Mike Propst Blog

New device: Behringer TD-3

It's pretty safe to call Behringer "much-maligned." Obviously they have a tendency to do the cheap imitation version of gear, and Uli seems like kind of a dick. But rather than Mackie mixers or random pedals, they've set their sights in the past decade on the unobtanium of electronic music stuff. The Minimoog, the ARP 2600, the 808. And one of the recent ones is the Roland TB-303.

I picked one up on Reverb for under $100 shipped, so it's kind of hard to say no. It goes well with my other small, cheap desktop modules like the Volca series and Arturia Microbrute. It is, however, a bit flimsier feeling than the others. But I've been assured by some owners of the original that it was also a plastic box that you wouldn't want to drop from too far up.

Sounds

So how does it sound? There are plenty of YouTube videos at this point, but more than any other piece of synth gear I have, it does One Thing. It does that thing right, though. There are two wave shapes, the saw and square, and simplistic filter controls that were meant for guitarists rather than subtractive synth experts to work. The TB-3 adds a nice distortion option that the 303 lacked, and it really helps the bass cut through a thicker mix. I almost never turn it off, especially on the square wave shape. There's also a little patch bay at the top that lets you do some very basic CV controls. I could probably sync the filter to the kick pattern of the Volca Beats or send gate info to the Microbrute arpeggiator, but I have yet to play with it.

Sequences

The one thing that I almost wish wasn't so authentic is the sequencer. It works by programming notes, then by going back and programming all their lengths, including rests and holds. You really have to plan out your patterns in advance before starting to punch buttons. Fortunately, you can switch the thing into pitch mode and send it notes from somewhere else, like Ableton Live or my Alesis MMT-8 sequencer.

Summary

Those folks who automatically won't buy Behringer aside (I get you), the TB-3 isn't a device for everyone. It only does one thing, and chances are it'll makes you think of acid house as soon as it starts playing. But if you need bass in your setup, you could do a lot worse than around a hundred bucks for something that can shake the floor.