Sonic LAB: Novation Bass Station II Review

New Millenium Analogue Monosynth      15/10/13

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18:50 mins    

Novation started with analogue - the first Bass Station in it's creaky plastic case, then into VA with the K, KS, SuperNova and newer Nova ranges, now back to it's roots with the Bass Station II - a new affordable analog monosynth with true analog innards.

Build

A solid plastic case feels up to the job as do the knobs, there seem to have been a number of poorly mounted knobs recently and fortunately, the Bass Station II does not follow this trend, faders and toggle switches are okay too you'll be pleased to know. Two octave synth feel keyboard features velocity and aftertouch, both of which can be routed.

Architecture

2 multi-wave Oscillators (SINE/TRI/SAW/SQUARE) with a pretty vast range, the Oscillators go from LFO territory into only audible by small mammals, there's a Sub Osc too with Sine, SQ, and PW over two octaves, linked to OSC 1, which means you can tune it to an interval - both feature +/- 12 semitones in 0.2 increments and +/- 100 cents fine tuning. These are fed into the mixer section - with an additional Ring Mod source and white noise, plus an external input for processing.

Filters

Dual filters - only one at a time switchable between the classic Bass Station filter with Low pass/BP/HP switchable between 12 and 24dB slope and Acid - a Diode ladder filter - more akin to the TB-303. There's a pre-drive to the filter too so you can dial in the smudge and drive. Filter cutoff is a large knob with 256 MIDI steps for smooth sweeps - many of the BS2 parameters are 256 steps in fact - so smooth control overall.

Additionally there's an analogue overdrive circuit post filter which can really mash things up. AND a filter Mod control which adds FM from Osc 2 for more sonic mayhem.

Quite a wide palette of sounds available from this filter actually, perhaps not as characterful as an MS20 Mini or Sub Phatty, but more flexible.

Modulation

Two ADSR envelopes share the same controls, a toggle switch selects, typically, Env 1 is amplitude and Env2 (mod env) can affect pitch and filter and PWM. Two syncable LFOs (TRI/SAW/SQ/S&H) with a good range from almost off, to audio rates. They also have a delay feature to allow slow introductions. Interestingly there's also a Slew feature (accessed by the Function/Keyboard combination) which fades the wave in and out, for instance to round off a square wave.

Arp/Sequencer

All the usual suspects for the Arp types (up/down/up-down/random/played) over a four octave range, but there's also 32 pattern variations in between for different feels (1 is 8ths, 32 is 16ths) additionally there are four user sequencer patterns (global) into which you can record up to 32 steps, or rests (there is a button). Again, the 32 playback variations can affect the sequencer too. And theres a swing parameter to add some er, swing to the party.

Sounds

Bass Station II certainly has a wide range of sounds, with plenty of drive and cross mod for the dirtier side of life if thats the way you roll, with most parameters on the front panel, it's a breeze to program, the function button keyboard combination are simple enough to use. Perhaps not the beefiest of oscillators, but not everything in can be a Moog, nor should it.


The on-board patches (128) don't really do it justice, but then you should really be getting your hands on a synth like this and doing what comes naturally. As a first analogue, it's got a lot to offer for the price - which is one of the primary factors these days. Hooking up to the computer gives you MIDI control, though the on-board MIDI ports are not shared over USB, there's plenty of controls here to transmit MIDI to other devices should you wish too or automate via your DAW of choice.

Available now

£399/$499/€469 Street price

 

 

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13 Comments...  Post a comment    original story
PassTheGas    Said...

WOW! I was going to buy the ms-20 mini but the BS2 is just too good to pass up. Good job novation!

15-Oct-13 12:52 PM


asiohead    Said...

Great review Nick, I honestly wasn't expecting so many possibilities and great sounds from this synth.

15-Oct-13 03:42 PM


al_bot    Said...

Thanks for the review Nick!

15-Oct-13 06:23 PM


Champ    Said...

For me personally the BS2 is my favourite synth from Novation thats available today. Its all plastic but actually better build then you might expect. The knobs feel ok and the price... the price is damn good compared to other analog synths now on the market. While the nova's can produce nice sounds its no fun for me without the editor. The BS2 feels much more like a synth that satisfies my needs. I'm having lots of fun with the arp sequencer and the many knobs. :)

16-Oct-13 02:31 AM


Dastardly    Said...

So what do you think: a BS2 or a full set of Volcas?

16-Oct-13 07:27 AM


brian from usa    Said...

The doubled-up CCs (one higher than the other by 32, so 1/33. 7/39, etc.) has always been in the MIDI standard but is seldom implemented by mfrs. It allows up to 14 bit resolution (16K steps) but is fully still compatible with 7 bit. People complaining about steppy controllers in MIDI don't seem to understand this, both the sending and receiving devices have to support 14 bits to get the full benefit. Certainly very few hardware synths support 14 bit CCs.

16-Oct-13 10:58 AM


eXode    Said...

Thanks for the review Nick! I hope that you'll be able to do the Waldorf Pulse 2 soon, as it's in a similar price range. The Pulse lacks a keyboard but adds some other interesting features, imho.

17-Oct-13 01:11 AM


Alex    Said...

Hi Nick, i have a specific question, i know that the sequencer/arp can send it's notes out of the midi out, but can you sync other devices to it, with the BS2 acting as a master? I'd like to run the sequencer on the BS2 and then sync a volca beats (which has midi sync) to it, i don't want the BS sequencer's notes going to the volca beats (that might result in a mess of triggered drum sounds) i just want it to transmit midi clock data, any idea if this is possible? Do you still have the BS2 and Volca? Might be interesting to check.

17-Oct-13 04:02 AM


Woo    Said...

A bit of damning with faint praise. Reading between the lines, I think I'll skip it.

17-Oct-13 09:58 AM


S R Dhain    Said...

Woah, mantronix..heady days of yore.

Great review, covered the main areas. A lot of bang for the buck here and although there is direct comp from ms20 in terms of price and sound sculpting, this will probably win more favour than most for being more zeitgeist friendly, in terms of midi, patch storage, send recieve msgs, and my all time fave synth function, the built in sequencer and arp section.

28-Oct-13 07:16 AM


SUBTRACTIVE NOBODY    Said...

I really liked playing the BS2! I liked the feel of the keyboard much better than the MiniBrute. I liked the feature set of the BS2 better than the MB too. For $499 its a pretty sweet synth imo! It's true, Nick wasn't gushing over this synth, but I didn't feel like he was hatin' on it either. Great Review, Nick. SYNTHS!

28-Oct-13 01:45 PM


Cherry    Said...

Nick, this is a great review as always.

But two things on the technical side need fixing:

1) Your lighting setup works for the wide (or I guess I should say mid) shots, but when you do escpecially extreme close-ups, it looks blown-out. The problem is good to see on the white tops of the BS2's knobs!

Also the focus is a bit too shallow on those close ups.

2) The sounds of the video clips quite a few times when the synth gets loud and you talk over it. I don't have to tell you how to take care of clipping, so I'll just ask you to please be aware of it in future videos.

Best Regards

13-Nov-13 03:42 PM


Hoo    Said...

"Woo Said...

A bit of damning with faint praise. Reading between the lines, I think I'll skip it."

Reading between the lines... Woo is employed by the competition, lol.

20-Feb-14 07:09 PM


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