Should Roland Bring Back The TB-303 Bassline Synth?

tb-303Should Roland bring back the TB-303 Computer Controlled Transistorized Bass synthesizer?

That’s the question raised by a post today at the Roland site. Roland’s Oz Owen writes:

It’s hard to make a definitive statement these days without kicking off an almighty flame war, but we’re going to make one anyway: the TB-303 is the greatest single-oscillator monosynth of all time, bar none. There, we said it. And you know what? We’re right. Argue all you want. Go on, see where it gets you!

What other monosynth, and single oscillator monosynth at that, has carved such a prominent niche for itself throughout the contemporary landscape of electronic music? What other synth could claim to have such a unique and distinctive feel, capable of creating sound like no other? No one could argue that the electronic music scene would be markedly different today without that little silver box.

We’re not going to bite on the “greatest single-oscillator monosynth of all time, bar none” flame-bait, because Roland raises a more immediate question.

Since they clearly think the 303 is the greatest monosynth ever – and since Korg has a hit on their hands with the re-release of the MS-20 Mini monosynth – is Roland considering doing something similar with the TB-303?

Let us know what you think! Should Roland bring back the TB-303?

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114 thoughts on “Should Roland Bring Back The TB-303 Bassline Synth?

  1. Why not? The market is ready, I would love to have a TB303 type of synth for $400 … but with the xoxbox already in place, it could be too late. Why not make a modern version that is a 303 and a 909 in a single box? THAT is what people would line up to buy.

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    1. The xoxbox isnt for everyone. Making it yourself, fishing around on eBay, paying ridiculous prices for shipping… I’m sure I’m not the only one who’d rather wait for Roland to come out with a cheap ready made locally distributed alternative.

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      1. Lol I’m probably older than you. I’m old enough to have played the original. And to have version 1 of rebirth when it came out. Which I guess is why I just don’t feel the desire or need to chase up xoxboxes.

        Perhaps you dont live in australia where shipping costs on these things are generally extortionate.

        I’ve always (naively) felt it was inevitable that Roland would want in on the $1000s they’re missing out on in this market. In the meantime I have propellerhead to fill the void for me. I dont really make acid much so I don’t need it much.

        Theres heaps of mods I like, I have heaps of circuit bent gear. But it’s a game I’ve grown tired of particularly if you’re trying to emulate something that exists already. I’ve made too many regretful purchases. I’m sure there’s a steady market out there who’d shell out the moula in store the minute they saw an affordable 303 and didn’t have to worry about ridiculous shipping etc.

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        1. Clearly, I wasn’t responding to you Lu. But your misuse of this technology confirms your being old. j/k

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          1. It was a useless comment to either of us, and the crap thread design is why I wasn’t sure who you were responding to. Not my age. I’m a web designer. You are apparently facile.

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  2. How about Roland introduces a forward thinking Synth or Drum machine that doesn’t recall any of it’s previous products, but was still a true analog product.

    That would certainly get them the upper edge against Korg and put them in line with DSI.

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    1. I’d be very pleased to see Roland develop a new drum machine with the elektron machinedrum style forward thinking, but the tr-909 style ease of use.

      But this is the thing about the few good old pieces of equipment, they were great to play with in a way that a lot of equipment before and since have failed to do. This is why SOME equipment is really worth bringing back. Like the tb-303.

      The machinedrim by elektron is actally a lot of fun to play but the analog four is completely indecipherable to anyone but the most dedicated Elektron devotee. I don’t have aspergers, so if you want me to buy it you have to make it easy and fun to use. Much like the elektribes from korg.

      And before you say thats just me; no one else in the store could figure it out either including the highly experienced staff in the store. Without the manual the machine is useless. Even to those of s who had watched the videos and glanced the manual a week ago.

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      1. With only about 30 hours of use on the Octatrack, I received my Analog Four. Maybe those 30 hours were enough? But, I had no problems with it. I didn’t read the manual (other than the day it came out to find out what waveforms it had and if it had sync). It wasn’t quite as easy to use as an Electribe, but I really didn’t have any issue? It’s not at all like trying to program a Kawai K5 or anything. 😉

        As for a re-release of the TB-303? Meh? There are plenty of clones and some even with good sequencers attached. It’s not like a bunch of small companies were pumping out MS-20 clones for the last 15 years. We’re pretty much saturated with 303. Same for 808 and 909.

