AN IMPROPER USE
One curious fact regarding the Roland TB-303, Bass Line is that it has become famous and super requested, only after its production ceased and by an “improper use” done by some young artists, that couldn’t afford expensive instruments. What was originally intended as bass sequencer to allow musicians, in combination with the TR-606, its sister drum machine, to perform live over an electronic base, became the screaming lead or the hypnotic drone of the most extreme Acid House from the mid 80s.
The reason is that the TB was a pretty difficult machine to program, if you wanted to reproduce the typical bass line of a song with chords changes, but can be pretty easy to use, if your performing consists of a 3/4th arpeggio with just tonal changes. These machines were also very cheap and easy to modify. With only adding a resistor and switch, you could get a killer resonance monster!
I owned a real 303, bought in the first 90s at my local music shop. It was a mint conditions used unit, at a very affordable price, as on those times a monophonic analog synth was so much out of fashion, to be unsaleable. I remember the words of the salesman: “Be warned, it hasn’t any MIDI” But no problem, I was aware that this was the screaming tool of the recently born Acid House and in the studio there was a TR-808 waiting to party with, in Sync24! I know it can sound a bit crazy for a synth lover, but my TB ended traded in for a jazz guitar, the strangest musical instrument swap, in my life! Years passed and many emulations as well. I had a nice Novation Bass Station, sounding pretty well and several software synths pretending to sound identical to my missing 303, but nothing sounded as good as the real thing, to me..Until I could read about the Adafruit project and could assemble a X0XBOX. http://www.ladyada.net/make/x0xb0x/
X0XBOX DIY BASS LINE CLONE
The X0XBOX is an authentic clone, everything is reproduced with fine detail, apart the front panel and the shape of the box and its sound is really convincing:
What really is unique on the TB, is its particular way of sliding notes and its accent combined with the filter envelope. Many very good sounding machines 303 inspired, could reproduce the sound well, but not this characteristic, not having the same sequencer. The X0XBOX, clones have this same behavior, all is well reproduced, the PCB has the option to put the original Roland BA662A VCA, making even the attack transients identical to the original
Some years have passed and the project has developed so much that some of these clones were sold already assembled, under a company name, like if they were different products then an Open Source DIY project.
I recorded a couple of examples from my filter resonance modified X0XBOX, to give an idea of some of the pretty unusual and extreme sounds, it can create. The first is a loop recorded through a tube preamp and an analog compressor, with high resonance on, the second is with a lower resonance, but passed through an iron transformer preamp.
THE ATTACK OF THE CLONES!
I recently read about a product that is having quite a success in reproducing the TB, still remaining in analog, the Cyclone Analogic TT-303 Bass Bot*.
ACID IS BACK!!, even Roland* is showing its interest and has recently introduced a virtual synthesis version of the TB, sounding excellent from the demo videos.
*Just reporting, I have nothing to do with these companies