the ol 303 or a x0x question...
Old 4th July 2013
  #1
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the ol 303 or a x0x question...

Hi guys.. I've been wanting a 303 for years but am in the same boat as most and can't justify spending all that money.

I've been seriously looking into clones recently and haven't really had any joy. I bought a mode machines x0x rack which didn't make the sound I was after so I'm back on the hunt.

I think the solution is maybe for me to understand what it is in the 303 that is making it sound like it does. Therefore a x0x kit may be the way forward.

I have seen various posts where people talk about different transistors doing different things and I wondered if anybody on here knows if there is a transistor in particular or even a clone I haven't come across that makes the noise found in this vid.

TB-303 Acid Odyssey - YouTube

about 3 mins in is where it starts sounding only like I've hear a 303 sound. I haven't heard a clone that can do this? Noting the resonance sounding clean and not to out of control.

Am I wasting my time with clones and should I just bite the bullet if I want 'that' sound?

Any help would be appreciated!!
Old 4th July 2013
  #2
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I have 3 303's and all sound different. There are internal trim pots that alter resonance (a lot!) and calibration, this changes over time or are adjusted to taste.

To make a x0xbox sound like a 303 you need high hfe transistors somewhere and you need to do something to the power supply. Details are in the x0xbox forum. If you have done that it would be very difficult to pick the x0xbox out of lots of real 303's. But there are always people insisting only a 303 sounds like a 303.
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Old 4th July 2013
  #3
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Originally Posted by mainesthai View Post
I have 3 303's and all sound different. There are internal trim pots that alter resonance (a lot!) and calibration, this changes over time or are adjusted to taste.

To make a x0xbox sound like a 303 you need high hfe transistors somewhere and you need to do something to the power supply. Details are in the x0xbox forum. If you have done that it would be very difficult to pick the x0xbox out of lots of real 303's. But there are always people insisting only a 303 sounds like a 303.
3 303's?... dribble Thanks for the reply. What x0xbox forum is this?
Old 4th July 2013
  #5
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Originally Posted by default_network View Post
Hi guys.. I've been wanting a 303 for years but am in the same boat as most and can't justify spending all that money.
I wanted a Minimoog and I couldn't justify spending the money either, but after testing plugins (Minimonsta - this was before Diva), buying an SE1x (really cool but not the real thing) and a Voyager (really cool but also not the real thing) I ended up buying one anyway. Yes, it hurt my wallet; but every time I play it I know why I did it.

Quote:
I think the solution is maybe for me to understand what it is in the 303 that is making it sound like it does. Therefore a x0x kit may be the way forward.
I think that if the clone builders knew exactly what did the trick, they would've offered it already.

Quote:
Am I wasting my time with clones and should I just bite the bullet if I want 'that' sound?
Afraid so. Look on the bright side: it's not likely that they're going to drop in value anymore unless someone -really- starts rebuilding it from scratch in a completely identical way. So - if you don't get that reminder of why you spent such an unholy amount for a cheap plastic silver box, sell it and you won't have lost anything.
Old 4th July 2013
  #6
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Here's a better description of the things you have to do to make the x0xbox sound like a 303:
x0xb0x
Old 4th July 2013
  #7
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I think nothing compares to a real 303.

A well built and adjusted xox comes really close, but there are some certain things like accents, slides (particularly those which go down deep) which no plugin or HW clone could ever copy 100% alike. At least no one I've ever heard. And I have heard loooooooots of clones.

So if you are behind the REAL sound, I think there is no way around it. Get a real 303.
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Old 4th July 2013
  #8
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Thanks for the responses...

I think Yoozer is right I'll always be looking for the real thing.

Thanks for the links also. I might give buliding one a bash just for fun while I save up the best part of 1k!
Old 9th July 2013
  #9
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just an update - I couldn't help myself so I hit ebay and got myself a real tb303. My savings have vanished but there is something about the square wave that touches places other square waves don't!

The argument I heard so much was that the clones sound really close.

My Mum was telling me the same thing for years about Sainsburys Cola. Nothing tastes like a Coke.

I can only vouch for the x0x rack but if you're in love with the 303 sound don't bother with it.

