The TB-303 is THE sound of acid and techno house music! It's a monophonic analog bass synthesizer married to a pattern-based step sequencer released in 1982. It features a single analog oscillator with two waveforms (ramp or square) and has a simple but excellent VCF (filter) with resonance, cut-off, and envelope controls. There are also knobs to adjust tuning, envelope decay, tempo and accent amount.
How does it work? Well, it's not a performance synthesizer because you have to program a pattern of notes and timing info into it (sort of like a drum machine). Patterns can then be linked into songs. It was originally made to accompany a drum machine, the TR-606 specifically, and provides bass-line accompaniment to guitarists, keyboard players, etc. It was not a successful product in its time. As a result, creative DJs and aspiring electronic musicians found them for next to no money and began using them for techno and acid music. Usually, a single pattern is continuously played while the performer tweaks the knobs creating an exciting and expressive musical event.
The TB-303 has become one of the most sought-after vintage synths ever! It has helped develop and stylize many forms of electronic music including House, Acid, Trance and Ambient. If ever there was a need for a repetitive bassline/groove or an extremely resonant and bubbly sound, the 303 is KING. Truly a unique machine with a very identifiable sound! It has spun off several imitators as well: Novation Bass Station, ReBirth, Doepfer MS-404, MAM MB-33, Syntecno TeeBee, and more (see Related & Alternative Gear sidebar).
Ironically, these days it's become trendy to dislike the 303 again, now because of over-use. But I don't and you shouldn't either because it is one-of-a-kind and it's just got that sound that everyone loves! Fatboy Slim says it best in his song "Everybody Needs A 303!"
Getting creative with the 303 always leads to great sounds! Add a guitar distortion pedal for instant hard-core acid and techno. Use the CV and Gate outputs to control other old synthesizers and get that elastic 303 groove workin' your other synths (especially cool with a polyphonic synth). It is used by: Aphex Twin, 808 State, Future Sound of London, Massive Attack, Orbital, Eat Static, Norman Cook (Fatboy Slim), Air, Astral Projection, Josh Wink, Plastikman, Überzone, Moby, Hardfloor, Ultramarine, Underworld, BT, The Prodigy, Jimmy Edgar, Union Jack, Front Line Assembly, Pet Shop Boys, Freddy Fresh, Luke Vibert, and the Chemical Brothers.
The Quicksilver 303 is a replacement CPU for the TB-303 Bass Synthesizer. With a completely rewritten operating system, all of the creative obstacles to programming amazing sequences have been removed. The experience still remains uniquely “303”.
The Quicksilver 303 CPU can be used with or without MIDI. So, you can still benefit from the new features of the CPU without drilling any holes in your TB-303!
Of course, there are also great new MIDI capabilities. MIDI control over filter cutoff, “MIDI Control mode” which allows the 303 to be “remotely controlled” from any device that can send MIDI note messages. The sequencer can send and receive MIDI notes and MIDI clock and you can also record incoming MIDI to patterns in real time.
All functions of the Quicksilver 303 are available while the sequencer is running, this includes programming patterns, changing modes and new live performance functions like “ALL ACCENT” “CHOP” and “BUMP”.
Entering new patterns is now interactive, with the capability to hear changes as the pattern plays, and the ability to move forwards and backwards to edit specific notes.
The Quicksilver 303 is equipped with USB connectivity for OS upgrades and USB MIDI. Allowing the Quicksilver 303 to be directly connected to a USB host!
Because all data is stored in internal EEPROM, batteries are no longer required to maintain memory. All internal memory can also be dumped using MIDI SysEx messages for sharing or backup.
Oscillators: 1 VCO - Sawtooth or Square waveforms. Tuning control pot.
Filter: 18dB/oct lowpass resonant filter with controls for cutoff, resonance, and envelope amount
VCA: Control pots for Decay time and Accent intensity
Sequencer: Patterns: 64; Songs: 7
Control: CV / GATE / DIN Sync
Download TB-303 Owner's Manual
Download Quicksilver 303 User Guide
Download Quicksilver 303 Mode Guide