Three decades in the making, the Roland TB-3 takes the ground breaking, genre defining, raw bass generating power of its forebear and bulldozes it into the modern day. When the original TB-303 was released in 1981, nobody could have predicted the effect it would have on the global music scene. This little unassuming silver unit, designed to make guide-tracks for bass players, quickly became so popular as a standalone instrument that it went on to define the whole Acid House genre that swept from the US to the UK. The TB-3 is here to take all that we love about the TB-303 and couple it with all that we love about modern audio technology. The best of the old and the new together in one earth trembling box.
The TB-3 is a bassline synthesizer that combines the beautiful sounding depth of analogue circuitry with the intuitive hands-on control of digital technology. Roland have meticulously mapped the behaviour of the TB-303’s analogue circuitry in order to ensure the TB-3’s digital version sounds as close to its predecessors as possible. The beloved 18db/octave ladder low pass filter and saw-tooth and square wave oscillators from the original are all featured in this new model and still sound as mind blowing as they did over 30 years ago. Marry that raw power with a performance interface that is as enticingly presented as it is fun to use and you have a killer combination that simply screams creativity.
This new touch pad system was designed in answer to some of the issues with the TB-303’s interfacing. The step sequencer and keyboard on the original were admittedly a little hard to use, whereas these new colour coded, pressure sensitive pads are simple to operate and extremely effective, making pattern creation, envelope modulation, decay control and keyboard playing an absolute joy. The step sequencer, accent and slide behaviour from the TB-303 have all be recreated here with pin point precision. In addition, the TB-3’s interface includes some functionality we have become used to from other technologies, like the ability to change, transpose and chain pattern sequences using gesture controls, similar to those we use on popular tablet devices, or the ability to alter pitch and volume in an XY format by sweeping your finger across or up each pad, similar to the way we use Kaoss pads.
The Roland TB-3 is packed to the hilt with 134 presets including warm and distorted full-bodied basses, and psychedelic delays and effects. The library is split across four banks, from original TB-303 sounds and FX to aggressive bass and lead sound. Any Roland TB or TR series enthusiast will no doubt have come across 808 or 909 sample packs or even VST plugin clones like Rebirth but nothing really comes close. The sample packs have all been processed through other audio gear which imparts its own characteristics onto the samples and the software VSTs can never truly emulate the feel of the original units because they are locked in an entirely digital domain. The engineers at Roland have not only painstakingly reproduced the classic TB tone so that every TB-303 sound in the library is an exact clone of its original, but also used Analogue Circuit Behaviour technology to ensure that every single sound that utters from this amazing unit, old style or new, is pure and true to its origins. This reason alone leaves all imitations behind.
The TB-303 is one of those amazing old units whose errors became desired effects in later years. When programming patterns using the complex creation method, the TB-303 would often insert random sounds by mistake that would actually add depth to the sequence. The TB-3 stays true to this phenomenon by using a random pattern modification feature to copy this TB-303 characteristic.
To further add to the TB-3’s versatility, the Scatter function enables you to micro edit single steps in your sequencer, allowing for slicing, reverse, gating, stutter and glitch effects, ideal for modern EDM producers. With dedicated resonance, cutoff, volume and tempo controls with shuffle and tap tempo functions, there is little in the electronic bassline world that the TB-3 cannot achieve. The unit is also beautifully presented with a black metal top-plate with green outer trim, light green backlit buttons and an LCD display for preset navigation.
The Roland TB-3 has a master stereo output on 1” balanced TRS jacks, MIDI In/Out on 5 pin DIN connectors, a USB connection for MIDI and audio, and a headphone output on 1” balanced TRS jacks.
The popularity of the original model was so immense, the cost of second hand units for sale on eBay and other online marketplaces has soared so high, they are now considered collector’s items and are well out of most people’s price ranges. Roland has obviously looked to play on this phenomenon when they set the TB-3 at such an utterly amazing price! It is often uncertain ground for manufacturers to revisit designs that are steeped in so much history but in true form Roland has done an incredible job.
The TB-303 has evolved and the next musical revolution starts here.
ACB | Analogue Circuit Behaviour
The AIRA range is the first to use Roland’s new proprietary digital emulation system ACB. Analogue Circuit Behaviour (ACB) has enabled incredibly accurate modelling of some of the most sought after classics in the Roland range.
Yasuyuki Watanabe explains: “The first priority was to study the behaviour of these analogue instruments, and try to carefully recreate it. However, in today’s music styles, there are certain elements which have to be created digitally. So in order to achieve a harmony between these elements, we chose to use digital gear to recreate these analogue instruments.”
The Roland TB-3 features include:
- One voice polyphony
- Multi-Effects: COMP, RING MOD, BIT CRASHER, TREMORO, CHORUS, FLANGER, PHASER, DELAY, PITCH SHIFT, REVERB
- 25 types distortion types
- 200 instrument preset patches
- 32 step sequencer with 64 user patterns
- Eight Scatter presets
- Touchpad controller
- Dedicated cutoff, resonance, accent and effect controls
- 7 segments, 3 characters LED
- Master output on stereo 1” balanced TRS jacks
- MIDI In/Out on 5 pin DIN connectors
- USB connection for MIDI and audio
- Headphone output on 1” balanced TRS jacks
- W 240mm x D 173mm x H 57mm
- Weight: 820 g
- Includes manual and AC adaptor