As its name suggests this is a module filled with 808 and basses sounds… well… it also features a lot, and I mean, a lot of cool extras! Any Hip-Hop, Trip-Hop, Dubstep, Dub, EDM, or any style that needs some big, fat 808 sounds should have this in his/her arsenal! And yes, this sounds freaking loud!
The New Era 808 & Bass Module is a sample-based instrument… well, that’s not entirely true, cause in fact, it’s two instruments. Depending on the presets category, it could be a monophonic five octaves keyboard or an eight-voices drum machine with individual outputs and a mixer.
The tuned kicks and bass presets will open the monophonic keyboard. This has a pretty clean and intuitive interface: just four knobs and the keyboard itself. As I’ve mentioned this is monophonic, so if you held a note and play another on top, the new note will be triggered and the sustained one will stop sounding, but won’t retrigger when you let go of the new note. Just last note priority in here. There’s no aftertouch, but you get velocity, and this is true for the drum machine too.
It will respond to pitch bend, but that’s all for MIDI implementation. The four knobs in the instrument control the volume, the pan, glide time, and distortion amount. The glide time can be really long, so just a little bit of glide will do the trick. As for the distortion, well… who doesn’t love an 808 with distortion? This can bring lots of harmonics, and passed the 12 o’clock position, my guess is that it also acts as a brick wall limiter, so, hey, you want it louder and punchier? Yes, you can!
When you open a Drum Arsenal preset, it automatically turns the interface into an eight-voice drum machine.
Here, sounds are always arranged in the same fashion: kick, snare, clap, closed hats, open hats, misc 1, misc 2, and misc 3, and in your keyboard or piano roll they go from C1 to G1 in semitones.
In this mode, the interface is a little more complex. In the central section, you’ve got the actual 8 voices with a trigger pad, volume, and pan knob for each one, each voice also features a led indicator that will flash red when sound is triggered. On the left side, there’s a master volume and a pitch slider that will affect all of the eight voices. On the right side, you’ve got a master reverb and a master release time slider.
As with the glide, the reverb can go wild pretty fast! Very, and I mean very small amounts of reverb will do the trick, unless, of course, you are up to some dub thing…
The release time can go from very short up to something very musical, nothing crazy in here! To my taste, the only thing that’s lacking in here is individual solo switches, that would have been something really nice to see, maybe for a future version?
Ok, here is where this thing really shines! Each preset is unique, and you get a lot of them! You’ve got several categories: Tuned 808 kicks (808 Style Kicks), Sustained 808 kicks (808 Style Long Kicks), 808 basses (Sub Bass), sustained basses (Sub Bass Long), Drum kits (Drum Arsenal), individual drums -this will call the drum machine mode, but only the corresponding trigger pad is loaded with sounds, meaning if you call for a snare preset, only C#1 will trigger sound, everything else is muted), Percussion kits and Vocal sample kits, which, let me say, are awesome!!
The kicks are punchy and with a very nice decay. Basses sound deep and low and will fill in all the low-end portions of the spectrum. Each sample is beautifully designed, most of them make use of some processing: compression, saturation, tape, distortion, filters, etc, etc, but, trust me, they all sound great and unique, and they are all very useful and musical.
One good thing about this is you can use the individual samples anywhere else (buying the deluxe version, which is something I highly recommend you to do), and I won’t get tired to say they sound amazing, kicks and basses have lots, and I mean lots of low ends, they sound really loud with lots of punch and detail. I mean, you should be careful and turn your down a bit your monitors before playing!
Drum machine mode can be set to individual outputs for each sound which is great, cause, let’s face it, you may wanna use a different reverb than the built-in, and not necessary for the whole kit.. So, if you just wanna add some reverb to your claps and snare, you can, and you are not tied to the built-in reverb, which may be great for some uses, but, won’t suit every taste (no reverb does that, right?).
This thing sounds loud! But it also sounds great, and that’s the most important thing. I can imagine lots of Hip-Hop, Dubstep, Trip-Hop, or EDM producers using this.
The only downside I found is the lack of a better MIDI implementation. It would be nice for the knobs and sliders to have some sort of MIDI learn capabilities, cause this would be a great instrument to play live, and let’s face it, having to reach for the mouse is not that comfortable… Maybe for a version 2? I hope so!
Anyway, as I’ve said, just the samples by themselves, are worth the money. New Era 808 & Bass Module is available for both Windows and MAC systems and is priced at $89 (Standard Package) and $119 (Deluxe Package).