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Review: SUBSTANCE Bass Engine by Output

Review Output SUBSTANCE


Lately, I’ve been looking at a lot of orchestral libraries, but that doesn’t mean that I forgot my passion for bass music and electronic sound. Today I will look at an instrument that could even remind music makers, that have long ago sworn off basses and beats, why they got into it in the first place, and why they should get back into it.

I’m talking about SUBSTANCE by Output, the new bass virtual instrument for Kontakt with the potential to be the first big innovation in bass music since Massive. It combines sleek looks with high usability, provides good out-of-the-box sound, and at the same time a lot of depth four modulations and customizing.

When Output recently announced a new product, we have all been wondering what it’s going to be, and some suspected something base-related. From everyone I know, nobody suspected something like this, though, and so far everybody seems very positively surprised by this new beast that Output unleashed.

If you’ve been following Output over the past few years, you’ve probably come to know and respect them, for pushing the boundaries and bringing in something new and innovative with every release.

“SUBSTANCE” is no exception from that, and even though a part of me was wondering how long they can keep up the chain of great products, looking at “SUBSTANCE”, it obviously hasn’t ended yet.



“SUBSTANCE” interface fits seamlessly in the style Output has established through all of their previous products. It looks modern but not cluttered, provides an easy overview, and is segmented in a very functional manner, making it so that wherever you wish you had a big space to interact, you do. At the same time that look provides a substantial feeling, so that even if it is remote-controlled it still feels right when you turn a knob and see it turning on the screen.

Substance by Ouptut


So, here is where the real magic happens, not just because of how it sounds, but also because of how the sound is achieved. You may have heard that “SUBSTANCE” creates its sounds, by utilizing three sound sources. What’s different is that the sound sources could be synths or samples, and each core has its own processing chain attached to it, effectively not only giving you the ability to mix the sound of an orchestral double bass, with a gritty sense, and a pumping sub-base, but to process each source individually, and together, into a super flexible, playable instrument.

This isn’t obvious at first glance, especially since the 300 presets that are included, already sound really good are definitely usable right out of the box. Just jamming around on those presets, one can feel so inspired, that the need for alteration of the sound doesn’t even arise.

But for those who overcome the urge to just jam for hours, there is a special treat, waiting to be discovered. It’s hard to sum it up, essentially, I would say it is the usability that makes it sound so amazing. The fact that it is so easy to automate and interlink, so many parameters across so many sound or modulation sources, makes it wonderfully easy to crate constantly changing evolving sounds. The output you really nailed!

Under the Hood

Let’s have a look at what this low-frequency magic box is made of. When we first open it and contact we basically see the circular triple cut pizza-like shape, surrounded by three faders. Those faders are the macros that you can assign to pretty much any parameter.

The three pizza slices are basically the three sound sources. You can click on each of those to replace the existing sound source with a different one. This will bring you in the, what I call, sound select window. Here you have a bunch of cores to choose from, at the top, and then on the left, a row of sound presets for each core. You simply select whatever fits the sound you’re looking for and had back to the main window.

To get to all the other funky stuff you can use the top bar, which you probably noticed contains several tabs such as main, added, EQ, filter, FX, rhythm. Pretty sure it’s clear what the main Is by now, so I’ll just move on to the ‘edit tab’…

This tab includes the volume, envelope, panning, shooting, and sample rate units, for each of the three sound courses. Almost hidden at the bottom is also a little “Advanced” button, through which you can adjust the key range for the sound course as well as glide and velocity parameters.

The EQ tab offers you three separate cues for each sound core as well as a global EQ for the whole patch. They look minimalistic and well-designed, and they sound very very good.

Substance VST Plugin

The filter tab (see above) is similar to the EQ tab. Three filters for each sound core and the global filter, all equipped with cut-off frequency, envelope shape, velocity sensitivity, resonance, and all that good stuff.

The effects tab follows the same skeleton, but here we find something like a little foot paddle-board for each sound core. Each board is equipped with distortion, motion, pitch, compressor, delay, and reverb effect units, which can be turned on on the power button. Clicking onto the panel itself opens another small window, in which you can adjust the parameters of the selected effect. The global effects section contains four paddles: distortion, compression, delay, reverb, that function in the same way.

The rhythm tab has again the same structure, giving you control over the global sends: high-pass cut, high-pass resonance, low-pass cut, low-pass resonance and distortion, as well as and layer sends: volume, bite, and filter. At the bottom you also find the global rhythm section, offering you either wave shape or step sequencing with different presets, as well as the flux editor, which is actually quite fun and I’m going to have you all find out what it does.

Also important not to forget, in the top right corner are the three buttons for the macro controls, the arpeggiator, and the help menu. These can be activated on any tab you might be on, which is particularly useful for the interactive help menu, and the macro controls. Like I mentioned before you can assign pretty much any, and multiple parameters to the macro sliders.

The arpeggiator (see below) pleasantly surprised me, as it is very powerful and fun to use. It comes with a few very useful presets and offers enough customizability to be completely satisfactory in 90% of the cases.

Substance Arpeggiator

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“SUBSTANCE” is an extremely solid package, that offers a lot of flexibility and innovation in terms of bass design. For what it offers I would consider the price fairly low, and the deal a pretty good one.

The biggest selling point for me is that it was so much fun to play with this instrument. It just feels right and helps you do, what you want to do intuitively. In many presets I found myself reaching for one of the macros experimentally, and often it already did what I had in mind, without me having to assign anything.

This shows me that Output knows their stuff and knows how to anticipate what most producers are going to want to do.


  • Price – $199 US
  • A playable instrument with 300 presets
  • Powerful 3-layer engine
  • Layer FX and global FX
  • 4 central macro sliders unique to each preset
  • Monophonic & Legato modes per layer
  • Rhythm page that syncs to tempo
  • Advanced arpeggiator
  • Complete effects control
  • Built-in help menu

SUBSTANCE runs in Kontakt or Free Kontakt player version 5.5.1 or higher. If you do not own Kontakt, there’s no problem, SUBSTANCE can also be used as a stand-alone, VST, Audio Units, ASIO, Core Audio, WASAPI, AAX plugin formats.

If you are into bass music at all or want to get into it, I highly recommend you add this amazing tool to your library for some “SUBSTANCE” in the low end!

DOWNLOAD/BUY: SUBSTANCE (available at PluginBoutique)



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