Novation’s BassStation II, a US$500 street all-analog monosynth, is already big news. If Korg is bringing back the late 70s/early 80s sound in an analog keyboard, Novation is giving us the early 90s.
And since sound is what it’s really all about, we wanted to get a hands-on with the actual sounds of the BassStation II. I recorded directly from the line out on the BassStation (only a mixer in between), into Sonoma WireWorks’ GuitarJack Model 2 for iOS. (That interface, by the way, sounds and feels terrific.)
The BassStation II so far shows some serious promise, something that should work out to be a nice follow-up to the original. However, the two prototypes at Musikmesse were also really prototypes. Firmware is still unfinished, and it shows. Some features simply weren’t working at all, some caused unexpected behavior, and some knob ranges seemed they might still be tuned. Now that I’m personally involved with the development process of a hardware synth, I can tell you this stuff is pretty much part of the process – halfway through that process, not everything works.
But the analog innards of the BassStation II seem to be well along, and so the character of the synth comes through.
Chris from Novation played these sound samples for us live, choosing from presets, and then he and I twiddled with knobs. These are sound samples, not music making, in the hopes of giving you a sense of some of the range of the instrument’s timbres. I also asked Chris to go a little crazy (and did so ourselves) on the sounds for some of the more out-there noises you can coax from the instrument. Listen:
The layout and controls are very much in keeping with the original, and feel solid. The case is a more muted gray, and not as loud as some recent Novation outings, though it still in this non-final design has a sky-blue plastic base. We’ll see how that evolves in the finished product.
The next image to me sums up a few of the cooler features on the BassStation II: LFO slew, hard oscillator sync (producing a lot of the odder sounds you hear in our samples), and velocity mapping are very nice, indeed.
I think the BassStation II could fit a nice niche in this price range for analog mono keyboards. To me, Arturia’s Minibrute has a wonderful sonic personality, but its architecture isn’t as versatile as the BassStation II. And the Korg MS-20 mini represents a different era in synthesis; the two are different enough sonically that they barely warrant comparison. For those who want more modern features (including MIDI output, more control over USB, and features like an arpeggiator in place of the MS-20 patch bay), the BassStation II could be a great choice, too. (Um… can we have both? Shame no one is doing racks!)
I love some of the untamed sounds of the original, so seeing a new take on that design is welcome. We’ll be eagerly following its development.
See our full write-up of the synth and specs: