Review – Modo Bass from IK Multimedia

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Modo Bass – IK Multimedia for the first time tries its hand at a physically modelled electric instrument – this one an electric bass.

 

by Luka Sraka, Jan. 2017

 

Have you ever wanted a bass player that is at your disposal at any given moment, one who lets you choose the sound that you as a producer want and doesn’t feel the need to stand out? IK Multimedia has made the world’s first physically modelled electric bass that can fulfil all your bass related needs. 

 

Overview and Features

From the moment I first saw the trailer for Modo Bass, I knew IK Multimedia was releasing something unique. I’ve tried different sampled virtual bass instruments, but nothing really impressed me. Either the sound didn’t reach my expectation or the instrument wasn’t expressive enough. I won’t dwell on the technical side of Modo Bass, but I guess physical modelling is the key to great virtual bass sound.

The process of making the Modo Bass is quite interesting, but as I said, I won’t look into that. For anyone interested IK Multimedia has the whole process described on their web page (http://www.ikmultimedia.com/products/modobass/index.php?pp=modo-bass-info). Let me just point out, no samples are used to create the realistic sound of Modo Bass, the sound comes from real-time modal synthesis technology.

So what do we get? In short we get twelve iconic electric bass models with fully customisable features: you can change the magnets, change the number of strings, even change the strings! You can choose flat wound or round wound strings in different gauges, the strings you “put” on your bass can be brand new, broken in or old. If you think that the action is too high or too low for the sound you are looking for, you can manipulate that as well.

As we all know a good bass sound comes from playing style and articulation, and IK multimedia thought about that too. You can choose for your bass to be plucked, played with a pick or played in the slap technique. You can freely move the playing hand for realistic performance, with key-switches and MIDI control you can detail the playing style even more. You can set the Modo Bass to emphasise certain strings, control harmonics, ghost notes, choose the plucking finger and change between slap and pull when in slap mode. All of that can be automated using DAW automation.

To tailor your sound even more there are two Ampeg style bass amps, a tube and a solid state one, and there are four stop box style effect slots available into which you can load any of the seven provided effects.

IK Multimedia Modo Bass certainly has a lot to offer. It works on PC and MAC platforms and supports Audio Units, VST 2, VST 3 and AAX plug-in formats. In addition to DAW work, Modo Bass works as a standalone application as well.  Note that support is for 64-bit only.  Here we see yet another nail in the coffin of 32-bit music technology.

 

The User Interface


Right out of the box, so to say, we get a nice overview of what’s going on. At the top of the page we have the twelve bass models to choose from, and all the usual suspects are here. ‘60s and ‘70s Fender Precision basses, two Fender Jazz Basses, Gibson EB-0 and Thunderbird basses, Music Man StingRay 5, Rickenbacker 4003, Yamaha TRB5P, Hofner Violin bass, Ibanez Soundgear and the Warwick Streamer bass. I imagine it is hard to find a bass player that owns all these basses and it would be even harder to persuade him to take all of them to a session.

At the middle of the screen the selected bass is displayed in a bigger picture with its specification on the side. The specifications section of the main view is nice to quickly see, what is going on with your bass, what electronics are on it, what the settings are, etc.

Finally at the bottom of the page there is a bass fret board displayed with a keyboard below. Every note you play is shown on the keyboard and the bass fret board, I find this very useful since it is quite important which string you decide to play a certain note on. And if you see that Modo Bass doesn’t play a note on the string you want you can quickly change it with a key switch. The bottom part of the user interface stays the same in any page of the user interface.


The next tab on the GUI is the playing style. Instead of the bass models at the top of the page, now we have the Play Style bar. We can choose between finger, pick or slap playing technique. The controls change accordingly to the playing style.  When in finger mode we can choose the plucking finger (index, middle or alternate) and we can select different touch mode, from soft, to normal and hard. When in finger playing style, a bar appears on the strings of the selected bass, with which you can choose the position of the playing hand.

