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Devil Fish modifications for the Roland TB-303
Photos, pricing and shipping information, links to other sites etc.
Devil-Fish-Manual.pdf
Devil Fish User Manual.
DF-MIDI-In-Manual.pdf
Manual for the MIDI In System V1.0.4.
DF-MIDI-In-Out-Manual.pdf
Manual for the MIDI In and Out System with Dynamic Bank and/or Channel Switching.  New!
DF-MIDI-In-1.0.3-Manual.pdf
Manual for the MIDI In System V1.0.0 to V1.0.3.  This includes descriptions of and workarounds for two recently discovered bugs: MIDI In notes are played 1 semitone higher than they should be and invalid data may be written to the non-volatile memory which stores the settings for the MIDI In system.
DF-32-Bank-Mem-Manual.pdf
Manual for the 32 Bank Memory System.
DF-32-Bank-Mem-DBS-Manual.pdf Manual for the 32 Bank Memory System with Dynamic Bank Switching (DBS) or Dynamic Bank/Channel Switching (DBCS, with the MIDI In and Out system). 
midi-options/ Three approaches for Devil Fish MIDI In and Out.  This covers the Devil Fish MIDI In system, the Devil Fish MIDI In and Out system, the Sequentix MIDIBass 303 MIDI In and Out system and the Quicksilver 303 MIDI In and Out CPU replacement system.  This is not yet updated for the latest details of the MIDI In and Out system with Dynamic Bank/Channel Switching.
sounds/ Sound samples. 
photos/
Photos of Devil Fishes.
videos/ Videos of Devil Fishes in action.
prices-au/  prices-int/
Prices for customers in Australia and overseas.
../tr-606/  ../tr-808/
TR-606 and TR-808 modifications.
../smem/
32 Megabyte memory boards for Akai samplers.
TT-303/ Information on the Cyclone Analogic TT-303 Bass Bot .

© Robin and Tina Whittle, Real World Interfaces  ABN 29 836 876 922 rw@firstpr.com.au   27 September 2014
To the Real World Interfaces page. To the main First Principles site.
The TB-303 is a product of the Roland Corporation, from the early 1980s.  The first Devil Fish mods were in
1993.  The first V2.0 versions, on which the current modifications are based, were in 1996.

Latest news:
15th September 2014: I have completed the MIDI In and Out firmware, with its Dynamic Bank and Channel Switching capabilities.  See the Devil Fish MIDI In and Out Manual (the link is above) for the full documentation of these.  I have several machines here to complete which are waiting for the MIDI In and Out system.

June 2014: We have moved to Daylesford, about an hour and a half's drive north west of Melbourne: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daylesford,_Victoria .


We have a new modification for the 32 Bank Memory system

For the TB-303 Devil Fish (without the MIDI In and Out system - therefore with either no MIDI or with MIDI In), for the TR-606 and for the TR-808, Dynamic Bank Switching enables two external Audio/CV signals (or potentially four for the TR-808) to alter the currently selected memory bank, instantaneously.  This is done by detecting the signal exceeds +1.1 volts, and using this to invert one of the five address bits which select which of the 32 memory banks is currently accessible to the Internal Sequencer.

The primary purpose of this is to enable switching between patterns, moment-by-moment, in response to manipulation of the toggleswitches and pushbutton and in response to external audio or CV signals.  Since the Internal Sequencer reads from memory every time it plays a note, this means that notes from patterns in various memory banks can be played in the middle of patterns.

The manual for this is above: #MEMDBSMAN .  The only visible parts of this are two 3.5mm sockets on the left of the machine, and two LEDs, which, when on, indicate that the detector circuit has been activated and that the address bit from the corresponding toggleswitch will be inverted before it is used to select one of the 32 memory banks.

Devil Fish mods for the TB-303: 32 Bank Memory address bit inversion with Audio or CV input


An extension of this, for the TB-303 Devil Fish only, is the final piece of the MIDI In and Out system.  This is Dynamic Bank/Channel Switching.   This involves the ability to use the to potentially inverted bits from the 32 Bank Memory system (or from two extra switches, if there is no such Memory system) within the MIDI In and Out system to dynamically switch between four adjacent MIDI In channels for Note reception.

So by manipulating the two toggleswitches, and/or by inserting signals into one or both of the Audio/CV inputs, it is possible to make the Devil Fish switch between, for instance, MIDI In channels 1, 2, 3 and 4.  If these are driven by an external sequencer to have four different, patterns, then the Devil Fish will switch between the notes of these patterns in a manner similar to how its Internal Sequencer would switch between the notes of patterns in multiple banks of memory.

Furthermore, this system enables MIDI In Notes and Control Changes on Channel 15 or 16 to drive the default contacts of the two Audio/CV input sockets.  This means that if nothing is plugged into one or both sockets, the detector circuits, LEDs and address bit inversion circuits can be driven in real-time by externally applied MIDI In Note and/or Control Change messages.  Alternatively, these two bits (derived from Note and Control Changes on Channel 15 or 16) can be used directly inside the firmware, without going through the Input sockets detector circuits and XOR gates which invert the bits from the switches.  Instead, these bits are added to those which come from the switches.

If the 32 Bank Memory system is not installed, the same results for Dynamic MIDI In Channel Switching can be achieved with the same input, detector, LED and inversion circuits, plus two toggleswitches dedicated to this purpose.

If no additional hardware is installed (no input sockets, detector circuits, LEDs, address bit inversion circuits and toggleswitches to match) then the MIDI In and Out system, on its own, can dynamically switch MIDI In channels for Notes, as just described, in response to MIDI In Note and/or Control Change messages received in a special manner on Channel 15 or 16.

For more detailed information on this, please see the Devil Fish MIDI In and Out Manual: DF-MIDI-In-Out-Manual.pdf .



Here is a description of Dynamic Bank Switching (DBS) for the TB-303 Devil Fish, which involves just the switches, input sockets and LEDs - not the MIDI functions.  The same capabilities will be possible for the TR-606 and in 2 and 4 channel versions for the TR-808. 

The DBS hardware for consists of two 3.5mm audio or CV input sockets on the left of the machine.  Whenever the audio or CV input signal becomes more positive than +1.1 volts (which high level audio signals will exceed), the circuit turns on.  The circuit remains on for about 33 milliseconds after the input signal goes below the +1.1 volt threshold.  So  audio signals of 30Hz and higher (and somewhat lower, depending on the waveform) will produce a continual On state as long as part of their waveform exceeds +1.1 volts.  The inputs can handle -15 to +15 volts.

