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Bogren Digital Bassknob STD
4.75 4.75 out of 5, based on 1 Review

The Bogren Digital Bassknob STD is The Fast Track to Album-Ready Bass Guitars.


23rd September 2022

Bogren Digital Bassknob STD by NicoMcJ

Bogren Digital Bassknob STD

Introduction

Following the success of the AmpKnob RevC guitar amp simulation plug-in, Bogren Digital has released the BassKnob STD. Designed to provide users album-ready bass amplifier tones without hassle and option anxiety, the BassKnob STD is a plug-in with a deliberately simplistic feature set, but with a lot going on under the hood.

Let's cut to the case; this plugin is an Ampeg SVT based simulation. With Bogren's typical tongue-in-cheek humour evident the moniker STD was born.

Like the AmpKnob RevC, the BassKnob STD is built upon cutting-edge digital technology and has been meticulously sound-designed by world-renowned metal producer Jens Bogren.

The BassKnob STD is primarily aimed at (but not limited to) rock and metal producers wishing for the straightest path possible from musical ideas to an album-ready bass guitar recording.

This aim of the product is that the user can simply connect their bass guitar, launch the plug-in, and start recording with a rock bass sound that just sounds right. The BassKnob STD handles the sound, allowing the user to focus on the song and the performance.

Ease of Use 5/5
Instillation was very easy with the dowloadable file manager installing a VST3 and standalone version of the product simultaneously, with a desktop link to the standalone. A quick rescan of VSTs in my DAW and the plug in was ready to use.

Operating the product is simplicity itself. There's a single switch to toggle between clean and dirty sounds and a big knob to adjust the amount of gain. There's a handy marker on the gain knob to give you a starting point on each channel.

The input and output gain sliders are very easy to use as you can see the signal levels in comparison to the respective settings as you are playing.

There's a couple of extra bits on the front panel, such as the tuner and cab switch, that are equally well labelled and perfectly even to use, even for people new to using plugins.

Bogren Digital are building their brand on ease of use and, as usual, they've smashed it here

Sound Quality 5/5
The main focus of this product is that you just need a bass, the Bassknob STD and a DAW and you have instant access to a fully produced bass tone that will sit in a dense mix.

In isolation I was initially a little suprised as the sheer size of the low end. I compared it to my presets based on an Ampeg SVT on another plugin that I had previously been using and the tonal character of the amp was present in both products, but that huge, earth shattering low end of the real thing was only real evident in the Bogren.

On further exploration the clear reason for this is the way the cab and room have been recorded when creating the IR. I turned the built-in cab off and used my regular 3 Sigma Audio Mesa 8x10 IR and Two-Notes Ampeg 8x10 IR (both of which are very good sounding IRs) and the difference in the presence of the low end was staggering.

I went back to the incuded IR and found a mid range that punched you in the chest and an almost restrained high-end detail that nevertheless provided plenty of clarity.

Once mixed in with a drum track and a couple of high gain guitar tracks the bass tone made perfect sense. The low end was no longer ruling the show, it found it's own sonic space between the kick and the fundementals of the guitars tracks, even when detuned and playing power chords. The mid range and high end were voiced so that you could hear the detail and upper harmonics of the bass track without overpowering the guitars. Because of this I found I was able to have the bass tracks a little louder than I had been using with the "other" plugin; it provided more sonic space for the low end kick without mids and highs consuming the sonic space reseverved for the other instruments.

There is definitely some kind of outboard compression being used, but it is fairly mild and nicely compliments the overall sound. It also plays well with the compressor pedal I usually use whilst recording.

Both the clean and dirty channels have a huge sweep on the gain range, but without making a massive change in volume as you rotate the knob clockwise, which is a nice touch.

The labels on the switch may be a bit of misnomer as the clean channel can get very overdriven, and it's possible to get clean-ish sounds from the "dirty" channel. I'm fairly certain that the "clean" channel is the natural gain range of the amp. You can go from warm, round and almost Motown-like cleans with a passive bass and the gain on low to a biting, savage and visceral snarl with the knob maxed out. The "dirty" channel is, I'm equally certain, an SVT plus an outboard pedal. I'm a longtime Darkglass user and I'm definitely hearing something from that family of pedals in there. The really cool thing is that the interaction between amp and pedal has been beautifully captured as the gain knob is increased. Even with an active 5-string and the dirty channel maxed out, as long as I had the input and outputs gains set correctly, the sound retained clarity, punch and kick without being overwhelmed into mush.

