Roland TB-303 vs Roland TB-03 Comparison

This video, via Bonedo, compares the Roland TB-03 to an original TB-303.

This is not intended to be a scientific or in-depth comparison, rather to offer a first impression of how the sound of the new 03 compares to an example of the 303 design.

  • First part: A simple 6-Step-Line including Accent, Slide, different notes and note lengths.
  • Second part: Realtime tweaking
  • Third part: Only Roland TB-03 demo, adding the internal effects

While this video focuses on comparing the sounds, the TB-03 has a variety of features that are lacking on the original, including MIDI support, USB audio & MIDI connectivity, effects and more.

via Phil

30 thoughts on “Roland TB-303 vs Roland TB-03 Comparison

  1. i just really listened to this comparison and the TB 03 sounds like shit in comparison to a real 303. Thin, small with boring, it really lacks the range of frequencies of the original and especially that shifting, bubbling alive quality that the original has.

    I wanted to like these boutiques because digital instruments can sound good (Diva and Bazille for example) but this just sucks.

    Get a x0xb0x, TT-303, or Acidlab Bassline instead. All sound good in their own way. Or just get ABL3 if you don’t mind digital, it sounds way better than Roland’s latest.

    1. I spent a little time with an xoxbox, re-303, and a tb-03 at knobcon this weekend. went home and pulled a number of videos that showed off characteristic comparisons.

      honestly, the adsr comparison video with the 03 and original 303 shows off the differences pretty well. jump up to 13+ minutes and just listen. the 303 is just more drippy, has that alive sound that none seem to replicate just right. I think a lot of it is due to aging and use of these components that. the 03 to me sounds more sanitized, of that makes sense. it doesn’t quite get that fluid feeling of the original perfectly… but to be honest, it sounds way better than any other clone out there, except maybe the Avalon. id love to get my hands on one to test it out, but they’re new enough that I have yet to see one in person. aside from that, getting an 03 is where I’m headed… to me it sounds better than the xoxbox (next runner up), mb33, abl2/3, tt-303, and re-303 (but I can’t wait for a diy kit!).

      my 2 cents, if you don’t have a big enough wallet to source a used 303, or an Avalon (honestly, this thing looks amazing), the tb-03 for $350 is the best budget option.

      there are several options in this price range, so play around and make your own decision. at the end of the day, nobody is gonna stop your live set (or not buy your album) because it doesn’t sound right.

  2. I like it … not the same sound of the original but for only $250 looks very fun and all the new MIDI and sequencing options and FXs make it an interesting and cheap gadget. Like it.

    1. According to my euro source it will be €399,- which I think is pretty hefty. Not sure where you get your $250 dollar quote, but for that price I might think about it.

  3. Sounds like the Rebirth 1.0 bassline in a really pretty case.

    I owned a Cyclone TT-303 and recommend it to anyone who considers buying one of these. It’s about the same price, with fully analog circuit and much closer to the original compared to this boxed plugin. The lack of presence can be compensated with a vintage hifi amp. I used an early 80’s Teac.

  4. Roland, I recommend you go back to the drawing board. Your ACB circuitry cuts it sometimes, as in the JU 06. Imoerfections masked by the easy trick of modelling the chorus. But in my experience ACB has a weak spot: Resonance. That’s where my JU 06, my Sysyem 1m etc FAIL! And therefore modelling a TB 303 is apparently and clearly beyond your magical ability! The soul is missing. Do you need a dictionary for that word Roland? This comes from a big Roland analog fan. Regarding Roland these days; ‘The King With No Clothes’ comes to mind. Listen to your fans. Are you willing to ditch the people who have supported you for 30 plus years? In favour of kids with pimples, poor taste, and MP3 personalities? Of course we can see that the dollar is more important to you than new ventures in creativity. 80% bad reviews for your new gear for a reason. Listen up and learn.

  5. You simply can’t replicate an analogue filter with digital… We already have the Aira, why bring out the same digital clone in different clothing? If only Roland would just listen to what people have been asking for the past couple of decades: Re-release the original and be done with it. These toys are just not cutting it.

    1. An analogue reissue would be nice, but compared with the Aira, I’d much rather have one that physicalizes it with a recreation of the proper controls than the much less inviting TB-3 light-up interface. Honestly, I’d rather stick with a touchscreen 303 knockoff on my iPad than own a TB-3.

      I have several different analogue synths, and I like both the sound and the feel of them. I always hated synths that buried the controls in menus or forced you to map knobs or whatever — a really underrated percentage of what you get out of an instrument is not just the precise sonic reproduction of it, but what it feels like to use it.

      I don’t know whether I’d prefer this to a TT-303, but I’m willing to consider it, depending on further audio details.

    1. How So? It’s supposed to be a recreation of one of their most famous pieces of gear. It sounding different goes against the whole purpose. Why would you want this if it doesn’t sound like the gear it’s supposed to be emulating.?

  6. ACB… Analogue Circuit Bullshit

    This is VA. Nothing more.
    Roland’s version isn’t any better than any VA that has come before

  7. This is like a “PIcasso” reproduced in a low quality lithography… But many will be happy to have a Picasso like that hanging on their wall, because it is an icon, not concerning the bad quality of their lithography.

    1. Who wants a bloody lithograph … if it’s not an original oil then Picasso can keep it. Well he was only 5’3″, but girls could not resist his stare
      Pablo Picasso never got called an a55hole, Not in New York
      Not like the designers of the Roland virtual 303.

