The bass plays an important role in music. While it’s certainly possible to make music without it, you won’t find many pop, rock, R&B, hip-hop, or electronic songs without a heavy emphasis on that low end these days.
The bass helps adds rhythmic emphasis to a track, furnishes it with harmony, and perhaps most importantly, gives it that deep thumb you can feel in your chest.
In this guide, we look at the best bass VST plugins.
DANDY by ujam – Best Overall
ujam is certainly a developer with some clout in the guitar and bass virtual instrument category. They cover everything from nylon string acoustic sounds to heavy, distorted electric guitars.
With DANDY, they created a VST that could stand in as your professional session bassist, laying down the groove, staying in the pocket, and only adding to your track mix without taking away.
Overall, you get a world class vintage bass guitar and player, 30 styles, 990 phrases, 100 presets, 15 finisher multi-effect modes, as well as MIDI drag and drop.
But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Digging beneath the surface, DANDY offers a bass sound ideally suited to pop, soul, blues, and rock tracks. Developer ujam sampled a bass with flat-wound strings, and it has a decidedly classy vintage sound that behaves nicely and fits in well in most mixes. Of course, you can amp up the punch factor with the included effects (including EQ and dynamics controls) or by creating your own signal chain.
DANDY also comes with a Player Mode where you can string together 1,380 phrases in 60 musical styles (even if you know nothing about bass or music), and Instrument Mode where you can use your MIDI controller for total control over your performances.
As with all ujam plugins, we love the simple, “instant gratification” style user interface. It’s beautiful, it’s balanced, it’s easy to understand, and it’s well laid out.
DANDY’s sound is quite a bit better than any free, legacy bass VST you can pick up. And in the context of a mix, it’s quite convincing too. The variety of tones makes it a versatile plugin, and that’s also a nice feature. Of course, in addition to the onboard effects, you could create your own effects chain to achieve a variety of tones.
Given that DANDY is well suited to most types of applications where you need an electric bass, and based on how versatile it is, we’ve selected it as our best overall pick.
Ultimately, I’m not certain that DANDY can compare to a skilled session bassist, but I could probably say that about all the plugins here. DANDY is still awesome, and if it sounds like your jam, check out the video below to hear what it can do.
Learn more: Plugin Boutique
Trilian by Spectrasonics – Best Premium Option
What does Spectrasonics do best? They make amazing synths.
Where Omnisphere promises to be your one-stop-synth-shop, Trilian begs to be your total bass solution, with a variety of bass sounds, including acoustic, electric, and of course, synth bass.
It consists of a 34 GB library of 60 different four-, five-, six-, and eight-string electric basses played with a variety of techniques – fingered, picked, fretless, slapped, tapped, and even muted. The latest version of Trilian even includes Omnisphere’s trademark synthesis function.
Trilian also comes with a high-resolution interface, custom controls for endless tweaking, deep sampled subtleties (legato, glide, mechanical noises, release overtones, and more), four audio channels, over 21,000 samples, arpeggiator, Omnisphere integration, over 200 patches, 33 effects (including compressors, EQs, filters, distortion, chorus, phaser, flanger, delays, reverbs, etc.), and more.
Trilian is amazingly versatile. Regardless of the type of bass you need, Trilian’s probably got it. The arpeggiator allows you to create all kinds of exciting patterns. The sound quality is quite stunning too. Also check out the video below to see it in action (in a live situation no less).
If you need the full meal deal, then you need Trilian. It’s our top premium pick. There’s nothing else out there that’s loaded to the rafters as this plugin is.
Learn more: Spectrasonics
Bass Fingers by Waves – Best Budget Option
There are different techniques when it comes to playing the bass. There’s slap. There’s playing with a pick. And then there’s the most orthodox, but also most classic method – playing with your fingers. When a bass is finger picked, it produces a warm, round sound suited to most genres and applications. It gives the bass a bit of a natural “pump” too.
Waves’ Bass Fingers, naturally, purports to put this essential sound at your fingertips. MIDI basslines can often sound a little stale. Achieving realism requires that you hear not just the notes but also expressiveness, the sound of the strings hitting the frets, and all the human touches in between.
