Roland TB-3
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Roland TB-3

TB-3, Analog Modeling Synth from Roland in the AIRA series.

BulletZ 06/28/2014

Roland TB-3 : BulletZ's user review

« It sounds all right, but offers limited possibilities »
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It's more of a sampler than a real synth: No preset can be edited: You have to do with the sounds conceived by Roland, with the only possibility to play with the filter and the effects. No tuning, no decay(!), and I won't mention other well-known mods of the TB-303. Which is quite a pity. The manufacturing quality seems pretty good., the unit is heavy and gives the impression of sturdiness that you expect from a Roland.

UTILIZATION

The fact that the audio interface is built in (like on the AIRA series) is an undeniable advantage. Unfortunately, it's not class-compliant and you have to install the Roland driver (which isn't a good sign, because it implies that it will become obsolete), and every AIRA device requires its own driver: Not cool. The manual is reduced to its most simple expression and gives a cheap impression, considering the price of the unit and the Roland tradition. The learning curve is very short (the limitations of the product do have a reason to be), the programming of the sequencer (be it live or step-by-step) is very intuitive once you understand how the ties and rests work.

SOUNDS

The presets are nice, but I would really like to be able to edit and save them. The immediate impact of the position of the controls on the sound of the presets can prove to be frustrating. That said, if the presets are right for you, the sound is very good. It's really hard to distinguish between the TB-3 and the TB-303 with the classic saw and square waveforms, the modeling is almost perfect.

OVERALL OPINION

If you are hesitating between this model and a clone of the TB-303, you're asking yourself the wrong question. The TB-3 is capable of reproducing the classic TB-303 sounds, without a doubt. It is also capable of many other exploits, but the similarity ends there.

The biggest drawback of this product is the impossibility to edit presets. You have to make do with what Mr. Roland decided to offer, you can only change the patterns and play with the modulation controls on the fly (cutoff, resonance, accent, and effect, plus the touchpad's X-Y mode ). No parameter locking (neither in step-by-step nor per preset: This means that the position of the controls immediately influences the preset that you load). It's very intuitive, which is a good thing given the poor documentation.

Some of these problems could be addressed later if Roland offers a firmware update some day or, even better, a software editor for the TB-303 (and when that day comes I will update my review). But right now there's nothing on the horizon. That said, what a sound it has! It really kicks ass! But it's no replace for a TB-303. It's different, a complement.