Thanks for the push in the right direction.
Old 9th July 2013
  #10
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I'm in love with the 303 sound and love my x0xb0x. Andy Pledger built mine if that's worth anything. I can't justify (or even afford a TB-303). The x0x comes close but it's not 100% there. Still I love it and use in every track I make.
Old 10th July 2013
  #11
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my second TB-303 (after a loooooong hiatus without one) just got here last week,
and it's even better than i remember. this is due to having no clones back then, and my prior 303 was somewhat abused before i got it, and my whole rig sounded worse anyway. i had to sell the 1st during the throes of starving-artistdom in '01.
this 'new' one is CHERRY, though, and it just sounds a lot smoother, more hifi/rounded and 'more together' all-around than my 2 adafruit x0xb0xs. the note hits solid every time, yet is still some how more liquid. of course the x0xb0xs are a hell of a lot closer than the 2 FR acid boxes which i've also had/have.

so - i concur with your decision!
there's nothing to lose but the initial outlay. i know i could flip mine for a small profit but....eh yeah. original 303 all the way in sound

this is not to diminish the x0x - mine'r not going anywhere!! - they are fantastic value, so cool to customize and a lot 'easier' to program and jamprovise with than a 303
Old 10th July 2013
  #12
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to the OP: the sound at ~3 minutes in that clip is just a result of what i'd call a funky pattern (yes, i've watched that video many times and i've reproduced the pattern) plus high accent and zero decay, that's where the accent sounds like "wowowow"

the MM "x0x rack" thing is NOT a x0xb0x, please don't confuse it with a x0xb0x

mainesthai: there are no trimpots that set the resonance, there are trimpots that set the tuning, 5.333V, and cutoff offset
Quote:
To make a x0xbox sound like a 303 you need high hfe transistors somewhere and you need to do something to the power supply.
no, 303s were not built with selected highest hFE transistors, they were built with <whatever> hFE transistors there were, with 5% resistors, and cheapest everything more or less
that's why there are those trimpots, to compensate in those places where the tolerance becomes an issue
and, please stop with this magical power supply voodoo, that's nonsense (or prove it's not)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Yoozer
I think that if the clone builders knew exactly what did the trick, they would've offered it already.
there's no trick, you need the same circuit or one which works more or less the same way where it matters
the x0xb0x does that, its analog section is almost identical (works identically)
the whole issue is elsewhere:
each 303 is a little off, because of component tolerance, age, servicing (even modifications) and so on
so, to define "what a 303 sounds like" is impossible
and no matter how "off" one 303 may be from another - there's not even a question whether they sound like 303s or not.. OF COURSE they do, they are THE originals, right?
now, put one of the clones on the table next to one of those 303s - it might just sound identical to it, then put it next to the other one - totally different
the chance that you get your clone to sound just like the TB-303 you (or your friend) own is very small, and because it's not THE original - it's always in an unfair position, even if there is a TB-303 somewhere on this planet, which sounds just like it

enough about the sound
the TB-303 is not some brainless sound module
the main point in spending all that money to buy the real thing is because of the sequencer
and if you don't understand this - just save your money IMO
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Old 10th July 2013
  #13
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a x0xb0x is a 303, except for the enclosure and interface..
it just needs the right sequencer, and someone is working on this

but i have the feeling many people don't understand that aspect of it
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Old 10th July 2013
  #14
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the high-hfe transistor thing isn't a myth, it's that today's substitute for the original transistor has a lower beta on average than the original parts. so you have to specially select the new parts to get as similar as possible to just-any-old original parts.

i've built some x0xb0xen in my day
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Old 10th July 2013
  #15
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Only 1 303
Old 11th July 2013
  #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by antto View Post
to the OP: the sound at ~3 minutes in that clip is just a result of what i'd call a funky pattern (yes, i've watched that video many times and i've reproduced the pattern) plus high accent and zero decay, that's where the accent sounds like "wowowow"
Any chance you could post the pattern? I love this clip...

One thing I have learned about the 303 that I never knew was how much the time mode played a part.

I just thought there were accents and slides.

Is this the part of the sequencer you are talking about?