        If they were to release new _and_ analog, I’d hope it was something new and not something that a million clones of already exist.

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        1. Yeah octatrack experience would definitely make a difference. I’m jealous actually. I really wanted this machine but I just knew even if I learnt it, I’d hav eforgotten the rules again next time I had time to spend on it.

          I honestly spent 40 minutes trying to figure it out. Maybe the guy before me had screwed up the settings. I got some basics, but not nearly enough, I kept hitting wall after wall.

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  3. yeah. and the 909 and the 808 while you are at it. And other than Midi don’t mess them up with new fangled-ness Damn i sound like a crotchety old man 🙂

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  4. Why? I know it’s got a very unique sound, but the programming interface puts me off. I’d much prefer to see them produce something with a similar sound, but with added flexibility. Looking back can only get you so far, it’s time to look forward!

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      1. I’d much rather see them make something that’s good for more than one trick though. I’m not trying to diminish the importance of the 303, I would just like to see them make something that’s a bit more forward looking.

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  5. they would just screw it up like all the other total shit they have been making for years. they would cut corners, and prove for the 100th time that they don’t get it at all. we’d have better luck if roland let korg make us a new 303.

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  6. Oh god no, not as a TB-303 at least. Since so many of the original components are no longer manufactured there’d be so much whining about how “terrible” the new versions sound.

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  7. It would be great. But, unlike with the MS-20, there exists so much demand that people have resorted to clones. Pretty damning ones too.

    If Roland wants to finally get back on the decade or so of demand for a remake straight from the guys who made it in the first place, they need to be prepared to put in more elbow grease that they’ve put into anything for a long, long time. They need to capture every nuance and subtlety down the voltage AND incorporate new features that take the 303 to a whole new level if they even want to try and go up against the x0xb0x, or better yet the x0xi0 synthesizer.

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  8. please not only do you need to bring the tb 303 back maybe expand on it…ie more than one octave of keys, midi, usb for sure , possible storage card. Also I would like to think that your trying to reach a broad band of customers, so please make any digital versions available to all platforms like kindle fire, android and not just apple devices. I can not play with my fav korg stuff because of this exact issue.

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  9. No way. They missed their chance…

    The TB-303 sound is amazing, no doubt… but the original TB-303 sequencer has already been superseded by companies like FutureRetro, Acidlab, etx…

    Same with the sound.. a X0Xbox or similar clone with mods and upgraded sequencer can be bought for under $500… The FR Revolution has (again, imho) a better sound to it, with built-in effects and audio in.

    If Roland wants to Re-issue, no. Flat out NO. I have owned an original 303, and the sequencer was a nightmare compared to what else is out there. The DIY and “small guys” have vastly improved upon Roland’s original design. A reissue at this point just looks pathetic.

    They SHOULD (imho) make a new hybrid synth with at least 2 analog oscillators, analog jupiter8 and 303 filters, and the digital tech that kept them relevant in the 90s (ie. digital supersaw oscs). give it the awesome analog (where applicable) and digital effects in their guitar pedals (tape echo, distortions, reverb, chorus)… 3 envelopes, 2 lfos, analog noise, etc… and make it knobby. One knob per function.

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  10. No, I don’t think it makes good economic sense for them to do so unless they can sell it for $300, and even then I don’t think it would be taht profitable.

    808 and 909 reissues at $599 each, on the other hand, would sell in spades and have much higher margins.

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  11. No. If they’re going to compete with Korg & their crappy little MS20, they should bring back either the System 100 or the System 100m. Show ’em who’s boss.

