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Novation Bass Station II

Novation Bass Station II

4.65 4.65 out of 5, based on 5 Reviews

This is really a no brainer. The Bass Station II is fun, small and sounds really great!


29th November 2013

Novation Bass Station II by ivan_b

  • Sound Quality 5 out of 5
  • Ease of use 4 out of 5
  • Features 5 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 5 out of 5
  • Overall: 4.75
Novation Bass Station II

I love synthesizers but in the past years I've come across a few machines that simply did not deliver in sound quality. A good example is the Waldorf Rocket, which is immediately a lot of fun and sounds good until you actually try to mix it.

The Bass Station 2 is also a lot of fun. In fact it has so much hands-on control that I found myself immediately not knowing what to touch first. The layout is logical and it's easy to find the function you are looking for. Novation found a good balance between putting all the immediately useful functions as hands-on control while having the less important ones on a shift+key basis. The fun is so immediate!

The sound of the Bass Station 2 reminds me a bit of my Little Phatty. It's almost as deep and almost as rich as the latter. While the sound of the Bass Station 2 is more controlled that of the LP it can get as crazy. The arp keeps a certain BPM (unlike the LP) and the digital functions you get really make you feel like playing a digital synth, only with analog, superb sound. That's pretty good for a synth that costs less than half the price of the Moog LP.

Build quality is OK. The machine has a plastic shell but the knobs feel really sturdy and there is a plus point for making the filter pot huge!

I will not go into the specifications here. You can read all the technical stuff on the Novation website. What's important for me is that:

- The synth sounds great. Really, it's a joy to listen to. Sonically balanced and beautiful.
- The keyboard feels and play great.
- There is aftertouch.
- There is a programmable arp and a step sequencer.
- Direct input so you can run stuff through the awesome filter.
- Awesome filter.
- Sub oscillator.
- Two LFOs.
- Distorsion.

To me this is the first synth I've come across in recent years that can challenge the LP for BASS! I think it's a must have.

Side note:
I was considering the Microbrute and/or the Minibrute but the lack of the ability to save patches just make them utterly useless in any live situation.

  • 1
8th June 2014

Novation Bass Station II by dswo

  • Sound Quality 4 out of 5
  • Ease of use 4 out of 5
  • Features 4 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 5 out of 5
  • Overall: 4.25
Novation Bass Station II

Should I buy a Bass Station II?

Advantages

  • Sturdy build. The case is plastic, but the knobs and sliders feel very solid. See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eWIfDz_vYwQ
  • It's quite flexible: two oscillators, four wave forms (including a variable-width pulse), seven filter types, two separate envelopes, two LFOs, three wave forms and two octave settings for the suboscillator.
  • Pulse width can be modulated by the mod envelope and LFO2 simultaneously. So can oscillator pitch (which is useful for creating new textures with oscillator sync).
  • It has patch memory.
  • It can approximate the very expensive vintage Roland SH-101. See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vSML0y-4DsU
  • It has a flexible sequencer and arpeggiator.
  • It has two built-in effects, Overdrive and Osc Filter Mod, that add a lot.
  • The bass is weightier than DSI synths (Mopho/Tetra/Prophet 08) and doesn't attenuate when you turn up the resonance.
  • It can process external input.
  • It has ring modulation and white noise.
  • The keyboard and sound are both sensitive to velocity.
  • It can be purchased for under $400.

Disadvantages
  • Aftertouch requires a lot of pressure, so it's not inconceivable that you could break a key.
  • It sounds less distinctive than the Arturia Miniand Microbrute. (This could also be an advantage.)
  • No control voltage (CV) input or output.
  • As of this writing (22 May 2014), the arpeggiator/sequencer doesn't always stay in sync with your MIDI clock.
  • As of this writing (22 May 2014), filter keyboard tracking is permanently set to 100% for the Classic filters and 50% for the Acid filter.
  • As of this writing (22 May 2014), the arpeggiator/sequencer can't be triggered from an external MIDI source, only from the BS2's own keyboard.
  • Even with "LFO 1 to Osc Pitch" set to 1, full mod wheel gives more vibrato than you might want.
  • A third built-in effect, Distortion, sounds less organic.
  • It's larger than the Microbrute (but also has full-size keys).
  • You can only play one note at a time. (I.e., it's a monosynth. If you want analogue polyphony in this price range, you'll need to buy something used from the 1980s.)
  • It only has 25 keys (same as the Moog Sub Phatty, Micro/Minibrute).

General Advice
The Minimoog Model D did not have many features by today's standards, but it had a beautiful tone. So, when you're demoing synthesizers, focus on the sound. More features doesn't necessarily mean a better synth.

16th November 2015

Novation Bass Station II by cr73645

  • Sound Quality 5 out of 5
  • Ease of use 5 out of 5
  • Features 4 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 5 out of 5
  • Overall: 4.75
Novation Bass Station II

When I chose to buy a Microbrute, I was driven by the need of something small, and also analog. Unfortunately - or even fortunately - the Microbrute didn't live to the expectation, and I decided to invest a little bit more for a Bass Station II.

I'll try my best to keep it short, but this synth is deep and has a lot of features.


