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Roland | TB-303


The Roland TB-303 Bass Line is a bass synthesizer with built-in sequencer manufactured by the Roland Corporation from 1982 to 1984 that had a defining role in the development of contemporary electronic dance music.

The TB-303 played an important role in the development of house music, influencing Chicago house and forming the basis for acid house. It is also commonly used in related dance genres such as acid techno and acid trance.

The TB-303 (short for "Transistor Bass") was originally marketed to guitarists for bass accompaniment while practicing alone. Production lasted approximately 18 months, resulting in only 10,000 units. It was not until the mid- to late-1980s that DJs and electronic musicians in Chicago found a use for the machine in the context of the newly developing house music genre.

The TB-303 has a single audio oscillator, which may be configured to produce either a sawtooth wave or a square wave. The square wave is derived from the sawtooth waveform using a simple, single-transistor waveshaping circuit. This produces a sound that is subtly different from the square waveform created by the dedicated hardware found in most analog synthesizers. It also includes a simple envelope generator, with a decay control only. A lowpass filter is also included, with -24dB per octave attenuation, and controls for cutoff frequency, resonance, and envelope modulation parameters. It is a common misconception that the filter is a 3 pole 18 dB per octave design when in fact it is 4-pole 24 dB per octave.

The TB-303 sequencer has some unique features that contribute to its characteristic sound. During the programming of a sequence, the user can determine whether a note should be accented, and whether it should employ portamento, a smooth transition to the following note. The portamento circuitry employs a fixed slide time, meaning that whatever the interval between notes, the time taken to reach the correct pitch is always the same. The accent circuitry, as well as increasing the amplitude of a note, also emphasizes the EG filter's cutoff and resonance, resulting in a distinctive, hollow "wow" sound at higher resonance settings.

The instrument also features a 'simple' step-time method for entering note data into the 16-step programmable sequencer. This was notoriously difficult to use, and would often result in entering a different sequence than the one that had been intended. Some users also take advantage of a low voltage failure mode, wherein patterns that are programmed in memory get completely scrambled if the batteries are removed for a time.

The head designer of the TB-303, Tadao Kikumoto, was also responsible for leading design of the TR-909 drum machine. In 2011.

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.

Get all the acid you can squeeze out of your TB-303 with the Devil Fish Mod, 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.

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.

Engine TypeAnalog
Voices (max)1
Engine Detailed1 VCO : Sawtooth or Square waveforms. Tuning control pot.
Filter (VCF)18dB/oct lowpass resonant filter with controls for cutoff, resonance, and envelope amount
Envelope (VCA)Control pots for Decay time and Accent intensity
Sequencer Patterns: 64; Songs: 7
Key typeN/A
CV-gateCV/GATE, DIN Sync
Produced:1982 - 1984
Legend: Obvious Y: Yes, N: No, N/A: Not Applicable
VCO Voltage Controlled Oscillator DCO Digital Controlled Oscillator
LFO Low Frequency Oscillator Sub Sub Oscillator
VCF Voltage Controlled Filter VCA Voltage Controlled Amplifier
Velocity As with a piano, the harder you hit a key, the louder the sound, unlike most organs which always produce the same loudness no matter how hard you hit a key. Aftertouch Pressing a key after you activated it. Channel Aftertouch, no matter which key, it will send a Channel message. Poly Aftertouch, sends the pressure per key instead of the whole channel.
Values for OSC, LFO, Filter, Envelope are per voice unless stated otherwise.


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