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    1. Not so fast to discredit the ms20! That was a fun synth! But… DEFINITELY a System 100! That was a killer synth (now why the heck I sold it to pay for my first car in 1980 @&$! )

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  12. I’d be happy if Roland made a single piece of gear I liked, let alone a reissue of a legendary synth. Sure! Follow the MS-20 line: same sound and workflow, plus MIDI. Keep it the same size. Then reissue the brothers TR: 606, 808, and 909. Again the same, but with MIDI. The 808 can be smaller. I’d prefer an aluminum case for the TB-303 and TR-606, maybe as a limited edition if it’s too much to ask.

    If you can’t do this, how about at the very least you make a synth without samples and the D-Beam? I think we’re good on those (though I haven’t been to a church in a while).

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  13. Roland,

    I know the last time we parted ways it was messy. You wanted me to love you for the crystal clarity of your 16bit/44.1K samples and I was happier when you were grungier and less sophisticated. I know you tried to meet me halfway, and for a while I was onboard during your “Groove box” phase (I know, I can’t look at the pictures either). But let’s face it, you’ve been spinning your wheels since I left you. The last time I cared, you were in that sexy black number with the Super-Saw, but you still had the D-beams. You don’t need all that fake stuff.

    Whenever I happen to see you in public, I hope that maybe you’ve gotten your act together. Maybe you’ve gone analog or you come up with some new style of synthesis. But I’m always disappointed. You’re still trying to impress the church music and home organ crowd.

    When are you gonna realize you’re funkier than that? When are you gonna stop trying to please the P&W crowd and let your keys down? Let a few knobs show! Stop hiding behind your menus! Let me see that sexy bitch that could pack the club floors back in the 80s! Come on. It’s time.

    Best of love,
    Ben

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  14. It would certainly be appreciated I am sure.

    Also to stop people squabbling about “Roland Sucks” around here all the time!

    Bring it on Roland! Make your mark

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  15. Do you think Roland….knows??? I mean, I figured they unpluged all their phones cancelled their trade magazine subscriptions and set fire to their routers some time around 1992, what else would explain their complete inability to grasp what current music tools are needed, what niches exist and how far things have moved on from the pub singer / cover band shit that they have chosen to release for the last two decades?

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  16. Like anyone out there I love rooting for the underdog, and with all the new analog out there right now I want to believe this. When I saw that Roland trailer the other day stating “they’re back”, I am wanting and even hoping that maybe just maybe they decided to get a little creative fun and clever with their marketing and maybe it was a trailer to lead us to believe more d-beams are on the way, only to pleasantly surprise us all with let’s say the 303 or anything close to their older line, I really wouldn’t care what it is. They have numerous instruments I desire and I’m tired of day dreaming about ways to raise a thousand plus bucks for a 106 from some other country that will probably break in shipping or just need constant repair and attention….so here’s hoping for a fun new piece of vintage gear!

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  17. I like the idea, but if it wanted to compete with the Monotribe, it would need to have midi and be under $250. And that guy’s reasoning as to how the TB303 is the greatest single oscillator monosynth of all time makes no sense, it’s like saying Apples are better than Mangoes because they are more common.

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  18. I’d love to see rebirth recreated in a box not much bigger than an iPad. And if there is a 303 remade it needs to have running lights and the keyboard worked into the 16 step sequencer a la MC-307, I don’t see why they couldn’t improve upon it in little functional ways with all that’s come since.

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  19. My “Roland-bring-back-charts”
    1. jupiter 8
    2. juno 60
    3. 909
    4. sh 201
    5. 808
    6. 303

    In fact I’d buy all of these 🙂

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  20. With the TB303 Roland weren’t aware of just what it was that they were making,
    I think that they know that they missed their chance for a remake. I tried to persuade
    a rep’ at a xp10 demo years ago, they said that they would never remake that stuff.
    Though they did make the MC303 after that, and it sold well; it was crap, a con.

    84% SH5 would be nice, or an SH7 with the SH5’s oscillators and filter.

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  21. to quote from above

    I don’t have aspergers, so if you want me to buy it you have to make it easy and fun to use.

    I totally agree, I can’t really see the point of just repeating exactly whats gone before, but It would be great to see AN EASY TO USE, fun, immediate drum machine that had less options, less menus, less complicated but was still capable. Everything in music making, like DAWs, software, etc even hardware has a tendency to offer more and more features but sometimes its over kill. I would choose simplicity of use over more features.