When the circuit is On, its Red LED is On and the address bit which is generated by the associated togglewitch is inverted.   If the circuit is Off, everything is as per normal:  The low and high positions of the toggleswitch produce 0 and 1 respectively for the address bit.  This is one of the 5 bits which selects one of 32 (2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 = 25) memory banks, numbered 0 to 31.  When the detector circuit (and so the LED) is On, the low and high switch positions produce 1 and 0 respectively, thereby selecting a different memory bank than when the circuit is Off.

Each of these sockets, detector circuits and LEDs is like an audio or CV controlled version of the Red pushbutton switch of the 32 Bank Memory system.  That pushbutton inverts the address bit produced by toggleswitch 4.  The two new inputs invert the address bit produced by toggleswitches 3 and 2.

This means audio or CV signals can switch the Internal Sequencer from playing a pattern in a particular bank of memory to playing the same pattern number in some other bank of memory whose 5 bit address differs in one bit.  Since the Internal Sequencer looks into memory for each note it plays, this means that the notes it plays, with Accent and Slide, can chop and change between those from patterns in multiple banks of memory, in the middle of a pattern.  The Devil Fish synthesizer and, if it is installed, the Devil Fish MIDI In and Out system and its one more slave devices, will play this set of notes.

At present (2014-09-12) only Lincoln Webber's Devil Fish and one other machine has this mod.  His machine also has a development version of the MIDI In and Out system which does not yet do the MIDI functions required for Dynamic Bank/Channel Switching.  He has posted an annotated demo of using this Dynamic Bank Switching (DBS) system:


In this demo he is using as inputs a CV from an LFO and the Accent CV out of the Devil Fish itself.  He is not using audio signals as inputs or driving a slave device from MIDI Out.  In this configuration, the Accent signal is coming from him pressing the Accent Button or from any Accents which may be programmed into the pattern. 

A simple and elegant approach is to alternate between two patterns with an LFO which is running with a cycle just a little slower or faster than the pattern time itself.  Lincoln is doing this with one of the signals.

Since there are two channels, there are four patterns which can be selected by the four combinations of the two input signal states.  One or both input channels could be MIDI controlled by driving any MIDI synthesizer with Note On and Off events and using its audio signal, perhaps through an amplifier if its positive peaks do not already exceed +1.15 volts.  Other sources of input signal include: CV or audio from modular gear; talking into a microphone, the signal of which is amplified to a suitable level, and: using some audio, including from the Devil Fish or a slave instrument and delaying it.   Also, using a brief audio signal into one input and a delayed version it into the other.  Then a pulse of audio will take the memory system through four memory banks:

Pulse -   invert A2:  0000001111110000000000000001111111100000
Delayed - invert A3:  000
0000001111110000000000000001111111100

Bank number: 0 0
0000 ------         ------------           --
             4
0 0100       ---                  ---
             8
0 1000             ---                    ---
            12 0 1100          ---                  -----
   Address bit 4 3210
                      Time ------------>

The above timing chart is for all switches being down, with the pushbutton not activated.  At any time these can be activated, and in the case of switches 2 and 3, this would invert the bits shown above, thereby selecting different banks.

I was prompted to devise this modification by discussions with Ricardo Velarde and Lincoln Webber.  Lincoln has some other Devil Fish videos here.



Here is some more information about the MIDI Out functions of the  MIDI In and Out system.

In MIDI In Follow mode the Accent Button and/or the Accent CV In socket adds Accent to MIDI Out notes where these are generated from MIDI In notes without Accent.  This replicates the behavior of the Devil Fish synthesizer by ignoring the Accent state of the Internal Sequencer, which might be on due to the sequencer having stopped on an accented note.  I have also added:
  • Automatic turnoff of Run/Stop drive to the TB-303 due to MIDI In Sync reception, if while this Run/Stop being on, there are no MIDI In Clock bytes for 1.5 seconds.  This can be disabled.

  • The ability to turn on and off the reception of MIDI notes and most Control Changes, as with previous versions of the MIDI In system (but without halting the reception of MIDI In Sync), with the ability to allow the reception of Filter Frequency Control Changes at all times.  This enables turning MIDI In note and Control Change reception on and off (with two timed combinations of pressing the Back and Tap buttons) while the Internal Sequencer is running, so alternating between external (MIDI In) and Internal Sequencer control, while patterns are playing while still allowing external control of the Filter Frequency.

  • Stronger drive from the Accent CV Out so it can drive the Slide In CV socket sufficiently to turn on both Slide and Gate.

  • Suppression of capacitive coupling in 5 conductor MIDI cables from the MIDI signal wires to the DIN Sync Run/Stop and Clock wires.

  • Hardware reset of the Internal Sequencer's Accent flip-flop at power on to prevent the occasional problem of notes being played with Accent on when CV and Gate inputs are used.
The TT-303/ page has information on the Cyclone Analogic TT-303 Bass Bot .


Devil Fish modification for the Roland TB-303


From Frankfurt am Main:
Today I passed it over to the band.  They went mad.  Immediately they 
locked the studio and started to build sounds. Nobody can stop them now.
They are very happy and they say thank you thousand times!

to Moscow:
I want to let you know I am successfully exploring what the Devil Fish
has to offer. And it IS overwhelming... I've owned plenty of
synthesizers before but... I've never imagined a "relatively simple"
synth such as my Teebee will transmute into such a miracle.

Also, I've noted that the Devil Fish is very capable of creating clicky
sounds with low decay values. They can be very useful for percussion
and other things. What's more, the resonance and muffler settings can
get relatively thin sounds, this feature can be utilized to fit more of
the Devil Fish "juice" into the mix. More tracks, more layers, more
textures.

