Novation is back, this time with yet another one of the most iconic Bass machines in synth history: The Bass Station...II! That's right boys and girls, get ready for more mean bass tones, aggressive filter sweeps, and all around warm and powerful analog synthesis that can really give you anything you are looking for; all at your fingertips. Based on the original Bass Station of course, this synth is not only a cleaner and sleeker "re-issue", but also a step forward as it integrates not only an arpeggiator and step sequencer, but an upgraded filter that features a switchable "Diode Ladder Filter" design, that can take this great little monosynth into Moogish and 303ish territories with lots of class and depth.
Let's start at the beginning of the signal path, where all the fun begins but all chaos is yet to be determined....the oscillators! Here we have two analog but Digitally Controlled Oscillators ( DCO ), which offer better tuning stability, and include the standard Sine, Sawtooth, Square, and Triangle waves. Pulse Width is available on the panel, and can be modulated ( PWM ) via the envelope, or the 2nd LFO. The Pitch of either oscillator can also be modulated via the 1st LFO or by the mod envelope allowing for more complex tonal shaping and wild abstract manipulations. The oscillator section on the Bass Station also offers a Coarse, and Fine tuning knob that are switchable per oscillator, which are quite nice in adding some refinement to your sound. Last but not least of course, there is the Sub Oscillator, which can be taken down 1 or 2 octaves, as well as utilize Sine, Square, or Pulse waves for some extra earth-shaking bottom end. Everything is then blended together via the mixer, which also offers Ring Modulation, Noise, and the capability to mix in external signals like guitars or other synths.
The original filter in this beauty was designed by Chris Hugget - of the Oscar and Wasp legacies - and is presented here with some different features that really make this a special filter in today's world. Switchable between "Classic" and "Acid" modes, the filter not only gives you the ability to experience the original in all its glory, but also allows for some extra punch on the high end, taking this synth into the realms of the infamous 303 thanks to a "Diode Ladder Filter design". The filter is also Multi-Mode, so it can be switched between 24db, or 12db slopes, as well as Low Pass, High Pass, and Bandpass, and can also be modulated via the envelope, or the 2nd LFO. There is also a nice Overdrive feature, which can be very useful in making your sound more robust, or distorted and more aggressive. And did i mention the huge Filter Cutoff knob a la Moog? Because you know, handling the filter can sometimes be a bit like riding in a rodeo, and one needs that extra space to hold on to as you are taken for the ride of your life!
The modulation section on the Bass Station is very straight forward, and a bit like the LFO section found on the Korg MS2000: 2 LFO's side by side, offering your standard Saw, Square, Triangle, and S+H ( Sample and Hold - Great for manual classic sequencing ), but giving you the extra feature of allowing for what is called "LFO Slew", which though it sounds more like a foreign side dish, is actually a nice way of distorting the LFO wave as it is modulated for more interesting possibilities. This aside from the fact we have covered the patched possibilities for the LFOs on the oscillator, and filter sections, and you get an idea of how far you can take things with this incredible little beast.
The envelopes on the Bass Station are of the slider kind, just like on the Minibrute, which are very intuitive for this sorta of thing, yet has what may be seen a drawback. Unlike many synths which offer a dedicated filter and amp envelope, the Bass Station offers one set of sliders, switchable between 3 options, Mod, Amp, or both simultaneously; which can actually be a fairly useful feature in some cases. The envelope also offers the option to trigger once, re-trigger or the cool "Auto-Glide" feature.
Last we move on to the sequencing section, the favorite of many, and the star of the show with this little beast in many ways....aside from the filter of course! Here we have not just an arpeggiator, but also the often lacking step sequencer; which, because of the lack of pads or per-step lights, records the sequence as you play it on the keyboard for a much more expressive experience. The included "Rhythm" knob also allows for the breaking up of the steps by inserting rhythmic gaps ( 32 in total ), or will simply let both the Arpeggiator and sequencer play in the classic manner. A total of 4 pattern banks are available for the step sequencer, allowing for a total of 32 steps that can be played live and on-the-fly. The Arpeggiator features the standard in pattern modes, here presented as "Up", "Down", Up/Down 1", "Up/Down 2", and "Random"; all with the usual range of 4 octaves. Latch is also featured, and is a nice tool, especially for giving your hands a rest while exploring the subsonic territories that are capable with this synth.
Overall, this synth should be all you need for basslines, sub-tones, and really anything you want to do; especially with the incredible sequencing capabilities this synth has to offer. The only real limitation found here is lack of Polyphony, which gives Mono Synths their special and often "retro" feel. So don't judge based on that....each synth has its own beauty, and adds power to your set up when chosen wisely. This beast is available for immediate delivery from Sweetwater or any other place you use for synth-shopping, and is bound to easily become, quite literally....your Bass Station.
Written by: Santino Fernandez