    A new analog drum machine would be great, with some complexity, but not too much, with built in effects, Midi etc, usb etc would be great

    And also why are all roland products ONLY editable on ipad, what the **** is that all about? Make them editable on a PC/MAC which everybody owns!!!!!

    Companies never seem to produce what people actually want…except KORG with MS 20 and maybe DSI with Tempest & new Prophet which looks like a monster!!!

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  22. Roland should bring back their best inventions for the 21st century.The 101,202,303.808 and 909.Would be nice to have them redesigned as interlocking units that would fit together. I have been really disappointed in their products since the ‘laughable’ MC-303. It will be their salvation.

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    1. no…they were awful digital imitations.
      I am talking about Korg-esque replication of analogue circuitry.

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  23. good sound and a good price? well. i’d buy one. i’d be so much more interested if they brought something more versatile to the table though. im smelling a “thou shalt sucketh balls” on this one.

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  24. it could regress dance music back to the stone age.

    The only plus point would be to see the ridiculous second hand market drop………

    in that case hopefully they do it for the 808, 909, sh101 and juno 1 “o” what ever.

    I’d pay £200 ($300, 237euro) for one, and may be more if they have d beam on the cut off, res, env mod ect. Now wouldn’t that something : ) yes now wouldn’t that something……

    ACIIIIIID

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  25. Yes, but this time, make it CHEAP.

    The market is ready – as someone said. And the technology also. I mean – these days you can put all TB-303 device on a SINGLE IC CHIP.

    So, make it cheap. You can. All poor musicians will thank you for it. And you can still make pile of $$$.

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  26. Roland havent made a truly exciting product since the JP8000. They are out of touch with the market. Please please please Roland make something cool. You used to be king. And while you are at it, how about a legacy soft synth suite?

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  27. Roland should just end the collector game and make the ultimate analog Groovebox. A combined TR-808 and TR-909 with switches for each sound, plus a TB-303 with a more user friendly sequencer. If this were to be combined into one single box for under €1000, everyone would buy this.

    Norman Stansfield: EVERYONE!!

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  28. I’d rather that they come up with something new and killer than do a Korg and revisit the past.

    Give us a new Roland classic!

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  29. The only reason to make a new Roland TB-303 is to make a buck off of the people that are too cheap to buy a vintage one. What’s the point in that?

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    1. Too cheap?? Yeah, I’d much rather pay 1500 on a tiny plastic box that’s 20 years old than pay my mortgage this month!?

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  30. Roland has a number of devices they could re-issue and make money on, but the key would be to not over-re-design them. Just add modern necessities like USB MIDI, and then sell them at as low a price point as possible. If they go for nostalgia pricing they would fail. And I think it would be a big (internal) challenge for Roland to release something solid and minimal, without butloads of extra unwanted sounds or features in it. People might buy a “new” 303 or 808 for a few hundred bucks, but they would never buy a “303 with super-natural guitarpsichord modeling and 9 million gigatrons of rom samples for $1499”.

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    1. Itd be so ideal if they did the 303 as is. Just some midi added.

      The 606 in the same casing to match, but add 808 and 909 sounds to the palette!

      Both at an affordable price.

      These two units are so good looking, so easy to play with, so portable! Imagine if they released a series of affordable products in those little silver boxes? Perhaps a chip tunes sequencer? Perhaps an effects box (with a d beam, lol)? Chain them all together… You’d have a really fun low end modular series. Like the kaossilators but no menu scrolling!

      God I’d buy everything if they’d put it out in these simple little silver boxes!

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  31. I just realized what the problem is here:

    THE TB-303 OBVIOUSLY NEEDS D-BEAMS!

    PLEASE, ROLAND, RE-RELEASE THE TB-303 WITH D-BEAMS!

    I think I could die happy knowing that it was from the shock of seeing a TB-303 re-released with D-Beam technology all over it.

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    1. yeah a d-beam, so it can cut my penis in half. oh wait, no so i can practice on my girth, cos that d-beam is nothing more than a sex toy.

