Review: Troublemaker is an Essential TB-303 Clone for iOS

With Rebirth now sadly gone from the iTunes App Store, iOS musicians searching for a new TB-303 clone need to check out Troublemaker. Featuring an authentic, yet flexible sound and a well-designed user interface, this app might be the best 303 option in the iOS universe. It also plays well with Audiobus, Core MIDI, AU, Ableton Link, and more.

Troublemaker Features

  • Great TB-303 Sound – and beyond
  • Intuitive User Interface
  • Built-in Sequencer with up to 64 Steps
  • Compatible with Audiobus 3, Core/Virtual/Bluetooth MIDI
  • Works as an Audio Unit Plugin
  • Exports MIDI and Audio WAV Files
  • Universal App looks great on the iPhone and iPad
  • Available from the App Store for $8.99

Developed by Ruismaker, the iOS app shop of the Dutch UX expert, Bram Bos, Troublemaker belongs in the app collection of anyone needing a classic electro bass sound. Let’s take a closer look.

An Intuitive Interface makes Bass Lines a Breeze

After first starting Troublemaker, the sheer quality of the user interface is striking. Developer Bram Bos is a UI guru, which is obvious looking at the quality of this and the other apps in the Ruismaker library. Expect a standard array of 303 controls (laid out at the top of the screen, while the sequencer resides at the bottom.


Troublemaker iOS in action. Screenshot by author.

The right side of the sequencer section includes buttons for transposing the pattern an octave or step in either direction, or even shift it forwards or backwards. On the left side are utilities: MIDI data is loaded and saved; MIDI and WAV files are exported, and the Ableton Link and MIDI settings are managed. At the top are controls for the BPM, the number of steps in a pattern (up to 64), and the sequencer playback, including those welcome random mutations and variations.

You probably won’t need to refer to the well-written user manual before creating your first bass line. Bram also leverages the same sequencer design in many of his other apps, making it easier for fans to quickly come up to speed on the rest of the Ruismaker catalog.

Going beyond the Traditional TB-303 Sound

As noted before, Troublemaker’s synth section features many of the same controls found on the original. You’ll find a resonant filter with an LFO (“a carefully crafted diode filter emulation”), a delay, and more. A variety of waveform options exist beyond the standard 303 sawtooth and square, including a cool FM bass, variations on the sawtooth, and even a wave modeled on an actual bass guitar.

A wavefolder and fuzz control combine to add some bite to the bass tone. The envelope modulation is tied to a punch control for another sonic refinement option. The well-designed interface facilitates empirical experimentation – a fancy way of saying this thing’s damn fun to play around with. Maybe the ability to save synth patches – with overwrite/save as functionality – will be included in a future update?

I also used other iOS sequencer apps, most notably Xynthesizr, to control Troublemaker with MIDI to great effect. The fact it easily integrates with the variety of iOS MIDI options as well as Audiobus and Ableton Link adds to its overall value. A small footprint lets you easily run multiple AU instances in your iOS DAW of choice, without Troublemaker’s sequencer. MIDI CC mapping is also supported.

While Troublemaker isn’t a true Rebirth replacement (the ability to combine patterns into songs would be a nice sequencer upgrade), the quality of its bass sound along with the great user interface make it arguably the top 303 clone in the iOS scene. If you enjoy composing electro bass lines, put this app in your collection.

Expect a review of Bram’s excellent semi-modular app, Ripplemaker, to arrive shortly here at TabMuse.


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