Bass Fingers will add personality and character to your bass lines, along with the dynamics and variations a skilled bass player would surely bring to their own playing.
Or Lubianiker (who has played with the likes of Marty Friedman, Bumblefoot, and Gus G – also seen in the video below) was heavily involved in the development of Bass Fingers, ensuring the user was equipped with a range of articulations (legatos, release and decays, percussive playing, slides, hammer-ons, pull-offs, mechanical noises, and more).
The sample library consists of 15.5 GB worth of content, and Bass Fingers also includes eight velocity layers, six round robins, 21 playing positions with intelligent adaptive fretboard, automatic string switching, customizable keyswitch editor, built-in effects, and more.
Artist / keyboardist / producer Shaun Martin called it authentic, producer / mixer / songwriter Greg Wells thought it was phenomenal, and producer / engineer / mixer Sterling Winfield found it amazing.
Waves also has the Bass Slapper plugin. That’s said, Bass Fingers is sure to apply to a larger assortment of musical situations. Thus, we’ve made it our best budget option, and with everything that’s included it’s practically a no brainer. But it won’t do what Trilian can do, as there are far more sounds and articulations included in Trilian.
Learn more: Waves
Phoscyon by D16 Group
We’re a fan of most things D16 Group makes and like to keep an eye on their latest developments. Their plugins always feature beautiful with realistic looking graphical user interfaces, and even their most basic plugins tend to be versatile and feature rich.
Phoscyon may not be new, but it nevertheless tends to fall under the category of “underappreciated.” That doesn’t mean that this incarnation of the Roland TB-303 Bass Line Boutique Synthesizer isn’t competent.
Glenn Morrison expressed his love of D16 plugins, Protonica said it was the “best emulation of the TB303 on the market,” and Dash Berlin celebrated the return of the 303.
This vintage analog modelled bassline synthesizer comes with a ton of features, including two emulated analog oscillators (saw / square), 18 dB / oct low pass filter with no self-oscillation, filters with transistor amplitude clipping, perfectly scaled knob ranges, and additional synthesis controls.
The internal sequencer comes with 96 patterns (up to 16 steps in length), shuffle mode, chain mode, shuffle (swing) and tempo values defined per pattern, as well as import / export via human-readable XML files.
The arpeggiator comes with seven predefined chords and one user-definable chord, arpeggiator tempo multiplier, arpeggiator repeat feature, four arpeggiation patterns (Up, Down, Up-Down, Random), and defined offsets of octaves.
There’s also a built-in distortion effect tailored to the Acid Bassline sound. It’s equipped with signal routing too.
We hear some seriously deep, mean, raunchy bass sounds coming out of Phocyon. And we dig it! But it’s also got considerable range, with robotic bloops, atmospheric arpeggios, dirty square stabs, and more. Check it out.
Learn more: Plugin Boutique
Scoring Bass by Heavyocity
For all our composer friends out there, Heavyocity’s Scoring Bass is sure to be a bit of a draw. And with a name like that, you know it’s well suited to creating deep, ominous, layered soundscapes that captivate the listener / viewer.
The Scoring Bass Kontakt instrument features a collection of samples that were treated and processed by a team of sound designers, with 4 GB of pads, over 100 tempo-synced pulses and pedals, as well as multi-sampled playable instruments.
Not surprisingly, Scoring Bass is the perfect complement to their various Scoring Guitars VSTs (Scoring Guitars, Scoring Guitars 2, and Scoring Acoustic Guitars). If your budget allows, and you know you would like the full arsenal at the ready, you might want to check these out as well.
Scoring Bass also comes with a motion page for volume, pitch, and pan pattern creation, Playable Trigger FX for real-time control, 300+ Motion Presets, eight pulse groove menus, and more.
In terms of pads, there are 10 complex pads, two pad element menus, 30 ambient pad elements, and 30 short pad elements. And in terms of rhythmic pads, there are eight rhythmic pedal menus, 48 core rhythmic pedals, 48 FX rhythmic pedals, and 48 pedal blend NKIs.
The included sounds are quite compelling – reverse delays, layered pads, synth-like decays, orchestral soundscapes, heavily effected drones, and a great deal more. You can combine them with your other favorite compositional VSTs, but you may find that many of the Scoring Bass sounds are quite full and capable all on their own too.
