Review of Sub Boom Bass 2 softsynth by Rob Papen

Review of Sub Boom Bass 2 softsynth by Rob Papen

Introduction

ECHT, THE NETHERLANDS: virtual instrument and effect plug-in developer Rob Papen Soundware is proud to announce availability of SubBoomBass 2succeeding the award-winning, self- explanatory floor-shaking SubBoomBass soft synth with the original (often) bass-heavy presets all present and accounted for alongside an abundance of new features and new sound colours to take things closer to the (cutting) edge.

SubBoomBass 2 can be purchased in a boxed edition — as an AAX (32-/64-bit), AU (32-/64-bit), VST (32-/64-bit) compatible audio software plug-in for Mac OS X (10.6 or higher) and Windows (Vista, 7, 8, and 10) — from authorised Rob Papen dealers worldwide or as a download directly from Rob Papen typically priced at €99.00 EUR/$99.00 USD from here: https://www.robpapen.com/buy-subboombass-2.html

(Owners of SubBoomBass are eligible to upgrade to SubBoomBass 2 for €39.00 EUR/$39.00 USD, while SubBoomBass 2 is included in eXplorer4, the latest incarnation of Rob Papen’s all-encompassing software bundle, so owners of eXplorer4 can download the SubBoomBass 2 installer for free.)

For more in-depth information, please visit the dedicated SubBoomBass 2 product webpage

Watch Rob Papen’s riveting SubBoomBass 2 introductory video

Overview

It is immediately obvious to the naked eye that SubBoomBass 2’s GUI (Graphical User Interface) is on the receiving end of a musical makeover making for more comfortable control of all its fanciful features. Fortunately for fans of the original soft synth, SubBoomBass 2 retains its much-loved modelled analogue waveform-driven warmth, but brings into being a brave new world of new sound colours courtesy of supplemental spectrum waveforms, with high-quality thinking outside of the box-style samples sitting alongside a welcome inclusion of Karplus-Strong string synthesis — a method of physical modelling synthesis that loops a short waveform through a filtered delay line to simulate the sound of a hammered or plucked string or some types of percussion. Put it this way: with so much musical firepower placed at adventurous users’ fingertips, SubBoomBass 2 surely sets loose some seriously fresh-sounding and hitherto unheard sounds… above and beyond the (arguably) restrictive realms of dance production with which SubBoomBass first found its musical mark so beautifully.

SubBoomBass 2 allows anyone to creatively compliment any style of contemporary music at any time — whether working on video game or film scores, or anything in between and beyond. After all, fellow high-flying Dutchman and original SubBoomBass supporter Tom Holkenberg (a.k.a. Junkie XL) started out on the dance floor, fraternising with worldwide chart positions, and ended up on the big screen as a hotshot Hollywood film scorer. Similarly, SubBoomBass 2 is surely set to become another success story for Rob Papen. Anything is possible… just ask Junkie XL!

Verdict

This description may sound like a fairly standard softsynth but the results are anything but ordinary, in fact to call this a ‘bass synth’ is a huge understatement. At heart it is a bass synth but it offers so much more. It can produce everything from sub-bass, to electronic synth bass to strings to percussive sounds. The modulation options give superb movement in sound and if you dig a little deeper into the on-board sequencer you realise this is no ordinary step sequencer. It is very highly featured, even allowing you to change oscillator waveforms during the sequence to create awesome grooves.

It’s a superb sounding synth and extremely versatile. It will happily produce string sounds, bass arps, rhythmic sequences and traditional synth sounds too. I created the above album using multiple instances of Sub Boom Bass 2 with midi loops, chord progressions, vocal loops and drum loops. I haven’t used many external effects, Octavox (Eventide) on ‘rush hour train home’; Cryogen (Glitchmachines) and H949 Dual (Eventide) on ‘an ominous feeling’. The quality of the sounds from Sub Boom Bass 2 means I didn’t need to. ‘A fleeting glance’ for instance uses 6 instances of Sub Boom Bass 2, a drum loop and vocal loops. On ‘a sudden moment of calm’ I’ve only used one instance and have also used some other Rob Papen favourites, namely 2 instances of Blue 2, Punch, and RP Verb 2 on the vocals.

