Modo Bass 2 builds on the success of the original, adding more and better basses.
While sampled bass guitars often sound more believable than sampled six‑string guitars, most of the nuances that make the real thing so expressive still get lost. Even multi‑sampled instruments fall short as you’re essentially switching between snapshots of playing intensity or playing style. IK changed all that in 2017 with their original Modo Bass. This employed physical modelling to recreate not only the sound of a whole library of classic bass guitars but also the tonal changes that occur with the pickup and control settings, the position along the string that it is picked, palm damping, picking style and so on. All of these parameters and more can be adjusted, but for added realism, it is also possible to control many aspects of the sound in real time via MIDI continuous controllers and keyswitches.
Modo Bass 2 is a significant evolution of the original and comes in three different versions: Modo Bass 2 CS, Modo Bass 2 SE and Modo Bass 2. Modo Bass 2 CS is free and includes a ’60s P‑Bass model with the option to purchase additional bass models individually as needed. It also offers a limited number of patterns, though the fretless fingerboard option is unavailable. Modo Bass 2 SE comes with four bass guitar models but in most other respects is the same as the full Modo Bass 2 version, including all of the patterns and the fretless option. Modo Bass 2 comes with 22 bass instrument models covering pretty much all the classic bass guitars, two fretless models and two upright acoustic basses, one dedicated to rockabilly sounds. Either of the lower‑tier versions can be upgraded to the full version. While you can run the original version of Modo Bass on the same machine as Modo Bass 2, it is also possible to copy any existing presets to Modo Bass 2.
IK like to stress that Modo Bass and Modo Bass 2 go beyond virtual instruments as they model the entire process of playing bass, from choosing and playing the instrument itself to the amp and studio setup used to record it. During the design process the techniques, positions, articulations and styles of playing of real bass players were studied right down to aspects of fingering and touch, which provides the user with an impressive depth of control. However, for those wanting an easy life, just choosing a bass and then setting a couple of options such as pickup choice and picking style still produces excellent results. As a regular user of the original Modo Bass, I have to say that the modelled sounds are extremely convincing and come over with a much more organic quality than sample‑based alternatives. Apparently the modelling process has been further refined for Modo Bass 2. Of the new models, I really like both the fretless bass additions — they really capture the organic whine of the real thing. The upright basses are again incredibly authentic‑sounding.
The clearly set‑out user interface is resizable and is divided into five main sections comprising the top bar, the upper tab panel, the central view, the fingerboard/keyboard and the bottom bar. Buttons along the top access windows for Model, Play Style, String, Electronics/Mics, Studio, Patterns and Control. To give an example of what those buttons mean, Play Style lets you decide whether to use a pick or your fingers — or to use a slapping technique. For the double bass there’s the option of pizzicato (plucked) or slap. For finger playing there are even options for alternate fingering, index finger playing or middle finger playing, all with a choice of three weights of touch: soft, normal and hard. When plucking, the tonality changes when picking closer to the neck are also modelled in a realistic fashion. Notes can be allowed to ring when needed and there’s also the option to confine fingering to the first five frets, after which any higher notes are all played on the G string. Alternatively, there’s an easy mode based on an analysis of the fingering of 100 top bass riffs, or a ‘nearest to the last note played’ option.
Other niceties include the option of playing open strings or not, variable string noise, variable finger‑off noise, slide noise, action height and, for the electric basses, fretted or fretless fingerboards. And if you think the sound might be better with a pickup moved closer to or further from the bridge, you can do that too. The strings themselves can be roundwound or flatwound on the electric basses and you can choose nylon or steel for the upright basses. Alternate drop tunings and five‑ or six‑string basses are also catered for. After this it will come as little surprise that you can also choose a string gauge and then choose the sound of newly broken‑in or aged strings. And that’s before you start to explore the onboard passive or active electronics. All this may seem excessively forensic but it really does help to make the performances sound realistic, and it enables the bass performances to fit any style of music, from ballads to death metal.
A Stomp Out takes a direct signal after the pedalboard but before the amplifier, and you can select Distortion, Octave, Compression, Chorus, Delay and Envelope Filter pedals as well as Graphic EQ. In the Amp section there’s a choice of solid‑state or valve models with both the pedals and amps based around IK’s AmpliTube modelling. The amount of room sound is variable and the mic positions can be adjusted.
When it comes to the double bass, the mic setup options and adjustments offer a choice of capacitor or ribbon mics plus a piezo signal that can be blended in.
The Pattern section has been redesigned and hosts over 1000 MIDI bass patterns organised by Genre, Section, Play Style, Length, Key and Signature, with filter options to make it easy to home in on what you need. Each pattern has a small visualisation that shows the relative pitch and dynamics of the notes as you might see them in a program such as Melodyne, which gives you an idea of how busy the pattern is.
As these are MIDI patterns, you can change the key and tempo (with a DAW sync option) and you can edit the patterns if they are not quite what you need. The patterns are organised into song parts such as intros, verses, choruses and so on making it easy to piece together a whole song. Patterns can also be played at half or double speed. When you find a pattern that you like, you can drag it straight into a MIDI track in your DAW.
This Control section is where you find MIDI control options based around the pitch wheel, keyswitches, aftertouch and so on, these enabling seriously deep real‑time performance control. Keyswitches would normally be set up outside the range of the instrument, but here they can also be located on otherwise unused keys within the playable range, for the benefit of those using short keyboards. When set this way the keyswitch takes priority so the corresponding note will not sound.
By exploiting the options in the Control section, it is possible to switch from picked to slap style during a performance, add slides, bends and hammer‑ons, introduce vibrato, play harmonics, utilise string damping and so on. In fact there are so many real‑time control actions that if you were to try to use them all, it could be argued that it would be easier just to learn to play the bass guitar! However, for most songs, just using a small number of them produces a suitably realistic result. Perhaps the biggest challenge is mastering the slides, bends and vibrato needed to take the default fretless bass sounds to the next level of realism.
The various models sound so much like the basses they set out to emulate that you forget you are listening to a digital recreation.
While I was seriously impressed by Modo Bass in its original form, Modo Bass 2 had me at the addition of the fretless models and the upright basses. If nothing else had been added I would have been a happy bunny, but the designers have worked hard in adding more instrument models and improving the means to control them in real time. The new Pattern section is suitably impressive, and if you can find something to fit your current project without too much editing, you’ll be rewarded by a performance that sounds indistinguishable from the real thing without having to deal with all the real‑time control nuances yourself. It still amazes me that the various models sound so much like the basses they set out to emulate that you forget you are listening to a digital recreation. That’s the beauty of the Modo Bass paradigm — you can use it at a very basic level and still get great results or you can exploit the real‑time control to craft a virtuoso performance.
While Modo Bass was exceptional, Modo Bass 2 takes the concept further and also adds two lovely fretless electric basses and two upright basses.
Modo Bass 2 SE £149.99, Modo Bass 2 £299.99. Prices include VAT.
Modo Bass 2 SE $149.99, Modo Bass 2 $299.99.