I am a huge fan of the classic sounding 303 bass line, the ABL-3 Bass line synthesizer made by AudioRealism has become the perfect 303 bass line replacement in the digital realm. While this synth has so much potential in terms of genres like Techno, House or Goa Trance. The Computer Bass line recently has been updated with new extra features. The update itself is a payed update (9 euro to be exact). While these extra features will bring different new options to the table. Compared to the original ABL3 a lot has changed. There are features I wanted to have which I also discussed in my original tutorial about the ABL3 from AudioRealism.
The following video contains most of the features that are used for the ABL3, going from Cut off frequency, to Resonance, to Envelope Mod, decay settings to Accents.
The original device looks as displayed in the following picture:
The new version currently looks like the following:
According to the release notes, the following features have been changed:
- pattern grid edit mode
- advanced randomizer
- Integrated distortion
- gate trim feature
- hi pass control on the front panel
- sound engine improvements
- 23 additional patches
VST vs Reason Rack Extension
A lot of changes are related to the release of the VST version of ABL3. Some features were left out the initial Rack Extension release in 2015. While in early 2016 the ABL3 was also released as a VST/AU. On computer magazine you can see a demonstration on the different features the VST / AU has, which were missing in the Reason RE version:
A fun fact : the ABL3 was nominated as best Emulation Software for 2016
Thanks to Computer Music and all of your readers ABL3 (our extremely authentic 303 emulation software) has been awarded Emulation of the Year in issue 238!
Most noticeable change is the pattern section. We'll get back to this one, lets take it one step at a time.
One thing that always caught my attention is that the ABL3.0 (I'll refer to 3.0 and 3.1 from now on) is that this version always had some 'clicks' and 'pops' in certain situations. On that note, I thought they needed to be there. A very specific setting where this gets noticeable by the ear is by setting the Resonance , Envelope Mod, the Decay and the Accent all to its maximum setting (100%). Yet have the cut off frequency to 0%. In some cases the notes would start to 'click and pop' while playing the same notes on 1/16th notes. The effect has been reduced. So from this angle, it sounds like there are some improvements when I compare the old version with the newer version.
I might note though, when you upload a file to sound cloud for instance, you will not really hear many differences. Therefor I am not providing any mp3 files to prove this point. Case and point is this: the sound engine has improved. I will have to fact check yet what CPU / DSP hit this improvement has. While making this article, there aren't many issues here yet.
From where I sit at, the sound was already crystal clear to me. At some level of degree, it also becomes a point of 'annoyance' that the other instruments like the subtractor sound a bit too muddy compared what this bass line beast can produce.
Distortion in the ABL3 Bass line
A real cool feature in the ABL3.1 is the distortion setting on the right hand side of the device. The distortion is something that originates from the ABL2. From our understanding, the sound engine was written from the ground up again. At least, if I can quote the author of AudioRealism:
AudioRealism Bass Line 3 (ABL3) is the next generation of our critically acclaimed 303 emulation plug-in. ABL3 is a complete redesign from scratch and has been in development for several years with the goal of creating the most authentic emulation possible. With an intuitive and streamlined workflow we hope ABL3 will set a new benchmark in software 303 emulation.
Distortion has been added later for different reasons. Maybe this has something to do with the 're-write' on the sound engine. But finally it is there as a knob on the front.
In the original ABL3 version, you can still apply a minor amount of distortion by using the soft clip / hard clip setting on the rear of the device. The major benefit of using the clip function now is that you are able to combine the Soft / Hard clip functions with the distortion and drive.
The major issue with this set up is that the clipper is located at the rear of the rack, and cannot be automated in the Propellerhead Reason sequencer. With having a single knob on the front, we can now drive the 303 emulation to its core. Making those awesome screaming distorted acid sounds.
Sound like these are for instance done by using the distortion setting around 32% with a drive amount set around 48%. The most important part is that these effects are now on the front panel of the device. Which means that you can apply automation sequences while opening / closing down the distortion amount. Which is freaking awesome!
While the gate trim function exists on the rear of device in the older version, in the update of ABL3 you have the option to make changes in the gates. This is very handy when making minor changes in gate length and sequencing short bursting bass line riff. In my original video I was quite baffled about the feature only existing in the back panel. Since controls like these can be quite useful while to make sequences (especially pattern based) more interesting. Think in terms like using an Low Frequency Oscillator with a Sample and hold setting and connect this LFO to the gate trim inside a Reason combinator patch.
Other functions that have moved from the rear to the front panel is the Hi-Pass frequency. This is ideal to get rid of any muddiness in the mix-down really fast.
The Pattern Edit modes in the ABL3
The most important feature might be the Pattern Edit modes. From my original tutorial I made on youtube I personally had one major complaint about the way that the original Pattern Editor works like. Since this pattern editor is almost an exact duplicate of the original TB-303. The major difference with the analog version is that you can use 2 hands to control them. One hand for moving to the next step, while the other hand can be used to enter the sequence. With the mouse it is just something else. Drawing in patterns like this really doesn't work well since you have to move your mouse all over the screen real estate. This is partially one of the reasons why I still preferred to use the Matrix Pattern step sequencer to use that as a sequencer. Since from a work flow perspective it works much faster (just watch the video again, and you'll realize the major difference in work flow). I have to insert this paragraph just because of some individual didn't get the point (I won't use names in this article).
The pattern modes are now divided in three different modes: Pattern Mode (Classic), Grid Mode and the Random mode.
