Roland MV 8800

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Roland have been producing sampling groovebox products for a decade or so now, and until recently have primarily been aiming these at the dance market. However, in the last few years hip-hop producers have hit the big time, commercially speaking, revitalising the market for one of their favoured tools, the Akai MPC series, and Roland are now sensibly angling for a piece of this action.

Roland's first direct challenge to Akai back in 2003 was the MV8000, which moved away from the D-Beam-enhanced twiddliness of the grooveboxes towards a more stripped-back combination of sequencer, sampler and 16 'Have we met somewhere before?' velocity-sensitive rubber trigger-pads. Since then, this unit has been refined into the latest MV8800.

The new unit combines sampling and audio recording with a specially designed sequencer which integrates audio and MIDI recording and editing functions and which operates in both drum-machine-style Pattern Mode and linear Song Mode. All audio from the machine passes through an internal digital mixer, complete with three effects processors, and you can mix down and master entirely within the box. Mastered mixes can then be burnt to the internal CD drive in data CD-ROM or audio CD formats.

All these facilities can be accessed via the MV8800's colour LCD display, in conjunction with the wide variety of clearly laid-out hardware controls on the unit's top panel, although further viewing and editing possibilities can also be brought into play by connecting an additional monitor and mouse.

All work in the MV8800 is carried out within a Project, and you can have as many Projects as will fit onto the supplied 40GB internal hard drive. A Project may contain up to 16 different Songs, each comprising up to 128 MIDI tracks, eight audio tracks, and one additional track from which you can trigger user-programmable Patterns. A Pattern can itself have up to 64 MIDI tracks and one audio track, so it's pretty much like a Song in miniature, but by programming different sections of your track into different Patterns (you can store 500) you can easily experiment with different song structures.