I begin realize that it's, in fact, possible to create a lot of
layeristic stuff - create entire soundscapes using only the Devil Fish
and outboard effects.

at a gardener's residence on a Queensland resort island:
Oh by the way you probably know this....  You can change MIDI modes and 
reset while machine is running so you can turn off/on MIDI reception
during a track, its really neat I use it a lot, as well as running the
Accent Out to an attenuator(Moogerfooger CV processor) and out back into
the Devil Fish Slide In and I can Turn the Att. up and down to turn on
Slide/Gate etc...thats fun also the CV processor has a Square/Triangle
L.F.O which I often use for the CV filter in for rhythmic filter sweeps
and other crazy fast bell like effects when turned up full and I love
using the mod wheel to filter it means I do real dramatic filter stuff
without killing the D.F.'s Cutoff knob and also be able to freak it out
and return to the exact same sound setting.....Endless...........
Sound samples are at: sounds/linxstar/ .  Seven years later (2013), from and undisclosed location in the Dandenong Ranges, with
occasional transmissions via YouTube, and soundcloud.com/linxstar/ Linx writes:
I have at the moment (even as I'm writing this) a convoluted modular 
patching arrangement between the Devil Fish and three Moogerfoogers -
CP251 control processor (receiving and sending CV to/from-the Devil
Fish, MF-101 lowpass filter, MF104z delay (which is receiving the audio
out of the Devil Fish and is in a feedback loop, using the delay signal
only to the lowpass which in turn is sent to the DF audio in to filter.
The CP251 is also sending noise to the FM in (there is only the slide
in and accent in not being used). The DF CV out is controlling the
feedback on the Delay. The Accent out is used to trigger the sample &
hold unit in the CP251 and the Gate out is modulating the env amount on
the lowpass. Its creating a percussive acidy snarey rhythmically
changing delay with a twist. I'll record this tomorrow, I probably
should have today as at one point when I stopped the sequencer the CP's
LFO and S&H kept triggering the DF and MF's and it was quite
interesting how it all evolved.
and in many other countries, musicians have placed themselves in the care of the Devil Fish.


Intro

The Devil Fish is a modification to the TB-303 - a synthesiser/sequencer produced by Roland in 1981/82, which has played a crucial role in the development of electronic dance music. A detailed description of the Devil Fish can be found in the User Manual Devil-Fish-Manual.pdf .  Features include:
  • CV and Gate inputs.
      
  • CV input to turn on Slide.  (2.3 volts turns on the Slide circuit and > 4 volts turns on Gate to tie notes together.)
      
  • CV input for Accent.
      
  • CV input for Filter Frequency.
      
  • Output for Accent.
      
  • Audio In to Filter. *
      
  • Audio In to frequency modulate the filter. *
      
  • Audio Out from filter (pre-VCA). *
      
  • Overdrive pot to control the level of oscillator going to the filter: zero to 66.6 times normal level.
      
  • Separate control of Main Envelope Generator times in accented and non-accented notes.
      
  • Volume envelope is no longer fixed, and can be varied from 16 msec through 3 seconds and to no decay at all, i.e. for notes which last indefinitely.
      
  • Soft Attack control gives attack times between 0.3 and 30 msec. (TB-303 attack was ~3 msec.)
      
  • Slide time is variable to five times longer than normal.
      
  • Variable Filter Tracking causes the oscillator CV to control the filter frequency.
      
  • Internal Filter FM: a unique approach of AC coupled Filter FM from the audio output of the VCA.
      
  • The Muffler is a unique post-VCA soft-clip distortion circuit which retains bass response.
      
  • Push-button to manually activate Accent.
      
  • Filter can be switched to self resonance.
      
  • Accent Sweep has three modes and can be disabled.
      
  • Filter Cut Off pot range doubled to 5 kHz max, and widened to include much lower frequencies.
      
  • Env Mod pot range extended to include zero and go as high as three times the normal maximum.
      
  • Bass response is improved.
      
  • Lithium battery for at least ten years battery backup, so there is no need to install C-cell batteries.
      
  • The six TB-303 knobs Tuning to Accent are mounted 1.5mm higher, making them easier to turn.  More details: knob-heights/ .
      
  • The Devil Fish can still sound like a TB-303.  See page 7 of:  Devil-Fish-Manual.pdf .
*  These three audio signals are connected in the following manner:

The Audio In to Filter signal is plugged into the old 6.5mm mono Mix In socket, on the left of the rear panel.  There is an option (see below) for a three position toggleswitch to control this signal.

The Audio In to Frequency Modulate the Filter signal is plugged into the old Headphone socket, with the tip of the socket accepting this signal.  This means a mono 6.5mm plug can be used for this function.

The Audio Out from Filter signal is driven to the ring of the old Headphone socket.  There it can be accessed with a suitable stereo plug, or by partially inserting a 6.5mm mono plug.

To make it easy to use the Audio In to Frequency Modulate the Filter and the Audio Out from Filter, the Devil Fish is supplied with a special lead with a 6.5mm stereo socket and two 6.5mm mono plugs on a Y-lead.

The standard Devil Fish modifications do not include a Headphone output, because the original Headphone socket is used for these two new purposes.  There is an option to provide a 3.5mm Headphone socket - see below.


Devil Fish photo by Ken Knezick www.islandream.com
"Devil Fish", Lembeh Strait, Bunaken, Indonesia. © Ken Knezick.
Great photos: 
www.islandream.com

Options

The optional 32 bank memory system enables switching between banks while a pattern is playing. So the sequencer reads the next note from the same pattern number in the new bank.  This enables much more interesting and unexpected results than are obtainable by having the sequence change from one pattern to another, which it only does at the end of each pattern. 

Full details: DF-32-Bank-Mem-Manual.pdf .

There is a second version of the manual which covers Dynamic Bank Switching (if there is no MIDI In and Out system) or Dynamic Bank and  MIDI In Channel Switching, if the MIDI In and Out system is installed:  DF-32-Bank-Mem-DBS-Manual.pdf .

Sync lead for Devil Fish with MIDI In

The optional MIDI In system uses the existing Sync socket, and receives Sync, Notes, Accent (depending on the note's velocity), Slide (from MIDI controllers or tied notes) and Filter Frequency (from a selectable MIDI controller number, defaulting to Mod Wheel).  Full details: Devil-Fish-MIDI-Manual.pdf

There is also a special Sync Lead which accepts MIDI In, and provides a daisy-chain of three Sync out connectors to drive, for instance, devices such as other TB-303s or Devil Fishes, TR-808s or TR-606s.  See the sync-lead/ page.