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  32. Well, there’s been hundreds, if not thousands, of posts and threads all over the internet about this very same topic… I love the 303 sound and I’m an acid fiend in general. However, there are already so many alternatives to the TB-303 that I don’t really care if Roland makes an official re-release. Some people will argue ad nauseum about how the newer clones don’t sound exactly like the originals, but who really fucking cares? They sound close ENOUGH. Like well over 95% close. Quibbling about the ambiguous 5% is a waste of time, and if people are willing to pay $1,500+ for a vintage 303 when they could buy a brand new, assembled x0xb0x for maybe $450, they have a screw loose IMO! Besides, it is a known fact that even the vintage 303s can sound fairly different from one another due to components that have aged differently. I say that if Roland wants to re-release a product, they should start with the SH-101 (the true acid machine) and add small upgrades like midi, USB, and a more robust sequencer that can still be triggered with CV inputs. There’s tons of monosynths in today’s market but there’s nothing that really covers that Roland sound. They could also do this for the MC-202 as well. They would just have to be really careful to deliver that SOUND, because Roland SH synths are pretty distinctive. I think that the market for analog worldwide is bigger than it has been in many, many years and the 101/202 are capable of delivering a far more diverse variety of sounds than the 303, not to mention the fact that the 303 is largely irrelevant in modern electronic music. If they released the 101/202 the acid heads would be happy, and other people would also have a great synth capable of good tones. While I’m wishing, I’d like for them to actually blend the SH-101 and SH-2 together and also design a really great sounding distortion/overdrive circuit, filter feedback, etc. I don’t really want a re-issued clone… They should take their great ideas from the past and combine them.

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  33. I think they re-release it along with an 808 and a 909 and make it a family of products that work together with modern features. Adding vst versions that exchange well between the software and hardware similar to maschine. I hate that if I want an 808 I have to fork up close to three grand.

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    1. I think roland is planing a re-making.
      sure, those machines sounds great.
      I had or have them all, but they are really out of date.

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  34. Hi guys, I’m responsible for publishing the TB-303 article on Roland’s blog, however the true credit belongs to OZ Owen. Oz wrote this article for our POWERON digital magazine available in the Apple App store which I repurposed for the blog.

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    1. so then, dying to know, did Roland ask you for this article…ie does Roland seem interested in a 303 reissue possibly?

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  35. Elektrons Analog Four in many ways can be called an evolution of the 303 idea. Why buy a 303 or 303 clone when you can have something like an A4 which can do the same and much much more!

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  36. Obvs people are completely enamored with vintage gear right now. Problem with vintage gear is it goes for collector prices, and that is rather problematic for the fledgling musician. Can I afford a vinatage 303 or MS-20 on the money I make? Hell no. Would I love to have one? Of Course! MIDI USB is great, but so many people are moving towards Eurorack and CV controlled systems now anyway. What’s the point other than being able to use cheap USB keyboards? Honestly, I would be stoked if they re-released 303’s (and 808’s, 909’s and the SH-101) for around $350 each. Korg would eat their shirts.

    I don’t think this trend will change what we hear in clubs, on the radio or in what Tiesto “does”, but for the people like me, basement show electroheads, it would be a graciously welcomed return to that sort of punk accessibility; completely live, and able to be improvised on. I think a lot of people want that tactile, “playable” experience. Higher production standards abound in VSTs and Ableton, but you don’t get that “live” feel from programming a computer.

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  37. Zero interest in this. Hated it back then, hate it now. My least favorite synth of all time.

    Bring back the SH101.

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    1. LOL, exactly my sentiments. I had a 303, 808, 606, 101, JP4, and got rid of it all 12 years ago. All I regret getting rid of now is JP4, 101, and 808. I always considered 303 and 606 playtoys. They were produced as playtoys, they looked like playtoys, and they sounded like playtoys to me. I’ve never found a real usage for a 303… it always sounded too thin along with 606, and compared to 808, 101, JP4 combination. 😉 Man that Jupiter-4 sounded so fat and juicy! 🙂

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  38. Roland should reissue the 303. And it should look the same, perhaps a metal chassis. And it should have an MSRP of $303.

