Toontrack's virtual bass player should have its human counterparts very worried indeed.
Toontrack have defined the cutting edge in terms of 'virtual musicians' with Superior Drummer?3, EZdrummer?2 and EZkeys. They caused a considerable buzz in early 2019 when they announced that EZbass was going to be the next in their virtual session musician line. The proposed feature list looked impressive and, like the other EZ titles, it promised a combination of a high-quality sample-based virtual instrument with a virtual player. The product has been eagerly awaited and is finally now with us. So, what's the low-down on Toontrack's new source of low end? Let's find out...
EZbass is presented in a slick, modern, SD3-style UI. Sonically, the foundation is a high-quality core sample set, built from two instruments, and covering vintage and modern electric bass tones. Finger and pick playing styles are covered, as are a comprehensive range of performance articulations.
Alongside the sample library is a large MIDI groove library covering a range of musical genres, a Song Track system where — like EZkeys — you can assemble a full chord sequence with multiple song parts. The UI allows you to fine-tune all sorts of aspects of the performance either for the whole song structure or just for selected sections. You can also dig right into the MIDI data itself with a very well-specified Grid Editor MIDI editing environment. Also included are the options for dragging both MIDI and audio into EZbass, and a range of tools to then create bass grooves from those sources. As with SD3, there is a 'Tap2Find' feature, allowing you to manually tap a rhythm and let EZbass search its groove database for the best matches.
Finally, while you have a comprehensive toolkit to add all the performance nuances you want, the workflow is slick; creating a complete, thoroughly professional-sounding and very musical bass performance can be done quickly. All in, this list of top-level features sounds very tempting.
EZbass's UI shares much with SD3. The top strip contains the usual array of main menu options, but also includes five tabs — Bass, Grooves, Grid Editor, Drums & Keys and Audio Tracker — that toggle the display between the major elements of the feature set. The top-right of this strip is also where you select and manage your sound presets. As with SD3, you first select a sound library (Vintage or Modern in the core EZbass library) and then a preset from that sound library. The lower third of the display contains the Song Track. This offers a three-lane timeline display that shows song sections, chord sequences and bass grooves, but there is also an impressive selection of tools for customising aspects of the performance.
As well as a modern look, the UI is also flexible. You get comprehensive re-sizing options and, if you want EZbass to fill your display, that's perfectly possible. Equally, if you have the necessary screen real estate, you can also separate out the five main tabs and float them as individual windows. In use, I certainly found floating the Grid Editor — EZbass's MIDI editor, with dedicated features specific to the instrument — to be very useful while still seeing my groove options and Song Track overview in the main window.
EZbass ships with two core sample libraries: Vintage and Modern. Both offer five-string basses, and both include a range of finger and pick played preset options. Sonically, Vintage provides a warm, smooth, tone, while Modern seems to offer both extended low-end and a nice dollop of bite in the upper registers. The DI presets for both libraries — in both finger and pick variations — are excellent, so you could easily add your own amp modelling of choice should you wish. However, other presets span a range of...