The MIDI Out extension to the current Devil Fish MIDI In system is almost ready.  Please see midi-options/  for further information.
New LEDs of various colours for the Devil Fish modified TB-303 New LEDs in Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue and White: leds/

We suggest all Blue LEDs, except for the Run/Stop LED, in which we install a new Red LED.  These are a broader blue spectrum than most blue LEDs, with more violet a somewhat different colour than the slightly aqua color of most blue LEDs. They are also a good brightness, whereas the ordinary blue LEDs are too bright unless the drive circuits are adjusted.


Parts for TB-303 Devil fish - Pots from Technology Transplant and Omron sealed tact switches
Replacing pots and switches.  The tact switches underneath the 24 buttons almost always need replacing.  We install Omron B3W-4050 sealed tact switches.  These are sealed against dust and liquids and we expect they will last for many decades.  More information about the Omron switches and why we chose them over the alternatives: tact-switches/  (We sell these specially modified Omron switches for people who want to replace the switches themselves:  #tact_switch_kits .)

The six small pots along the top of the TB-303 sometimes fail.  Between about 2004 and 2012 we replaced them with newly manufactured pots from TechnologyTransplant.com and since 2013 we have been using pots identical to those in the Technology Transplant TT-303 Bass Bot.  I dismantle these pots and replace the original friction grease with a lighter grade silicone grease, so the 6 small knobs are very easy to turn.  I also modify them to reduce side-to-side and up-down movement, which should also prevent the edge of the rotor cutting the conductive tracks if the knob is turned while downwards pressure is applied.  This was the main failure mode of the original ALPS pots.  Nonetheless, please try not to apply downwards pressure on any TB-303 or TR-606 small pots while turning them.

The Tempo and Volume pots rarely fail, but I can replace them.  I usually fix a noisy volume pot by dismantling and cleaning it. The two rotary switches have never failed, in my experience.

I now have a technique for spray painting the parts of the case which are worn around the 6 small pots.  Where the markings and silver paint are worn away, I can spray some silver and by hand colour in new markings. Please see the refurb/ page for more on this.
  


Two further options are:

3.5mm Headphone Socket.  In the Devil Fish, the old headphone socket is used for Audio Out from Filter (ring) and Audio In for Frequency Modulation of the Filter (tip). 

With this option, the original headphone amplifier, with its 10 ohm drive resistors for left and right channels, is connected to a 3.5mm socket located above and between the Power and Audio Out sockets.

Switch for Audio In to Filter.  In the Devil Fish, the old Mix In socket is used for feeding an external audio signal into the filter, in addition to whatever amount of the Oscillator is selected by the Overdrive pot.  Since this pot can be turned down to zero, it is possible to run the machine without its internal oscillator and have the Filter processing purely an external signal.

With this option, a three position toggleswitch is mounted between the Tempo and Track-Pattern Group knobs.  It has three positions:

Up
Audio In enabled.
Mid
Audio In disabled
Down
Audio In enabled, but spring return to Mid position

This enables convenient switching of the external signal, including dropping in short bursts of it by pressing the switch to the down position, with the toggle returning to the mid position as soon as the finger pressure is released.



More Exotic Options

  


Martin Rothlisberger in Switzerland http://acid.ch makes magnificent Anodized Aluminium cases for the Devil Fish, replacing the ABS silver plastic cases which are now at least 30 years old.  The email address link at that site is bodgy.  Here is the proper email address:  
303@acid.ch
AluCases are machined from solid billets of aluminium.  No matter how they may be banged around, dropped etc. the case will be practically indestructible, so providing good protection for the TB-303 and Devil Fish electronics for the decades and centuries to come. 

Martin has a small stock of partially completed AluCases and will finalize, anodize and apply the epoxy paint to the lettering according to your specifications.  There is a wide choice of colours for the anodizing and the epoxy paint.  Please see the photos/ directory for images of some AluCase Devil Fishes.

In June 2013 Martin has a red AluCase for a Devil Fish almost ready for sale.  It requires an aluminium switch plate and is shown with one here.  However, I will install the final switch plate, using one from the customer's machine or one I have here.  Click the photo of the red AluCase at the left to see a larger version.  The epoxy paint for the legends is not quite finished.  Please contact Martin at 303@acid.ch for further details.

There are extra costs installing the machine in an AluCase, and some extra shipping costs due to the extra weight and the larger carton we use.  It takes several months at least to get an AluCase made.  It is generally best for the customer to work with me regarding the options they want for their Devil Fish, and then for me to communicate this to Martin, with the final choices about colours and lettering being between the customer and Martin.  Generally it is best for the customer to pay Martin directly, but if necessary I can handle the whole project from a single payment.  It is best to allow at three months for Martin to complete the AluCase and ship it to Australia.

Martin is a DJ and Devil Fish musician himself.  Please see the videos/ directory for him and the Liquid Trolls in action. 



Please see midi-options/  for further information on these MIDI In/Out systems:

The Devil Fish MIDI In and Out system.

The Quicksilver 303 CPU replacement from Social Entropy in Texas.

The MIDIBass 303 MIDI In/Out system from Sequentix in the UK.

xCover of Our Boys' Tip Top and Our Boys' Gift Book, Renwick of Otley London ~1930s

Click for larger version.


The Devil Fish is the most dynamic, pulsating, wailing musical instrument I know of.  If you and your TB-303 have a sense of adventure, the Devil Fish modifications will propel you into musical territories dark, destructive, delicate, languid, undulating, exquisitely detailed, throbbing, luscious and lurid . . . . .    Best of all, the spaces between these extremes can usually be traversed by judiciously turning a few knobs.
  
Tina's illustration on the Devil Fish job progress book.
  


Some of the sound samples

Artist Robin Whittle Uniform Bass Code Charles James Linxstar
Track Melodic pulsations & knobulations acidtrax2-edit cj03 Devil Fish with Mooger- Fooger
Time 1.44 1:06 1:00 2:40
MP3: rw12.mp3 cw-acidtrax2-edit.mp3 cj03.mp3 Linxstar- Devil-Fish- Mooger-Fooger- edit-excerpt.mp3

24 minutes of sound samples are in the sounds/ directory.

Peter in the Netherlands has some MP3s of music he made with his Devil Fish: tek.tekmac.nl  

Common Black Devil Anglerfish Yellow from bioinfo.kordic.re.kr - now gone.
Click for larger version.

Emma Chisit?

(Translation from Strine: "How much is it?"  "Strine" is Strine for "Australian". )

prices-au/  Prices for customers in Australia.

prices-int/  Prices for customers outside Australia.


