MATRIXSYNTH: TB-303 Clone Contest

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

TB-303 Clone Contest

Via Ben of mus-ok.
"I read the post about the Acidlab Bassline Impressions and remembered this site which has audio and spec comparisons of:

Roland 303
Syntecno TeeBee Mark III
Future Retro Revolution
MAM MB 33 mkII
Acidlab Bassline
Future Retro 777
ML-303 v3.0 Acidcode
AS TB-X TB-303
Oakley TM3030

All the synths are playing the same line. Its pretty amazing how different they all sound. Not sure if thats a bad thing though..."

Title link takes you there. Thanks Ben!

Side note: the xoxbox is also listed as the Adafruit xoxbox. I know lady ada makes it, but I think this is the first time I heard of it with an Adafrut brand.


  1. I like the Future Retro
    Revolution sound the best.

  2. well, no dx7 can win on this one, ok

  3. i'm ladyada & the company under which i sell kits is adafruit :)

  4. Was going to say that the only one I like (besides the original) would be the Future Retro Revolution, but seems I was not the first one, haha. And well, I don't care if they sound like TB-303, it's just that the original (and the revolution) please my ears the most.

    Well, the rest seem to lack the character of TB with all the subtle dynamics especially with slides and accents, or even more commonly the soft, breathy resonance of the filter.. or both. There was a time (not long ago) that I'd claimed people would be crazy to say so, but with the comparison it's rather easy to hear.

    Would especially love to know what it is that makes TB filter "breath" with high resonance as it does... obviously it's something pretty obscure as it's not cloned by them all...

    Bah, too bad xox isn't there to hear yet..

  5. Mystran ... check this from the AH list: Colin Fraser's explanation why the original 303 sounds like a 303

    > - -- begin quote --
    > Are the 2SK30 FETs that important to the TB303(0) sound?
    > Yes. The one in the VCO affects the mark-space ratio of the
    > square wave
    > output. This is why some clones don't sound like the
    > little silver box.
    > - -- end quote --
    > All though that's referring to the square wave, it still
    > shows that VCOs
    > do matter when it comes to sound. But as you stated before the filter
    > is the primary element, everything else plays much less of a role.

    The saw wave is affected too - the 2SK30 FET source follower buffer
    introduces a positive offset at its output that causes the top of the saw
    wave to be clipped.
    This affects both the saw and square waves.
    The offset is dependent on the characteristics of the FET, which is why a
    selected FET must be used to ensure the right degree of clipping.
    When time allows, I'm going to look at an alternative way of getting the
    same end result without using the selected FET.

    Colin f

  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

  7. Wonderful, thanks for the info. Really good stuff.

    I actually thought there's some DC offsets in 303, as I've been playing with those with DSP. Especially with saws you offset one way and you get a "muddy" sound, offset another way and you get a "nasal" sound.. 303 being an example of the latter. Squares? Don't know about those..

    I still suspect there's something else going on as well, because clipping alone doesn't really explain it's dynamic character, thought I guess I'll have to find the schematics now and figure out what exactly does that quote refer to. :)

    Anyway, thanks again..

    (ps. removed original reply due to nasty typo.. essentially same contents)

  8. What I would like to hear is whether the same pattern sounds different on individual TB-303s, which I'm betting it would. Let's not forget, these synths are well over 20 years old and chances are, they're not going to sound the same now as when they were brand new. We're comparing brand new clones to a vintage original, and I don't think it's quite a fair comparison.

    That said, I think they all sound "close enough" and would definitely be passable in a mix.

    I own a x0xb0x myself (#117) and I'm building another for someone else. I can't say for sure it's the best-sounding clone, but it sounds pretty darn good to me, it's really easy to use and has lots of great features the original didn't have, and that's all that matters to me =)

  9. Ooh, also...I'd be very interested in a *blind* comparison to see if people could pick out the "real" TB-303 from the clones. I'll bet the guesses would be all over the place.

  10. They all sound pretty good, but the FR Revolution does sound the closest. I, too, would like to see the XOX lined up on this page.

  11. Hmmm. I'll have to give a listen on some proper headphones when I get home.

    I've got a syntecno teebee mkIII/mobius combo--so I know what I'm pulling for...

  12. I know its fun to dork out on this kind of stuff but the question is, could you tell the difference in a track? Or even know if its a soft synth or analog? Does it really matter?

  13. I believe some famous artists like Luke Vibert used Rebirth on some tracks and nobody ever suspected the difference.


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