When in pick mode, you can change the stroke to up, down or alternate and select the level of the pick scratch noise.  The slap playing style offers a selection of stroke techniques as well, slap, pull and auto mode.

There are few universal controls as well. You can select the level or percent of muting, you can select the let ring mode, select the fingering style, from first position, easy and nearest. You can select if you want open strings to be used when playing and finally there are detach noise and slide noise controls. The playing style bar is nicely set out and is great for auditioning different playing styles. While recording, key switches provide the control for some of the play style parameters for easier control.

The next tab is the Strings tab. It is pretty much self-explanatory, you can choose the number of the strings (four or five), and there is also a four-string option for drop-D tuning. You can select the action of the strings from high, standard or low, and you can select string type (round-wound or flat-wound) in three different gauges, and three different string ages. The strings tab is also where you select the overall temperament of the tuning.


The Electronics tab is where you can customize your bass even more. I found this section of the instrument the most entertaining since you can customize your bass in a way you would never even dare to in real life. You can equip the selected bass with pickups from all of the twelve bass models, you can even blend in the sound of a piezo pickup, you can change the circuit from active to passive, and you can set the volume, EQ and tone controls.


While the aforementioned user interface tabs all share the same middle interface with the specifications and the selected bass guitar with all the mods you made, the Amp/FX tab is different. An interactive picture of a nice studio live room is displayed, where you can change the amp model between solid state and tube by clicking on different amps. The top of the GUI changes accordingly, to accommodate the different controls each amp has to offer. The solid state version has the gain, bass, mid and treble controls with a graphic equalizer and the limiter-on button. The tube amp on the other hand has the gain, bass, mid, treble and the mid frequency select controls with the punch and harmonics-on switch. At the right side of the controls menu there are amp, D.I. and Master level controls which are the same for both amps. You cannot choose from different cabinet or microphone simulations, but I guess nothing is stopping you to use any third party amp simulation plug-in if you feel like it. The amp models sound really good and realistic, and I was pleased with the selection of the controls and sound.

When you click on one of the pedals in front of the amp, the pedal board menu comes up at the top of the page. As mentioned before, we have four pedal slots and we can choose between an octaver, distortion, chorus, comp, delay, envelope filter and graphic EQ pedals. Selecting a desired pedal brings up the specific pedal controls. The pedals sound really good. Every pedal a typical bass player would need is provided.


The last tab in the user interface is the Control tab. A section of a keyboard shows up, with the key switches for easy control of your playing style. The key switch functions change according to the play style providing different controls. At the top of the page you can select different MIDI control changes for different functions, like bend, slide, vibrato, muting and so on.

While recording or playing I found this part of the user interface the most useful. Mapping the different MIDI functions to your MIDI controller is done in seconds and provides really easy and intuitive control over your playing style.

 

Conclusions

IK Multimedia Modo bass is truly a great virtual bass plug-in. You can choose from all of the iconic bass models and can customize them in a way that would be impossible in real life. The attention to detail is astonishing. The user interface is quite detailed while remaining immediately intuitive. The sound is very realistic and comes close to the real thing.  All you have to worry about is that you play the right notes. Modo bass will find a place in projects of any music style from Motown to metal. Shure it comes at a price, for this kind of money you can get orchestral instrument libraries, but in my opinion it is money well spent. If you want a great bass sound with the convenience of a plug-in style virtual instrument Modo Bass is a must.

 

IK Multimedia Modo Bass pricing:

  • Download only: €365.99 EUR
  • USB drive/boxed: €402.99 EUR
  • Crossgrade from any previously purchased product of a value of $/€99.99 or more: €243.99 (download only) and €280.59 (USB drive/boxed

http://www.ikmultimedia.com/products/modobass/

Supported plug-in formats (64-bit): Audio Units, VST2, VST3, AAX

Computer requirements: 64 bit CPU and OS, 4GB of RAM, Mac OSX10.9 or later and Windows 7 or later.

Luka Sraka

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