Loopmasters Bass Master by Sound-Guy
Loopmasters Bass Master
If you are creating House, Trap, Hip-Hop, D&B, Urban Chill, Dub-Step, Reggaeton, Industrial, Psytrance, Trapstep, Trance, any kind of EDM, you’ve probably heard of Loopmasters, and might even have some of their samples. But you may not know that they now make a virtual instrument, a loop player called Bass Master, available as a 64-bit VST and AU plug-in. Since I’ve already got a number of ways to play/record bass in my studio, I wasn’t sure a dedicated bass playing module would really deliver anything new or exciting. Bass is bass, right?
One Trick Pony?
This recent addition to their product line is a clean looking loop player that comes with over 200 MB of samples, some in stereo, some mono, all from Loopmasters who have been producing excellent professional quality samples for 15 years. Listening to a number of the 350-plus provided presets I found some very good room shaking sounds, but a look at the control panel showed there are more tricks up this pony’s sleeve.
The Bass Master player has a clean, yet comprehensive user interface.
Without even reading the manual I could see there are two layers for each sound, a Top Layer and a Sub layer, and to the right of the layer sample setting windows are an ADSR and A-R control for the Top and Sub layers respectively. Some samples (usually with Loop in the name) loop indefinitely, although when used in the Top layer, can be made into one-shot sounds if the sustain setting is set below maximum. In fact, the ADSR control for this layer can shape any basic sound in many ways, with the A, D and R settings adjustable from ‘0’ to 4 seconds, and the S setting from 0 dB to - infinity. The Sub layer will always play an entire sample, looped or one-shot, but still has the attack and release settings for further sound shaping. There are 217 samples organised into six categories, which may not sound like a lot, but when combined in pairs, as this pony can do, provide 47,089 possible ‘base’ sounds which are lot of bass sounds! Some of the looped samples have a separate key-release sound, which adds even more texture to the results.
This composite view shows the Top Layer loop selection window, its six categories and some of the samples in its
Mid category on the left side, and the ten Preset categories with some of the Smooth category presets near the middle.
Above the Top layer loop selection window is a slider control marked Sample Start, and it does exactly that, moving the start point of the sample later in time (and without creating any pops or crackles). This affects only the Top layer, but when combined with the Sub layer greatly expands the sonic possibilities. To the right of this section is a Mixer section with two faders clearly marked Top and Sub, and of course they adjust the levels of the two layers. There are a couple special controls for the Sub layer, an octave control below its waveform selector window (-1, 0 and +1 octave) and a switch labeled Direct Out to the right of its mixer fader. This switch will bypass subsequent effects for the Sub layer only, which yields a more distinct contribution from this source, though you can switch it off and send both layers through the effects for more variety.
Up to this point we have several ways to create millions of sounds from the basic 47,089 combinations, since the ADSR/A-R envelopes, the balance, the octave of the Sub layer and the starting point of the Top layer can all be adjusted. But the next section is where it really happens! The Filter and LFO controls enable modifying the millions of possible sounds from the first two sections over time and frequency. Not only are there the usual filter types (13 of them), key tracking, cutoff frequency, resonance, amount controls, and filter ADSR envelope, but also a Pre-Drive level control that can greatly changes the colour of the sounds by adding harmonics. This filter section can add a lot of motion to the basic sounds, even pushing resonance into self-oscillation if you like that sort of thing. But my favorite controls are next, right below the Filter section - LFO. Here you have the usual amount, shape, rate and a sync on/off control, but also a phase control and a trigger switch. Sync of course locks the LFO frequency to your DAW’s tempo (and you can select from one cycle in 8 measures to one in 1/48th of a measure ) and with the sync off, the rate can be varied from 0.01 Hz to 50 Hz. The phase control adjusts where in its cycle the LFO modulation starts when a note is triggered. And the Trigger switch controls whether the LFO starts at the same point whenever a note is sounded, or is free running (in which case the Phase control has no affect). One of my favorite finds was that the Shape control not only has the usual sine, triangle, saw, random etc., but has a mode called Drift which I found can impart some real analog feel to a sound. And every control can be varied while a sound is playing, and the effects takes place in real-time with no clicks or zipper noise. And when you move any control with a mouse, a small window pops up showing you the value of the parameter you are setting. Top notch programming!
