- One of the most cloned synths of all time is the Roland TB-303, the original acid bassline synthesizer. Its unmistakable sound has been used on countless records and shows no signs of disappearing anytime soon. Although there are many substitutes, the new TT-303 Bass Bot from Cyclone Analogic has certainly captured the look of the original better than any other, creating an almost physically identical replica of the little battery-powered monster. As used prices soar above the $2,000 mark, a unit that is brand-new—with modern sequencing and MIDI capabilities—is definitely worth investigating.
Cosmetically, there are very few differences from the original. You will notice that all of the knobs and buttons are in the same place, as are the connections on the back panel. There are a few new modes on the selector switch beyond the original track and pattern play/write modes. These include an arpeggiator, MIDI and Preset, which is a powerful pattern generator. There are a few more functions underneath the black keys than before. And finally, the LEDs are under the panel and can be 13 different colors, which not only looks cool but can be very useful onstage.
Across the top panel are the same audio controls as the original. The knobs are still very small and the pots feel pretty cheap. Sound-wise, it's a faithful recreation to the TB-303. Is it identical? Every analog synth is going to have its subtle differences. Would anyone be able to hear it in the mix and spot it as a clone? Probably not. I would have liked the Bass Bot to have a bigger low end. Of course, with some EQ and other processing, a lot more is possible. I noticed that when the resonance is set very high, as the cutoff is turned up, even more bass disappears, causing the volume to dip slightly as well. If this is true to the original, I would like to have seen this part of the design rethought.
That aside, all of the beautiful, squelchy acid madness that we know and love is easily attainable with the TT-303. The unit can now be self-tuned at the press of a button, something that was formerly reserved for manual tuning or even servicing. There's a mix input in the back for external signal but it doesn't go through the filter. That would've been more useful in my opinion.
Pattern storage and creation are places where the Bass Bot excels in comparison to the TB-303. 224 user patterns far exceed the original 64. Patterns can be entered step-by-step or generated. The original 303 would create random patterns if the batteries were removed for an hour or so. The TT-303 harnesses this randomness when in Preset mode using something called InstaDJ OS. Randomly created patterns can then be copied and pasted to a user preset for further editing and modifying. There are four different “Personality Algorithms”—fluid, glitched, chaotic and triplet. As can be expected, this process was hit-or-miss but certainly very useful for some crazy bass lines. There is also an arpeggiator mode that is based on patterns already in the user presets. It's a great way to create new lines or variations on existing ones. The same goes for the Mutator, which makes seemingly random alterations to an existing pattern. Many of the pattern editing actions can be undone if you make a mistake or dislike one of the random moves. For performing, there are some useful features for live transposing by octaves or intervals, live accenting and even on-the-fly sliding. This would be great onstage or in the lab for even more ways of varying patterns.
All patterns and MIDI beat clock can be sent out of the MIDI output using an interesting Y cable that's included with the unit to play other synths, a very welcome addition. This includes accent and slides, or tied notes. Also, using MIDI out, user patterns can be backed up. External sequencers can either send MIDI beat clock to the unit or simply play the unit as a standalone module with MIDI notes. Again, these features make the TT-303 seem like a better investment that the original TB-303, which only had proprietary DIN-sync. If you want DIN-sync for connecting to something like an 808, you'll need a MIDI to DIN converter.
All things considered, you'd have to be a real purist to spend about three times as much on an original TB-303 when the Bass Bot TT-303 looks the same, sounds very similar and adds a ton of sequencing and MIDI functions. Whether or not the build quality will stand the test of time like the original remains to be seen, but at this price, it should definitely be a top consideration for anyone wanting some acid in their setup.
Ease of use: 4/5