Review: Rob Papen SubBoomBass 2

A longtime studio favorite among producers of all manner of electronic styles – from hip hop to techno and everything in between – Rob Papen’s Subboombass gets a much-anticipated refresh.  

Fundamentally comprised of two core oscillators featuring pulse width modulation, symmetry, and sine or square sub oscillators, this meaty synth has been expanded with a number of spectrum waveforms and selectable samples for unconventional layering. Want to stack your bass line with a Taiko drum, Metal Tube, or Xylophone? Papen’s got you covered. Oscillator sync and five FM modes including Ring and Feedback are available for the second oscillator, which is followed by a Distortion circuit with Fold, Fuzz, Power, and Saturation modes for additional filth. 

Subboombass II with the new Karplus-Strong string section in view.

Subboombass II with the new Karplus-Strong string section in view.

Further bolstering the core sound generators are a pair of new Karplus-Strong oscillators for physically modeled string tones, allowing everything from dynamic stand-up bass to truly bizarre science fiction tones. Each of the two main oscillator sections has its own corresponding String oscillator, selectable from the oscillator type menu, and visible in the dedicated String section when toggled.

Primary Colors

Primarily controlled by Colour, Length, and Dampening, two selectable noise shapes are balanced to generate the Impulse, which comes with its own Length, Volume, and Shape controls, and further attenuated by the Pluck location. Most of these parameters come with velocity and key modifiers to generate convincingly dynamic string performances approximating the expressivity of an actual musician. Whether emulating jazzy acoustic bass tones, a juiced-up Ernie Ball, or something else entirely, the new String oscillators add a powerful new dimension to Subboombass II. 

A pair of multimode filters can be run in serial, parallel, or split modes, with the first of the two getting its own dedicated envelope and syncable LFO. An Amp section with five-stage envelope and particularly punchy attack round out the core synthesis elements up top.

Dedicated Pitch controls appear at bottom left, with Sequencer, Mono, Legato, and Poly playback modes, a host of Unison options, Portamento, Analog drift, Decay/Release shaper, and dedicated vibrato. Two Papen effects units can be selected at right, with the usual complement of modulation, distortion, delay, reverb, equalization, and dynamics available to further hone and expand the contours of your low-end. 

Subboombass’ lower middle area, when not in Karplus-Strong String mode, plays host to either: the sneakily potent Sequencer with Swing, Slide, Key Entry and Latch plus a brand new pattern sequencer to string the four programmable sequences together; the assignable Envelope and LFO modulators; the Modulation Matrix with Advanced mode for enhanced control over thresholds and offsets; and the deceptively potent XY assignment mode. 

The new sequencer Pattern mode.

The new sequencer Pattern mode.

More Modulation Matters

Those familiar with Rob Papen’s more recent virtual instruments will be aware of the powerful modulation opportunities made available by the XY section. With three parameters assignable to each axis, moving the dot around the grid in real time can result in powerful expressive manoeuvres, while the record mode allows for playback of manual dot movements with adjustable Looping modes, Smoothing, and syncable Speed.

XY Advanced assignments.

XY Advanced assignments

Building off the thick, clean tones and subsonic impact its name would suggest, the extensive preset library includes all the beloved standards from the first version, along with an impressive library of additional patches that take full advantage of the second version’s new features. Category search, quick browse, favoriting options, and a handy “recently browsed” menu make finding the sounds you need the least of your concerns.

The preset Manager

The preset Manager

Conclusion

For those just looking for inspiringly heavy yet versatile low end, and if the intricate control possibilities seem a bit much for your needs, the Easy Page mode removes the clutter of typically unnecessary parameters while helping you focus on the essentials.

Easy Page

Easy Page

Whatever genre you might produce, if you need to create compelling bass lines in the box – and really, who doesn’t? – Subboombass II is well worth your attention.

Price: €99 / $99 / Included with Explorer Bundle

Pros: Powerful low end, incredible modulation opportunities, new Karplus-Strong string models, full-featured sequencer, bass-centric options throughout.

Cons: No alternate GUI skin options for those who dislike orange. 

Webhttps://www.robpapen.com/subboombass-2.html

Learn more about Rob Papen instruments in the Ask.Audio Academy here: https://ask.audio/academy?nleloc=category/audio/application/robpapen

Noah Pred is a Canadian techno and house producer, DJ and Certified Ableton Trainer living in Berlin, Germany - where he runs his label, Thoughtless Music. His Juno-nominated full-length album Third Culture, is out now: http://www.thoughtlessmusic.com/releases/tlm086-noah-pred-third-culture/ - and you can check out his new project with... Read More

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