Learn more: Plugin Boutique
BASiS by Vir2 Instruments
Vir2 Instruments’ is another developer with a horse in the race, and BASiS offers electric, upright, fretless, and synth bass sounds at a reasonable price.
This Kontakt instrument comes with over 100 patches representing a variety of genres and styles. BASiS offers 24-bit sampling, DI and amp blending control, multiple velocity layers, custom legato and vibrato tools, release layers, harmonics, hammer-ons, pull-offs, slides, slaps, rakes, falls, seamless humanizing, and more(!).
BASiS includes 7 GB worth of a variety of basses – P-Bass, Jazz Bass, Rickenbacker, MusicMan, not to mention one upright bass and three slap basses. Genre tributes are also included, with gospel bass, Motown bass, Jaco’s Fretless, and Macca’s Hofner.
And in the synth bass category, there are over 100 patches, with techno bass, vintage synth bass, new creations, and more.
Other parameters include pitch bend range adjustment, pick noise, fret noise, release layer, adjustable velocity curve, EQ, and a variety of effects – compression, saturation, lo-fi, distortion, limiter, phaser, flanger, chorus, reverb, delay, and octaver.
You also get legato tool, vibrato engine (type, speed, depth), randomized pick noises, release samples, and fret noises.
Given the price, the feature set is quite generous, and in that sense, it’s a little like Trillian too. Versatility is probably one of this all-in-one plugin’s greatest strengths. There are so many sounds, and while they might not be “top shelf,” they are quite good, and there are basses matched to just about any scenario you can think of.
Check out the video below to hear a variety of sounds in action.
Learn more: Plugin Boutique
Bass Slapper by Waves
We think this one might be slightly underrated, because honestly, Waves’ Bass Slapper is quite the convincing sounding virtual instrument.
Waves even calls it “the most elaborate and realistic sounding slap bass plugin ever created.” The percussive sound of slap bass is instantly recognizable, and it’s well suited to a variety of genres, especially those designed to get you up and dancing – funk, disco, soul, R&B, and hip-hop. But it’s equally at home in jazz, country, and rock too.
All you need is a MIDI controller to take the pilot’s seat with Bass Slapper, with nuanced control over every note and articulation, including thumbing, popping, open strings, legato, dead notes, hammer-ons, and pull-offs.
The sample library is very detailed, with slides, left-hand mutes, right-hand mutes, and even harmonic strums.
Studio-grade stomp box effects were included to give you more control over the sound of the bass, with additional tone shaping options, vintage or modern sounds, as well as clean DI or authentic amp sounds.
You also get 11 interactive playing positions (with automatic string switching), real-time MIDI controls, customizable keyswitch editor, four-band EQ, sub octave, low boost, and more.
Bass Slapper sounds surprisingly great. You can dial in a variety of sounds, take advantage of an array of techniques, and tweak to your heart’s content using the effects. If the sound of a slap bass is what you need, you should not overlook Waves’ Bass Slapper.
Learn more: Waves
SUBSTANCE by Output
Output’s SUBSTANCE offers a mix of processed acoustic and electric basses, brass sections, analog synths, and more, all in one package.
ProducerSpot highly recommends it, Sound on Sound said it was “wall shaking,” and CDM thought it was enormous.
SUBSTANCE brings together three layers to create a massive sound. This is paired with FX, filters, modulation, an arpeggiator, flux control, and macros.
It comes with 300 presets, preset menu and tagging, four central macro sliders unique to each preset, monophonic and legato modes, built-in help menu, and a Rhythm page that synchs to tempo.
Want hard-hitting electronic music basses? SUBSTANCE has got it. Looking for exciting arpeggiated sequences? SUBSTANCE has got it. Need the raunchiest and filthiest of electric basses? SUBSTANCE has got that too.
SUBSTANCE is a ton of fun, and it allows for deep customization. It’s highly versatile too, but composers and electronic music producers will probably benefit from it most.
SUBSTANCE is compatible with Windows and Mac.
