VST plugins are an integral tool for modern musicians and producers. In years gone by, the main criticism of VST’s was that they didn’t sound realistic compared to authentic instruments. This is no longer the case, and it is possible to achieve incredible results using them.
Bass VST plugins have drastically improved over the years. The bass and drums provide the foundation of your track, so having access to high quality bass sounds is vital.
This definitive list of the best bass VST plugins contains options for every kind of producer. Whether you want authentic sounding clean bass, funky slap or weird and wonderful synth bass sounds, you will find them in this article.
Best Bass Guitar VST Plugins
Table of Contents
- Best Bass Guitar VST Plugins
- Free Bass VST Plugins
- Bass VST Plugins – Must Have Qualities
Toontrack’s EZbass is loaded with useful and unique features. You have the option of either a vintage or modern bass guitar, both made up of samples which sound impressively realistic. Toontrack have transferred the best aspects from their popular Superior Drummer 3 plugin.
The layout of EZbass resembles most popular digital audio workstations, so it’s not difficult to get the hang of. The default “Bass view” shows you the instrument you’ve selected and you can watch the notes being played on the frets in real time. Once you establish your bass sound, you can use the “Add Groove” feature to compose your basslines.
Where this VST really gets interesting is when you combine it with MIDI. By connecting a sample pad, electric drum kit or MIDI keyboard, you can tap out a rhythm and EZbass will match it to a number of suited grooves from the MIDI library. This is very useful if you find yourself stuck for ideas and need some inspiration. The pre-made grooves can then be tweaked to meet your preference.
The bass sounds in EZbass sound very natural, thanks to the extensive customization options available to you. There are many articulations that can be added in order to give the bass an authentic feel.
For example, you could choose alternating fingers at the strumming style, use slap techniques and add ghost notes in particular places. There’s no limit to the amount of editing you can do to get the bass sounding exactly how you want it to.
Spectrasonics Trilian is a versatile bass VST plugin that is focused on producing expressive bass sounds in a number of styles. This virtual instrument contains 34GB of electric bass, double bass and synth bass samples. It marks a return to their roots for Spectrasonics, whose first product was the Bass Legends sample library almost twenty years ago.
If you are a user of the notorious Omnisphere plugin, you’ll be pleased to know that Trillian is capable of core library integration so you can combine the two to make the ultimate production tool.
Let’s talk sounds. The electric and acoustic basses have been recorded at a high sample rate to capture every small detail possible. There are a range of playing styles available for each sound, including picked, fingered, slapped, fretless and muted techniques.
Some of the most iconic bass guitars to ever be manufactured were used for the recording of the samples; a Rock P-Bass, Clean Fender Jazz Bass and a 1960’s Epiphone Viola bass to name a few. As I previously mentioned, synth basses are also included. There are numerous editing facilities so you can tweak and process the synth bass sounds using modulation, filters or LFOs.
Organic Loops have focused their attention on authenticity with the Complete Electric Bass plugin. The included live bass loops were recorded by the experienced bassist Al Swainher who has been a prominent musician in jazz, rock and pop music.
This is not a typical bass VST in that it is a collection of pre-recorded riffs, loops and samples. The advantage of this is that you get the most natural representation of live bass possible while still being able to chop up the loops and process them as much as you like.
In total there are 539 loops contained within the Comple Electric Bass plugin. These consist of a combination of fretted and fretless bass at varying tempos to suit any genre. A Westone Thunder Jet bass guitar was played through an Ashdown Mag 300 head and an Ashdown 4x8 cab, so you can rest assured that the tonal quality matches the grooves.
Modo bass is a physically modeled VST that produces very realistic results. The software is interactive, with a selection of classic bass guitar presets to choose from at the top of the display. There are a variety of Precision basses, Jazz basses and other iconic models to choose from
The fretboard is shown at the bottom of the window, allowing you to visualize the way a bassline would be played on a real instrument. If you have a good knowledge of scales and note positions, this feature allows you to express your bass guitar skills through the VST.