The basic modification cost includes cleaning the machine and a moderate level of repair work. 

There is no extra charge for removing the Kenton CV socket kit. (The Devil Fish performs all the functions of that kit, except that the Kenton kit automatically deactivates the internal sequencer's accent state, and the Devil Fish Version 2.1D and beyond enable a high Slide input voltage to drive the gate, in order to "tie together" notes which have separate Gate pulses.)

Upgrading to MIDI In

If you have a Devil Fish version 1.x (1993) 2.x (2006 onwards) or 3.x then I can upgrade the machine to the current 4.2 version with MIDI.  It is not possible to install the MIDI In system with these older Devil Fish circuit boards.  This replaces the existing Devil Fish circuit boards, so your machine will have 7 new small black pots with silver lines and three new toggle-switches in the Devil Fish panel, with new CV, Gate etc. sockets at the rear.  When the MIDI Out system is finished, I will likewise be able to upgrade these older machines to MIDI In and Out.

If your machine is one of the few version 4.x machines without MIDI, the upgrade can be done with the existing circuit boards, to MIDI In or (when I have the system finished) to MIDI In and Out.


Upgrading from MIDI In to MIDI In and Out

If you have a 4.x Devil Fish with MIDI In, I will be able to extend this to provide MIDI Out as well.

Set of tact switches for TB-303 or TR-606

In general, we don't sell spare parts.  Please see http://technologytransplant.com for many specially manufactured parts for electronic musical instruments, including new battery contacts and battery compartment doors for the TB-303 and TR-606.

Before mid-2010, I replaced the tact switches with the original type, ALPS SKHCAA (now known as SKHCBEA010).  These were not sealed against dust.  Dust (mainly flakes of skin . . .) gets into the switch and builds up on the contacts, making the switches operate erratically.  I installed them with a flexible plastic dust guard, which greatly prolonged their life.  Still, after 10 years, some heavily used machines needed their switches replaced again.  There are sealed tact switches from ALPS (SKQEAAA010), but I don't like them since they have a higher activation force, a much lower lower "click force" and a much lower "click displacement".   Please see tact-switches/ for details.

The only alternative is to use Omron B3W-4050 sealed tact switches.  These are pictured above: #pots_switches.  These are slightly firmer than the SKHCAAs, and have about the same initial and click displacements so they have a very good "click" action.  The Omron switches have stems which are a little too wide for the TB-303 / TR-606 buttons, so I modify the stems to make them fit the buttons.  This is done with a 0.6mm Dremel cutting wheel, with two cuts at right-angle through the top part of the stem. 

While we can't guarantee these switches for any particular period, they are very well made and well sealed against dust and liquids.  They are specified to have a life of 3,000,000 operations. Dust seems to be the only thing which makes tact switches erratic, and there's no way dust can get into these Omron switches.

The page 303-mods/ discusses how to obtain the Omron switches and how to to modify them so they fit the TB-303 buttons.  To support people with the task of replacing these switches, but who do not want to modify the switches themselves, we are now selling Omron switches, with their stems modified to suit TB-303 TR-606 buttons.  Each pack contains 25 switches.  The TB-303 needs 24 and the TR-606 needs 21.  Australian customers please email us.  Overseas customers, please use PayPal to send Australian AUD$90 for one pack, or AUD$160 for two, to rw@firstpr.com.au .  We will airmail them to you within a few days, so you should have them within two weeks at most. 



Western Blue Devilfish Paraplesiops meleagris

 

Shipping and turnaround time

Tina and I aim for a three week turnaround time between you, the customer, sending your TB-303 and receiving it back as a Devil Fish.  However it is best to allow four to six  weeks.

Please email us with your requirements and we will reply with the full pricing information, shipping address etc.  Please send the TB-303 with a reputable courier company, rather than by the post.  DHL, Federal Express and your Post Office's EMS service are all good choices. 

The German Postpak service and a similar service from the Belgian Post Office is not a courier service and should not be used.  Despite assurances about tracking numbers and someone having to sign for delivery, it will be delivered in Australia as an ordinary parcel.  This means it may be left on our doorstep.  Ordinary airmail with the recipient having to sign for the package is not secure enough for an item such as a TB-303.  Post Offices in many countries deliver their packages not through the Post Office of the destination country, but by various transport companies.  Australian truck drivers may not understand instructions in French regarding the recipient signing for the package. 

Please send just the TB-303 no batteries, vinyl carry case, or original styrofoam/cardboard box.  Batteries should only be included if you do not want the 32 banks of memory and you wish to retain the existing memory contents, or if you want the existing patterns to be transferred into the Quicksilver 303 system (see midi-options/).  Memory contents cannot be retained if the 32 bank system is installed, and I can't absolutely guarantee that patterns will be retained if the memory is not installed, so please write down all important patterns before sending the machine for modification.  The  patch-sheet/ directory has some PDFs to help with this.

We will ship your Devil Fish via the Australia Post EMS courier service (also known as Express Courier International), which is delivered in North America and most European countries by either DHL or the country's Post Office.  There is an online tracking system for EMS packages here .  The modifications are very reliable and are guaranteed for two years.   We normally insure the package for AUD$2000.  No machine has been lost or damaged of the 200+ machines we have shipped to overseas owners since the early 1990s.

Contact details

It is generally best to enquire via email:  rw@firstpr.com.au.  We are located in Daylesford, about 120km north-west of Melbourne: Wikipedia, Google-Maps.


Other information at this site
Sound Samples  These are in the sounds/ directory.  Videos There are an increasing number of YouTube videos depicting Devil Fishes, including some live acideee action by Martin Rothlisberger (Liquid Trolls) who makes the AluCases.  See the videos/ directory.


Patch sheets in PDF, GIF and other formats can be found in the patch-sheet/ directory.  Also in this directory you will find a single page PDF file for conveniently writing down every aspect of a TB-303 pattern.  


Some modifications you can do to the TB-303, including replacement of the push-button switches and some notes on the late-2009 and later Technology Transplant 6 small pots: 303-mods/ .  This file also contains a few maintenance tips of interest to technicians.


I am now able to refurbish the case to a limited degree regarding the silver paint and markings wearing away around the knobs, especially the Resonance and Cutoff knobs.  Please see the refurb/ page for more details.



Comparison of 3 types of tact switches and why we use the Omron sealed tact switches: tact-switches/ .



