Submitted December 16, 2013 by Fred K in Chicago, IL
"Modern Retro Sound Machine"
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I used to own a Roland SH-101 and a Sequential Circuits Pro One many years ago and wanted something similar to be able to create fat synth bass-lines and leads, as well as general analog monophonic mayhem. The Novation Bass Station II does all that and more. It's basically an old-school analog mono synth similar to the SH-101 and the Pro One, but with a few modern conveniences, such as 128 patch memory and more compact size. It's enormously fun to play around with and to discover its seemingly endless and amazing sonic possibilities. It's great for both recording and live situations.
The Bass Station II sounds excellent, just like a high quality analog monosynth should. Running it through the PA, a keyboard amp, or even through headphones, one can feel its raw sonic power. It's loud and clear (with no static noise like some vintage analog synths), the bass sounds are deep and smooth (it has a sub oscillator with three different waveforms), the tuning is rock solid thanks to the 2 DCOs, and the filter is fantastic, with an enormous range and depth! Just running the arpeggiator or the onboard sequencer while doing some manual filter sweeps is practically capable of inducing a state of hypnosis...
The one thing that always annoyed me most about the SH-101 and the Pro-One was that I couldn't save the sounds I had created. With the Bass Station II you get 128 memory patches to store all your best sounds. The Bass Station II comes with 70 presets, most of which are actually pretty good, but all can be freely edited and/or overwritten. The arpeggiator is very versatile with a nice variety of settings and 32 rhythmic styles (unfortunately some of rhythm patterns are quite useless and rather annoying, however. I hope there's a way to reprogram those). The Bass Station II also has a 32 note sequencer, capable of storing 4 different sequences. The sequencer is great, it is triggered by whichever note you play and can be automatically transposed. One can also actually switch seamlessly between the 4 sequences, which really brings this thing to life. The Bass Station II also has a latch switch (i.e. hold switch), which not only keeps the apreggiator and sequencer going, but actually holds any single note indefinitely. Very useful for hands-free operation. Another neat little feature is the simple 3 digit multi-function LED display. It shows the patch number by default, but when you tweak any knobs, it shows the value of the parameter you're adjusting (e.g. tempo setting, ADSR values etc.). It has MIDI and USB connections which allow the Bass Station to be hooked up to other instruments and computers. The Bass Station also features blue backlit pitch bend and modulation wheels, which look very cool in the dark!
Ease of Use
Right out of the box you'll find yourself tweaking the knobs and sliders, generating incredible sounds. It's very simple and intuitive to use, well laid out and compact. The instruction manual is only 20 pages long, and if you've ever used analog synths before you probably won't even need it until you get into the more advanced functions. The Bass Station II is a straight-forward monophonic synthesizer and it does what it's supposed to do incredibly well.
Although the Bass Station II appears small and feels light, it is quite solidly built and doesn't feel cheap. It is a serious professional musical instrument, not a novelty gadget like the Korg Monotrons. All the controls (knobs and sliders) feel firm and durable. The 2-octave keyboard with full-size keys is very nice! The keys feel really comfortable to play and even have aftertouch.
At this price, the Bass Station II is definitely a bargain! If you want REAL (NOT Virtual) analog earth-shaking bass sounds, soaring leads, and electronic space noise, but don't want to pay through the nose for comparable vintage equipment, the Bass Station II is it! This little synth is guaranteed to become a classic! Nicely done, Novation!
The Wow Factor
For analog purists, this is an exciting modern interpretation of retro/vintage synthesizer technology. It looks cool and futuristic with its black and blue color scheme, blinking lights, lots of knobs and sliders, and of course the blue hue of the pitch and mod wheels. But even better than that, it sounds fantastic and sort of takes you back to the early days of prog rock and electronica a la Pink Floyd or Kraftwerk.
Played music for 30 years, in various bands and recording projects. Play keyboards, guitar, bass, and vocals
Punk, post-Punk, New Wave, Rock, Electronica
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