I tried the plugin with a Precision, Jazz, Stingray, Semi-Hollow Shortscale, and an Ibanez Headless and the true character and sound of each bass still came through in the way I expect them to sound with an Ampeg.

The plug-in plays nicely with outboard modulation and delays, and even with overdrives and fuzzes if they are moderately set. The plugin didnt like a maxed out Big Muff, for example, but then most plugins don't! But by backing off the sustain and level a bit I was able to get the personality of the pedal to come through nicely for some Cliff-esque tones.

Finally, I was curious how the plugin would cope in a live situation so, armed with laptop, I took it to a full reharsal and plugged it into a PA with 4 subs, a live drum kit, a high-gain guitarist and 4 vocalists. Holy cow. That lowend can only be described as seismic. It was huge. Yet it worked. The sound was absolutely useable and sat well in a live environment. The band and I were genuinely amazed.

Features 4/5

This is always a hard part of a Bogren review as there aren't a great deal of features, but that is the entire point of the product. The feature set is minimal, but well-chosen:
-Two channels, Clean and Dirty,
-A Gain knob, setting the overall gain level,
-On/Off switch for the included cabinet emulation, should the user want to use a different cabinet IR,
-Built-in tuner.

There are also easy-to-use sliders for input and output levels, and a nicely transparent noisegate.

I was initially a little dubious about the lack of a drive blend, but the clarity of the sound meant I didn't really miss it. After all, an SVT doesn't have one! And if you really want a blended clean/dirty sound you can just run the plugin across two tracks, with each set how you want it tonally and then adjust the clean/dirty ratio with the level faders.

All of the features work exactly as they should, with the possible exception of the tuner. The tuner is, alas, the only reason the STD didn't get perfect 5s across the board. It is twitchy and seems to read slightly differently to my other tuners. I did check several times that it was set to 440, but it always seemed a few cents off compared to the others. The twitchiness of the needle was, sadly, the dealbreaker for me and I had to give up on using it. It was almost impossible to get the little light to come on the show I was in tune. I remeber this being an issue with the first release of the Helix, and users were eventually given the option to choose between the twitchy tuner and a more stable tuner. This might be something for the developers to consider in the future.

As for the IR switch, this was the result of feedback from the initial release of the RevC. I also believe it makes more sense on a guitar based product. It's a nice feature to have on the Bassknob STD but the other IRs I tried made the sound initially worse, until I'd spent ages EQing the tone to get it to sound nearly as good again. One thing it does highlight is how excellent the included IR is, however!

The advantage of the IR switch is that, for more expereinced bassists or producers, it allows you to tinker with the dynamics of the sound and the range of sounds available a little more; you can use an inefficiant 1x15 in a big room for more old-school tones, for example.

Bang for Buck 5/5

As with the RevC when I did the initial review, there is simply no direct competitor on the market for this product at the time of writing. Even more than with the RevC, a constant, consistent and powerful bass guitar sound is crucial when making a record. For the list price, and the time you will save yourself when using it, the list price is a bargain.

Conclusion

Although this product is heavily marketed at the hard rock and metal crowd, I can't think of any genre that wouldn't be able to get a suitable and fantastic mix-ready tone from the STD. As long as they want an Ampeg sound. For exmple, Les Claypool or Geddy Lee fans probably won't get what thy're looking for here, but thats not what this product is aiming to provide.

The possible perceived limitations of the STD are actually its biggest asset. It provides two distinct variations of one of the staples of bass guitar tone. Instantly recognisable as an SVT, and tweakable enough for almost any user without negatively affected the sound quality or having spend hours micro-managing the sound.

As mentioned above, a consistent and well-voiced bass sound is probably more important to producers than guitars tones, in which the listener often expects some variation.

The added bonus that it works effectively in a live situation is just the icing on the already delicious cake.