In December 2010, Ulf Kaiser wrote an article for Keys Magazine: www.keys.de .  Thanks to Ine Gundersveen for this translation: Devil-Fish-article-Keys-Magazine-Dec-2010-English-tr.pdf .



The main images from the cheatsheet card which accompanied the TB-303.
  tb-303-card/  This is a mini guide for the TB-303 sequencer's Pattern and Track writing operations.


A short treatise on the exact timing of the Gate, CV and Slide in the TB-303 sequencer: 303-slide.html.


Another treatise looking at the TB-303's Accent Sweep circuit and how humans respond to its pattern of pitch variations in the filter when multiple accented notes follow each other in quick succession: 303-unique.html.


An April 1995 early history of the Devil Fish is at dfspank.html.  This includes a report from Atombee on his collaboration with friends, following my advice:

"Investigate feedback loops and tweak them beyond stability.  
Dim the lights, flex your arms, forget about the world outside, 
deliver the punishment your studio/synthesizer needs to find 
its true voice."
Atombee wrote:
By controlling the voltages, we control the frequencies, by 
controlling the frequencies, we can control the human mind. 
.... but God knows the machines took over our brains last 
night ... who is controlled and who is controlling?


A picture of the excellent 9 volt regulated, 200 mA (milliamp) Boss power adaptor which is (or was - they are no longer produced, see the next paragraph) best for the TB-303, Devil Fish, TR-606 etc.  In Australia, this is called a PSA-240P.  "Regulated" means that its output voltage is always very close to 9 volts irrespective of load current, up to its maximum of 200 mA.   Most ordinary (mains power supply, diodes and capacitor - no regulator - but these are becoming replaced by switch-mode adaptors) power adaptors have unregulated outputs, such that with a light load, they may produce 11 volts or more.   There's no way of telling just by looking at an adaptor what voltage it will actually put out when loaded relatively lightly by a TB-303 / Devil Fish.  If it puts out too high a voltage, then this will cause a power transistor in the TB-303 / Devil Fish to overheat, and perhaps to fail.  This over-voltage problem is more likely to occur with an adaptor which is rated at 9 volts at a high current such as 500 mA.   Since TB-303s are precious devices, the best approach is to buy a 200 mA 9 volt Boss adaptor!  

In 2012, the situation with these adaptors has changed somewhat.  The Boss PSA-240, PSA-120 etc. models, with mains transformers, diodes, capacitors and an internal linear regulator are no longer produced.  In their place are Boss PSA-240S, PSA-120S etc, models.  These are totally different, but should work well.  They have a compact switch-mode power supply (Wikipedia article) in the adaptor, which produces a well-regulated 9 volts DC.  Switch-mode power supplies can introduce high frequency (such as 40kHz to 100kHz or more) interference into audio systems, and these Boss adaptors have an elaborate double toroid filter in the output cable in an effort to reduce this.

Also pictured is the Boss Metal Zone MT-2 a popular distortion and three band EQ distortion pedal which sounds great with the Devil Fish.   This is Chad and Lincoln's, and we had fun in the usual configuration (passing the Devil Fish signal through the Metal Zone), and by sending the Devil Fish's output into the Metal Zone, with the Metal Zone's output going into the Audio In to Filter of the Devil Fish with the output of the system being the Devil Fish's output, not the Metal Zone's.  This caused filter oscillation right down to low frequencies, irrespective of the setting of the Resonance pot, and we got some great effects where the system would oscillate at both high and low frequencies, and subtle changes in the Devil Fish's pattern (its volume envelope, filter frequency and the pitch of the oscillator) would sometimes perturb the overall system from its normal high frequency mode of oscillation into a totally different low frequency mode.   Feedback, distortion and especially a little delay can give rise to fascinating, complex and sometimes chaotic results.  Lincoln says that Metal Zone aficionados / maniacs sometimes run three of them in series . . . 


A large picture of the TB-303 circuit boards.  The background is a painting by Adriana Hardy, whose paintings are drawings are at the ../../gallery/ section of this web site.


You may be interested in my 1993/94 material on Music Marketing via the Internet, especially with electronic delivery: ../../musicmar/

Links to the sites of kindred spirits

Martin Röthlisberber in Switzerland http://acid.ch custom-makes AluCases for TB-303s and Devil Fishes.  These are machined from solid billets of aluminium.  They are anodized and the engraved lettering hand-painted with epoxy paint.  See #alucase above for more information.

AluCase Devil Fish TB-303s

Photos of some of his AluCases are in the photos/ directory.



A remarkable blog site which lists TB-303s for sale with separate pages for many other synthesizers: http://www.synthfind.com/category/roland/tb-303/ .   eBay is probably the best place to find them for sale.  It is possible to save the search and have eBay send an email every day when one or more new items match.



Check out the BugBrand BoardWeevil 2012 (link) from Tom Bugs in Bristol, England. 

Salute the BugBrand BoardWeevil - a denizen of the Idiosyncracy City

This creature is a denizen of the catacombs of Idiosyncrasy City.  When the time comes to cast off the constraints of 16 beats to the bar, 12 pitches per octave, synchronization, tuning and the entire boxy concept of notes, this creature would be an excellent traveling companion.  Note the 18 body contact pads and the two light-dependent resistors (LDRs).  3 square wave oscillators (audio and low frequency switchable), two ring modulators and a filter.  There's a pot and LDR for power-supply starving, so the whole machine self-modulates itself according to its instantaneous current drain.  This would make an excellent source of signals for the Audio In to Filter of the Devil Fish.  Tom Bugs also has other devices and a complete modular synthesizer system.



Salute Brian and Leon Dewan who make extraordinary electronic musical instruments:  http://www.dewanatron.com , not least the Hymnotron (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EgakrRWs0r8) which can play sacred or profane, dirty and demonic . . . "Your wish is its command or maybe its wish is your command."  This is a just-intonation chord organ with an extraordinary pedal-steel-guitar-like slide function.  Check out the Swarmatron http://www.dewanatron.com/instruments.php?page=swarmatron "The span control expands the sound of a swarm of eight notes spread just a few cents apart into a wide chord of equidistant pitches spread over the entire spectrum. The player can taffy pull the resulting chord by using the span control and pitch ribbon in tandem. ".    Sound on Sound have a detailed review .  There's a Wikipedia page.   Some sounds are at: http://soundcloud.com/keyboardmag/sets/12-2011-dewanatron-swarmatron/    An article about the Dewan cousins is: http://www.newyorker.com/talk/2011/01/24/110124ta_talk_paumgarten  From  the Dewanatron manifesto:

While inherently musical in their impulses, the machines have no discipline and require governing by judicious overseers.  (...)

