SO, IT HAS BEEN A LONG WHILE SINCE I WROTE HERE NOW and this isn’t exactly any breaking news either. I was just going to post a photo of my new TB-303 clone. I used to have the TB-3 from Roland but I sold that one and now I have a so called x0xb0x. Yes, it is spelled with zero’s because of historic reasons. The TB-303 was just one piece of machine in a series that included the SH-101, MC-202, TB-303, TR-505, TR-606, TR-707, TR-808 and TR-909 and to make it easy to refer to the series it has been called the x0x series where x= the numbers of the machiners depending on which one you refer to, but when you speak of the entire series you called it x0x-series. My new toy (Mabye now you understand the name better) is named TB-x0x and is called a x0x box, really, thus its name x0xb0x.
So what does it do then? Well it makes funny sounds like no other in the world. The TB-303 was originally manufactured and released on the market for a cost of about $55-$85 (somewhere around 500-800 Swedish Kronor back then) between 1982 and 1984 and only a limited amount was produced. TB-303 is subtitled “Bass Line” and TB itself stands for “The Bass” (Just like SH=Synthesizer, MC=Music Composer, TR=The Rythm) so its original intention was to be used by bands that didn’t have any bass player and so they programmed the bass machine instead. It can really sound like a bass but it can also sound so much more! It makes a kind of naturally distorted sound due to its analogue circuitry inside. Somewhere around the end of the 1980’s someone turned the knobs completely different than what was intended and some also added a distortion guitar pedal to enhance and distort the sound and the result was extreme to say the least. Soon after this the TB-303 sound exploded worldwide in an underground scene called Rave as you’ve all heard of. So called Warehouse Parties and Rave Parties were arranged and the artists or the DJ himself usually did a live jamming session during the party’s timeline between the techno vinyls that were rolling on techniques 1210 Vinyl Players and they mixed the TB-303 with with other x0x-machines – most notoriously the TR-808 and TR-909 (which are drum machines) and mostly only a drum machine and a TB-303 were used and that was to be called Acid. It was alsoo extensively used in genres like Trance, Acid-Trance, Goa-Trance and more. So I don’t know if anybody really knows WHO first tweaked the knobs on the TB-303 so that it came to its extreme and most characteristically sound that immidiately is recognized by the ear as “that” sound. People in general and who went to the parties didn’t all know what technique was behind the music but they all sure as hell knew and recognized and completely totally loved the sound of the TB-303. It is a legendary amongst the analogue machines from back then.
So, somewhere around 1990 the world was about to get ready for Rave and its notorious underground scene that moved along like fire over the entire earth in very short time. It became the “star” of the show, the wizard of weird sounds, the king of kings in the extreme techno-scene. Many of you out there may think you have never heard it or don’t know jack shit about what I am talking about and that may be so but I am sure that when a TB-303 is running several will definitely recognize the sound as “that” sound and think “Aha… so that is what he is talking about. I’ve heard it before.” This doesn’t matter whatsoever, though. I just wanted to explain the history behind the legendary 303 to be able to explain what a x0xb0x is. Now, when this explosion hit the world every musician who dealt with electronic music was immidiately blown away and simply just needed a TB-303 for themselves to do cool things with. It was a must. Just as they needed the TR-808 and/or the TR-909. The problem began to show when it was recognized that the production of these machines ended back in the mid 80’s and Roland was not producung them anymore nor performing any service maintenance on the machines in case you had one that broke down or needed parts. But the biggest problem was that there wasn’t nearly enough x0x-machines produced as there were people wanting it all around the globe. So it fastly became a fiercly hysterical chase for the x0x-machines. This also meant that the price of ~$70 multiplied itself enormously and today, if you even find a TB-303 you will have to be prepared to pay at least ~$1500, which is unusual for a fine piece of machine, and very often up to ~$3000!! It is still completely madness around these machines.
Now you understand that there is a huge demand for these machines and since there aren’t nearly enough the amount of original machines, several companies have tried to recerse engineer the circuitry and make clones that sounds as like the original as possible, but the sound is so extremely characteristic that it has been nearly impossible to succeed. Roland themselves – who created the original x0x-series – have tried to remake their pearl of pearls but the technique has moved forward so extremely and far away from the old analogue circuitry towards digital circuitry, which was starting already in the end of the 80’s, so the technique has change too much and the original parts that was created to produce the 303 are since long gone from the manufacturing tables. This means that they have to create new circuitry parts and thus todays clones are digital in dircuitry but the original was analogue – two completely different technologies – so to cut it a bit short, all the clones have been made with digital circuitry but they have tried to emulate the analogue stuff but the result has been so-so. And the customers are very demanding and extremely fastidious when it comes to what they accept and will spend their money on. To buy an original TB-303 is more or less just unthinkable to most of us. Even if you are rich you have to find one and as I wrote before the amount of produced machines was far too small to satisfy todays demand because there are sooo many people that knows about this and that wants a TB-303 or at least a good clone, so there has been a wealth of clones on the market for the past five years when a renewed explosion took place since almost every teenage boy with a computer is tinkering with music softwares making music in some kind of way so we are talking tens of millions of people wanting this little piece of “silver box” (see picture)
Roland, who created the original instrument that accidentally came to change the world of electronic music forever, recently released some two new clones – one is called TB-03 Boutique and the other is called AIRA TB-3. The boutique-version is all knobs and keys but the TB-3 has a touch pad which you use during you play along with some other controls that will affect the sound. They are pretty much alike but those who has the ears for it will immidiately hear that this is a clone. Another kind of clone is the software clone which there are many kinds of and that exists in the form af application plug-ins and that generates a 303-like sound. Some are very good but most are bad enough. BUT… then a shadowy person, a woman, called LadyAda on the Internet and who created the Adafruit Industries while she and her collegues at one if the worlds finest universities reverse engineered a Roland TB-303 and used the parts inside it and scanned the market for parts that is still in existence and that was a part of the TB-303 and then they build a case in which they integrated their circuitry and thus the so called x0xb0x was born into a world of greedy electronic musicians that couldn’t easily be satisfied – and I am one among them. The result turned out to be satisfactory to most ears and soon became almost as known as the original, at least it is known to be probably the best amongst the clones. They built one but they didn’t start to produce these machines, instead they made a DIY kit for people so they could find the circuitry needed from different places where you could get as many original parts as possible or else exchange with others that are “accepted” but not as good as the original parts, of course. There are a few builders in the world that are building for people to buy and one of these are the x0xsh0p.de and that is where I bought my new x0xb0x by a builder called Andreas Fischer. I must say the result is amazing and my friend who owns an actual TB-303 says that it is very 303-like. Judge for yourselves – just search the youtube.com on the subject if you are interested of it where you can find many comparisons of different clones complared to the original machine.
There. Now you know the history of the TB-303 and that of the x0xb0x as well :)