The Pattern Mode
While this is not new (it existed in the ABL3), I'll just add this section just for completeness of this wall of text. The Pattern mode is the classic look and feel on how the TB-303 worked like. In theory you program one step at a time. While by default there are 16 different steps to choose from you can alter the length of the pattern by increasing or decreasing the step counter.
The notes in the middle will represent the current note played in the current step. The current step is located at the right (which in this case is step 20).
From left to right you have the following functions:
- Clear : clears the complete sequencer (sets all notes to default C)
- Shift : moves the complete sequence up / down (transpose) or move the sequence to the left / right (similar as using the matrix pattern sequencer).
- Run : run the sequencer
- Random : randomizes the complete sequence
- Alter : Alters the way that the notes get played back. Pitch may change, Glide up / down may change etc.
- Auto Adv. : when this setting is enable you can punch up notes to create a sequence with out pressing the "next" button
- Step Rec : Record a sequence
- Back : go to the previous step inside the pattern
- Next : go to the next step inside the pattern
The Grid Edit mode in the ABL3
The update of ABL3 comes with a feature called "grid" mode. Where this section works somewhat more similar as what the matrix step sequencer would do. While by default the step duration is set to 16, you can go up to 64 steps in total. In this mode you can set per step the Note, the Gate, and the functions Octave Down, Octave Up, Accent or Slide.
There are different ways to record a sequence (as I have mentioned in the pattern mode). You can either choose to enter the sequence in the pattern mode (using auto advance, or record it manually). Another method would be using the Gate mode and set all the notes individual.
If you use sequences that are longer than 16 steps, you will need to make use of the pattern knob while accessing the grid edit mode. The pattern will have the following ranges:
Pattern 1, ranges from step 1 till step 16
Pattern 2, ranges from step 17 till step 32
Pattern 3, ranges from step 33 till step 48
Pattern 4, ranges from step 49 till step 64
While using the default pattern length (=16), only pattern 1 should be used in the grid edit mode. From this point on, things will become rather self explanatory, since all you have to do is set notes and punch up a wide range of buttons to make changes in the sequence. That is all.
Pattern Random Mode in the ABL3 Computer Bassline
Last setting which makes things rather interesting from my point of view is the Random Pattern mode. This mode allows you to set different settings which have an impact on the direction what the randomize pattern will do. From left to right you have the following settings:
- Octave -1 / +1, this setting will randomize the setting for up / down (where up is the same as octave +1, while down is the same as octave -1)
- Scale, this will define which notes are used in the scale.
- Note, this will define how random the pitch changes are going to vary based on the notes in the scale. 100% will have most of the pitch variation while 0% will have no pitch variation.
- Gate, this setting will define how sensitive the sequencer will trigger every step. One could see this setting as a "euclidean density" switch at some point of view. While there is a random factor to this.
- Slide, this will define how random the slide settings are triggered. In this case its more a probability factor. 0% means no sliding will be used. The higher the value the more often slides are placed in random.
- Accent, same thing as slide, but this is applied on the accents per note.
- Root, this is an interesting feature to move the root note up or down on the scale. In this case if C is trigger, and the root note is set to D, it will place a D note instead. This could be seen similar as the "shift" setting in the classic mode.
- Apply, when enabled the settings are applied in an instant. Every change in the octave, scale, note, slide, accent, root will be heard in an instant.
- Fix scale, when this feature is disabled the notes will play in a random order using the notes from the scale. When enabling the "fixed scale" this notes will play in sequence from low to high. This would be similar as using an RPG-8 with a setting to "low" and playing a chord on a synthesizer.
- Next seed, this function will 're-seed' the randomize function. Thus re-randomize the sequencer by using the settings that are set. Handy for getting a wide variety of different random patterns
- Steps, this will tell how many steps are applied for the randomize function. In the picture above there are 32 steps being used. You can increase / decrease the amount of steps in the pattern of the ABL3 Computer bass line.
If you set up the randomize function to use only C and octave +1 / octave -1 the scale setting would look like the following:
The Gray button means that the setting is used, black means it is not used. If you enable different notes in the scale (lets say F and G#), then the randomize function will pick notes like C,F and G# in the sequence.
Copy Pattern to the Track
While copy pattern to the track is not a part of the SDK yet, one method to record the notes to the track would be using loop midi and an external midi device (that came with reason 7) to record the sequence from the ABL3. This is however a time consuming setup to accomplish the task. An easier way since Reason 9 is to use a player (like the note Echo or Scales and chords) to 'capture' the midi notes.
To make this work, use a combinator to receive the gate and cv (as displayed in the following picture).
Make note: the ABL3 is NOT inside the combinator. The combinator in Reason is only used in this particular case to receive the incoming notes. A player gets connected inside the combinator. The nice thing about the players is that they can record incoming notes / gates not depending on what type of instrument / device / utility you are using. So to make it work, we'll insert a dummy instrument inside the combinator (I will go for a subtractor analog synthesizer). And on top of that, we'll insert an Echo (it can also be done with scales and chords).
The player needs to be adjusted. With the echo we can set the Repeat time to 0. If you use scales and chords, disable the chords setting (which is located above 'notes').
When we hit 'send to track' on the note echo, it will then place the note information inside the Subtractor track. So we use that later for further processing.
Ok, that is it for now about the ABL3 Computer Bass line from AudioRealism and the latest update. Have lots of fun, and I'll type to you later!
Written by hydlide