The operators begin a process which develops into a shape beyond their authorship; the operators become gardeners, watering and pruning, mulching and composting sound. The music becomes a contrapuntal morass, twining and climbing, chirping, buzzing, blinking, snapping. The operators guide the instruments, and the instruments carry the operators and others through an ever metamorphosing landscape.

Google reports that the word "MIDI" does not appear at the Dewanatron site.  These are extraordinarily physical sounding electronic instruments, with a 1950s science-fiction sensibility about their mechanical embodiment: all wood, baked enamel paint, chicken-head knobs, the the odd telephone dial and a keyswitch to power up the Swarmatron.  The Devil Fish is keen to become acquainted with these beautiful, exotic instruments!  Add some reverb - ideally in a real room, auditorium or underground vault - roll tape (or whatever it is these days) and play.



A customer in London sent his TB-303 in a beautiful plastic box, which makes a great Road Case for  any TB-303 or Devil Fish:  http://www.reallyusefulproducts.co.uk/uk/html/onlineshop/rub/b04_0litre.php

Excellent 4 litre storage box makes a good road-case for the Devil Fish, TB-303 and TR-606.  Excellent 4 litre storage box makes a good road-case for the Devil Fish, TB-303 and TR-606.

Unfortunately this UK company does not ship outside the UK.  It is difficult to find an online retailer who will ship these boxes to Australia or other countries.  One such retailer is http://stores.ebay.com/Crafty-Things .  In their storage section they have a version of this 4 litre box with removable trays.



Nothing to do with the TB-303, but there are some "video documentaries" on the making of some great tracks: http://www.youtube.com/user/TheAudioMystic Heart of Glass (Blondie) and I'm not in Love (10cc)  There's also a minimal version of Riders on the Storm I had never heard and a great instrumental version of Paint it Black.  These two "video documentaries" were put together by someone using excerpts of a series of radio documentaries, called The Record Producers by Richard Allinson and Steve Levine: http://stevelevine.co.uk/therecordproducers.html .   In this message (2011-09-06) on the Analogue Heaven mailing list I discuss more about this series



WikiPedia has a good page: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TB-303 .


There are a bunch of mailing lists, including Analogue Heaven, at Hyperrealwww.hyperreal.org/music/lists/Hyperreal is an excellent site with many resources of interest to electronic music and rave culture.  In particular, the section on musical instruments is of interest: machines.hyperreal.org.  The TB-303 section is at: machines.hyperreal.org/manufacturers/Roland/TB-303/ . This page includes scans of the TB-303 schematics.


SonicCouture www.soniccouture.com/en/products/p42-devilfish/ in London have DVD with a bunch of samples of a Devil Fish, which are playable in the Native Instruments Kontakt 4 player.  


A second outfit to sample the Devil Fish for use in digital audio software is Sonic Faction .  Their "Evil Fish 303" functions as a plug-in instrument within Ableton Live, with on-screen controls and interfaces to hardware devices such as the Novation Launchpad .  The promo video, from late 2011: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5hcZI5toStQ  This no-doubt does some things a physical Devil Fish can't do, but generally it wouldn't compare with the hands-on use of the real Devil Fish.  Still, it costs $20 and comes with a free Whoosh Machine white-noise-based plug-in instrument.


The Propellerheads www.propellerheads.se are legendary for ReBirth, the excellent software emulation of two TB-303s, a TR-808 and a TR-909.  

CustomSynth.co.uk www.customsynth.co.uk  . Please see the photos/  directory for an image of Jeff Toman's radical restoration of a badly worn TB-303 plastic case, for a machine which I had just converted into a Devil Fish.


The main Roland site is  www.roland.com. From there you can reach the various subsidiaries and distributors in other countries.


Nothing to do with the TB-303 or Devil Fish, but a fascinating site for musical instrument history:  www.obsolete.com/120_years/  .


Check out the two oscillator Future Retro 777 sequencer-synthesiser: www.future-retro.com/.  While you can easily plug a synthesiser into the Audio In of the Devil Fish to give you more "oscillators" the main spirit of the Devil Fish is a relatively straightforward oscillator feeding an intense and convoluted process of filtering, distortion, gain control, more distortion and then perhaps some Filter FM.


A MixMag interview with Hardfloor, the quintessential 303 maniacs: www.techno.de/mixmag/interviews/Hardfloor1.html


A vast array of information about synthesizers, including the TB-303, is at www.vintagesynth.com/  .



The image below is an illustration of from Volume 2 of the three volume set The Science of Life by H. G. Wells, Julian Huxley and G. P. Wells from 1929-39 (I think). Click the image to see the full page and some more devilish deep-sea creatures.


...  

Deep sea cuttlefish from The Science of Life by H. G. Wells et. al.


FAQ

Q1: "Can the Devil Fish still make the sounds of the TB-303?"

Yes.  See page 7 of:  Devil-Fish-Manual.pdf for how to restrict the Devil Fish to the TB-303 subset. 

It was always my intention that the Devil Fish sound-space be a super-set of the TB-303s, but with repeated fast accented notes, the Version 1.x Devil Fishes did not sound identical to the TB-303.  This lead to the development of the Sweep Speed switch, with the "Fast" mode being that of the version 1.x machines, the "Normal" being that of the TB-303 and the "Slow" being a super wide and sloppy version of the TB-303 response.  This switch was retrofitted to several of the 18 Version 1.x machines, so there remain about 15 or so which cannot do everything a TB-303 can do. 

The TB-303 has a weedy bass response due to the low value of capacitors C20 and C21.  These are replaced with larger capacitors in the Devil Fish, so if you want to replicate the TB-303's thinner bass sound, you should use external filtering such as the bass EQ control of a mixer.

Q2: "Does the Devil Fish have MIDI?"

Yes MIDI In.  MIDI Out will soon be available.  Please see the midi-options/ page for more information on this and an two other approaches to providing MIDI In and Out.

Q3: "Do you have any TB-303s for sale, or do I know of any?"

