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Roland TB-303

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Description
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, The Guardian listed the 1982 release of the TB-303 as one of the 50 key events in the history of dance music.





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Technical Specifications
Type: Analog
Synthesis: Subtractive
Oscillators
Oscillators: 1
Waveforms: Saw Up, Square
Osc Modulation: Envelope, Knob, Sequencer
Envelopes
Envelopes: 1
Evelope Paramerters: Decay
Filters
Filters: 1
Types: 18dB Slope, Low Pass, Resonance
Filter Modulation: Envelope, Knob
Polyphony & Tuning
Polyphony: 1
Tuning: Standard
Modes: Mono
Patches
Patches RAM: 1
Sequencer
64 patterns, 1 track, 7 songs
Case
Case: Desktop
Keyboard: Plastic
Controls: Buttons, Knobs, Mod - Wheel 2, Modulation 1/4" Jacks
Dimensions (WxDxH): 300 x 146 x 55 mm
Weight: 1.0 kg
Connections
Audio Output Connections: 1/4" Phone Jack, Mono Out, Stereo Headphone
Audio Output Count: 2
Inputs: 1
CV Ports: DIN, CV OUT, Gate Out
Power: 80 mA min 120 mA max
Production
Year Released: 1982
Year Discontinued: 1984
Manuals & Documents

Virtual Software
Pricing
Retail Street Price: $395 - convert
Used Price: $2,495-$3,155 - convert
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References & Sources

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