IK Multimedia Modo Bass – It’s All About That Bass
Welcome to our latest hands-on review, this time we’re looking at the latest in virtual bass emulation from IK Multimedia, the highly anticipated Modo Bass. Power up ya bottom end and let’s get into it.
As with other IK Multimedia software titles we’ve reviewed, installation was a breeze and the only mildly annoying authorisation is fairly plainly as quickly sorted. Modo Bass loads as a VSTi in your host DAW or as a stand-alone app on your desktop. Immediately you’re presented with a very sexy front-end UI, featuring a number of dream basses, starting with the venerable ’60s P-Bass’. A quick play with the options so Modo could see my MIDI keyboard and I was away.
Right off the cut, the default Fender is very convincing. Being physically modelled, not individually sampled notes, I was dubious that the sound was going to be as good as the promo videos. I do have a late 90s Fender in the studio to compare it to, but I didn’t need to plug it in, I’ve very familiar with the sound. The Modo version is a little hyped right out of the box – a little too hi-fi, but still nice and definitely with the trademark ‘scooped’ mid-Fender sound. There’s a lot of finger noise as if you have an action set a little low, but nothing offensive. With only a little fiddling on the string selection and pickup tone, I had a pretty good-sounding Fender J bass.
Playing Modo with the keyboard is a lot more music and intuitive than I was expecting, light years ahead of your standard GM or synth bass. By default, your mod wheel controls vibrato and your pitch slider allows up to 24 semitones (!) with realistic fret sliding noises, cool stuff. Various other controls, such as legato slides, muting and chords are also available via mappable and learnable CC controls. Standard key articulations include ghost notes, pull-offs, plus other various articulations depending on what play style you’re set on (finger, slap or pick). All in all, Modo is very playable and extremely responsive. With only a short period of learning the controls and setting up the amp tone I was pulling off some serious Flea grooves like a boss.
Modo comes packaged with a pair of amp simulators to choose from – solid state or tube, both with EQ, limiter and DI controls. Both have a good amount of control, though the tube amp model stands out as the more rounded option tone to my ears.
You get full control over your bass’s electronics, pickup selection and placement, string gauge and even play style. You have 12 pickup variations to choose from for each of the pickup slots allocated on your bass, which can also be moved around to the ideal placement. All feature noticeable tone differences and not just gimmicks as I first thought – the amount of freedom you get to customise your perfect axe is surprisingly reflective in the sound, it’s not all eye candy.
Modo Bass comes with a huge selection of presets, most of which are very convincing. You are, however, limited by the real-world physical scale of the bass you choose, so it if looks like a 4-string, E is your lowest note. I’m sure extra bass models will be coming soon to the Custom Shop for you to download, hopefully, some more amp models too as the included ones are a bit mediocre.
Interestingly, you can assign fingering ranges on the fretboard and whether open strings are played over fretted alternatives. Fine details, but all add to a more realistic performance. The only real style missing here is tapping, which is a shame.
When inserted on a track I had mixed results. Mostly the basses blended in and were usually lost in the mix, even with an exaggerated gain or mid-EQ boost. The built-in amps helped to cut through a little, though I had the best results when bypassing them and using a 3rd party amp sim. The included amps are better for big boomy rock, dub or the like, but not so much for metal, prog or any kind of soloing.
All of the included basses sound great, though I was really disappointed with the Rickenbacker 501, it sounds very timid compared to the real McCoy. Installing active pickups and boosting the treble works, but that was the only one that stood out to me as not quite on point. The Stingray 5 and Hofner Violin basses are standouts, really close to the originals.
Fortunately, Modo works extremely well as good old-fashioned driving rock grooves. Just holding down 8th notes, AC/DC style, works very well. There’s no noticeable note repeating, even when playing fast.
Modo Bass features a huge collection of bass models with some very clever behind-the-scenes physical modelling going on. The benefit of having more control often leads to poor sound quality, but not so here. Even pushing Modo to extremes with crazy configurations and super-fast tempo 8th note sequences, nothing ever sounded weird or phasey. At $300 NZD Modo is a steal (actually only $150 NZD if you’ve spent $150 or more with IK Multimedia in the past), there’s nothing else with the level of customisation available on the market. Trilian does offer a few nice models (the Hardcore bass comes to mind) with far better amp modelling and FX, but you won’t get the control and customisation as with Modo.
If some alternative amp models become available to download, Modo Bass will have it all, and it looks drop-dead gorgeous to boot. Not every bass guitar model included is a 100% pitch-perfect replica, but everyone is pretty damn impressive and totally usable in most music sessions. Highly recommended.