Sometimes.  Please contact me if you wish to buy or sell a TB-303 and I may be able to put you in touch with someone.  See above: #tb303sforsale .

Q4: "Are you going to make a standalone Devil Fish?"

One day.  It is a very big project to do it as well as I believe it should be done.

Q5: "Is it OK if a TB-303 has the Kenton CV/Gate/Slide/Accent/Filter input sockets?"

Yes.  Before doing the modifications, I remove the sockets, fill the holes with epoxy, paint them silver and then carefully drill the Devil Fish holes with my template. 

Q6: "My TB-303s pots are stiff. Can you replace them?"

The 6 small pots (potentiometers Tuning to Accent) typically are rather stiff.  This friction may be reduced if the pots have been used a lot and/or if the pots are warm.  The friction in the pot is not caused by the wiper on the carbon track, but by a special part of the shaft rubbing on the case in the presence of high-viscosity silicone grease.  By dismantling the pot, it is possible to remove that grease and replace it with less viscose silicone grease, which makes them move relatively freely.  However I do not pull pots apart without good reason, because of the danger of damaging them. 

As noted above, I can install a new set of 6 small pots from TechnologyTransplant.  I have replacement Tempo and Volume pots from Technology Transplant, but the original pots are typically highly reliable.  Crackling noise in the Volume pot is common, now these are a few decades old.  I fix this by dismantling and cleaning the original pot with isopropyl alcohol.

I normally install low-viscosity grease in the 6 small replacement pots.  These replacement pots are likely to be more reliable than the original ALPS pots, because they do not have the main failure mechanism which afflicts the ALPS pots.

Some people think that stiff pots are a sign that the pots themselves are substantial and likely to last a long time.  There is no such relationship.  I think the original stiffness of the pots, at least in cold conditions, is too stiff.  Making them significantly less stiff enables them to be turned faster and with greater ease.

Q7: "The TB-303's memory contains precious patterns.  Will they still be there after the Devil Fish modification?"

I don't absolutely guarantee this, but I have procedures for retaining Lithium battery power to the RAM chips at all times, so your data should remain intact.  Be sure to have four good C cells in the machine when you ship it.  Take extra care with the packaging, especially to use tape, packaging or whatever to make sure that nothing can turn the Volume knob to the On condition.  That would flatten the batteries.  The patterns cannot be retained if the 32 bank memory system is installed.  It is best to write your patterns down anyway.  See the pattern sheets mentioned in the Other Information section above.

The Quicksilver 303 CPU replacement has a facility for loading the patterns in the battery backed up memory into its non-volatile memory as part of the installation procedure.  Still, it would be best if the patterns were written down before sending the machine for Devil Fish modifications.

Q8: "Do you install Ultra Violet LEDs?"

No.  UV LEDs produce very little visible light and plenty of UV, which may be damaging to the eyes especially up close with the iris wide open in dark conditions. 

Q9: "What about spare parts, repairs to Devil Fishes and TB-303s"

Certain parts are vital for the TB-303 and cannot be obtained from any source other than another TB-303.  The problem parts are:
  • CPU chip an early 1980s NEC 4 bit device with mask-programmed (i.e. the pattern built into the chip at the manufacturing stage) software.  This family of CPUs has not been manufactured since 1984, so even if it was possible to extract the software from a TB-303 CPU, there is no available chip which will run it.  However . . . in April 2012 there is a CPU Replacement project: http://socialentropy.com/quicksilver/ .  This could be used directly.  Most people will buy it for its MIDI In and Out and new sequencer capabilities, and they will generally have a working original TB-303 CPU chip as a result.  So original TB-303 CPUs should be relatively easy to obtain, which has never been the case in the past.

  • The six synthesiser control pots. This style of potentiometer has not been manufactured by Alps since the early 1980s.  TechnologyTransplant make excellent replacement pots.  See 303-mods/  for more information.

  • The TB-303 case, battery holder cover etc.  The cases can be obtained from a scrapped TR-606, as can the knobs and buttons.  The metal panel part of the case is no longer obtainable.  technologytransplant.com sell an excellent kit with a newly manufactured battery compartment cover, and two battery contacts – the positive metal contact and the negative spring contact.  They may also sell chrome-plated reproduction buttons and knobs.

  • The DIN Sync socket with switch.  (Roland part number 13429706.) The socket is reasonably standard, but its integral dual pole switch is unique and unobtainable.  A workaround is to install a toggleswitch instead.
Fortunately a number of hard- or impossible-to-obtain parts never seem to fail.  These include the Tempo (actually, I have a report of one failing) and Volume pots, the miniature transformer in the power-supply and the dual-transistors in the VCO and filter.  The Volume pot can become noisy.  The solution is to dismantle it and clean it with isopropyl alcohol.

The rotary switches never seem to fail.  ALPS still makes them, but getting one could be tricky.  The 6.5mm Output, Headphone and Input sockets (Roland part number 13449218, or is it 13449217?) are no longer available from the original manufacturer, but they are extraordinarily reliable and I have never had to replace one.

I do not do general service work.  However, I do maintain machines I have modified, and of course repair machines prior to modification. 

See the page on modifications 303-mods/ for more details of maintenance, spare parts and alternatives for replacing pots.  See above: #tact_switch_kits regarding purchasing modified Omron tact switch replacement kits.

See 303-mods/ regarding the 1K x 4 bit memory chips, which sometimes fail.

Q10: Other maintenance questions regarding knobs, pots, switches, contamination etc.

Never let anyone spray anything inside any equipment you care for!!!  (With the possible exception of isopropyl alcohol if you really know what you are doing.)  Many TB-303s have been damaged by people spraying oily and/or corrosive liquids inside them.  It is possible to remove the oil – but only be removing some components and soaking the whole PCB in a hydrocarbon resembling petrol.

Please see 303-mods/  for more information.

 

Loose ends

Apart from the images of aquatic Devil Fishes, and the sound samples by other people, all material in this /rwi/dfish/ section of the web site is copyright 1996-2012 Robin and Tina Whittle.  If you would like to use some of this material for your own purposes, please ask: rw@firstpr.com.au .

The photo at the top of this page is different for each day of the week.  The photos are Devil-Fish-TB-303-front-panel-00.jpg to Devil-Fish-TB-303-front-panel-06.jpg .

If you wish to link to this site, please link to: http://www.firstpr.com.au/rwi/dfish/ and let me know.  I will add your site to the links section.