Bass XXL - A Smooth Powerhouse

By Eimear O SullivanMusicngear Editor

Article photo - Bass XXL - A Smooth Powerhouse


Price: $69 (currently on sale for $39)


What is it? 

Bass XXL is the newest plugin from Denise Audio (the people who gave you the one, the only Bad Tape and Bad Tape 2), a new and improved version of the Bass XL plugin. This plugin promises to target and thicken up the low end of your mixes 


n.b this is not a sub synth, it can only be used with existing sounds, as this is how it creates the harmonics


The low end of the mix is one of the most crucial elements to get right, as a lot of the impact and groove of a song lie within these regions, yet, it is one of the most challenging areas to get right. 

I am sure most of us have fought many a losing battle with a kick and bass; or have spent excruciating amounts of time crafting a low end, only for it to be non-existent when played through a phone, small speaker, some headphones, and so forth.

We will see if Bass XXL can help with this, and see if it can reduce mixing time.

 

How does it work? 

Developed specifically to target the low end of a mix, it works with a phenomenon known as the missing fundamental, or phantom fundamental, in which we perceive a fundamental frequency that is in fact not there; we are hearing the upper harmonics of aforementioned fundamental frequency; and our brains fill in the blanks, so we think we are actually hearing the frequency itself, which is not present.

Bass XXL works with this phenomenon, generating upper harmonics from the bass frequency you would like to enhance; this being a huge asset for playback on small speakers and most computers, as a lot of sub-bass (which would generally be 20 - 60 Hz) gets lost when played via these mediums. 

It also lists on the website that the plugin uses a combination of analog saturation, with digital precision and oversampling. 


How to use


Article photo - Bass XXL - A Smooth Powerhouse
 

This plugin is very straightforward to use, there are three primary rotary controllers, detailed below. 
 

Root: This allows you to select the specific frequency you would like to add to, or the root note (to ensure that the harmonics being generated are in tune). There is also a midi option.

Harmonics: This controls the levels or amounts of harmonics you are introducing; there is a toggle directly below this that allows you to turn oversampling on or off.

Boost: This combines/blends the harmonics with your dry signal (mixing them in, in parallel so your dry signal remains preserved).

There is also a pre-delay option, which allows you to control when the effect comes in (I found this particularly useful when using it on bass, in order to preserve the initial impact/transient of the kick drum so that it didn’t dull it or muddy it). 

The range option controls how many octaves the harmonics are generated over, the slope controls frequency roll-off. The visualizer you see also acts as a guide to the auditory processing that is taking place, the dark area is your original bass, and the white represents the harmonics added. It is also designed to avoid phasing, a common and deeply frustrating issue that can come up when dealing with the low end.


IN ACTION:


Kick

I am working on a 1990s-style electronic track at the moment (Aphex Twin’s Xtal is one of the references, so in addition to the cloudy pads and synths, the low end is a crucial element to get right). I have the raw, unprocessed kick below:


Raw Kick

I then added the Bass XXL to the kick, I went pretty heavy with it, the harmonics at almost 100, I had a low pre-delay, boost was at about 80 and I also had the oversampling on.


Kick with Bass XXL

This transforms the kick; I am aware that I had things up pretty high, in addition to how powerful it sounds, I am really impressed with how smooth it is. If your bassline was very subby and just mimicking the kick, you actually could almost just use the kick by itself, as it is so impactful. This is something that I wouldn’t have been able to achieve just using a saturator plugin alone. Bass XXL could even be used to make the arrangement of a track more interesting; (e.g. automating some of the control to give the feeling of building up).


Bass

The bass I tested this on was an electronic bassline (made using a Roland Juno DI). One of the references for this track was Orbital’s Halcyon On and On, and some 1990s electronic classics, so a nice strong bassline was the goal.


Raw Bass


Bass with XXL 

This thickens up the bassline so well, with very little effort, this would previously take multiple plugins in order to achieve. I really found the pre-delay useful here, as it prevents the kick and bass from clashing and jeopardizing the effect. 


n.b It is also worth mentioning that this comes with a library of very effective presets; and can be also used as part of the mastering process, to target and craft the low end.
 

Conclusion

I will be honest, I didn’t really think I needed something like this until I actually used it. 

The sheer power of this plugin is very impressive, given how long it would normally take to emulate the almost immediate effects of this. It is very light on your computer system (something I deeply appreciate, seeing as it would have taken a lot more CPU to achieve the same results without it, as I would have been using multiple plugins and sends and so forth).

The degree of control you have is also great; and it is very, very easy to use.

This will make your low-end sound like the sub-fuelled warehouse gloriousness you have always dreamed of; and most importantly, will substantially reduce your mixing time, and time spent crying at the futility of it all. 

About Eimear O Sullivan

Eimear Ann O Sullivan is a multi-genre music producer, audio engineer and vocalist. After receiving a Masters in Music Technology from the CIT Cork School of Music, she went on to operate as a producer under the name Blakkheart. Her releases have received critical acclaim from Ireland's biggest music publications, such as District Magazine and Nialler9, alongside receiving heavy commercial radio airplay. She currently works in Cork recording studio Flashpoint CC. Previous clients of hers include the likes of Comedy Central’s Dragony Aunt star Candy Warhol, rapper Darce and Outsider YP. (Photo credit @Fabian Boros)

Contact Eimear O Sullivan at eimear.o.sullivan@musicngear.com

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