The Lowdown Showdown: Three Affordable Bass Libraries Go Head to Head

Thursday, February 11, 2010| by Will Chen

Ok, I admit it. I often use bass libraries when arranging songs. Sure, I could borrow a bass from a buddy and hack my way through a tune. But, to be honest, I can be a bit of a perfectionist and end up retracking a multitude of times trying to get things sounding just the way I want. On the other hand, when I use a library thing go much faster and the mix tends to fall in place better. While I’m not going to pretend a bass library could ever fully replace a real musician, they fill a void when other players aren’t available and are incredibly convenient. So here’s a look at three libraries which won’t break the bank.

SoniVox MI Phat Fender P Bass Finger & Slap – This library is available as both a Soundfont (as reviewed) or a Virtual Instrument (called a DVI bundled with a picked version of the bass as well) for $29.95. Several presets combine 2 different articulated finger attacks and a slap along with some special effects such as finger stops and harmonics. However, rather than employing key switches to alter the articulations, they’ve been layered and aren’t cross faded to provide a smooth transition requiring a fairly precise performance to avoid accidental triggering of an unwanted sample. With some practice I was able to get some very cool and funky performances by hitting the keys hard to get a slap and softer to get a hard fingered tone but I much prefer the key switch method of controlling samples. Speaking of the samples, sounds have been recorded direct providing a true and uncolored tonality which is perfect for the producer looking to process things exactly as they want to hear them. On the other hand, those looking for a more mix ready solution for quick arrangements need look elsewhere (though I should mention the DVI contains effects and envelope editing to provide presets with a very finished sound) though the Soundfont format is easily portable to almost any sample player allowing you create highly customized presets with a finished sound.

Sonic Reality Bass Kapsule for Infinite Player – Infinite Player is Kontakt instrument for which Sonic Reality has repackaged a bunch of their previous libraries but has also released some very interesting newer content such as ala carte drum sets from the critically acclaimed Ocean Way Drums library. Sonic Reality has included a multitude of bass instruments in this package covering almost any sound you can think of from uprights and fretless electrics to picked Rickenbackers and 5 String basses. That being said, at times it feels like they were going for quantity over quality as a majority of the instruments feature a single articulation and many of the samples sound a bit thin and dated. Sonic Reality hasn’t employed any round robin playback so performances can sound fairly artificial on some of the weaker instruments. That being said, the more fully realized instruments such as the K5, P Bass, and J Bass feature a full complement of articulations and slides allowing some very usable, recordable riffs. Additionally, those savy in Kontakt scripting can also take advantage of their incredibly power engine to great slides, trills, etc to create very realistic performances. While there are a handful of very good basses here, the vast majority aren’t much better than you’ll find in a run of the mill GM set and the $69.95 price seems just a touch high considering the number quality instruments provided. (Note that the Infinite Player is required and sold separately)

Yellow Tools Independence Electric Basses 1 Fingered – I first discovered Yellow Tools by reading about their extremely generous Independence Free sample player which features a whooping 2.5 GB sample library. And we’re not talking about crippled instruments with samples missing or buzzes and bleeps during playback, it’s a fully featured and incredible sounding product which I highly recommend downloading. When Yellow Tools announced they’d be selling individual instruments from their premier sample libraries, I was excited to say the least. Electric Basses 1 Fingered features the Fender P Bass, Fender J Bass, Musicman Bass, and Signature (Epiphone Jack Cassidy) Bass from their critically acclaimed Majestic and Independence Pro libraries. The samples across the board are very high quality with an big “in your face” modern tone. In fact, on some presets I found it necessary to patch in an EQ to tame the low end a bit to avoid dominating a track. Instrument programming contains a ton of key switchable articulations including slides, hammer-ons, finger taps, and even string noises! It’s incredibly easy to create performances which would fool most into believing you have a world class bassist at your disposal. Making the library even more enticing are the effects available in Independence Free which include modeled speaker cabinets, mics, and preamps in addition to compressors, eq, distortion, and more. And if that wasn’t enough (wow, I’m starting to sound like an infomercial) you also get Yellow Tools Origami convolution reverb engine. I’m sure it sounds like I’m gushing. Well, I am because you get all these features for 32.77 EUR (which as of this writing converts to roughly $45 USD). What an absolutely incredible deal!

So who’s the winner? If it wasn’t already obvious, Yellow Tools Independence Electric Basses 1 Fingered is my pick. While certainly not the most affordable library in this review, from a value perspective it allows absolutely professional results on a very modest budget.