15 thoughts on “Basslines Documentary Looks At The Roland TB-303

  1. There’s a lot of misinformation / misundestading in this documentary. I will point out the one that annoyed me and leve the rest for you to discover.
    TB303 Sine wave? I think not, that is a Square wave AKA Pulse wave, as the diagram clearly shows.
    For documentary purposes it’s not even a real Square wave, Roland used a variation of the Saw wave by flipping every other cycle to create it’s distinctive “woody” or “hollow” 303 Square sound, and save costs.
    IMO anyone who doesn’t know the difference between a square and sine wave has no business making a documentary about a classic synth.

  2. Talos – there were a few things in here that perked my ears, also. There’s a bit too much punditry for my taste, too!

    Nevertheless, I thought it was a good introduction to the importance of the 303 in music.

    What other things pop out as errors for you in this documentary – and what things do you think he got right?

  3. You could nitpick this, but I think that’s missing the point. This really gives you an idea of how the TB303 shaped music.

  4. First, I’ll just say … I think I found the “Amen Break” doc much more interesting, but that might just be because I wasn’t as familiar with the subject material and thus got more absorbed in the video.

    Second, although I really don’t want to nitpick… well, I’m going to. Purely from a video production standpoint, as that’s what I do. I don’t mean to sound picky, these are just things that could be (seriously) improved if the creator wanted to…

    1) Wow, that is painfully slow. Agonizingly slow. The entire first minute makes me want to immediately press stop and move on to something else, regardless of how much I might have wanted to know about the TB-303. The faint bass noodling in the background doesn’t help at all. In fact, the audio could really be helped with a bit more music or something in the background.
    2) The font used for some of the text is too small for the default YouTube resolution and gets further mangled by the video compression. And when discussing various record releases featuring the 303, the name of the artist is ridiculously small compared to the track title. They should probably be at least the same size.
    3) Nobody enjoys watching text while you read it. The number one rule of video making is “show, don’t tell”. If you’re quoting something, having it all on screen at the same time as well is just wasting the medium.
    4) The voice over is dull. Boring dull, not tonal dull. With some practice, I’m sure he could develop a more natural style for reading his script. He has a good voice, it just sounds really lifeless. Really, really lifeless. Ben Stein was more interesting to listen to.
    5) There’s a big chunk of black screen as he starts talking about that Newcleus track. Again, wasting the medium. If you’re making a video, documentary or not, it needs to be visual. Otherwise it’s just radio. Actually, there are a bunch of those black spaces, and it really robs the video of flow.
    6) Single static photos, held on screen for long periods of time, really suck to watch. If there’s enough resolution in the source image, do some close ups on sections of it or something… even cheezy faux-pan or zoom moves in the video editing software would liven it up some, as could having a variety of images of whatever the subject was.
    7) The quote from Roland promotional material at the end is anti-climatic and largely pointless. Knowing what Roland think of their product might make an interesting segue into his own opinions or the actual opinions of musicians on the lasting effect of the 303, but at the end it just lies there limply.
    8) I completely missed whatever the point was of reading that paragraph from the 303 manual.

  5. Damn… on reading that post, I’m alarmed at how much I sound like my video journalism instructor from college.

    On the up side… yes, it is a pretty good overview of the history of the 303, from “good idea” to “product bomb” to “second hand gold” to “overwrought idol”. Best loved failed product… ever!! The little slip on the waveform looks sloppy when it’s on screen at the same time, but that’s just minor. Quick re-edit, simply solve. Would have been nice to hear about the unusual 3-pole low-pass filter (when everyone else used 2-pole or 4-pole).

  6. Well made documentary about a classic piece of gear. Although I found some incorrect information too, this video really gives you an idea what is it about and how does it work. The 303 is truly one of the most significant equipments on the field of electronic music history.

    It’s very sad how much these boxes costs today :/ There’s some great hardware and vst clones as Phoscyon but nothing beats the real thing.

  7. The nearest clone in sound to the 303 is the x0xb0x, mainly because it’s copying the hardware exactly, down to the matched components. Next best is apparently the Futureretro 777… there’s a web site that did a side by side comparison of all of the 303 clones with an actual 303, but I can’t remember the URL at the moment.

  8. Al – I’ve got a 777 & x0xb0x, and the 777 definitely holds its own as a 303 clone, but it’s also a MUCH more powerful device than the 303. You can use it to sequence pretty much anything, and it’s a full monosynth.

  9. Al

    The 777 can do all the standard 303 sounds, but you have to know what you’re doing and use the right filter (there are two), set the distortion down, turn the 2nd oscillator down and the sub-bass oscillators, turn down the white noise, turn down the cross modulation, make sure the resonance is set down, etc, etc, etc. It’s a beast of a machine.

    If you ever have to open it up, it’s a pain to pull off all those knobs, though.

  10. re: acidvoice link…
    Those patterns are aweful, full of distortion and not showing the real 303 sound. 90% of analog synths can sound like that, switch the distortion off, get some sccent and slide in and you get a nice unique bubbly acid line that shows the REAL 303 sound!
    A good idea though.

  11. Does any one know why Roland doesnt just make new TB-303’s? There sure is a market for it. I had an MC-303 but it wasnt anything near a TB-303.

  12. I don’t know exactly why Roland don’t make a new 303, but I am certainly willing to speculate (except on currency or commodities… that’s just stupid).

    Speculation 1: Roland don’t want to repeat themselves. I would be willing to believe this a lot more if they didn’t keep bringing out a new flavor of Fantom every year.

    Speculation 2: Sourcing analog components is more difficult than sourcing DSP programmers. Certainly, a component accurate 303 re-issue would prove difficult, as the xoxbox folks found out. It works in small runs, but once you get in Roland level production you run out of some parts very fast, simply because they aren’t manufactured anymore. Yes, somebody like Roland could possibly afford to start manufacturing their own version of a particular part, but why bother investing all that time and money when you can just use off-the-shelf DSP processors and hire some good programmers (especially when that’s your established corporate direction… see speculation 4)?

    Speculation 3: Roland just don’t see a market for it. Yeah, I have trouble with that one as well. Given the price used 303s go for on eBay, there is definitely SOME demand for the little silver bastard, at least as much as for some of the Boss effects pedals.

    Speculation 4: It doesn’t fit into Roland’s current technology path. Roland/Boss are heavily committed to their COSM modeling engine. Having invested so heavily in something that can (according to their marketing) excellently replicated analog devices, why would you then undermine that technology by releasing an actual analog synth (effectively admitting that there are things your modeling technology just won’t do convincingly)?

  13. (clarification and further on Speculation 3)

    Roland may have judged that the market for a new 303 would not rise to the scale of manufacturing they’re geared for. It would essentially be a boutique market, which is already populated by at least half a dozen boutique replacements for the 303. Especially when some (the FutureRetro 777) go so much further than the original 303 design. Roland would have to re-engineer a better, modern 303… which they might see as an unjustifiable cost outlay for a small boutique market.

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