Build quality
The instrument is plastic-made, nice black and blue color and a bunch of red lights. It's noticeable small, and although portable, seems sturdy enough. Knobs, switches and buttons have a good feel, and way better quality than most of the stuff at this price point. The sliders are also good, with very little lateral movement. Buttons are soft touch rubber, with an excellent quality.

The key bed is way better than I imagined, full-sized, with aftertouch (which is rare in this category), with a better feel than the A-800 Pro and UMX-610. The blue backlit on pitchbend and modwheel makes a nice visual effect - both are also covered with a soft feel rubber.


Functionality
Turn it on and it is ready to go. It is already in tune and pitch is very stable. It can run on USB power or DC adaptor, both included. The included USB cable is also blue, matching with the BS look. Connections include MIDI in and out, mono audio out, mono audio in, headphone out, USB out (for power and USB-MIDI), DC in.

Everything is pretty straightforward, and the things not immediately available underneath your hands, is only a switch away. These switches are available in every part of the synth, changing controls and useful parameters, allowing you to jump from oscillator 1 editing to oscillator 2 for example. It seems a little bit limiting, but you get used to it very fast.


Oscillators
The sound created by the DCOs is pleasant, but you don't get the same power as with a Moog VCO on bass, but it's almost there. It is on par with DSI in my opinion, a little more bassy and less brassy though. They're powerful enough, with a punchy sound.

Waveforms include saw, square with variable PW, triangle and sine. They're all well defined and have a nice tone, bright and harmonically rich. The sub-oscillator has 3 waveform choices and can be used one or two octaves below osc 1.

Each oscillator can be modulated with independent amounts by an LFO (1) and envelope (mod) in pitch. They can also have PWM with different amounts, by an envelope (mod) and LFO (2). There's portamento, but unfortunately can't be individually set for each oscillator. You also get hard sync between oscillators.


Mixer
Here you can control the level for each sound source. The Bass Station II uses six sources: oscillator 1, oscillator 2, sub-oscillator, white noise, ring modulation and external audio.

The ring modulation was really unexpected, but welcome. It allows the creation of some nice FX and metallic sounds. The big difference here is that this circuit is always active, and you can add the sound to the mix while having both oscillators sounding with it, with no need to activate ring modulation whatsoever.


Filter
The multi-mode Classic filter is brutally awesome! A big highlight in this synth. It has a Rolandy feel, with little loss in the bass department with high resonances, and has a big tonal range. You get LP, HP and BP with 12dB/oct or 24dB/oct, all with resonance. The second filter option (Acid) is a nice LPF with a 24dB/oct slope, but way less special than the other, and it's not capable of self-oscillation. One thing that I really miss is being able to use both filters at the same time, in series - it would be awesome!

All audio signal coming from the mixer can be overdriven pre-filter with a dedicated knob. It allows a more aggressive feel, being more prominent than the Sub Phatty, and also more controllable. It doesn't sound as good though (the pre-filter overdrive).


Envelope
There are two, one for volume (amp), other for modulation of other parameters (mod). The time goes from clicky and percussive to long evolving pads, with a very good feedback from the controls (up to 50% of slider dedicated to the super fast envelope times). There's a small switch at the side that selects how the envelope works (re trigger for each note, legato, legato glide) - this is amazing, cause makes it easy to adjust something that usually requires the use of menus. There's another switch to make the sliders work editing the amp or mod envelope, and also both at the same time.


LFO
There are also 2. One dedicated to pitch modulation (1), other for filter and PW (2). Their range go from almost 0 Hz to almost 300 Hz according to the specs - you can get some audio range modulation only with the LFOs. These LFOs also have delay, which is very welcome and uncommon nowadays. Maybe inspired on those old Roland analog synths?

Besides that, you can sync it to time and also re trigger with key press. Out of curiosity, you can edit LFO slew, which makes it able to create an almost sine waveform LFO - or, even better, a soft sample&hold waveform.


Effects
No analog delay here, unfortunately. Here you get two effects that adds a little more to the sound. The first is a distortion circuit, allowing some modern sounds and fits nicely into the "Transformers making sex" music - aka Dubstep. It can also be used to enrich some 303-like sounds. It's not the best distortion in the world, but it's good and usable. A fuzz circuit would be way way way better (yes, that better), cause you wouldn't loose much bass. The second effect is constantly observed and kind of a trend nowadays: using oscillator 2 to modulate the filter's cutoff. What you get, is a different sound that allows the creation of the famous Tom Sawyer bass and a few vocal sounds.


Arpeggiator and sequencer
The arpeggiator is very good. 32 rhythmic variation of each of the standard patterns (up, down, up and down, random) with a variable octave control (1 to 4 octaves). Do the math if you want, I can only say that there's a lot of variation. The preset saves the selected arpeggio for each sound.

The sequencer is simple and clearly inspired in the SH-101. "Hit" record, play your notes, and voilà! There's your sequence!! You can also add rests and ties, but no accent or glide. It would be amazing if it did! Unfortunately, there's only enough memory for 4 sequences.