Learn more: Plugin Boutique
TAL-BassLine-101 by TAL
Sometimes the best bass sound is honestly a bass synth, and you might be surprised at how many rock bands take advantage of synth bass in their tracks, even if only for shorter sections or as a supporting low end instrument.
TAL’s TAL-BassLine-101 is a monophonic bass synth taking the best parts of classic analog synths and bundling them up in an easy-to-use interface.
The synth comes with a ton of great features, including 30+ presets, a self-resonating zero feedback delay filter, alias free oscillators, arpeggiator, MIDI learn / automation, original (RC) and linear portamento mode, step sequencer with up to 96 steps, sequencer MIDI export with drag and drop, six voice poly mode, de-clicker mode for slower envelopes, and more.
As its name would suggest, TAL-BassLine-101 is perfect for crafting all manner of bass lines. That said, we could see a lot of the presets being useful for general synth (pads, leads, etc.) purposes too. The sound quality is great.
For the price, TAL-BassLine-101 is an excellent option. If synth bass is what you need, you should give this one a look.
Learn more: Plugin Boutique
SubBoomBass 2 by Rob Papen
Rob Papen’s SubBoomBass 2, as its name would suggest, is here to solve all your deep bass woes.
JunkieXL called it a must-have for every dance music producer, and Teddy Riley thought it was the most incredible VST instrument.
Version 2 comes with an interface makeover, expanded sound colors with new spectrum waveforms, high-quality samples, and Karplus-Strong string synthesis. It also comes with an X/Y screen, pattern mode for running four sequences, Band Manager with star feature, as well as the original SubBoomBass presets.
SubBoomBass 2 is NKS compatible, features a resizable GUI, new zero latency filter types and ring modulation, post filter distortion mode, grain sample mode for granular resynthesis of samples, new monophonic play modes (low / high note), MIDI MPE compatibility, new modulation sources and destinations, clipper / tremolo / vibrato / ring modulation effects, and more.
But does SubBoomBass 2 really give you all the thump and boom you need? That seems a little questionable.
There are a lot of sounds you can take advantage of in this plugin. Of that, there is no doubt. And many of them are fun, some will probably even remind you of early video game music. But perhaps “SubBoomBass” isn’t quite the right name for this synth. I’m not sure whether it’s going to give you the room rattling bottom end you’re probably looking for.
But again, you can draw a ton of different bass sounds out of this synth, and it is well designed. So, the best idea would be to check out the video below to see whether it’s your thing.
Learn more: Plugin Boutique
Cyclop by Sugar Bytes
Sugar Bytes’ Cyclop is a versatile monophonic bass synth. Resident Advisor found it impressive, Computer Music Magazine called it ingenious, and Modeselektor said they used it on at least four tracks of their new album.
Cyclop comes with over 800 presets (created by the likes of Torley, Abstract Cats, Bazooka, and many others), sample transformer and phase stressor, 10×2 filter with vowel mode, FX sequencer, deep modulation, preset cloud browser, free signal flow, and wobble generator.
You’ve also got the pattern-based sequencer with FX knob – pitch looper (4x pitch down, 4x pitch up), looper with eight lengths, vinyl effects (tape stop, vinyl, scratch), and classic delays.
Cyclop features a retro video game style design. In fact, there’s even a video game built into the plugin! If you took the best parts of dubstep and smashed them together with video game arcade consoles and a synth, you’d probably end up with something like this.
The two sound generation engines are positioned in the lower left corner of the interface, and this is where the sound crafting process begins. Cyclop comes with saw regiment, analogue, FM, transformer, spectromat, and phase stressor options. But we could go on about the features…
This isn’t always the case with VST plugins, but in this case, we’d say the visuals are well-matched to the robotic sounds you can create with Cyclop. We can’t see this synth being for everyone, but those who enjoy it will probably enjoy it a lot.
Learn more: Plugin Boutique
What Should I Look For In A Bass VST Plugin?
As you’re probably starting to see, bass VST plugins can come in a variety of flavors. There’s electric, acoustic / upright, and synth. There are plugins that do it all. And then there are other preprocessed sounds suitable to composing, sound design, and similar applications.
So, narrowing down your options might seem like an ordeal. And I’m here to make the process of shopping for the ideal bass VST (or multiple bass VST plugins, as the case might be), a simple and straightforward one.
