Roland TB-303 Bassline

Roland TB-303 Image

The TB-303 is THE sound of acid and techno house music! It's a monophonic analog bass synthesizer married to a pattern-based step sequencer released in 1982. It features a single analog oscillator with two waveforms (ramp or square) and has a simple but excellent VCF (filter) with resonance, cut-off, and envelope controls. There are also knobs to adjust tuning, envelope decay, tempo and accent amount.

How does it work? Well, it's not a performance synthesizer because you have to program a pattern of notes and timing info into it (sort of like a drum machine). Patterns can then be linked into songs. It was originally made to accompany a drum machine, the TR-606 specifically, and provide bass-line accompaniment to guitarists, keyboard players, etc. It was not a successful product in its time. As a result, creative DJs and aspiring electronic musicians found them for next to no money and began using them for techno and acid music. Usually a single pattern is continuously played while the performer tweaks the knobs creating an exciting and expressive musical event.

The TB-303 has become one of the most sought after vintage synths ever! It has helped develop and stylize many forms of electronic music including House, Acid, Trance and Ambient. If ever there was a need for a repetitive bassline/groove or an extremely resonant and bubbly sound, the 303 is KING. Truly a unique machine with a very identifiable sound! It has spun off several imitators as well: Novation Bass Station, ReBirth, Doepfer MS-404, MAM MB-33, Syntecno TeeBee, and more (see Related & Alternative Gear sidebar).

Ironically, these days it's become trendy to dislike the 303 again, now because of over-use. But I don't and you shouldn't either because it is one-of-a-kind and it's just got that sound that everyone loves! Fatboy Slim says it best in his song "Everybody Needs A 303!"

Another TB303 picture

Getting creative with the 303 always leads to great sounds! Add a guitar distortion pedal for instant hard-core acid and techno. Use the CV and Gate outputs to control other old synthesizers and get that elastic 303 groove workin' your other synths (especially cool with a polyphonic synth). It is used by: Aphex Twin, 808 State, Future Sound of London, Massive Attack, Orbital, Eat Static, Norman Cook (Fatboy Slim), Air, Astral Projection, Josh Wink, Plastikman, Überzone, Moby, Hardfloor, Ultramarine, Underworld, BT, The Prodigy, Jimmy Edgar, Union Jack, Front Line Assembly, Pet Shop Boys, Freddy Fresh, Luke Vibert, and the Chemical Brothers.

There are some custom modifications for the TB-303 which are definitely worth mentioning here:

TB-303 Devil Fish Image
TB-303 Devil Fish Image

TB-303 Devil Fish Mod

Get all the acid you can squeeze out of your TB-303 with the Devil Fish modification, designed to enhance and extend the range of the 303's filters and sound. Drastic, subtle and flexible modifications retain the mild-mannered TB-303 sound capabilities, and create a completely new instrument. The Devil Fish modification was created and is available from Robin Whittle in Australia. More information is available at the TB-303 Devil Fish web site. See the YouTube links for a video demonstration.

TB-303 Borg Image

TB-303 Borg Mod

The Borg TB-303 upgrade / modification - similar in many ways to the Devil Fish but with advantages. This is a major upgrade available for the TB-303 from Analogue Solutions. This upgrade adds features that allow greater creativity and flexibility in creating new sounds and live performance. See the YouTube links for a video demonstration.

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Are you looking to buy or sell a Roland TB-303 Bassline? Post an ad in Gear For Sale or a request in Gear Wanted. For spare parts and repair services check out Gear Services & Other Goods. Our forums also has a Buyer’s Guide section where you can ask for advice on buying synthesizers.

70 Visitor comments
March 6, 2013 @ 9:00 pm
Had a bit of luck with the PPI debacle so finally realised a 21 year dream & got myself a 303. Yes it is a lot of money for a little box and I'd recommend the budget be better spent on software emulations and various other pieces of kit especially if you're starting out from scratch but nothing.. nothing is as much fun as a 303! It's the whole experience of the 303, not just the sound nor the sequencer, the actual live twiddling and tweaking of the little box that can only be described as transcendental.

Land of Confusion every night in my house now, cheers Armando nice one!
bob todd
February 8, 2013 @ 8:24 am
This really is a one trick pony. I really can't see why people pay so much money for one of these! $1000-1500, just isn't worth it. £150 tops.
January 17, 2013 @ 4:57 am
The father of Acid House. Fatboy Slim used to go on live solos with it. I have been recording with mine and it gets into your heart no matter what. The Devil fish mod is also very nice under the right compression. Programming is very friendly and the accent is great for Techno bass. No bass synth in the world can come close to this one so do not waste time on trying.
November 21, 2012 @ 4:30 pm
yes it sounds cool, yes it spawned many, many different genres of music including acid house, yes its a famous synth, but no way is it worth the prices people pay these days. i got mine back in the early 90s for 150 quid, and that was steep back then! ive got to be honest though, it's little more than a toy...
The Hermit
August 24, 2012 @ 7:11 pm
I just bought two.. at the same damn time! Now it's time to order a Miami from Klaus! Viva la acid!
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Rated 4.27 (904 Votes)

  • Check Price
  • The link above will take you to an eBay search for this synth to see active listings. If you don't find it there, try looking in our forum marketplace or post a wanted classified.
  • Specifications
  • Polyphony - Monophonic
  • Oscillators - 1 VCO : Sawtooth or Square waveforms. Tuning control pot.
  • Filter - 18dB/oct lowpass resonant filter with controls for cutoff, resonance, and envelope amount
  • VCA - Control pots for Decay time and Accent intensity
  • Sequencer - Patterns: 64; Songs: 7
  • Effects - None
  • Keyboard - none
  • Control - CV / GATE / DIN Sync
  • Date Produced - 1982 - 84

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