Shreddage Bass 2 ($119) is a detailed sample library of a six-string bass guitar for Native Instruments Kontakt and the free Kontakt player.
How Metal Is It?
So, is it metal, or is it good for anything and everything? Or can both be true at the same time? While metal guitarists take advantage of various playing techniques that are not often used in other music styles, most metal bassists rather stick to the “normal” playing technique. Still, Shreddage Bass 2 comes with more than 11,000 samples, which is very close to the amount of samples included in Shreddage 2 IBZ (Impact Soundworks’ metal guitar library), even though there’s no palm mutes, no pinch harmonics, no manual vibrato… Instead, what we get is more velocity layers (four for the sustained notes compared to two) and more round robins (up to eight). Velocity layers are more important for bass guitar because it is often played without distortion and also because the tonal contrast between hard and soft plucks is essential to many types of basslines. The staccato articulation is very aggressive, and in fast passages can be used as a fifth velocity layer.
Just about the only sample content that would be rarely used outside of metal is the very lowest notes – the lowest note available is a low G, for extreme detunings. The bass is set up with GEADGC tuning, like a typical six-string bass but with the low B string dropped to G. However, most of the samples on the lowest string were actually recorded with it tuned to B, and it was only tuned down for the lowest notes. This is a very smart compromise – B strings generally sound better tuned to B. So, it can be very metal, but it certainly doesn’t have to be.
How Does It Sound?
The sound is very clean and clear, but with a warm low end even at the highest velocities. Being a bassist and having lots of recordings of myself laying around on my hard drive, I did some comparisons and this bass has a much nicer low end than my recordings. Only the C string is more about bright zing than warmth (as high C strings on 6-string basses normally are). Everything was recorded through a high-end tube DI based on a classic tube Putnam console design, which is probably responsible for some of the warmth.
The sound is very tweakable, and what’s especially useful is the ability to control just how gritty and noisy the sound is. Between the sample start point offset control and the extra pop noises, the same note at the same velocity can sound smooth and round or aggresively percussive. Thanks to the ability to automate these parameters, this is a very expressive bass. Smooth and mellow verses that get rougher towards the end and lead into a gritty chorus just take a few automation clips. There are release noises, too, which get three control parameters all to themselves, and if you really want a noisy performance, you can even turn up the DI line noise and add some random resonances from hitting neighboring strings sometimes. There’s also an entire articulation of slides, scrapes and other noise effects, too.
The sound sure is great for metal, but what else is it good for? The first genre that came to my mind was modern gospel, where six-string basses are common and the bass plays high notes quite often. Modern funk-influenced pop is also a big strength. More old-school sounds are possible (stay off the B and C strings and you get a standard-tuned four-string bass), but not quite as thumpy as they could be with a more vintage-style bass, in which case the notes would not sustain as long and the frequency response wouldn’t be as even.
The instrument also includes effects, which are actually very useful, especially the amp and cab simulator. It’s not a fancy amp sim, but it quickly does a great job of turning the clean DI samples into a realistic “bass being played through a bass amp” sound, whether vintage or modern. There are also three EQs (pre-amp, post-amp and post-cab), distortion, compression etc.
How Does It Work?
The engine behind this bass has a lot in common with Shreddage 2 IBZ. Articulations can be controlled by velocity, keyswitch or MIDI CC. There is full control of the virtual player’s hand position and string preference. The engine also offers very easy stereo double tracking. Unlike Shreddage 2 IBZ which has support for up to four multitracks using separate instances and configuring each one to use a different point in the round robin cycle, Shreddage Bass 2’s stereo mode is activated with a single button and it only requires one instance. The one thing I wish was easier to do would be pretending that Shreddage Bass 2 is only a 4-string or 5-string bass – while it’s certainly possible to make the instrument stay off the high and low strings, this does require automating some parameters with certain types of bass parts.
There is a simple scripted vibrato, which is great for adding expression to longer or more important notes when controlled with the modwheel or automated. It’s not a good idea to just set it and leave it on with fixed depth and speed, though. This is violin-style vibrato, which goes both above and below the center pitch. For guitar-style string-bending vibrato which only goes above the main pitch, you have to use manual pitch bend. Support for hammer-on and pull-off legato is also nicely configurable and behaves realistically.
One fun control is the “polyphonic strings” switch. This is something that was also added to Shreddage 2 IBZ in an update, and allows playing multiple notes on one string. This is of course not realistic, but very convenient for playing chords in the upper register, and it can also be used to play some massively nasty tone clusters down low.
There is only one Kontakt instrument, with no “light” versions, so it takes a while to load, but once it loads I haven’t run into any performance issues. In general, the instrument is very convenient and easy to set up the way you want. Impact Soundworks have been making these kinds of instruments for a while, so a lot of experience and user requests have gone into refining the features and making them user-friendly.
A very nice, very versatile bass guitar library. As long as you’re not looking for accurate vintage sounds, Shreddage Bass 2 can do just about everything you might need a virtual bass guitar for.
More info: Shreddage Bass 2 (product page)
Shreddage Bass 2 Review
A very nice, very versatile bass guitar library. As long as you're not looking for accurate vintage sounds, Shreddage Bass 2 can do just about everything you might need a virtual bass guitar for.