Bass Master is a bass-oriented virtual instrument powered by Loopmasters and sold exclusively at Pluginboutique. Let’s take a closer look at this modern bass rompler and see what it has to offer.
The instrument is compatible with all VST and AU plugin hosts on PC and Mac. Regularly priced at $99, Bass Master is on sale for $69 until August 7th, 2018.
One Slice Of Bass Layer Cake, Please!
It’s no secret that the kick drum and the bass are the pillars of modern electronic music. Making these two elements sit well together in the mix will get you halfway through to a proper sounding track. This seems easy enough – in theory, at least. In practice, things can grow quite complicated since engineering a solid mix takes skill, patience, quality instruments, and a proper monitoring setup. Of course, the more control you have over the kick and the bass elements individually, the easier it becomes to design that perfect low-end. Building the kick and the bass “from scratch” gives you more maneuver space than what you’d typically get when working with pre-made samples.
But how do you build these sounds from scratch? In the context of contemporary electronic music, layering is the name of the game. Modern kick and bass sounds often consist of multiple layers which are played simultaneously to form a balanced and punchy tone. As for the kick drum, virtual instruments like BigKick ($45) are already there to help. When it comes to bass, producers still rely on layering multiple synths or samples manually, often separating the bass sound into sub bass and higher-frequency elements. This way, it is possible to keep the sub bass rock solid while applying distortion and other effects to the higher bass frequencies. But wouldn’t it be convenient if you could create a layered bass sound using a single instrument, as you do with kicks in BigKick? Thanks to Bass Master by Loopmasters, we’re about to find out.
Bass Master follows a simple yet highly effective workflow for creating bass sounds. It blends two layers of audio, namely the Top Layer and the Sub Layer. The two layers flow through a multi-mode filter, followed by a 3-slot FX section and a multi-band frequency booster on the output. “Ahem, passing the sub-bass through an FX section? Not a breathtakingly good idea in most cases…”, an experienced mix engineer might say while secretly clenching their fist and aiming for your DAW. Thankfully, you won’t need to use your MIDI keyboard as a makeshift shield. Bass Master features the optional Direct Out mode which ensures that the sub reaches the mixer completely clean before being reunited with the post-FX version of the top layer.
Right out of the box, I was awed by the simplicity of Bass Master’s workflow. You get a small but highly effective set of tools without any distractions. The user interface is clean, intuitive, and self-explanatory. For a long-term user of various complex virtual synthesizers like Serum and Rapid, working with a more streamlined instrument like Bass Master was a nice change of pace.
Live By The Sample, Die By The Sample
Bass Master is a sample-based instrument, featuring a total of 217 “waveforms” which serve as the sound source for the top and sub layers. These waveforms are actually proper bass samples which were crafted using a variety of hardware and software synths, drum machines, and other gear. Sourced from Loopmasters’ enormous sample library catalog, it’s no surprise that the provided sounds are outstandingly good.
The source samples cover a mixture of contemporary and retro bass sounds, from analog synth tones and boomy 808 subs to various futuristic and purely digital noises. The samples are sorted into different categories for more convenient browsing (Low, Midrange, High, etc.). It is also possible to pick a completely random source sample with a single mouse click, which is sure to provide some inspiration when you don’t have a clear idea of what your bassline should sound like.
Sample-based virtual instruments come with obvious advantages like lower CPU consumption and, more often than not, an extensive range of waveform types. Bass Master reaps both of these benefits, but it’s not entirely immune to one of the typical drawbacks of the sample-based approach. Modulated sounds, once recorded, will sound slower or faster depending on the pitch they’re being played at. In other words, if you sample a synth preset which features filter modulation, the modulation will be twice as fast if you play it back an octave higher. This is the case with some of Bass Master’s source sounds, too. Although not an issue in most cases, it’s something to keep in mind when designing slow, evolving bass patches.
That said, Bass Master takes advantage of yet another trait of sample-based instruments, and that is being able to tweak the starting point of the source sound. The timbre of the top layer sample can be changed quite drastically by adjusting the starting point slider. This is especially true for the longer, more complex source samples. In my opinion, there’s room for improvement here as internal LFO modulation of the sample start parameter would be a valuable addition to Bass Master’s feature set. However, it is still possible to achieve similar results by assigning the sample start parameter to the mod wheel or automating it via DAW automation.
Pimp Your Bass
The raw bass sound can be shaped using a resonant multi-mode filter which comes with a dedicated LFO and ADSR envelope. The filter module also features the pre-drive parameter for saturating the signal and offers keytracking with a fixed tracking ratio. There are thirteen different filter types to choose from, covering all the usual suspects like low-pass, hi-pass, comb, ladder, etc. The LFO module is relatively basic, but it does offer a couple of unusual modulation shapes (such as Random and Drift), along with the ability to adjust the phase. The latter is particularly useful when creating various wobbly bass sounds which require precise control over the LFO shape.
Next up is the FX section which features distortion, reverb, and chorus effects. As we already established, the sub-bass portion of the signal can be routed directly to the mixer to preserve the clarity of the low-end. Of course, you can also choose to process both layers together using the provided effects, if you so desire.
All three FX modules come with multiple effect algorithms. For example, the distortion module can deliver anything from subtle tape-style saturation to aggressive digital deformation of the source signal. Likewise, the reverb module provides three different algorithms (Bright, Mid, Dark) and the chorus module offers four different modes (Gentle, Detune, Widen, Uber). The effects can be bypassed individually when not in use.
Last but not least, the Frequency Booster in the output section will handle the final tone and dynamics tweaks. It is a streamlined multi-band compressor capable of adding punch or boosting the bottom end for increased impact. Being that the Frequency Booster is positioned as the last module in the FX chain, it can be used to expand the reverb tail. This works particularly well on bass sounds with lots of midrange frequency content.
In most cases, just finding the right combination of the sub and top layers will provide a bass sound that is 90% complete. That said, the filter and the effects do provide the ability to customize the source material to an extent. The point is, Bass Master is not a particularly versatile instrument, but rather a toolbox containing hundreds of bass sounds that are right there at your fingertips, with some room for further adjustment using effects and filter modulation.
For users who aim to find results as quickly as possible, Bass Master packs a healthy amount of preset sounds. There are over 350 presets at the moment, organized into ten different categories (Simple, Sub, Modulated, Percussive, Harsh, etc.). The included presets provide instant access to some of the most popular types of bass sounds in modern electronic and urban music, from trap-style 808 subs to punchy squarewave basses, analog classics, and aggressive patches with plenty of distortion.
No matter how much I enjoy programming synths, both virtual and hardware, there’s this sense of being carefree and relaxed when using an instrument like Bass Master. The sounds that it comes with are terrific, to say the least, and I can further modify them to my liking without having to mess with a whole bunch of synth parameters. The fact that there’s a collection of mix-ready bass presets right there in my DAW means that I can start working on a track even if I’m not in the mood for in-depth synth programming on that particular day.
Of course, Bass Master is even more appealing to someone who isn’t into programming synths at all. With its layered approach to bass sound design and a broad palette of bass presets on offer, along with the ability to edit sounds with just a few clicks, it is the perfect solution for stepping up your bass game.
More info: Bass Master ($60 until August 7th, 2018)
Bass Master Review
With its layered approach to bass sound design and a broad palette of bass presets on offer, along with the ability to edit sounds with just a few clicks, Bass Master is the perfect tool for stepping up your bass game.