A new virtual synth from sound design wizard Rob Papen is always a cause for excitement in the world of computer music, and although his latest, SubBoomBass, hasn't officially hit the shops just yet, it's been on our test bench for over a week now.
SubBoomBass is based on the engine of Rob's beastly Predator synth, but as the name implies, this new instrument is intended to be a "dedicated bass synth". While it lacks some of the features of its progenitor, it has a number of bass-specific features that Predator doesn't have, not to mention an eye-catching interface. And here it is, in the optional Easy mode, where only the most fundamental parameters are exposed…
Serious synthesists will no doubt sidestep the Easy mode, although the manual explains that it could be handy for live performance situations, where you might prefer to have only the basic controls to hand.
So what of those bass-specific features? The biggest selling point of SubBoomBass concerns its oscillators, and while these can use many of the same analogue-modelled waveforms as found in Predator, there's a wide selection of (down-)tuned percussive samples that are unique to SBB. As you'd hope, they can kick out some serious sub-bass! Click the following screenshot to zoom in and check out the list of available waveforms (note that sine, square, etc, have scrolled off the top of the screen)…
On the theme of oscillators, while SubBoomBass has just two – as opposed to Predator's three – it has the added feature of a Sub-Osc knob per oscillator, which can be used to bring in either a sine or square wave an octave below the note played. There's also a unison function that lacks the per-oscillator Spread option of Predator but has the advantage of additional octaved unison modes.
A more substantial deviation is that while Predator has an arpeggiator, SubBoomBass instead features a 16-step sequencer. The Tie, Slide, Tune and Velocity rows mean you can program in "one-key" basslines, and there's a Free row for modulating various parameters within the synth. Most novel are the rows labelled Osc1 and Osc2 - with these you can change the waveform of either oscillator on the fly, to radically alter the timbre as part of a sequence. Check it out:
There are plenty of presets that make use of the sequencer - you can hear some of them layered over a hip-hop beat in the following clips:
SBB - Preset Sequence 1.mp3
SBB - Preset Sequence 2.mp3
SBB - Preset Sequence 3.mp3
SBB - Preset Sequence 4.mp3
SBB - Preset Sequence 5.mp3
SBB - Preset Sequence 6.mp3
SBB - Preset Sequence 7.mp3
SBB - Preset Sequence 8.mp3
SBB - Preset Sequence 9.mp3
SBB - Preset Sequence 10.mp3
SBB - Preset Sequence 11.mp3
SBB - Preset Sequence 12.mp3
(Right-click the links and use the 'download file' option if you're having trouble opening the links directly)
Many of the above clips make use of the tuned percussion waveforms to provide thunderous sub-bass tones, but the analogue modeled ones (square, sine, triangle, etc) have plenty of floor-shaking potential too. Here are a couple of neat 'talking bass' patches we cooked up:
SBB - Vocal Bass 1.mp3
SBB - Vocal Bass 2.mp3
It's worth noting that SubBoomBass isn't limited to bass sounds, as its synthesis capabilities can offer up a range of pads, leads and the like, with the 24 built-in effects offering further sonic scope. Here's a selection of analogue-style pads we dialled in:
SBB - Vintage Pad 2.mp3
SBB - Vintage Pad 3 Phaser Reverb.mp3
SBB - Gated Pad 1.mp3
SBB - Gated Pad 2 Softer.mp3
So there you have our quick overview… but is SubBoomBass really an essential purchase for bass lovers? And if you've already got Predator, has it got enough extras to make it worthwhile in its own right? You'll have to wait until CM140 hits the shelves in a month or so to read the CM review and find out for sure!
In the meantime, head on over to Rob Papen's site to find out more about SubBoomBass (and to check out Rob's own audio demos!). The synth can also be bought via UK distributors Time+Space, who have made it available for preorder.