Each individual bass preset can be edited in a number of useful ways. There are different playing styles, strings, electronic set ups, amplifier settings and other variables. This allows you to take the sound of a well known bass and put your own personal touch on it.
The Bass Slapper VST by Waves focuses solely on, in my opinion the greatest style of bass playing – slap! Most bass VSTs avoid putting too much emphasis on slap bass, as it’s the most difficult to recreate in a natural sounding way.
You can hook the VST up to your MIDI keyboard and play realistic sounding slap bass. The sound is achieved by capturing the details of the technique, with slides, mutes and varying attack levels all combining to create an impressive end product.
Bass slapper also includes a range of tonal possibilities, thanks to the tone presets, stompbox effects and various amplifier rigs. There are 11 interactive playing positions with give you more options to work with.
I can understand the skepticism surrounding slap bass VST plugins, as so many have tried and failed to create an authentic sound in the past. Waves however, have come very close this time.
Heavyocity’s Scoring Bass makes it possible to have bass guitars of exceptional quality in your music. This bass VST plugin is packed with premium samples which have been recorded meticulously and processed by a team of professional sound engineers.
There is a total of 4 gigabytes worth of sampled instruments, pads and effects within the plugin. Add to this the 100 tempo synced grooves and you have the perfect platform to create any kind of bassline you choose. There are also pre-recorded bass riffs which you can seamlessly implement into your productions.
Uncomplicated in design, Scoring Bass makes adding low end to your songs easy. If you are experienced as a bassist, you manually compose using your musical knowledge. If your area of expertise is elsewhere, there are plenty of pre-made loops that you can edit and play around in order to further your skills.
As the aforementioned Waves plugin was focused solely on slap bass, this Frontline Producer VST plugin, as its name suggests, is centered on picked bass. The plugin aims to bring aggressive, edgy basses that are played with an attitude. It is fair to say that the sounds are mostly suited to producing rock music.
For the money, Picked Bass is a real steal. It’s always going to be a difficult task reproducing bass with a plectrum, because the attack needs to be captured as does the variations in picking velocity. To their credit, Frontline Producer has pulled it off.
They achieved this by using Precision bass guitars in combination with vintage vabs and Neve pre-amps. The resulting samples were them compressed through Apogee IOs and processed in Pro Tools. High quality bass loops resulted from this process, recorded in a range of BPMs and in differing lengths.
All of the samples included in Picked Bass are 100% royalty free, and yours to do as you please with. You can get a demo from their website if you would like to try the VST before committing to buying it.
Electric Funk Bass by Organic Loops brings the syncopated rhythms of funky basslines into your DAW. This plugin is full of loops and breaks which are completely royalty free.
Recorded by renowned bassits Keith Holden using Overwater bass guitars, the collection includes rumbling tones, natural sounding funk bass and heavily processed riffs which you can chop up and rearrange into your tracks.
There are 150 dry, unprocessed loops and 91 that have been processed. All of the loops are performed at either 100, 125 or 130 beats per minute. If you need inspiration for a certain song, the Electric Funk Bass loops can be the catalyst for your creativity.
This collection lends itself to a number of genres, whether you make RnB, indie, funk, disco or house music. All of the loops sound organic and can be mixed to match your desired sound in your chosen DAW.
Bass Master is another quality option when it comes to bass VST plugins. Focused more on electronic and synth basses, Bass Master draws from Loopmasters history of creating brilliant VSTs.
What’s unique about this plugin is that it encourages the user to create their own bass sounds, using the preset waveforms as a basic sound then adding elements to them. There is a curated collection of 217 waveforms across two layers, with nearly 50’000 possible combinations!
In addition to the waveforms, there are 13 types of filters which include high-pass band-pass and low-pass filters. An ADSR envelope and LFO control give you even more freedom over the sound.
