MODO BASS REVIEW

"The first physically modeled electric bass"

An in-depth look at IK Multimedia's MODO BASS software.  Tested reviewed by Howard Worf, for us here at Guitarist Guild.




From IK Multimedia, the creators of MODO Drum is MODO Bass.

I stress that the opinions following are mine alone and based upon my personal experiences in a
home studio set up.

CONCLUSION:
I am a great fan of IK Multimedia I have had and used Amplitube since version 3*, and really enjoy using Philharmonik. I was seriously impressed by the brilliant GUI of MODO Drum, the ease of customisation and sheer punchiness of the sounds. If you do not play bass or know someone who does then this is a good fantastically customisable substitute, perfect for keyboard players. I did find some of the tones a little artificial sounding at times, but overall in a mix for all practical purposes indistinguishable from a physical bass guitar. Even if you do play bass, there is a world of extra tones available here for music production. I am, however, surprised that there is no groove library.

At the time of writing MODO Bass is available for €129.99 + sales taxes (ie VAT)

* for added realism, run MODO Bass through Amplitube (or any other bass amp modeller) add it as a VST insert to the MODO Bass channel in your DAW.

INTRODUCTION:
MODO Bass, now in version 1.5, was the first MODO instrument and is entirely based on sophisticated modelling. The aim is to replicate a whole host of bass guitars, playing styles, electronics and so on. As with MODO Drum there is a very clear and intuitive GUI and an almost limited soundscape for modifying bass guitar sounds. Also as with MODO Drum there is a stand alone app as well as the usual VST and AAX versions for use with you chosen DAW (64 bit only).

MODO is IK Multimedia’s branding for modal synthesis, allowing real time parameter changes as the instrument plays, so you can easily adapt a bass guitar sound to your track.

I have been playing bass guitar for more than 50 years. I have 5 basses, including both 4 and a 5 string Ibanez Soundgear basses which are the model for the Japan Bass in MODO Bass. So I can make a tone comparison between that model and the real things. I am, on the other hand, ham fisted when it comes to playing a keyboard. Playing a bass line on a guitar is second nature to me, on a keyboard exactly the opposite requiring considerable concentration. I find it much easier to play MODO Bass on my Akai MPC or the pads on my Impulse. Just a thought for those of you who are, like me, not entirely comfortable using a keyboard. You could, of course also use a step sequencer . .

OK, let’s get to looking at the product. The START SCREEN

start


The start screen (scaleable in stand alone mode) opens with the first ten bass guitar models displayed across the top. There are four more models available by scrolling to the right, including my reference Japan (Ibanez) bass. There are only two basses with maple necks, both Fender models.

Beneath the graphical representations of each bass are 6 buttons which access the additional parameters to shape your sound. You will also notice the yellow triangle and drop line over the representation of the guitar body. This represents the point of the plucking/picking strike on the strings, and can be simply dragged to the desired point. Close to the bridge the string has a thinner sound, played at the end of the fret board the sound is fuller and more rounded as the string is vibrating more freely.

Having chosen a bass model as you starting point, and yes they do all sound different as you would
expect, we can then move on to the PLAY STYLE.

start


Here we choose pluck, pick or slap, well you can read the rest of the buttons. All, I hope pretty obvious. I always check the open strings box to ‘on’ my personal preference is to use an open string when the opportunity arises for the extra clarity of note.

The slap stroke option is interesting it defaults to ‘auto’ with a high threshold. I found that this setting rarely gave a slap tone, almost always a pull sound. When we get to the CONTROL section you will see that it is possible to change stroke style as you play using a designated MIDI control parameter: a note out of bass guitar range is ideal for this. Notice that with the slap play style selected you cannot move the stroke point I am guessing this normally because slap is played close to the neck.

The play style chosen changes the available options in the stroke and touch settings, emulating for example a player who finger picks hard, soft or somewhere in between, or picking down, up or alternating.

You get the idea, lots of changes and tonal variation to be found here.

Next up is STRINGS.

start


For me this is possibly the most powerful section in MODO Bass. If you have ever played bass you will know that the action, string type, gauge and age are so important in the creation of tone. Higher action heavier gauge more depth, newer round wound strings much brighter, In this section you can also change to a 4, 5, or 6 string model (even the Fedora model). NB drop obviously only works with 4 string models, dropping to low D. Update, version 1.5.1 now works on 5 string models to drop B to A

In this section you can also set the tuning reference.

Now to the ELECTRONICS page.

start


Here you have the choice of an almost infinite number of options. OK, not infinite probably, but mind bogglingly huge. You can choose to change the bridge and/or neck pickups from every one of the models, move them relative to the body and each other, just click and drag the chosen pickup. Change relative volumes (as you can with the physical controls on most basses), and choose active or passive modes. In passive mode there is on simple tone control, in active three parametric virtual knobs with both fixed frequency and Q.

Hours of fun.

