Most people who are interested in Electronica of any kind know what a Roland TB303 is. It’s the funny little silver box that Roland released in the 80s to provide bass accompaniment to buskers and cabaret performers. Famously it wasn’t very good at that, and the unit languished in obscurity, until the Acid house scene of the late 80s started to use 303s to create burbling, bending basslines and leadlines. It is said that the unique properties of the 303 sound are attributable to a few different factors – its unusual 18db Lowpass ﬁlter ( which was apparently meant to be 24db, but the componentry used was too cheap to achieve that slope), its implementation of portamento and sliding notes, its accent system and lastly, its quirky sequencer.
THE DEVILFISH MODIFICATION
About 15 years ago, a guy in Australia called Robin Whittle from Real World Interfaces started to modify the 303. He discovered that a good number of enhancements and additions could be made to Rolands circuitry.
From a users perspective, the most noticeable and exciting thing is the addition of 7 new knobs to the front panel. Separate controls for the accent decay, the slide time, ﬁlter overdrive, ﬁlter FM and ﬁlter tracking immediately open up the 303 into a more controllable machine and add new dimensions to its sound. 2 red Trigger buttons and a variety of toggle switches enable extra control of the accent and the patterns, triggering extra hits or sending the sequencer into loops within loops. The modiﬁcations made by Whittle are not minor, they are almost like adding another 50% of synth to the TB-303. If you do happen to own a 303, we would thoroughly recommend sending it to Australia to have the work done, it’ll breathe new life into an already classic instrument.
Recreating the sound of a 303 with samples is not easy, never mind a Devilﬁsh. We sampled the basic sawtooth and Square wave, completely straight, then with a small amount of overdrive, then with a touch of FM and overdrive. Then we sampled many different variations of the accent, as this is where the Devilﬁsh has it’s biggest effect. In the Soniccouture Devilfish you can choose from 9 different accents for both square and sawtooth waves. There are zaps, crunches, short accents long accents, and some really aggressive stuff. The Kontakt instrument allows you to program accents above a certain velocity point, as with the original unit.