Roland MC-101 vs MC-707: Groovebox Shootout

Roland coined the term “Groovebox” in 1996 with the launch of the MC-303. The MC-101 and MC-707 are Roland’s current flagship grooveboxes offering a library of classic Roland sounds combined with modern and easy to pick up workflows. But if you can only choose one MC which one should you plump for?

Roland MC-101 at a Glance:

The Roland MC-101 is a 4 track groovebox featuring a 4-track Sequencer, 3,000 preset sounds, 80 Drum Kits, 90 Multi-effects, USB/MIDI, Battery Power and SDHC Card Support.

Roland MC-707 at a Glance:

The Roland MC-707 is an 8 track groovebox featuring a 4-track Sequencer, sampling capabilities, 3,000 preset sounds, 80 Drum Kits, 90 Multi-effects, USB/MIDI, Battery Power and SDHC Card Support.

MC-101 and MC-707 feature comparison:

Sound Generation:ZEN-Core Drum Tones/KitsZEN-Core Drum Tones/Kits
Screen:LCD DisplayLCD Display
Presets:3,000 Tones, 80 Drum Kits3,000 Tones, 80 Drum Kits
Sampling Capabilities:YesNo
Polyphony:128 Max128 Max
Effects:Yes (90) Yes (90)
USB?1 x Type B1 x Type B
Battery Powered?No4 x AA batteries (Ni-MH, Alkaline)
Storage:SD/SDHC Card SlotSD/SDHC Card Slot
Weight:4 lbs. 11 oz.1 lb. 9 oz.
Inputs:2 x 1/4″ (L/mic, R), 2 x 1/4″ (return)None
Outputs:2 x 1/4″ (assignable), 2 x 1/4″ (mix out), 2 x 1/4″ (send)2 x 1/4″ (L/mono, R)
Headphones:1 x 1/4″1 x 1/8″

Advantages of the MC-101 over the MC-707:

The Roland MC-101 beats the Roland MC-707 in terms of portability (it can run on batteries and is smaller/lighter). The cheaper MC-101 is also the one to plump for if price is a factor.

Advantages of the MC-707 over the MC-101:

Bigger and more expensive than the MC-101, the Roland MC-707 offers twice as many tracks, sampling capabilities, more input/outputs and a 1/4″ jack for headphones.

Are the MC-707 and MC-101 good for techno?

Both the MC-707 and MC-101 are capable machines for techno and electronic music production in general including lofi and house. If budget allows, and size is not a consideration, I’d recommend you lean more towards the MC-707 which offers more tracks, sampling capabilities and a greater choice of inputs/outputs.

In the video below you can see producer and DJ Cristian Varela explaining why he uses the MC-707 and MC-101.

Techno with Cristian Varela and the Roland MC-707 & MC-101

What is a groovebox?

Grooveboxes have their origins in drum machines and vary in terms of features and price but typically include tools for sound synthesis, beat creation, sequencing plus sample recording and playback all in one device. In the mid-2000s it looked like grooveboxes were on the way out as producers embraced a PC or Mac based “in the box” workflow but in recent years grooveboxes have undergone something of a renaissance thanks to the likes of Roland, Novation and Elektron launching a range of interesting new electronic music making gear.

The term “Groovebox” was originally used by Roland Corporation to refer to its MC-303, released in 1996.


Can the MC-101 Sample?

No. You can import your own samples into the MC-101 but if you want to actually record samples you’ll need the MC-707.

3 Alternatives to the Roland MC-101/MC-707

Looking for a modern groovebox but want to pivot away from that classic Roland sound? Check out these 3 great grooveboxes from Novation, Korg and Elektron.

  1. Novation Circuit: Affordable, portable, standalone digital groovebox from British manufacturer Novation. The Novation Circuit combines a four voice drum machine with two six-note polyphonic synths plus a sequencer.
  2. Korg Elektribe Music Production Station: The blue model Elektribe offers a 16 voice drum machine and groove workstation with analog modeled/PCM sounds plus Kaoss-style X/Y pad, 38 effects types and the ability to export your patterns as Ableton Live sets for further production on your computer. Check out the red model Elektribe if you favor sampling over synthesis.
  3. Elektron Model:Cycles: Elektron’s Model:Cycles is a six track FM based groovebox capable of creating unique percussive and melodic synth sounds. Producers can lose themselves in a world of always interesting sound design with Elektron’s newbie friendly box of tricks. If you’ve a bigger budget then you should also check out Elektron’s more powerful Digitone or the Digitakt, Electron’s powerful eight voice digital drum machine & sampling wonder.

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