I'm still keen to build a x0x. They look like fun and it will be good practise with teh soldering iron!
Old 11th July 2013
  #17
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Originally Posted by default_network View Post

I'm still keen to build a x0x. They look like fun and it will be good practise with teh soldering iron!
It's not very fun. Especially following the ladyada instructions and test procedures.

Start with Paia or a Shruti; something smaller. If you decide to say Fk it and do buy a X0X kit, at least make sure to have the USB pre-soldered. If you are new to soldering, chances are you will fail at the USB chip.

Also, although Mainesthai linked to it, it may warrant quoting Ladyada who says that according to "the German" who helped design the x0xb0x:

"the more pronounced resonance of the 303 is due to the high gains on the pnp transistors in the vcf. we couldnt get the exact 'binned' parts so the gains may not be as high as the original. the 2sa733p has a beta (gain) which ranges from 270 to 310 or so whereas the 2sa733ap has a beta from 300 to 350 or something of that nature. (the original used 2sa733ap's whereas we use 2sa733p's) ...so if they check the betas they can place them at the right place. id start with q10 then q9 and if there is one good one left the vco could use one at q8"
also
"the warble in the resonance is due to powerline fluctuations since the synth is run off of an op amp as a power supply. it has troubles at high current draw. also there are tons of low pass filters on the supply that cause droops when large power surges occur. r95 and c28 for example. at any rate, the power supply we built was a bit stiffer than the original. this stiffness can be taken away by increasing the resistance of 100ohm resistor that feeds the opamp. i havent verified this but im pretty sure it would give more warble as the op amp would saturate sooner at higher currents also the bypass cap at that point could be decreased"
Old 11th July 2013
  #18
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i feel you need to just find a way to get one, they are not going down in price and i doubt any clone will satiate your 303 thirst
Old 11th July 2013
  #19
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Originally Posted by was silents View Post
It's not very fun. Especially following the ladyada instructions and test procedures.

Start with Paia or a Shruti; something smaller. If you decide to say Fk it and do buy a X0X kit, at least make sure to have the USB pre-soldered. If you are new to soldering, chances are you will fail at the USB chip.

Also, although Mainesthai linked to it, it may warrant quoting Ladyada who says that according to "the German" who helped design the x0xb0x:

"the more pronounced resonance of the 303 is due to the high gains on the pnp transistors in the vcf. we couldnt get the exact 'binned' parts so the gains may not be as high as the original. the 2sa733p has a beta (gain) which ranges from 270 to 310 or so whereas the 2sa733ap has a beta from 300 to 350 or something of that nature. (the original used 2sa733ap's whereas we use 2sa733p's) ...so if they check the betas they can place them at the right place. id start with q10 then q9 and if there is one good one left the vco could use one at q8"
also
"the warble in the resonance is due to powerline fluctuations since the synth is run off of an op amp as a power supply. it has troubles at high current draw. also there are tons of low pass filters on the supply that cause droops when large power surges occur. r95 and c28 for example. at any rate, the power supply we built was a bit stiffer than the original. this stiffness can be taken away by increasing the resistance of 100ohm resistor that feeds the opamp. i havent verified this but im pretty sure it would give more warble as the op amp would saturate sooner at higher currents also the bypass cap at that point could be decreased"
Did you struggle making the x0x?
Old 12th July 2013
  #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by antto View Post
a x0xb0x is a 303, except for the enclosure and interface..
it just needs the right sequencer, and someone is working on this

but i have the feeling many people don't understand that aspect of it
Yeah man, following your n0nx0x2 development. Great work!
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Old 12th July 2013
  #21
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Originally Posted by default_network View Post
Did you struggle making the x0x?
No, but I've built, circuit bent and diagnosed/fixed many synths including the Paia modular. It's just a tedious job and the instructions are not the easiest (not terrible either). The USB chip is surface mount and requires some very careful and precise work. Also, you do not want to irrevocably screw up the kit half way through (burning through traces/lugs or blowing something up with a polarity reversal, for example). Too expensive and time consuming. It might turn you off to DIY forever.

Others may disagree, but I do not think it makes for an optimal introduction to DIY gear.

Just my free advice...and you get what you pay for.

