It’s not very often I find that a plugin does exactly what I need it to do, in exactly the right format, and is within my dirt-poor musician budget. But lo and behold, once in a great while, something comes along that fits all my needs and more, and that’s precisely where the Loki Bass by Solemn Tones comes into play.
The Loki Bass by Solemn Tones is an all-in-one MIDI bass sampler, that does not require Kontakt. Yeah, that’s right. Say it with me now: this plugin does not require Kontakt. When I first discovered that there was a legitimately great-sounding bass sampler that could run without Kontakt as a host plugin, I literally jumped out of my chair and screamed. As you might have gathered by now, I am not a fan of Kontakt, and feel like it often causes more issues than it resolves. That is the #1 reason I was immediately sold on the Loki Bass, but to top it all off, the Loki Bass sounds amazing and is one of the most intuitive plugins I’ve experienced in recent months.
This plugin features real bass samples that were recorded on an actual Dingwall bass (one of the most popular bass guitars for metal), processed with a Darkglass B7K Ultra, and comes with all the different velocities you’ll need, as well as options alternate picking, down picking, up picking, mutes, harmonics, tapping, and scrapes (pictured below). The plugin features basic but effective EQ controls for lows, mids, and highs, a big ol’ humanize knob, and three selectable options for tone shaping: Crank, Raw, and Enforce (we’ll get into those later). The simple yet intuitive design of the plugin makes it easy for beginners to dive in and tweak the settings till their heart’s content, and the sounds you can get out of this plugin are pretty remarkable, especially at the price point of about $80.00 USD.
Speaking of the sounds, let’s hear how it sounds! Check out the embedded clips below where I’ve demonstrated a few different examples of some of the tones you can get out of the Loki Bass.
For starters, let’s begin with a simple DI setting. As you can hear, the sound is pretty spot-on and is about as dry and clean as you could imagine. This is exactly what you want if you plan on reamping the signal or using some 3rd party IRs to process the Loki separately.
This is one fingered tone that I’ve come up with using the Loki Bass. As mentioned above, the plugin has various options for different picking styles, and as you can tell from the clip, their fingered style is pretty great. Lots of clarity with minimum muddiness, but with the human qualities that true finger-style bass offers.
- Picked (No Tone Shaping)
This third example is their picked tone setting when you select “Maxime’s Bass” from the preset list. This is the base that I generally use the most since this type of distorted tone is most popular to use in heavier songs. There’s a lot here to start with, and it only gets better once you start tweaking the EQ and tone settings.
- Picked (Crank)
This is an example with “Maxime’s Bass”, but with the Crank button engaged. This option basically pushes all of the MIDI bass hits to full velocity (127), giving you some extra smack in your tone and aiding with things like compression later on in the mixing process. I typically leave this on for most applications when I want that snarly, aggressive sound.
- Picked (Raw)
This example demonstrates the Raw button engaged. This one’s pretty cool, as enabling it adds some subtle bass artifacts like string noise and extended note values after a note is done being played. Basically, this feature allows for some added realism in addition to the humanize function (we’ll get to that in a bit).
- Picked (Enforce)
This is an example of the Enforce mode being engaged on the Loki. This simple yet effective option adds a sine wave to the bass tone, allowing for an even tighter low-end, and a more cohesive bass sound overall. I leave this mode on almost all of the time because of the added depth it lends to the overall sound.
- Isaac’s Picked Tone (With Effects)
This is my preferred heavy setting for the Loki Bass. It’s an alternate picked, tweaked version of the stock “Maxime’s Bass” preset and works great for 90% of my bass needs. As you can see from the screenshot below, I’ve only really adjusted the low-end and engaged the Crank and Enforce settings within the plugin, but have then added some EQ, compression, saturation, and a fuzz pedal outside of the Loki. I usually like to keep the humanize knob at around 4 or 5 so it still retains some punch, but with the Crank button activated, every note gets pushed to its maximum value anyways. This is a good example of one of the many different directions you can push this plugin, all with some simple additional changes here and there.
- Picked (NO Humanization)
This example demonstrates the “Maxime’s Bass” preset without any humanization. As you can hear, it’s a little robotic-sounding as you might expect, but still totally useable.
- Picked (FULL Humanization)
This example demonstrates the “Maxime’s Bass” preset with the humanization turned all the way up to 10. This example definitely has a more “human” quality to it, but lacks a bit of punch and smack that I like my bass to have, which is why I usually keep this setting turned down to around 4 or 5, or just bypass it entirely using the Crank mode.
- Picked (With Drums)
Finally, let’s here this bass with some context. This example is the Isaac’s Picked Tone (With Effects) preset with a MIDI drum track from Superior Drummer 2.0.
- Picked (In Rough Mix)
And lastly, this is the Isaac’s Picked Tone (With Effects) in the context of a rough metal mix. As you can tell from the mix, the Loki Bass is probably the best and clearest element of the track, partially out of laziness on my part, but mostly because this thing can pull its weight.
So overall, if you’re in the market for a great programmable bass plugin that won’t break the bank, I 100% recommend checking out the Loki Bass by Solemn Tones. As someone who doesn’t own a bass, doesn’t have a real interest in owning one and despises using Kontakt, the Loki Bass was basically a godsend. It’s foolproof and powerful functionality makes it one of the most practical plugins I have had the pleasure of reviewing.
So now the million dollar question: do I think it replaces the real thing? It’s tough to say. As a metal guitarist recording pre-production tracks and writing new material all the time, the Loki Bass does exactly what I need for my purposes. If I were an actual bass player, I might be a little more apprehensive about such a plugin. However, having seen finished mixes where the bass was programmed entirely using the Loki Bass, I can tell you that this thing definitely has the potential to pass for the real deal. At the end of the day, that’s up to you to decide, so be sure to head over to the Solemn Tones website and check it out for yourself. And at about $80.00 USD, it’s a hard one to pass up.