Apr 19

INTRODUCTION

I thought I would have a look at a piece of Software for a change and because Bass is such an important element in music that people want to feel as well as hear, I thought I would find a great Bass Software Synth to find out what it could do for my recordings . I don’t know about you but I seem to have difficulties with getting the right bass sound, I want something with some real depth right down deep in your boots so I thought I would try SubBoomBass. This is a very reasonably priced Bass Synth designed by the legendary Rob Papen and has been out for two years now. I am not going to go into how great nearly all Rob’s software is, but get straight into Rob’s SubBoomBass as I am told it has some killer Cone-Shakin’ sounds.

HOW TO SETUP SUBBOOMBASS

It is available for PC and Mac and comes in Audio Units, RTAS and VST format. I downloaded the latest version 1.1 from Rob’s Site www.robpapen.com and installed it onto my PC. I then registered my product using the SubBoomBass serial number and then opened it in my DAW and entered the Activation Code that was e-mailed to me. This all was very straightforward and all the remained to do was click on the VST in my DAW and it opened up a very colourful cool hip-hop graffiti-type window.

FIRST LOOKS

Well I really like the mustard-coloured look and the graffiti style background. The writing on the back panel may be a bit off-putting to some people but it is a simple layout to find your way around so it should not cause too many issues. The main screen is divided into five areas. Four of them have a Dark Grey background and one of them is in the mustard colour and this is subdivided into four areas for Oscillator 1, Oscillator 2, Filter and Amp. The first and smallest Dark Grey box is the main selection area to choose a preset and Bank. Information on the number of presets seems to be inconsistent on how it is reported so I decided to add up all the presets in the 15 banks and it came to an impressive 1327 plus an empty bank of 128 for user presets. Please note this includes sequence presets in this total.

The other three Dark Grey sections are for Play Mode, Arpeggiator (which has a 16 x 6 grid) or Free Mods Section and FX. Rob designed two very good viewing ideas here. Firstly the Arpeggiator and FX sections can be toggled between being visible or being hidden and he has created an “Easy Mode” which hides many of the more in depth parameters, and simply displays the controls that are most useful – what a great idea.

PRESETS SUBBOOMBASS SOUNDS

Even without a controller keyboard attached you can check out the Preset Sounds. Don’t have your PC speakers up too loud as you may damage them as there are some very serious bass sounds here. Ideally you need a very good speaker setup with a Sub to appreciate these sounds fully. With the software opened as a VST in your DAW, click to open the Sequencer Panel and click on the Latch button. Then in the Play Mode section, click on the Demo (C2) button and the sound in preset box will start to play. You can then begin shaping your sound by use of the Oscillators, Filter and Amp sections or alternatively try out another Preset. Another way to audition the presets is to click on the Bank Manager. You can then select any of the presets displayed and hear them by clicking on the Preview button at the bottom of the window. It takes a while to preview of 1300 presets and some of them have great names like “WobbleMe2”.

OSCILLATING SUBBOOMBASS

I started to look at the Oscillators and you have 39 sample-based waveforms to choose from. I started to listen to these and this really gave me an idea of what this synth is all about and I instantly thought that the Oscillators alone make the purchase worthwhile and the sound seems ideal for Hip Hop, DubStep or Techno genres etc. Great Low-end stuff to make your tracks have all the Oomph they deserve. These 39 covered a broad spectrum of analogue waveforms and tuned percussion waveforms. Both Oscillators have PWM square wave or sinus wave Sub-oscillator and there is FM and Ring modulation modes for Oscillator 2. There is also Oscillator waveform Symmetry control for each oscillator as well as a free running option and you can Sync oscillator 2 to oscillator 1. The semitone range goes from -48 semitones up to +48 semitones and there is a separate octave control and fine-tuning. As you would expect there is a Volume Control for each Oscillator but there is also an Output On/Off option for Oscillator 1.

FILTERING SUBBOOMBASS

After you have had a play with the Oscillators, the next section along is the Filter Section. You will find a main filter, which is an analogue-modelled stereo Multimode Filter. This provides you with a good selection of modes; 6dB, 12dB, 18dB and 24dB Bandpass, Notch, Comb or Vocal. With the Vocal mode there is additional fun to have by controlling the vowel sound. Some of the presets worked well, whilst others seem to sound a bit “Cheesy”, so you will need to experiment with this.

You can make some further adjustments to your sounds with the rest of the controls in the Filter Section. Here you have the usual Cutoff and Resonance which most people head for in the first instance but there is also Keytrack, an ADSFR Envelope and a Syncable LFO. You also have Velocity and Modulation Wheel controls.

Finally, just when you thought you were done with filtering, there is a second Filter with Cutoff control, giving you 6dB, 12dB and 24dB low and high pass modes and a switch to determine how both filters interact together; either serially, in parallel, or in split mode so that Filter 1 affects Oscillator 1 and Filter 2 affects Oscillator 2.