  8. As someone who has been listening to acid for 30 years and owning a 303 for 20 I always find the emulations lacking that “bite”, and especially the square wave lacking that liquid, and together with the sequencer, organic and “wonky” sound. From what I have heard so far the Tb-03 is not quite there. I am sure you can make good music with it, though.

    I don´t understand why Roland hasn´t just made an analog replica of the 303 yet. Why just make digital copies of it, when you can make the real deal?

      1. As far as i understand Roland believes in a “Digital Future”. And i believe that they don’t care about analog based music production at all. So sad.

  9. Beautifully conceived. A worthwhile new interpretation of an old classic and establshed sound world. We never reinvent or “move” on by obsessing on a paralysis of fetishes. This new variation will add enormously to my 303 and Bassbot…and thanks for the swivel 🙂

  10. I think the tb-03 at certain points can fool you into almost thinking it’s a tb-303, but it lacks the fluidity of sound that makes the tb-303 so entrancing. I am not sure what it is, maybe the filters, maybe the envelopes, or maybe just everything about it, but a real 303 in my opinion has something magic to the sound that just isn’t duplicated by emulations. I am actually partial to the sound of Venom VB-303 (latest/last version) VST to the tb-03. Venom’s not a spot-on emulation, but has a very fluid sound to it, especially for software. I agree Roland should have made an analog version of the tb-303. I feel this sound is just too iconic to skimp on.

  11. I’m not a pro or even really musical myself. I purchased the TB-03 because I’ve always wanted a real TB-303 and could not afford it. $350 USD to me was a no brainer. It sounds a little different, so what? It’s not a TB-303, it’s a TB-03. Want the real sound, get the real 303.

    That said, for someone like me who really just enjoys twiddling and making sounds, I am very happy with my purchase. Much more so then the bass unit from Korg. But I honestly would much rather use ReBirth with its 2 303’s and 808/909. That just made so much more sense to me. I struggled with the TB-03’s instructions just to get even the basic things to work. I’m not stupid, I just found it very confusing.

    I want to just tap notes and do “live” stuff recording samples and loops etc. And other times I’d just build one loop in Step Mode and play with the knobs to make it sound like I want.

    I’m not a purist like you folks, I’m just a guy who loves the acid bass sound and likes to play and dabble.

    My only complaint about the physical product is the ugly plastic “boutique” bottom part. It feels like they designed the main unit and someone said “Oh crud, we forgot to put a bottom on this, here, lets toss this plasticy thing on the bottom and put “stands” in it and sell it like it’s cool. I’d MUCH rather they made the whole thing solid, but the speaker on the bottom along with the batteries and left the silly boutique stand out. If you are using it’s internal speaker, you pretty much have to lift it up onto the stand so the speaker can sound out better. Bad design on their part in an otherwise fun product.

    1. I’m the same as you. When I was a lot younger I remember standing in my local (now long closed down) music shop gazing at the original 303, reduced to £35, wished I’d gone for it so when the TB-03 came out I jumped. I’m not really technical but I love twiddling with this and accidentally coming up with some crazy beautiful sounds. Combined with AIRA = great I’ve attached it to my DJ-808 controller and had some great fun. £350 is a small price to pay for waiting all this time so cheers Roland. PS Agreed on the weird boutique tray thing, utter bollocks.

  12. I’m very fortunate to own the Aira TB-3 and a Bassbot TT-303.

    Was interested to see the Boutique series released and considered how the TB-03 might fit in with my current set-up but I see nothing here which my two ‘clones’ don’t already manage.

    Yes you get the original layout – and if I didn’t have the TT to play with, that would definitely be a selling point – but it does seem odd that Roland have just re-trod the TB-3 path in a different box.

    I’ll ‘fess up: IMHO the Aira is quite an ugly machine (compared to this Boutique thing) but after a couple of years owning one (and almost selling it before really giving myself the chance to have a proper play) I’ve discovered it’s actually a very versatile bass unit in its own right.

    The TB-03 here looks good, and like a previous poster said it’s ‘real’ enough to be great fun. However I’ve found that just tweaking those knobs gets boring quickly (well, at least after a few weeks) especially if you write a lot of music – and the standard 303 sound on its own doesn’t offer huge scope for creativity in the first place.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is that the Aira offered new sounds (and Scatter!) which I can appreciate as Roland’s way of pushing things forward. Digitally recreating something which is highly regarded for being analogue in the first place simply seems like a vanity project, and – at the very least – just an easy way to make money.

    For the cash you’re gonna be parting with, I’d strongly recommend getting the TT-303 for ‘that’ acid sound. I’d also recommend the Aira TB-3 if you’re buying it as an actual instrument – and not just to impress all your acid-house mates at parties).

    I don’t think it’s even an option anymore to consider buying the real thing. In another 15 years most originals won’t even work, and they’re selling for almost £2,000 in some cases, which is just madness.

  13. Those comments here sound like a comparison of vacuum tube amplifier and Class-D amplifier to me 😛

    TB-03 is “OK” to me because they do music right. May be just like “KFC: we do Chicken right” to you. I’m a simple musician. That’s it!

  14. Why is everybody bitching about minor differences ,people make music with it ment to let people dance ,those people will never hear the difference between all these clones and will enjoy every last one of them ,i’ll be glad to see everyone pay thousands of dollars to own a beaten down original that could break down every moment since electronics also have a expire date ,and let them search for parts and some soul who can repair it or just buy a tb-03 witch does a fine job

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