    The TB-303 is ancient tech, probably less than $50 of componants in there. The ONLY REASONS the little plastic box is such an eBay goldmine is decades of mystique and a limited number of them trading around.

    It’s been cloned to virtual perfection in software and hardware, nevermind that what it does can be replicated on almost any subtractive synth if programmed and sequenced well.

    It does have some distinctive features and textures, and I would buy one for sure. But it should be priced in real money, not in collector fantasy dollars. The market for these things is entirely inflated by consensual price fever.

    We will soon see vintage MS-20s coming down a little.

    Roland could make a lot of people very happy (and make some analog dollars this holiday season) if they pulled out the schematic and started production on a new run.

    I would love to see the celebrated analog synths reborn in reasonably-priced form. The 303 is a no-brainer, Roland would have a huge seller.

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  39. Roland claim it to be the the greatest monosynth of all time and they may be right, but it was not down to their efforts. Roland actually failed with the 303 as their envisaged bass accompaniment machine, but humble musicians on a BUDGET picked up this thrown out device for cheap and made it a success.

    Roland can brag all they want but the truth is they are not responsible for the success. The success is down to pioneering electronic musicians creating a whole new genre of music on a BUDGET. Hats off to Korg!

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  40. Fuck No. I sure dont want to listen to really poor acid everywhere. The fact that its limited is what makes it so freakin good

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  41. uh.. hmm.. well why not.. Roland (and Korg / yamaha actually) have made nothing interesting for a while. Resorting to celebrated re-releases is sensible. but still, kinda sad.

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  42. The 303 isn’t even the best single oscillator mono synth Roland has ever made, never mind all time. That being said, I like the 303, I have a x0xb0x. The thing is, there are so many great 303 clones out that it’s the last thing we need remade.

    I want Roland to remake its classic analog drumboxs. An 808/909/606 combo would be sick, even if it used digital synthesis. As long as it wasn’t sample based and it had a lot of knobs to shape the sounds.

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  43. Agreed they are out of touch with the market. They dont even listen to their customers they disabled all comments on their youtube channels. Hopefully someone new at roland reads stuff on internet so they can learn from everybody here.

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  44. With every conceivable sound a TB or TR can make available in hundreds of libraries and instruments (most of which are far more flexible), this has to be about Vintage Gear Lust. I got to use some early Roland and Korg gear, so I understand the kind of fun you can have. I’m just puzzled at why people want this limited sound set in this ungenerous form. Putting USB on it won’t make it SOUND any better. For the time, effort and expense, you can probably outdo anything a TB has to offer with what you own right now. Nostalgia is fine, but depth, stability and range beat it handily, just IMO. I guess I have a slight attitude over it because I remember playing synths whose pitch would drift in the heat. 😛

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  45. Ok, but there’s already the Bass Bot. I’d rather see the 808 909 come back. Or better yet, all three! There’s no reason for an 808 to cost 3 grand. Lets fix this situation.

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  46. Since Korg just released the Volca Series: synth, bass & drum machine, Roland has missed the boat!!!

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  47. I used to have an SH-101 and it certainly was great but it couldn’t do what the 303 could do as good. The same goes for the other way around.
    Yesterday i downloaded that free Venom VB-303, and it’s actually very fucking good.
    I would however buy a new 303 if it was well under $500 with midi/usb.

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  48. yes yes yes yes!!! YES!!! If only to shut up the number of people who think it will change the course of musical history to have one.

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  49. Novation Bass Station Ii has a TB-303 “ish” filter. Roland would have to beat the value proposition presented by the BSII in a new monosynth, and this will be a challenge for them.

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  50. Roland should defo think about bringing the beast back with a few added extras like usb etc etc it truely is the best sounding synth of all time and lets be honest if roland did bring it back they would make a killing!! 🙂 303 forever 🙂

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  51. bring it back for the people who cannot afford these ridiculous prices that the originals are being sold for.please.

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  52. Sorry, but re-realeasing the 303 is a stupid idea. Very stupid idea. classics can’t be re made. It’s like saying ford should re release the model T.

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