The new Bass station II is the successor of the well respected Bass Station that came to light 21 years ago. I still remember the original Bass Station as a good sounding analog synthesizer, and a brilliant small midi controller that had its twerps with the pots but made up for its characteristic sound. During the renaissance of the analog synthesizer we have seen a lot of reissues but also some new designs with innovations that simply weren’t possible a few decades ago. The Bass station II is one of these. It still has the hands on approach you’d like to see with programming a synthesizer and added functionality for further tweaking with use of a function switch.
The master section with volume pot and LED display to select and store patches. The first 64 of these patches are default and another 64 you can program yourself. Those 64 default patches are nice starter points to start programming yourself but they are by no means an indication of the possible sounds this unit can generate. Next to the LED display are two small leds that show if you are above or below the parameter value you are adjusting at that moment to see if you are value that is saved at the current preset. And by the way if you power down the unit you’ll lose the last preset, something I still can’t get used to in today’s synthesizers.
The Oscillator section houses 2 oscillators which are sync-able and a sub oscillator. You have per selectable oscillator the choice for your basic waveforms sine, triangle, saw and square. And modulation options for pitch and pulse width. The sub oscillator has the sine, square and pulse with waveforms and can be tuned one octave or two octaves below. Mind you that a sine waveform on an analog synthesizer is not a standard. It goes back decades of discussions of these are useful on synthesizers since you can get a sine by tuning a self-oscillating filter. But it simply helps with sound design if you can use the sine as a base waveform.
The mixer section allows for leveling the oscillators, sub oscillator as well as choosing between the external input, ring modulation or noise.
The filter section shows a selection for two type of filters. A classic 12/24dB, LP,BP,HP filter and a 18dB ‘acid’ tb-303 type filter. In addition to the frequency and resonance the filters have overdrive and modulation routings.
The effect section has a distortion and a oscillator filter modulation. These are very useful to spice up the sound. Especially because by default the oscillators are lacking a bit of spunk compared to your average analog mono synthesizer. The prototype Bass station II I’ve heard sounded a bit more raw to that regard so I guess Novation made a decision to let the user choose how much color the oscillators could get. If you don’t know this you may think this synthesizer is a bit timid sounding if you browse through the presets. Then again you never should judge a synthesizer by its presets.
The envelopes section allows you to choose between amplification or modulation ADSR envelopes or both. And you can choose between triggering modes auto glide, single or multiple.
The LFO section shows two LFO’s that each can have a triangle, saw, square or sample and hold waveform. Maybe a sine would have be nice as well by the way. Both LFO’s speed go in audio range and have a delay. As far I can tell the LFO are not synced by midi.
The portamento section allows for adjusting the portamento glide time which is about 2 seconds at its longest.
The Arpeggiator section allows for turning on the arpeggiator in various modes like up, down, up and down in 2 flavors, as played, random and play as recorded. So it’s not only an arpeggiator but also a step recorder for notes, rest, retrigger or legato with maximum of 32 steps. This makes it up for a neat little sketch pad as well. The tempo can be altered or taken from the midi clock.
Next to the keyboard are the octave switches and the blue illuminated pitch bend and modulation wheel. You can transpose the keyboard as well and use the function button in combination with a key to choose the various modulation options, sync options and some global options. The keyboard itself is not particular light weighted but not semi weighted and not springy at all.
The backside shows the power input for an adapter, on/off switch, USB input with bus power, midi in- and output, sustain input, external input, output and headphones output.
The unit itself is very light weighted because it’s casing is made of plastic but still feels quite sturdy and should able to withstand some abuse. And because of the weight you can load it into a backpack if you have to. It’s not battery powered but if you hook it up to a laptop via USB you still can use it on the go.
As far usability goes you can sense Novation took great care into building this unit because all the knobs show great contrast so that you still use it properly in a dark environment. Also the fact that the switches and pots feel quite sturdy ensures a long lifetime. The advantage of pots that control digital values is that they don’t cause crackles and in this case also can be used as a midi controller. And as a relative small form factor unit it should sit well on the average desk next to your mouse and keyboard.
As an analog synthesizer it’s a good starter synthesizer to learn analog synthesis. The price performance ratio is pretty good compared with the competition. For the more advanced user there is enough depth to dive in to and get some amazing results, especially if you start to use it with a midi sequencer and start automating values. As far as successor of the BassS tation goes, … this unit actually is better from what you’d expect from a mark II version nowadays. Just look beyond its presets and dial in a little distortion.