The three effects included in the Bass Master VST are distortion, stereo chorus and reverb. Each of these effects has a number of variations too. You can tweak the amount and rate until you are satisfied with the overall tone of the bass you have created.
DopeSONIX have created a brilliant hip-hop bass VST with the Bass Engine 2. An improved version of the original, this plugin has incorporated more 808s and vintage analogue bass sounds than its predecessor. The sounds cater for all sub-genres of hip-hop. Whether you make old school 90 bpm rap beats or modern trap with subs, there is the sound for you.
All in all there are 300 brand new additions to the Bass Engine 2. All of these have been processed through a 1961 Drawmer Dual Vacuum Tube Equalizer to enhance the deep low-end thickness and the pop of the mids.
The Bass Engine 2 plugin also has the capacity to produce authentic sounding live bass. 50 presets made from classic jazz bass, dusty uprights, deep dub basses and other genuine instruments can be used for a variety of genres. Although this plugin is primarily focused on hip-hop, it has the versatility to be useful for other genres too.
Free Bass VST Plugins
The following options may appeal to you if you are on a budget. They are worth adding to your VST collection.
- Ample Bass P Lite II – Easy to navigate bass plugin that provides some good clean sounds.
- TAL Bassline – Simplistic VST plugin which can be used over a number of genres.
These free options obviously don’t provide the same level of quality as the VST plugins I previously mentioned, but they are free so there’s no harm in adding them to your collection.
Bass VST Plugins – Must Have Qualities
Bass guitar is a unique instrument because it combines melody and rhythm equally, which makes it a challenge to convert into a plugin. Let’s take a look at some of the required qualities of a great bass VST.
Most DAWs include bass patches and presets, but these often lack the natural qualities which characterize a live bass guitar. This is because it’s difficult to capture the sound and feel of playing techniques like sliding, strumming, slapping, and picking.
The ability to reproduce these techniques is the foundation upon which the rest of a bass DAW should be built upon.
To create authentic-sounding basslines, you’ll need access to a variety of finger and strumming techniques. This will bring the samples to life and allow you to add syncopation and rhythmic complexity to your bass parts.
Bass Sample Quality
The extensiveness of the library of bass sounds, tones, and samples included in a VST plugin decides the freedom you have to experiment and create your desired sounds.
Some plugins blend the worlds of live bass guitar with synth bass sounds, while other focus more on one variety of bass. In addition to the variety of sounds included, it’s important to look out for their quality.
The best bass VSTs are likely to include a mixture of bass guitar samples recorded using different techniques, such as with microphones in front of an amplifier, or directly into a bass preamp.
Researching exactly how the sounds were captured is a great way to gauge the quality of the samples you can expect to find in the bass VST. The better the samples sound dry, the more freedom you’ll have to edit them and shape your unique bass tones.
Modeling & Effects
Clean bass tones are great for certain scenarios, but having the option of tailoring the sounds using effects and processing tools is also beneficial. The best VST plugins include specific tools for shaping the tone of a bass.
These may include compressors and EQs which are designed to be used with the low-end frequencies of a bass guitar, or modelers which simulate the tones of classic bass amplifiers.
There are many external plugins that you can use for sculpting your bass tone, but having them all in one location within a bass VST is likely to simplify the process.
DAW Integration & Compatibility
When deciding which bass VST plugin is best for your requirements, you must consider the way it interacts with your DAW of choice. All of the popular DAWs allow VST integration, but some make it easier than others.
You might find that a bass plugin includes its sequencer, where you can create basslines and then export them as audio into the main arrangement in your Digital Audio Workstation.
This is a useful feature if you would rather insert a finished bass part into your arrangement, taking care of the processing and programming in the VST rather than cluttering your DAW.
Hopefully this list has provided you with the best bass plugins that might be perfect for your needs. The great thing about DAW’s and VST’s is that you can start using the various sounds instantly. It’s great fun to explore a new plugin and learn the ins and outs of how it works. Sometimes the best ideas come from this period of playing around and experimenting.