The Novation Bass Station II is a monophonic/duophonic analog monster built on the base of the original Bass Station. It’s perfect for dialing in big bass sounds and deep, rich tones!
Novation’s release comes twenty years after the global success of the original, but only this time it’s packed with plenty of modern extras and improved features. Originally built and designed after the hugely popular Roland TB-303, Novation kept with the analog design while others were pursuing the digital scene, and the decision paid off as the Bass Station became a truly iconic synth, and now it’s back for more!
Novation didn’t just rinse and repeat and release an exact copy of the original, while the same aesthetic design and two-octave footprint remain, plenty of modern effects and filters have been integrated for a new and improved recipe for making analog synth sounds.
The Bass Station II is one of those synths that invites you to start tweaking and playing straight out of the box, a bonus being is that it’s both AC and USB powered. The layout is well designed and those who had the pleasure of playing the original will recognize the controls and feel.
At the center of this analog synth are two main oscillators which can be hard-synced to create some punchy, solid tones. The two oscillators are digitally controlled (DVOs) and offer four waveforms (sine, triangle, sawtooth, square/variable pulse width) to work with.
The sub-oscillator is more flexible than most and comes with three waveforms (sine, square and narrow pulse) and is linked up to the first oscillator, letting you play at either one or two octaves below which helps to fill out the bottom end and create some ground-shaking basslines.
The Bass Station II really shines with potential when you take a look at the two unique and distinctive filter designs. Firstly, you have the Classic rich filter which stays true to the powerful original Bass Station model with a low-pass mode and extra high-pass and band-pass modes.
The second is the Acid filter with a diode ladder design which gives you that squelchy 303 bass sound that everybody knows and loves. Add in the overdrive circuits that are assigned to each filter and you will start to venture into some seriously dark and distorted tones!
Two more standout features of the Bass Station II is the step sequencer and the built-in arpeggiator, both of which offer more flexibility than most normal offerings. The arpeggiator has a total of 32 rhythmic patterns to choose from with octave range control included as well.
The sequencer allows you to play up to four of your own patterns and then assign one of the 32 arpeggiator rhythms to play them back, along with the option to record rests and legato, this sequencer gives you the opportunity to be creative and build up more expression in your music.
The Bass Station II, like the original, is best known for its deep and dirty bass capabilities but with the enhanced features and added extras you can get a lot more out of this synth than ever before, soaring leads and complex riffs are both possible with this powerful mini-synth.
Out of the box, the Bass Station II is a monophonic synth, but with the 2.5 firmware update, it can now be turned into a duophonic synth.
In November 2018, Novation announced a firmware update to the Bass Station II that will allow users to unlock new features that were previously unavailable.
With the new Bass Station II 2.5 update, users can operate in paraphonic/duophonic mode, use filter tracking, envelope retriggering, oscillator error, microtuning, and more!
As mentioned, the Bass Station II is built on the back of the original Bass Station back in the 1990s, the new version stays true to the bass sound yet it still finds room to add the welcome extras mentioned in the section above.
As with most popular synths, it’s usually the sum of the individual parts that tend to make them so successful. The Bass Station II is no different, it covers all of the basics so that you can edit and tweak to create a wide range of sounds.
A quick note on the look of the synth and it’s nice to see that the blue and black colors have been used, sticking to the true Bass Station design. Sliders are included to give greater control alongside the pots and switches, and the Cut-off dial is a lot larger for even better performance.
The keyboard holds 25 keys with aftertouch sensitivity, overall it plays well and allows for controlled expression. You’ve got 64 factory presets alongside another 64 user slots, giving you a reasonable amount of storage to save your creations for future use.
Artist packs are available from Novation that offer up even more sounds, these have been crafted by professional musicians who have enjoyed great success from using the Bass Station synth over the years, so it’s fair to say that these patches are going to be high-quality!
In terms of modulation capabilities, the Bass Station II comes with two LFOs that include various waveforms such as triangle, sawtooth and square, plus you have other features such as LFO slew which allows for extra modulation possibilities through distortion on both LFOs.
You have two envelope options on offer, one to control the volume and the other for modulation on various parameters within the synth. These are capable of producing anything from short percussive sounds to sweeping pads, so the options are open when playing the Bass Station II.
To the side of the envelope section, you will find a very useful switch that lets you select various modes of the envelope, such as legato, legato glide and retrigger options. A great addition that makes it a lot easier to access than the usual menu diving found on most other synths.
Portamento is also available with an adjustable Glide Time setting, single trigger and re-trigger modes and the possibility to combine this with the step sequencer and arpeggiator.
Last but not least, there is a useful external input which allows for audio signals such as guitars, keyboards, microphones, allowing them all to be played through the synths envelopes and filters.
The Bass Station II has been a huge success for Novation, to be honest it was quite hard for them to fail because of how well they designed and crafted the original BS.
It’s fair to say that some companies might have been tempted to just reissue the same machine and make some quick money from the nostalgia point of view, but Novation decided to build upon the popular design and create an even better version.
The Bass Station is and will always be synonymous with that dirty bass sound but this second version is capable of so much more!