|Roland TB-303 Bass Line|
TB-303 front panel
|Price||£238 UK, $395 US|
|Oscillator||Sawtooth and square wave|
|Synthesis type||Analog Subtractive|
|Filter||24dB low pass resonant filter, non self oscillating|
|Storage memory||64 patterns, 7 songs, 1 track|
|Effects||No internal effects.|
The Roland TB-303 Bass Line, commonly referred to as the TB-303 or 303, is a bass synthesizer released by the Roland Corporation in 1981. Designed to simulate bass guitars, it was a commercial failure and was discontinued in 1984. However, cheap second-hand units were adopted by electronic musicians, and its "squelching" sound became a foundation of electronic dance music such as acid house, Chicago house and techno.
The TB-303 has a single oscillator, which can produce either a "buzzy" sawtooth wave or a "hollow-sounding" square wave. This is fed into a 24dBlow-pass filter, which is manipulated by an envelope generator. The user programs notes and slides using a basic sequencer. According to Forbes, the 303 produces a "squelchy tone more reminiscent of a psychedelic mouth harp than a stringed instrument".
The TB-303 was designed by Tadao Kikumoto, who also designed the Roland TR-909 drum machine. It was marketed as a "computerised bass machine" to replace the bass guitar. However, its unrealistic sound made it unpopular with its target audience; it was discontinued in 1984, and Roland sold off remaining units cheaply.
Two simple patterns on the TB-303. The second pattern has had the filter EG attack level altered.
Two simple overdriven patterns on the TB-303. The second pattern has varying resonance to give a harsh screeching sound. Both patterns have gradual cutoff frequency.
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After the TB-303's discontinuation, Chicago group Phuture bought a cheap 303 and began experimenting. By manipulating the synthesizer as it played, they created a unique "squelching, resonant and liquid sound". This became the foundation of "Acid Tracks", which was released in 1987 and created the acid genre. Acid, with the 303 as a staple sound, became popular worldwide, particularly as part of the UK's emerging rave culture known as the second summer of love. "Rip It Up" by the Scottish post-punk band Orange Juice, which reached #8 in the UK singles chart in February 1983, was the first UK top 10 hit to feature the 303.
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Another early use of a TB-303 (in conjunction with a TR-808 drum machine) is Indian musician Charanjit Singh's 1982 album Synthesizing: Ten Ragas to a Disco Beat. It remained obscure until his rediscovery in the early 21st century, and is now credited as a precursor to acid.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, as new acid styles emerged, the TB-303 was often overdriven, producing a harsher sound, such as on Hardfloor's 1992 EP "Acperience" and Interlect 3000's 1993 EP "Volcano". In other instances the TB-303 was distorted and processed, such as on Josh Wink's 1995 hit "Higher State of Consciousness".
In 1998, Propellerhead Software's ReBirth software synthesizer emulated the TB-303, 808, and later 909 sounds. Roland contacted Propellerhead to give the company an unofficial "thumbs up" which Propellerhead considered the Roland "Seal of Approval". As of September 2005, support for ReBirth has been discontinued by Propellerhead software, and the software was available online as a free download until 2016. In April 2010, a new paid version of ReBirth was re-released as a paid app for the iPhone and iPod Touch. In November 2010 a visually revamped and modernized version was made available on the iPad. Propellerhead disabled ReBirth For iOS On June 1, 2013.
Other notable softsynth versions include the TS-404 synthesizer found bundled in certain versions of FL Studio, however it was removed in 2015 with the release of FL Studio 12. and The "Bass Line" plugin from AudioRealism. It supports both the VST and AU standards. Native Instrument's flagship softsynth Massive, as well as many other softsynths, contain filters modelled after that of the TB-303, allowing users to create their own realistic-sounding acid patches. On 19 October 2016, Image Line released a new software emulation of the TB-303, named Transistor Bass. This release was accompanied with a controversial video of the original TB-303 being destroyed with a circular saw, however this turned out to be a hoax, with the TB-303 actually turning out to be a Cyclone Analogical TT-303 BassBot, a commercial hardware clone of the original.
By the middle of the 1990s, demand for the TB-303 surged within the electronic dance music scene. As there were never many TB-303s to begin with, many small synthesizer companies cropped up and started to develop their own TB-303 hardware clones. Many were rack designs, aimed at studios, not travelling DJs. This new wave of TB-303 clones began with a company called Novation Electronic Music Systems, who released their portable Bass Station keyboard in 1994. Many other TB-303 "clones" followed, including Future Retro's 777, Syntecno's TeeBee, Doepfer's MS-404, MAM MB33, Freebass FB-383, Future Retro's Revolution, Acidlab Bassline, Acidcode ML-303, Oakley TM3030, Analogue Solutions Trans-Bass-Xpress and Will Systems MAB-303.