Oh, by the way, if you like effect boxes, the BYOC pedals are pretty great too and make better beginner projects.
Old 12th July 2013
  #22
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Originally Posted by default_network View Post
Any chance you could post the pattern? I love this clip...

One thing I have learned about the 303 that I never knew was how much the time mode played a part.

I just thought there were accents and slides.

this is in 303 notation

while surely the separation of time and pitch data is a very overlooked aspect of the 303 sequencer, the patterns are phunky for another reason
it's the whole pattern editing interface, it's not TimeMode alone
the sequencer is lossy, it forces identical slid notes to become just "tied" which itself reduces the number of notes in the pattern
the interface also encourages you to write notes instead of just stepping thru them
to put it more simply
on a clone-style sequencer, you usually step-thru an array of "steps" which have all of the data (the note, gate, accent/slide) all at the same time
on the 303 sequencer the duration of notes and their location is in TimeMode, so when you go to edit your actual notes (in PitchMode) you have much less data to work with, and there's auto-advance when writing notes, and there are no "duplicate" slid notes (because they get optimized-out)
these might be subtle differences in the interface, but they have a big impact on the workflow and thus the patterns tend to have a different "flavour" on avarage between a clone-style sequencer and the 303 seq.
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Old 12th July 2013
  #23
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Is there a web page for your nonxox2 project? The only thing google led me to was an old Adafruit thread that is now malware-infected :-(
Old 12th July 2013
  #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by was silents View Post
No, but I've built, circuit bent and diagnosed/fixed many synths including the Paia modular. It's just a tedious job and the instructions are not the easiest (not terrible either). The USB chip is surface mount and requires some very careful and precise work. Also, you do not want to irrevocably screw up the kit half way through (burning through traces/lugs or blowing something up with a polarity reversal, for example). Too expensive and time consuming. It might turn you off to DIY forever.

Others may disagree, but I do not think it makes for an optimal introduction to DIY gear.

Just my free advice...and you get what you pay for.

Oh, by the way, if you like effect boxes, the BYOC pedals are pretty great too and make better beginner projects.
I hear what your saying. Thanks. I do some soldering within my job and I am used to using multimeters so I am not completely new to it but I certainly am in terms of circuit boards.

What your saying makes perfect sense.

I will look into the BYOC bits... I'd love to a make a DIY delay pedal if there were such a thing!
Old 12th July 2013
  #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by antto View Post

this is in 303 notation

while surely the separation of time and pitch data is a very overlooked aspect of the 303 sequencer, the patterns are phunky for another reason
it's the whole pattern editing interface, it's not TimeMode alone
the sequencer is lossy, it forces identical slid notes to become just "tied" which itself reduces the number of notes in the pattern
the interface also encourages you to write notes instead of just stepping thru them
to put it more simply
on a clone-style sequencer, you usually step-thru an array of "steps" which have all of the data (the note, gate, accent/slide) all at the same time
on the 303 sequencer the duration of notes and their location is in TimeMode, so when you go to edit your actual notes (in PitchMode) you have much less data to work with, and there's auto-advance when writing notes, and there are no "duplicate" slid notes (because they get optimized-out)
these might be subtle differences in the interface, but they have a big impact on the workflow and thus the patterns tend to have a different "flavour" on avarage between a clone-style sequencer and the 303 seq.
Thanks.. Can't wait to get this going round. Does the bloke who done that vid post on these sites?
Old 12th July 2013
  #26
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Originally Posted by anigbrowl View Post
Is there a web page for your nonxox2 project? The only thing google led me to was an old Adafruit thread that is now malware-infected :-(
n0nx0x2
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Old 12th July 2013
  #27
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Old 12th July 2013
  #28
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Old 12th July 2013
  #29
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^^ freakin' nice, Nectarios. You're really on a roll these days with the new productions.
And there really is a reason that the little 303 (and its clones) inspires such devotion.
That sound just... works.
Old 12th July 2013
  #30
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Cheers!
The layer sub bass that falls in the gaps of the 303 is the Minitaur
And some old school sci-fi FX there from the Slim Phatty going into the Moog MF-102, recorded twice for stereo.

Having simple and limited synths goes a long way when writing music. Love them.
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