Is That All?
Hardly! There is still the entire lower half of the Bass Master to further process your sounds (by this time I was wondering how I could possibly need any more modulations or effects!). There is a Global section that affects the overall sounds with legato and portamento settings and glide time adjustable from 0 to 10 seconds. In case you forgot, portamento always glides from one note to the next, but legato only glides if a new note is played while the last note is still held. Bass Master is a monophonic, one note at a time instrument as a bass part should be, so having a glide control is very useful. This section also has a pitch bend range control (up to +/- 12 semitones) and three modulation level controls that can be set to control the range that a MIDI controller Mod wheel will have on up to three Bass Master parameters at once. And of course you can always apply automation to any of the Bass Master controls.
And there is more. The next section, called Layer FX (because it affects only the Top layer if the Sub layer is set to Direct Out as described earlier) includes Distortion (with five algorithms, a drive level and a colour control), Stereo Chorus (with four algorithms, amount and rate controls) and a reverb (with Bright, Mid and Dark algorithms, and level and size controls). The FX are excellent, and as with all other settings can be changed on the fly with smooth results, so you may not need to add your own FX chain to a Bass Master channel.
Finally there is the Master FX section that processes the complete sound, both layers, after all the previous FX. This is actually a kind of multiband compressor with auto gain-makeup, termed the Frequency Booster, with Top, Middle and Bottom level controls (which of course refer to the frequency ranges being processed). It adds volume and significant crunch to any sound if all the previous FX didn’t still didn’t cut through the mix the way you wanted!
That’s All, Folks!
There are no hidden panels, sub-menus, or anything else to adjust, but with the controls of this single panel you can create an infinite number of sounds (though I’m not sure which level of infinity, or if it’s a rigidly or loosely bounded infinity!). Of course the real question is should you spend your £52.01, $69.00, €58.83, or ¥7,676 for a Bass Master? Let me get to answering that question in a moment, but first let me note a few things that I have not yet covered. First, it is extremely easy to find a preset that may work in your music - there are ten categories of presets with fairly good descriptive names. And it is extremely easy to modify a preset, changing the Top layer and/or Sub layer to other sounds, changing filter and LFO settings, etc. And a doddle to save anything you come up with as your own preset. But there are a couple more things I found that really sold me (as if I wasn’t already sold!).
I quickly found using presets that play continuously when a key is held down, I could change filter, LFO and other controls while the note played, making Bass Master a superb drone machine! Using automation in a DAW you can create amazing drones that evolve and shift in many directions, and go on as long as you wish.
And there is more! You can play notes across the entire MIDI range, and many of the presets sounded great played up above middle C, as a lead sound, in addition to playing as a bass line! So Bass Master is not only great for bass, but can also produce some strong lead sounds.
Bass Master is not a complete synth/sampler, of course, since it plays only monophonic notes, so no chords are possible (unless you were to use multiple instances!) but from bass that literally shook my studio to screaming leads with ringing resonances and sweeping filters, the Bass Master is an extremely flexible source of excellent samples and single-shot sounds that music producers in about any genre will find valuable. And at the price, it’s a steal.
So, yes, you should buy the Bass Master.
Very clean and comprehensive user interface - I only looked briefly at the manual after first figuring out all the functions myself!
Excellent sounds which hold up extremely well shifted over several octaves, providing everything from subsonic bass to screeching lead sounds.
Huge set of quality FX which all can be modified as notes play with no audible artifacts.
Extremely responsive to all controls and runs with a low CPU load.
Low introductory price in any currency!
Nothing of note - no user manual bundled with software, but there is one available within Bass Master if you are online, but not really needed unless you’ve never used a sound module before.
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