The penultimate area is AMP/FX

It opens with the amplifier selection showing (unless you have left it on one of the other sub menus)

start


To choose an amp model simply click on the picture of the one you want, or use the drop down menu. There is a choice of what resembles two different Ampeg models, the flip top valve 15” cab (B15N), and an SVT transistor with a 4x10 cab.

The controls are different for each amplifier no graphic only on the solid state model, punch and harmonics on the valve model for example.

Notice in the image above the signal path is set to default. There are, of course dozens of presets (not mentioned at all in the manual surprisingly is it because I also have Amplitube 4 installed I wonder?)

Here is shot of the Finger Bass preset flyout:

start


As a plugin you can run through Amplitube or another amp modeller by turning the amp control to zero and use the DI out to control the send volume. You can, of course mix the amp and DI signals if you want to and experience the dynamic of two amplifiers and effects chains running together without additional routing in your DAW. You could in this way set up a kind of bi amp sound. Very useful.

To access the 4 slot pedal board to edit the effects simply click on the pedal board in the GUI.

start


The available pedals are:
  • Octaver
  • Distortion
  • Chorus
  • Comp
  • Delay
  • Envelope Filter
  • Graphic EQ

Click on a slot and choose the effect from the drop down list. Suitable controls are provided to set up each pedal. Adjust to taste.

Lastly we come to the CONTROL page.

start


You can ignore this at your peril! This is where you can use your midi controller to add player dynamics, glissan do, vibrato etc. The controls are already mapped to various keys and control change commands.

The commands can be mapped to off, control change, keyswitch, pitch wheel, aftertouch or learn depending upon the parameter being controlled. So you can create a new control map customised to your preferences and save it for later use.

Worth an honourable mention is the fretboard and keyboard graphic that you can see in all windows except CONTROL where only the piano keyboard is displayed..

From the manual:  “The piano keyboard shows the note range of the bass plus the assigned keyswitches for the real time control of the playing style and performance. The Bass fretboard shows the position of the left hand behaviour system which determines where the note is played (which fret and which string). This system positions the left hand as close as possible to how a real bass player would play and also allows keyswitches to force the use of a determined fret or string (on the right side of the piano keyboard)"

As a bass guitarist I’m not entirely convinced by that last statement; I find it much better to play the notes with my right hand and allocate all the player controls to the left of the keyboard where the pitch wheel is located. But as I have pointed out, I am not a competent keyboard player, most of whom I would imagine play bass lines with their left hands.

SOME THOUGHTS: Using my Ibanez basses plugged straight into a DAW without any processing at all I am happy to report that the emulation is good. Obviously all real instruments vary in sound absolutely from one day to the next, and indeed the 4 string and 5 string do themselves sound slightly different, otherwise what would be the point?

I would like to have seen one more bass type included a fully customisable blank slate instrument where a bespoke bass could be constructed from (in addition to the range of electronics already provided) a choice of body wood, neck wood, fretboard wood (or plastic), scale length bridge type and material. Additional strings, nylon flat wound. I’m pretty sure just about every possible bass guitar sound is reproducible from within MODO Bass, but this might make it a bit easier to target the sound for experienced bass players. But we are not the target market, we just pick up a bass and play it . .

A groove library would IMO be a useful addition.

BUT wot, no fretless?

CONCLUSION:
I am a great fan of IK Multimedia I have had and used Amplitube since version 3*, and really enjoy using Philharmonik. I was seriously impressed by the brilliant GUI of MODO Drum, the ease of customisation and sheer punchiness of the sounds. If you do not play bass or know someone who does then this is a good fantastically customisable substitute, perfect for keyboard players. I did find some of the tones a little artificial sounding at times, but overall in a mix for all practical purposes indistinguishable from a physical bass guitar. Even if you do play bass, there is a world of extra tones available here for music production. I am surprised, however, that there is no groove library.

At the time of writing MODO Bass is available for €129.99 + sales taxes (ie VAT) https://www.ikmultimedia.com/products/modobass/

* for added realism, run MODO Bass through Amplitube (or any other bass amp modeller) add it as a VST insert to the MODO Bass channel in your DAW.

Things used in this review:
DAWs - Cubase 10 Pro, Studio One 4.5 and Reaper 5.99
Monitoring - Behringer Truth B2031A near field, AKG K240 headphones

ASIO Interfaces - Steinberg UR22, Behringer UMC404HD
MIDI controllers - Akai M PC Element, Novation Impulse 61
OS - Windows 10 Home


System Requirements

MODO BASS is a 64-bit application and requires a 64 bit CPU and Operating System.


Mac® (64-bits)
Minimal: Intel® Core™ 2 Duo, 4 GB of RAM (8 GB suggested), macOS 10.9 or later.
Supported Plug-in formats (64-bit): Audio Units, VST 2, VST 3, AAX.

Windows® (64-bits)
Minimal: Intel® Core™ 2 Duo or AMD Athlon™ 64 X2, 4 GB of RAM (8 GB suggested), Windows® 7, Windows® 8 or Windows® 10. Requires an ASIO compatible sound card.
Supported Plug-in formats (64-bit): VST 2, VST 3, AAX.
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