The Novation Bass Station 2 is an analog synthesiser with a two octave full size keyboard that’s velocity sensitive and also produces after touch. Two octaves seems the normal for small synths these days and there are keyboard transpose buttons just above the pitch and modulation wheels that light up blue. It also has the full MIDI implementation of in and out sockets that do all the right stuff like sending out not only the keyboard information but also the switches and control knob data. The input also receives not only note information but control data for the voice parameters and MIDI clock. There is also a USB MIDI port which apart from the MIDI functions can be used to power the keyboard, however you do get an AC mains adapter included. The inputs and outputs audio wise are on 1/4 inch jack sockets and in addition to the standard audio output there’s also a headphone jack and an audio in for processing external sounds through the filter.
Starting off with the oscillators you get two, plus a sub oscillator and a noise generator. The two oscillators can produce all the standard waveforms, so you have sine, triangle, ramp and square with a variable pulse width and can be switched over four octaves. They can also be synced together for the classic shredding the waveforms sound.
The filter has been designed by Chris Huggett, this is the guy who was responsible for the fantastic OSCar synthesiser. It’s a state variable filter so it can be switched between the modes of high-pass, low-pass and band pass. It can also be switched between 12 and 24dB modes which affect the sonic character of the filter and it can also be set as classic or acid. The acid mode makes it sound squelchy, like the filter on the Roland TB303 Bassline. Along with the resonance and the larger frequency control there’s also the more unusual drive control. I remember the filter of the OSCar having this and here you can use it to overdrive the filter to produce all sorts of shall we say impolite type sounds.
There are two low frequency oscillators on board, not only do they produce triangle, sawtooth and square waves but also sample and hold, which is almost a random type modulation, having two LFO’s is useful as you can modulate the pitch of the oscillators separately from the pulse width. Generously you also get two envelope generators so you can have individual amplifier and filter envelopes. It goes without saying of course that the LFO’s and envelopes have flexible routing options to modulate just about everything you would want to. One nice feature that I particularly like is the ability to modulate the pulse width from one of the envelope generators so you can get it to sweep as you press and hold a key down in a rather impressive fashion.
Finally in terms of voice creation we move on to the effects section. There’s is a distortion effect which in itself is quite unusual for a synthesiser, it is an underused effect when it comes to synthesisers and you can use it to produce quite subtle effects as well as the more traditional distortion. Then there is the oscillator filter mod, which modulates the filter from oscillator two and can produce lots of strange sounds as FM digital type tones like bells and enharmonics are produced in abundance.
As the Novation Bass Station 2 is digitally controlled all of the analog settings are memorised when you store patches, the first 64 are factory pre-programmed while the next 64 can be used to store your own creations. You can dump them via MIDI and save them on your PC if you fill them all up.
You also get a rather decent arpeggiator which can run in a variety of modes including random and you can have up to 32 different patterns. Playing around with an arpeggiator can lead you to stumble across variations of notes you otherwise might not have discovered and if that’s not enough you can use the sequencer. You can program up to four individual sequences of up to 32 notes including rests and legato/slide effects can also be programmed. This is useful for trying out ideas quickly.
The Novation Bass Station 2 costs £370 and for that you get a very reasonable analog synthesizer. Although it’s called a bass station it’s not just a bass machine, it’s a fully functioning machine capable of producing all sorts of sounds as you will quickly discover when you start playing around with it or simple going through the pre-sets. Similarly to some of the other synths around once you have used something like this for a while you get used to having a physical instrument to play and tweak. Some people have only every used software synths and really don’t know what they’re missing. You really can’t go wrong with hardware like this. As a beginner it offers you a path into synthesis and you will be able to learn all the basics with this machine but you’ll be able to incorporate it into you system as you grow. I think it’s something you would use and love.