There are a few criteria we’ll consider here so you can navigate these waters with ease. They are:
- Plugin type
- Sound quality
Let’s get into it, shall we?
So, as noted, there are acoustic / upright, electric, and synth bass plugins. There are also plugins that basically do it all. And then there are compositional or sound design plugins.
Dividing the VSTs in these categories is immensely helpful. You might even be breathing a sigh of relief reading this right now.
I’ll give some examples just to land the plane:
- Electric bass. This includes plugins like Bass Fingers and Bass Slapper. These types of plugins might include other functionality, like tweakable parameters or effects, but fundamentally, this type of plugin only covers specific electric bass sounds.
- Acoustic bass. Technically, there are no acoustic bass plugins here. Scoring Bass does feature a lot of upright bass sounds, but it’s technically a compositional plugin (see below). Trilian also happens to cover a little bit of acoustic ground, but it’s more of a hybrid plugin (also see below). BASiS has upright bass sounds too, but it’s also more of a hybrid plugin.
- Synth bass. TAL-BassLine-101, SUBSTANCE, and Cyclop all fall under this category. Synth bass is obviously great for all types of electronic music, pop, hip-hop, and more. But they are often utilized in rock and other genres too. Synth basses aren’t meant to sound like real basses, but their distinctive tone makes them highly usable, and often versatile.
- Hybrid. These plugins do a bit of everything. Trilian is the perfect example, with acoustic, electric, and synth bass sounds. Oftentimes, the more a plugin does, the less it specializes in a certain area, and the quality can suffer, but in the case of Trilian, it does so many things well, the rule doesn’t seem to apply. Across the board, the bass VSTs that do more cost more.
- Compositional. Scoring Bass is the perfect example of a plugin dedicated to the craft of film, video game, and media scoring. It has other uses, sure, but it shines most in sound design.
Sound quality is a major consideration when shopping for a bass plugin. But as we usually like to remind readers, sound is individual. What works for you may not work for others, and vice versa. So, while it’s good to research and heed the advice of others, you need to be the final decisionmaker for every purchase. That’s the only way to ensure you’re happy.
But what kind of things should we consider in terms of sound quality? Here are a few items to think about:
- Realism. Again, “realism” is kind of a subjective thing, and the importance one puts on it is going to vary. But if you want to a bass track to come across as “convincing,” you’d obviously want to opt for a plugin that’s as authentic to the true bass sound as possible.
- Artifacts and noise. This will vary a lot depending on the methodology of the plugin, but are there any noticeable artifacts or unwanted noise in the samples or sounds? The less noise, the better, but again, it’s individual because sometimes the rawness of a slightly distorted or saturated sound is wanted anyway.
- Peaking. Basically, the same as above, except this would be a sound that was captured a little too “hot,” and as result, no amount of processing fixes the resulting distortion. No meticulous developer would release a plugin with peaking sounds, but just in case.
The feature set available in a bass VST plugin depends a lot on plugin type, so also refer to an earlier section on the same topic. But this would basically be: Do you need things like effects? Multiple articulations? Different sounds? Arpeggiator? Presets (how many)?
There’s no right or wrong answer, it just depends on what you need.
In this category (bass), you’ll generally pay more for plugins that offer a broader range of functionality, and less for plugins that specialize and do one or two things well.
We can’t forget about budget. It happens to be one of the best filters for when you’re shopping for a plugin, unless money is not an object. You can easily rule out certain options while embracing others.
The one thing to avoid is going into debt to buy a plugin. Buy something that’s within your means or save up if there’s a plugin you just can’t live without.
Top Bass VST Plugins, Final Thoughts
Bass is an essential for most tracks. But it’s a problem that can be approached from a variety of angles. Acoustic, electric, synth, even effects. Acoustic guitars can have some nice deep lows, and so can pianos. Some of your virtual instruments may also have a lower range that’s usable. When you start thinking a little outside of the box, there are so many ways to get killer low end.
That said, if you’re looking for the best of the best bass VST plugins, we’ve covered them here. If it’s not here, we haven’t heard of it, or it simply didn’t make the cut. So, here’s wishing you all the fun in the world on your shopping journey.