SUBBOOMBASS AMP SECTION

The amp section of SubBoomBass features an ADSFR envelope. I really like the additional “F” which adds in “Fade”. Fade means that rather than hold the signal at the sustain level, it will instead rise or fall over a given period of time. There are also Volume, Velocity and Panning controls.

SUBBOOMBASS PLAY MODES SECTION

The Play Mode section controls how SubBoomBass responds to notes played. You can select; Poly, Mono 1 or Mono 2, legato 1 or Legato 2 or triggered by the internal sequencer. There is also a built-in Unison Control which has Unison 2, Unison 4, Unison 6 and octave modes with Unison detune.

You also have an analogue control (which does a cool job of simulating the instability of old analogue synths), a control for portamento (giving you constant rate, constant time or held), a demo button to preview sounds, a global tuning dial, a Decay / Release shape parameter and a dedicated pitch modulation section with an LFO.

SEQUENCER

Moving on to the central panel, behind the graffiti door you have a choice of the Sequencer or the Free Mods Section. I chose the 16-Step Sequencer and found it very easy to use and quickly started to create some very interesting bass, synth and drum patterns. I clicked on the latch so that my pattern would keep going and using the On / Off switch for each step, I selectively took out some steps and added others in. I also used the Slide facility to slide notes like on the bass guitar, and adjusted the pitch of some of the steps. Finally I added some swing, changed the speed and the velocity of the steps and discovered that my creation was sounding very good to me. The sequenced patterns could be anything from one to sixteen steps, so it was good experimenting with different lengths to see what effect it had on the pattern. As well as the items that I adjusted like Tune and Slide, each step has its own row for Tie, Slide, Velocity, Free, Tune, On / Off, Oscillator 1 waveform and Oscillator 2 waveform. This opens up endless variations and your creations can be saved. To get an idea of how good the Sequencer sounds, you need to preview the JoMal preset bank sequences.

FREE MODS SECTION

There is more to this software than you first realise. As you click on the Free Mods button it opens up another window replacing the sequencer if you had that open. This section is all about assigning LFOs and Envelopes to control specific parameters that the SubBoomBass has. I have used something similar on my Access Virus software. Many Synths are starting to have something similar nowadays and they can really add some spice and life to the sound and can get quite complex. With this complexity, I have not come across one yet that doesn’t go wrong at some point, so I will be interested to find out if SubBoomBass also has its bugs. The problems are probably proportionate to the size of the Modulation Matrix. The larger this is, the greater number of permutations are possible and therefore more chance of something failing. I am pleased to say that although it was only limited testing, I did not experience any problems.

In the case of the SubBoomBass, there are 48 modulating routings, a modulation envelope, a syncable LFO and 4 free modulation routings for 32 modulation sources. This is complex enough and will allow you to come up with something very creative and produce some great sounds. If this is something that you do not understand, then I would advise that you just play and experiment with it, and over time you will start to learn what, for example is happening when you route an LFO to the pitch of one of the Oscillators. It is all good fun and the software does a good job of making this process as easy as possible for you. Amongst the controls you will see that there is one envelope with ADSFR, an option to control the envelope times with use of either Velocity or Key Played, one LFO that has a variety of waveforms, a tempo-sync option that has speed settings between 16/1 and 1/32t, Poly, Free and Mono modes and a secondary modulation source and control.

YOU GET 23 EFFECTS WITH SUBBOOMBASS

Well Rob does not leave you wanting when it comes to the built-in effects he provides (which can be run in either serial or split mode). The 23 effects are as follows:- Mono Delay, Stereo Delay, Comb, Reverb, Chorus, Chorus/Delay, Flanger, Phaser, Wah/Delay, Distort, Low-Fi, Amp Sim,WaveShaper, Stereo Widener, Auto Pan, Gator, Bass Enhancer, FX Filter, Equalizer, Compressor, Ensemble Cabinet, MultiDistort and Auto Wah. Just click on the FX button to open the effects screen and you will see that it also provides, two effect modulation sources for connecting MIDI or your Synth controls such as Modulation Wheel or Velocity to specific effect parameters.

CONCLUSION

Well I am suitably impressed by SubBoomBass. Based on Rob’s award winning Predator Synth, it does a similar job but has the needy addition of the Sub-Bass element. I think for most people, the Sub-Bass is exactly what they want and this does an excellent job – plus more. It is also hard to find another product on the market that does this one specific job and so well. The warning that it can do speaker damage should not be taken lightly. The price is very reasonable considering the vast amounts of presets and effects and if you are producing Urban Styles, Hip Hop, Dub, R&B, Techno etc. and you can’t live without deep speaker cone-shaking unique Sub-Bass sounds, then this is definitely for you.

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