The album was arranged, produced and mastered in MuLab 7. For mastering I used a number of Eventide plugins (primarily Ultrachannel with occasional use of Tverb, H949 Dual, H3000, 2016 Stereo Room), Elevate (Newfangled Audio) and Stage (Fiedler Audio).

In-Depth Review

As I write this review, there’s an update available which makes Sub Boom Bass 2 compatible with Native Instruments NKS system, adds a big screen option and over a hundred new presets.

The basic signal flow is up to 2 oscillators per voice, two filters with filter envelopes, amp section, play mode and effects. There are extensive modulation options, an XY pad to control parameters dynamically or record automation and a very powerful sequencer.

The GUI is well laid out and easy to navigate. The top section contains presets and banks, including the quick browse feature for easy access and listing the last eight presets used. There’s also a handy ‘easy page’ option which just displays the most essential parameters.

There are hundreds and hundreds of presets and you can get started using Sub Boom Bass 2 straight away with these. There’s something like 20 banks, many of which have a hundred or so presets each. These are arranged by type and there are also some artist banks too. The preset manager lets you easily search for sounds using different criteria.

The main controls are arranged with the XY pad in the top left and Oscillators, Filters and amp section at the top of the display. Play mode is bottom left and effects bottom right, the centre display at the bottom changes to show particular controls for the sequencer, string, env/lfo, mod or XY pad by selecting the appropriate radio button.

Oscillator one has the usual controls for setting the rate (speed) and tuning by cents and/or semi tone, It also has symmetry, Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) settings and a sub-oscillator volume. There are a very impressive 128 waveforms to choose from including analogue wave forms, samples, spectrum waveforms and Karplus string modelling. Oscillator two is the same but also has an FM control and doesn’t have the option to route the signal to filter one.

There are extensive controls for the string option which are displayed at the bottom of the screen by selecting the appropriate radio button.

Oscillator one outputs to filter one by default, this has a huge range of filter types and as well as the usual cutoff and resonance settings there are controls for velocity, key track and envelope amount. The envelope settings are located in the filter section and there’s a filter LFO hardwired to the cutoff frequency.

Filter two is an additional filter that can be used in series, parallel or separately. This has the same filter types but only cutoff and resonance settings.

The amplifier provides an ADSR envelope (plus sustain fade control) for controlling volume contour settings.

If this looks daunting there’s a very handy ‘easy page’ button which only displays key parameters.

There are various play modes including mono, legato, poly, sequencer and unison mode. This section contains all the controls for the different modes.

There are two independent effects connected in series and there are 29 effect types in total including delays, reverb, chorus, flanger, distortion, lo-fi, gator and filters. The display changes to show the controls for each chosen effect. There are two mod matrix slots to set up modulation routings.

The XY Pad will be familiar if you’ve used other Rob Papen synths such as Predator II, Raw, Blade or Blue II. You can control 6 parameters simultaneously and use it in live mode to control parameters dynamically or alternatively record movement across the pad for automation via playback.

Modulation options are provided by a mod matrix with 4 available slots. Advanced mode gives 3 additional parameters per modulation path.

There are also an additional 2 free envelopes and a free LFO that can be used to modulate any parameters. Each envelope has its own modulation destination, independent of the LFO and Mod Matrix slots. The modulation amount (depth) is fixed although it can also be controlled by MIDI controllers or SubBoomBass 2’s internal components. The LFO has Sine, Triangle, Saw Up, Saw Down, Square, S&H and User 1 and 2 waveforms with speed, sync and amount controls.

The sequencer is up to 16 steps with 4 sequences available. Each step has tie, tune, velocity, slide and oscillator settings meaning you can change waveforms for different steps to create interesting and unusual rhythmic grooves with much more flexibility and creativity than you can with a standard step sequencer. It’s a very powerful feature which gives sub boom bass 2 incredible flexibility and enhanced usability.