Functions
There are several "hidden" functions in the BS2, which are accessible by pressing the function and a key in combination. The good thing here is that every function is written in the interface, so there's no constant searching for the manual, it's all very accessible. I'm already used to it.


Final thoughts
For the first time, I'm having difficulties to create the positive and negative about an instrument. It seems that every negative aspect of the synth are necessary for it to be small and portable, which is why I got it in the first place. Being made of plastic, switches, hidden functions and a few other qualities are needed if you want it to be light and small for example. A more complex sequencer would require a deeper digital menu, which isn't wanted.

If I had to criticize, I can think a few things. The aftertouch scaling and sensitivity isn't as good as the Prophet 08, which is the best I've used - the BS have a Roland-like aftertouch (rock hard), a little bit more soft. The red colored leds and display don't actually go with the blue look, they could've used a blue and white approach (but it would cost a bit more). A few of the performance options for aftertouch and mod wheel are fix - I'd like to use what I wanted for example. There's a few good presets, but most aren't actually a good use of this instrument. The distortion steals some of the bass - as said before, a fuzz would be perfect. Even with all this, in practice, I don't miss anything.

Sincerely, the Bass Station II surprised me a lot. It has a very good sound, built to last and a lot of great features for such a small synth. I'm completely amazed with it. I could replace a Sub Phatty with it - not that it sounds better than the Moog, but it gives you an idea.

Some say that it is too precise, not analog sounding. What I can say is: they either lie or are wrong. It's the same to say that the P08 is not analog enough. Maybe people are becoming too much anal about the whole VCO vs DCO, analog vs digital thing.

At this price tag, I think that the BS is very good, and there's no other synth that is this versatile or good sounding. The Arturia line for example is the kind of "like it or hate it" thing, and I do hate their sound. The Arturia also feel very cheap in comparison.

Would I recommend the Bass Station II? Yes I would! Great little synth!!

Sound demo
Ok, this is a big demonstration. Custom made sounds with only a few days of use. Almost 20 minutes of small musical use of the sounds. Recorded with an iPad, some are compressed by the application used (Focusrite tape something). I used a Focusrite Scarlett as audio interface.
https://soundcloud.com/silvgt/novation-demo/s-BzCbg

  • 1
27th January 2016

Novation Bass Station II by Toadfish

  • Sound Quality 5 out of 5
  • Ease of use 4 out of 5
  • Features 5 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 5 out of 5
  • Overall: 4.75
Novation Bass Station II

I use the Bass Station II primarily for D&B/jungle leads and basses. It's secondary use is for hip hop sub/mid-basses. It does an amazing job.

I have the BSII wired in permanently as an external instrument in Studio One and sometimes I'll just hit record and jam with some bass sounds for an hour. Going crazy with the mod-wheel/distortion knob create some brilliant thumps/reese sounds which are perfect once you've resampled them; the random modulation sounds superb when you collage a tonne of pieces of audio together.

If you're looking for a monosynth, this badboy does it all and has everything I need, among with a few extras that I'm very fond of:

- Sub oscillator with three waveform types
- Built in distortion effect (it really roars!)
- Filters, including the acid filter, sound beautiful; you can really crank the resonance and sweep the cutoff all the way through the dial without splitting your ear-drums in half at certain frequencies.
- MIDI dump function

I think this unit cost around £400 when I bought it, so, I imagine, perhaps, that it's even cheaper now. If you're looking to add an analogue unit for some extra oomph then this is a great choice - I don't think it can be beaten in terms of bang for buck.

4 weeks ago

Novation Bass Station II by TheOmegaShadow

  • Sound Quality 5 out of 5
  • Ease of use 4 out of 5
  • Features 5 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 5 out of 5
  • Overall: 4.75
Novation Bass Station II

I'll keep this one short, due to the age and info readily available for this synth, I'll just offer my opinion for what it's worth.

This synth is a no brainer purchase.

you get:

3 Oscillators
2 ENVs
2 LFOs
Multimode Filter with drive
Overdrive
Rudimentary sequencer


It's the best USB midi interface I've ever used, it's USB bus powered, I can plug in / unplug while my DAW is open and it will be detected on the fly. The keyboard feels good, the unit is very light but it's surprisingly rigid in it's construction, it has some high resolution controllers for some parameters too.

The sound is really good, it does gnarly bass sounds, lead sounds, percussion sounds are my favorite thing to use this board for, punchy and detailed. you can pull off pads if you multisample it.

Ppreset management is easy, there is a preset management utility that's reliable and works over USB and midi and you can do midi dumps if that's your style.

This is the best bang for buck mono-synth on the market. It's the keyboard that sits on my desk as a primary controller as it can easily be unplugged and re-plugged on the fly without having to reload my DAW, this convenience is good for a big studio where you may be swapping gear around and for a starter/portable laptop studio too.

I've sampled endless percussion and synth tones from it and it finds a way onto most of my compositions because it's always there ready to go, it's so quick and easy to program any idea I may have that's doable in basic subtractive synthesis.

Pair this synth with a sampler plugin or the old hardware variety and you have a powerhouse of creativity.

It's best $400 AUD I've ever spent on any instrument in my studio.

 
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