported from another source can be prepared for use as an instrument. These instruments are managed as patches and can be recalled for use at any time. Audio Phrases accesses rhythm patterns of a set amount of measures. You can also manage and edit audio phrases. The Disk/USB button allows you to perform maintenance on the internal disk, use the CD player function and communicate with your computer via USB.

Eager to do what I do best, I immediately spotted the 16 infamous grey Velocity-sensitive pads. I may use a different drum machine each time I'm producing a track, so it's important for me to get the right feel from the pads. While working with the MV-8800, the pads felt solid, with adjustable sensitivity and Aftertouch. Additional buttons that are dedicated to the pad functions live above the pads. The Multilevel button allows you to play a single sample across all 16 pads at different velocities. The Fixed Velocity button plays a sample at the same level every time you hit it, no matter how hard or soft. When recording data sequences, you can erase a specific note message by holding down Event Erase and pressing down on the pad that is assigned to the unwanted note messages.

To the left of the pads are the following six additional minipads. Pad Banks is used to scroll through the six pad banks, and Quick Edit is used for partial edits and phrase edits. Clip Board copies a sound to the clipboard to store it temporarily. For the Delete function, hold down Delete and hit the pad that you want to delete. If you hold down the Roll button and strike the velocity pad, you can produce a drum or sample roll. This Roll function is usually found in drum machines but not in many computer programs. Hold is for holding or looping a sound.

To the right of the pads, the basic transport section includes Stop, Play, Record and Return buttons. The Top button brings you to the beginning of a sequence, and the Jump button helps jump to step markers or measure events. Auto Punch automatically enters and exits Record mode over a specific region of the sequence. Quick Set indicates the current measure as the beginning of the loop. There's a BPM/Tap button to set sequencer tempo, and pressing Shift + BPM/Tap stores markers in the sequence data. Numeric keys are used to input parameter values as numbers and names in letters.

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PLATINUM STATUS

The MV-8800 comes straight out the box with a generous 128 MB of RAM, for approximately 24 minutes of mono sampling and 12 minutes of stereo sampling. Expanding the memory to the maximum of 512 MB gives you approximately 100 minutes of mono sampling and 50 minutes of stereo sampling.

From the Sequence screen in Song mode, you can record as many as eight stereo or mono audio tracks directly via the Mic/Line input or 128 MIDI tracks. In Song mode, you are allowed one pattern track for pattern-based producing. In Pattern mode, you are allowed one audio track and 64 MIDI tracks. I've used lots of sequence-based drum machines, and having the option to record audio for integrating live instruments with the MIDI-based instruments gives me the flexibility to put all my song ideas down in one machine. Audio phrases can be assigned to a patch for MIDI playback, which gives you the option to use the LFO, envelopes and filters. Audio and MIDI tracks can be edited in the Sequence Edit page.

The Effects button accesses an effects function screen, where there are three built-in effects processors. The MFX multi-effects processor has 44 presets and 100 user memories; the Chorus processor has two presets and 50 user memories; and the Reverb processor has four presets and 50 user memories. There are 25 different effects algorithms in total. You can also change the routing to apply effects to a variety of locations. Three control knobs (C1 to C3) can be assigned to each of the different effects parameters with the Knob Assign function.

Once a sound has been sampled or imported, there are a few ways to use it. I particularly like the drum-pad stacking feature, which stacks four drum sounds on one pad to layer them and create a wide dynamic with drums. While in Song mode, press the Instrument button and then the Quick Edit button, which brings you to a screen with the Partial Edit option. Press F2/SMT, and at the next screen, select the sample box you want to edit to bring up another set of F-key options. Select F1/Sample List, which is a list of all the samples available in the MV-8800 that are loaded up in the machine's current instruments.

Other options include Easy Quick Zoom, Time Stretch and Auto Chop. You can also spread your sample notes across the pads and keys or change the pitch and pan levels.

When it's time for mixing, press the Mixer button to call up four function options in the Mix page using the F1 to F4 keys: the F1 Audio Track screen to adjust levels, pan and output assign; the F2 Mixer screen for each instrument part; the F3 Mixer screen for the aux buses, effects, audio phrase parts and inputs; and the F4 Equalizer screen, where you can adjust the tone for the audio/instrument tracks. You can control the mixing using the sliders, and the slider functions will always change depending on the working screen.

THE HOOKUP

When the optional MV8-OP1 audio I/O expansion card is installed, you can record and sample in digital. This card's options include six ¼-inch analog outputs and coaxial (S/PDIF), optical (Lightpipe) and R-Bus DB-25 digital inputs. The R-Bus can connect to Roland's DIF-AT24 Interface Box to convert the 8-channel R-Bus audio format found in the MV-Series drum machines to the more popular ADAT format. This conversion allows you to use a pipeline cable and record to your ADAT-compatible interface with eight digital tracks at a time.

The rear of the MV-8800 houses all of the connectors for input/output connectivity, as well as a power switch to turn off the machine (but only after you perform Shutdown). Other connections include MIDI In, Out A and Out B; coaxial and optical digital outputs; ¼-inch headphone jack; ¼-inch master outputs; ¼-inch L/R TRS analog Mic/Line inputs; and RCA L/R Phono inputs. The USB port allows you to work with computer-based software and transfer files. If you want to connect a mouse, there is a serial port connection. You can switch the digital outputs to output either the master out audio or the audio from the multi-output bus. There is a VGA video output for an optional monitor, as well as a footswitch connection for use with the Roland DP-2 or Boss FS-5U.

REAL TALK

The new MV-8800 allows the producer an opportunity to do everything in a solid box. Having the freedom to sample, sequence, record vocals, mix, master and burn to CD totally outweighs its bulky size. You can perform these tasks without compromising the quality of your recording project. The freedom to quantize before and after any recording is also a superb feature. Color-coded tracks make it easier to navigate in groups of instruments. And if you are short on classic Roland modules, then you will be happy with the pre-stocked library sounds.

The long learning curve may scare off some of its potential fans, but the MV-8800 has sampling capabilities that go far beyond your basic drum machine, so the extra effort is worth it. All the extra options will definitely build character in your studio. With the MV-8800, your studio life will evolve.

ROLAND USA

MV-8800 > $2,699
Pros: Color LCD. Full-screen display of instrument-assigned pads. External monitor connection available. R-BUS for connecting DIF/AT24 interface box (with additional MIDI I/O and ADAT connection). Preinstalled 400 MB sound library and effects (50 drum kits). Expandable to 512 MB RAM. PC and Mac USB option. Undo/Redo button.

Cons: Much longer learning curve. No DVD drive available. ADAT connection doesn't come standard. Noncustomizable screen.

Contact:www.rolandus.com

SOUND SHUFFLES
Here are the different methods for moving sounds, songs and other data in and out of the MV-8800 and the compatible file formats.

IMPORT

  • Import from an audio CD/CD-R/CD-RW/CD-ROM
  • Import from a PC or Mac via the USB port
  • Import file compatibility: WAV; AIFF; Acidized WAV; S700 sample, partial or patch; MPC2000 program file (.PGM) or sound file (.SND); Akai S1000/3000 program or sample; Standard MIDI File, still image (BMP/JPG); MV-8000 patch or project (backup data)

EXPORT

  • Burn audio to a CD-R/CD-RW
  • Export as an MV-8800 sample, audio phrase (WAV/AIFF), MV-8800 song or a pattern (as Standard MIDI File)