The Roland TB 303


The Roland TB 303 was a sequencer and synthesizer designed by Tadao Kikumoto and manufactured by the Roland Corporation (Japan). It was released in 1981 as an accompaniment to the TR-808 drum machine.

The TB 303 was originally intended to partner with the TR 606 drum machine so that composers could create a simple backing track for composing. The problem was it sounded nothing like a bass guitar so it did not catch on and Roland ceased production, however, It has since become one of the most widely used and influential devices in electronic music, especially house music. The machine pioneered the use of portamento on basslines and helped popularize the Acid sound that would later be developed into Acid Trance.

How it works

It is a monophonic, single oscillator bass synthesizer with a built-in sequencer and a small 2-octave “keyboard to enter notes but what gives it its distinctive sound is the resonant filter, accent control and portamento. Program in a sequence hit play and turn the controls for instant acid. Run it through a distortion pedal or FX unit for a hard aggressive sound that in my humble opinion rivals the electric guitar.

A Timeless legend

Over 40 years after its release the TB303 is still going strong. It’s near on impossible to pick one up and when they do come to market they cost a small fortune. This has led to the development of TB303 clones both hardware and software. I own an x0xbox, a hardware clone that I consider capable of producing a sound almost identical to the original although that in itself is a contradiction as no two TB303s ever sounded the same.

And of course, Roland have now cloned their own sonic invention the TB -03, Yep it’s missing a 3

And maybe also the sound. As they say close but no cigar. My x0xbox runs rings around it.