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Behringer TD-3-MO

Synthesizer By Robin Vincent
Published September 2021

Behringer TD-3-MO

Behringer’s TD‑3‑MO isn’t just a TD‑3 with extra knobs: it’s a completely different instrument.

A ‘modded out’ Roland TB‑303 is a particular and peculiar synthesizer. You start with something sweet, bouncy and juicy, take it apart and poke it with a stick until it gets angrier than a bag of wasps. And with the TD‑3‑MO, Behringer have applied this daring and, some would say, abusive procedure to their own TD‑3, revealing broader sonic territories, wilder tones and an angrier disposition. Even the smiley face on the front panel looks annoyed with the process.

The TD‑3

Behringer’s initial clone, homage or reimagining of the iconic Roland TB‑303 Bassline, the TD‑3 captured everything that made the 303 uniquely fun to play with. Offering bags of nostalgia for the original generation and something quirky for the uninitiated, it nailed the layout, the box and the workflow, and was close enough in the sound department to fool everyone other than the really nit‑picky. But then 303s were never that close enough to each other for that level of analysis. The important thing for most people is that you can turn one on, finger‑fudge your way to a sequence, and have it sound exactly as you imagine it would; and it does.

The TD‑3 added useful things like MIDI and USB, as well as a decent distortion circuit modelled on the Boss DS‑1 and a built‑in random pattern generator for some instant inspiration. The TB‑303 has a famously annoying sequencer that splits the pitch and time aspects into separate linear processes; this can make for laborious programming and editing, though I’ve no doubt that many of the best acid bass lines came out of fudging that sequencer and going with it rather than going back and trying to edit it. Behringer faithfully reproduced this, but improved the experience by adding the ability to tap in the timing to a metronome. They also added an alternative way to sequence the TD‑3 using the Synth Tool app, which means that if you’re not looking for an authentically frustrating sequencing experience you don’t have to find one.

Round the back of the MO we find a quarter‑inch audio output, full‑size MIDI I/O sockets, a USB port and an input for the external 9V power supply.Round the back of the MO we find a quarter‑inch audio output, full‑size MIDI I/O sockets, a USB port and an input for the external 9V power supply.

Devil Fish

The TD‑3‑MO is a ‘modded out’ version of the TD‑3, which incorporates many modifications that were hacked into the TB‑303 over the years by enthusiastic people with soldering irons, who felt there were secrets yet to be discovered inside the very pliable box and inner circuitry. Specifically, it is an unofficial reproduction of the famously mischievous and unruly Devil Fish TB‑303 modifications designed by Robin Whittle of Real World Interfaces. Adding new features like extended bass response, overdrive, expanded synth controls and CV connectivity, the first Devil Fish was introduced in 1993 and version 2, which is still offered today, came along in 1996.

The idea behind the modifications is to expand the range of the filter, pull out more envelopes, mess about with resonance, boost the bass, flirt with FM and overdrive the signal. The result is an altogether angrier and grittier tone that loves to squeal, throb and slap you about. Behringer sent me a standard TD‑3 for comparison and it’s safe to say that even with the distortion circuit, it’s a cuddly synth in comparison; the TD‑3‑MO is an entirely different animal.

The only supplied manual is a Quick Start Guide, which is lacking in detail: it tells you what everything is, but if you want to know what the controls are for, or how they vary from the original, you would do better to download the Devil Fish manual.

If you were thinking that this is just a 303 clone with a few extra...

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