The classic monosynth. Anything sounds like this. There are a lot of clones trying to imitate its sound, but they are just different. The reason?? Well, it’s complicated to say, but there are some key points in my opinion:
Its distinctive analog step sequencer, the original calibration by Roland engineers, some components that they are not in stock again, the use and abuse of these machines since more 30 years ago with the obvious wear of its VCF (filter) and VCO (oscillator), etc.
Then, just as other companies, -like Korg with the MS-20-, Roland used for this synth some cheap components that they offer this peculiar character.
Currently, you can use it with its internal sequencer through some din sync – midi sync adapter (Doepfer, Kenton, Innerclock, etc) or through midi if yours has been modified.
If you decide to midify your 303, in my opinion, there are three great options:
–MIDIBass 303 Mark II: Usually, when you midify some analog synth, you are expecting exactly the same sound, but that’s not really easy because after all, it’s an emulation. Then, one of the main goals should be reaching a good emulation as much as possible. In this particular case, I can say openly that it gets its objective without problems. This mod has been made by Colin Fraser, the man behind the Cirklon Sequencer.
Kenton kit: Other good emulation with a great prize. With this mod you will need some CV-Midi converter.
–Quicksilver 303: You don’t feel comfortable with the original analog sequencer? This mod could be perfect for you in this case. It modifies its original CPU for other based in Arduino, so one of its strengths is the direct control and new functionalities of the sequencer.
Even, if you desire, you could control it with a midi keyboard, Ipad or whatever you want. In my opinion, it’s a good option but the emulation has not as good as like the Midibass 303, besides the 303 switches hasn’t been made for an intensive use, so, in this case, could be a great option some clone.
I have to say that there are different versions modifying some component, so, for all these reasons, every 303 sounds different. The major part of clones are trying to replicate the latest rev of this (Rev D).
There are as well some strongest 303 modifications, such as Devilfish, but that doesn’t like “ok, if I modify my 303 with that, I will have more knobs and synthesis possibilities, so more ways of expression and fun”. Not exactly.
First, you will have to send it to Australia paying an elevated cost, waiting some months, and then you will have to pay taxes as well.
After that, when you receive your machine you will appreciate that the original acid sound of your 303 will be a bit different… Besides, with the latest versions of devilfish, they change the original box by their own, so, that’s not cool!
So, for all these reasons, my recommendation is try to find one close to home and listen how it sounds and if it works well. A good 303 can be a great thing, but there are a lot of units with a poor sound, so you need to be sure what are you buying.
Then, take into consideration that every modification brings pros and cons, and the acid sound without midi (through dynsinc) is unbeatable, so think about it well 🙂
When you got an original “bassline”, if you want to have new sonic possibilities, a good idea would be using a modular with this one.