I’m always anxious to get my hands on a killer virtual instrument (VI) and the new IK Multimedia Modo Bass ($299) is the best bass guitar VI I’ve encountered. It provides an unchallenged level of sonic realism and real-time control, making it feasible to create totally convincing and sonically uncompromised bass tracks without using a real bass.
Rather than utilizing samples, Modo Bass utilizes real-time modal synthesis technology to create the sound of essentially any imaginable fretted electric bass created on what IK Multimedia have determined to be the twelve foundational bass models. Each bass model was chosen because of its specific wood tone and timbre and every detail of its performance was scrupulously modeled and recreated. During my uses, I’ve found that I typically lean towards the 60s P-Bass (based on the 1960’s Fender Precision Bass) and the Devil Bass (based on the Gibson EB-0), although all twelve models are unique, quite good and very usable.
In addition to selecting a specific bass model, the user can choose between 20 pickup models with volume control, active or passive electronics (with parametric EQ), under-bridge piezo pickup with blend control and even details as specific as string number, scale, tuning, gauge, construction, action and age. The user can even select playing style (pluck, slap or pick), the position of the playing hand and details as specific as string force, which finger is used to pluck the string, pick thickness, and technique. I’m not a bass player, so this is far more control than I need—or deserve, for that matter—but it’s nice knowing I have the ability to finesse these small sonic details. The app also incorporates seven virtual bass effect stomp boxes and a pair of classic bass amplifier models: one tube and one solid state.
Modo Bass operates as a 64-bit plug-in or standalone instrument for Mac/PC and it includes full MIDI control and full DAW automation control support. It’s important to note that since Modo Bass doesn’t utilize samples, it has an extremely small memory footprint.
Using the application is straightforward and intuitive. My first opportunity to put it to work was while mixing an EP for a band that had programmed the bass for one of the tracks. They were using a sample because they wanted it to sound like a real bass player but the sound just wasn’t cutting it. I had them send me the MIDI performance and I used Modo Bass to replace their sample. After sending them the mix, they thought I had used a bassist to replay the part: it’s that believable.
To date, I’ve used Modo Bass on dozens of tracks and I’ve noticed that it responds to dynamic plug-ins and sits in a track exactly like a real bass track. This is typically not the case with sampled bass, which tends to be a constant source of frustration.
The Modo Bass GUI is well thought-out and intuitive. The only real drawback to the application is the lack of a fretless option.
Modo Bass is legitimately a groundbreaking application that combines every imaginable element regarding to the actual bass and its physical configuration, along with a specific playing style to create the most flexible, sonically accurate way to record bass without actually using a bass player. Anyone in need of high-quality real bass sounds should give Modo Bass a listen. You’ll be glad you did.