Roland AIRA TB-3 Touch Bassline Is A Futuristic Take On The Classic 303


Roland has officially introduced the AIRA TB-3 Touch Bassline – a new bass synth that offers a futuristic take on the classic 303.

The TB-3 is based on Analog Circuit Behavior (ACB) modeling, which allows Roland to recreate the sound of the 303, but also to go beyond it. Here’s what they have to say about it:

We have meticulously analyzed the circuitry of the TB–303 piece-by-piece, down to the individual circuit behavior.

Using Analog Circuit Behavior (ACB) technology we have fully reproduced both the saw-tooth and square wave oscillators as well as the -18dB/octave ladder low pass filter used in the original TB-303, capturing the signature cutoff and resonance character.


Capturing The 303 ‘Feel’ And Creating The ‘Optimal TB Interface’

Roland also has tried to faithfully recreate the TB-303’s ‘feel’, reproducing the Accent, Slide, and Step Sequencer behavior of the original unit.

But they note that the original 303 interface was something that they wanted to improve on:

The truth is, the step entry on the original TB-303 was difficult to use, the keyboard was difficult to play, and special maneuvers were required for the shuffle functions.

So we experimented with a variety of prototypes in our quest to create the optimal TB interface.

The new TB-3 is equipped with a pressure sensitive illuminated touch pad that lets you create sequences and interact with them while performing. In addition to pitch and volume, you can use the touch pad to tweak filters and control modulation:

  • Envelope modulation and decay can be controlled with a single finger
  • Switch patterns, transpose, and chain patterns with finger gestures
  • Internally partitioned at keyboard intervals so it’s easy and natural to play in real-­time
  • XY PLAY (X: Continuous pitch change, Y: Volume, Press down on pad: Modulation)


The Step Sequencer

The TB-3’s Step Sequencer is designed to be easy to use, and lets you seamlessly switch between pattern creation and performance.

For some, though, the somewhat convoluted programming of the original TB-303 was useful – it would sometimes generate unintended and unexpected results. In order to maintain an element of chance and discovery, the TB-3 includes automatic pattern generation and random pattern modification.


The TB-3’s Scatter function features slicing, reverse, gating and other effects, instantly creating variations, stutters, and glitches. Complex, per-step functions are triggered easily with the Touch Pad. There are 8 different types of Scatter variations and 10 levels of Scatter Depth – all controllable in real time and in perfect sync with the sequencer.

These features are designed to be true to the TB-303:

  • Modeled on a pristine TB-303 unit, original spec sheets, and archival data
  • Roland’s ACB technology models each component and every aspect of the original TB-303 sound
  • Faithful recreation of the original saw and square oscillator waveforms
  • Attack, slide, tie, and other elements that characterize the TB-303 have been fully reproduced, including how they interact with each other
  • Authentic filter behavior with smooth response and classic sound

These features are designed to be improvements on the original TB-303:

  • Pressure-sensitive touch pad
  • 134 sounds, including the original TB-303 tones and new four-oscillator, effects-processed basses, leads, and sound effects
  • Dedicated Tempo control with shuffle and tap tempo functions
  • Control built-in effects with smooth, responsive knobs
  • 7-segment, 3-character LED display
  • Seamless switching between pattern creation and performance
  • 16-step indicator lights to aid in pattern creation
  • Pattern support for up to 32 steps
  • Easy access to shuffle control for bass lines that groove
  • Enter steps manually or record in real time on the touch pad
  • Change step count during playback to alter the length of phrases
  • Random pattern generation and pattern modification
  • Pattern copy function

The TB-3 is designed to work seamlessly with other products in the AIRA series.

Here’s one of Roland’s intro videos, which shows a variety of artists sharing their thoughts on the new AIRA line:

You can also connect the TB-3 to your computer via USB to send and receive both audio and MIDI data, including MIDI clock information for syncing with external devices and other AIRA units.

The Roland AIRA TB-3 is priced at US $299. See the Roland site for more information.

31 thoughts on “Roland AIRA TB-3 Touch Bassline Is A Futuristic Take On The Classic 303

  1. Do we really need these 90’s sounds???????
    I allready have enough bassline synths.
    Good 808 and 909 samplebanks enough,you just have to put it into a sampler.
    I would be more happy with a recreation of juno 60 or 106 synth .

  2. From the demos so far these really are good sounding machines. I have a Bass Bott and also a very good sounding xoxbox . One of the good things about the TB 3 machine is the market will be saturated with loads of clones after this comes onto the market . There is unlikely to be the situation there was before the clones came out , when 303’s where becoming criminally priced. I have had many 303’s and make acid. I wouldn’t want a 303 these days . Gigging etc using such absurdly priced gear would be worrying. The fetishisation of the TB 303’s may now finally die a death. Those of us with experience of 303’s know they all sound slightly different. I will admit the the same can be said for the xoxboxes. (one can bark like a dog , another can squalk like a chiken)
    I will be getting one of these asap. Roland have just breathed new life into the acid and techno scene. All this gear coming out is reminding me off the early to mid 90’s , when the new gear was inspiring the music.

  3. Not being able to edit the sounds is really a massive limitation and as nick batt put it it renders the tb a preset maschine.
    Good sound tho but presets are a no go.

  4. Cool that they brought it into the age of iOS touchscreens. I was active in the days of the original 303 but never played with one, I didn’t take part in the ’90’s acid scene, and I don’t care for acid/acidhouse now. But this thing looks like it could be a lot of fun. Ugly? Eh, not so much to me; just different.

        1. isnt this supposed to be the tb “for the future”.

          this is what i love about recreating a classic product:
          every modern and standard missing feature goes under the umbrella “being true to the classic”
          every classic feature missing gets explained by “we dont want to slavishly imitate the old product”. and people fall for it apparently.

          its a effing VA and there is no reason not do be able to edit the sounds. none except for it not to cannibalize the system1.

    1. this is the really sad part.
      people buying into this crap and feeling it relates to the classic 303.
      props to roland marketing i guess. they know their demographic.

  5. just to recap.
    for those working with a computer:
    get the TAL and D16 plugins for a fraction of the price and a better sound.
    no need to thank me.

  6. Over the last month, I’ve gone from loathing Roland for daring to taunt us with this condescending lump to realising this recreation is essential.
    Assuming that the sound lives up to the hype, everything else is a freebie: effects, sounds (the original wasn’t editable enough to worry about uneditable presets), easy pattern programming (perhaps Roland owe us a software pattern editor?), USB bus-power audio-in
    Now if only they announce a 49 key Aira System-1 🙂

  7. Unlike most comments, I own a TB-3. The unit has an authentic 303 sound in several presets. The unit comes fully populated with patterns. I would never buy a real 303 for the expense, risk (of using buying a 30year old machine) and the limited sound editing capability. TB-3 has low cost, low risk, similar sound editing limitations, but gives a much better interface, pattern storage, MIDI in and out (I can use the sequencer to sequence otrer synths), the 303 acid sound plus lots of other sounds and note, the sequencer is 303 authentic too with slide via MIDI too.

  8. I love how it sounds, and it’s great for performance.

    ya ya: It swings, all right!

    guru: How do you get it to slide via MIDI? I haven’t found that in the manual or figured it out.

  9. Here with the final word is Hollywood’s Alguma Hanks: At first I was scared I was petrified.

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    that you could easily mistake it for last year’s Call of
    Duty: Black Ops 2. Each one competes with the other to
    show off his pomp and thus behave in an unruly and arrogant manner.

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