Virtual Studio Technology (VST), developed by Steinberg in 1996, is a plugin format compatible with a majority of DAWs and operating systems. VSTs include both effects and software instruments, and it’s the closest thing we have to a universal plugin format. Now, pretty much everything which is real has been turned into software, including bass guitar. There are a number of reasons why you might want one, so these are some of the best bass guitar VSTs you can get!
Virtual Bass Plugins and Emulators
A bass guitar VST emulates the sound of an electric bass. Certain plugins are what we call multi-sampled instruments, or ones in which the developer records a real bassist playing the same note many different times in different ways. That’s to recreate a realistic level of expression when you start programming in your DAW. Another style of emulation is synth-based, where the software uses a bunch of digital waveforms to piece together and “synthesize” the sound of the real thing.
Perhaps the top reason why you’d want a bass guitar VST is if you don’t play the instrument yourself. Another might be that virtual instruments make demoing convenient, where you can just program a bunch of MIDI on your laptop without having to pull real instruments out, connect them, etc. In short, bass guitar VSTs could make life easier for a lot of producers.
Virtual bass plugins can also beef up or accompany an existing bassline recorded on the real deal. It might also be cool to layer a bass guitar VST and bass synth, blending the two to create a totally unique sound. Whatever the case may be, the best bass guitar VSTs not only sound great, but they provide a lot flexibility for your productions.
The 3 Best Free Bass Guitar VSTs
- RELATED: 10 Best Free Plugins for Your DAW
1. Ample Sound P Bass II Lite [Free]
Ample Sound’s P Bass is one of the top free bass VSTs available. It’s lightweight, firstly, coming in at around 500MB and 443 samples. Articulation is somewhat limited, but it does include sustain, hammer-ons and pull-offs, and accents.
2. 4Front Bass [Free]
If you want something incredibly simple, 4Front Bass is where it’s at. This plugin is a hybrid between a sampled instrument and a synthesized one. Basically, the string sound and “excitation” is sampled, but the notes/sound gets synthesized. Not much to it, but it works.
3. Audiolatry FunkBass [Free]
FunkBass is best for writing basic basslines for pop, funk, soul, EDM, R&B, lo-fi, hip-hop, and more. It is sample-based, but it doesn’t come with a million articulations, nor does it pretend to be anything it’s not. This plugin is perfect for anyone who wants an easy way to lay down some fun, simplified bass.
Getting an Organic Bass Sound/Tone
- RELATED: Mixing Basics: Bass
Here’s a bonus tutorial for you on crafting an organic tone using free plugins. I think it’s important to keep in mind that while VSTs can sound really good, they’ll almost never beat the real thing. But in many genres, you actually don’t need the feel of a real bass guitar.
- Ample P Bass Lite
- Bassprofessor MarkII
- Nad IR Loader (contained in STL’s free Emissary bundle)
The 5 Best Paid Bass VSTs
1. Spectrasonics Trilian [$299]
Trilian by Spectrasonics is an award-winning, complete solution for virtual bass in your DAW. This isn’t just bass guitar either; it includes acoustic bass, electric, and synth bass all in the same VST. It’s the industry standard for a reason, namely that it’s so versatile. For professional use, Trilian is fantastic.
2. IK Multimedia MODO Bass 2 [$299]
MODO Bass 2 contains up to 22 basses, including multiple electric models, some upright basses, and even fretless electrics. The coolest part about MODO is the ability to adjust important parameters just as you would in real life: Feel free to swap out the strings and pickups. It also includes amp and effects emulations for a complete signal chain.
3. Toontrack EZbass [$179]
The entire EZ line from Toontrack is a songwriter’s best friend. EZbass’s design philosophy is to combine exceptional sound quality with intuitiveness and ease-of-use. It only comes with two basses, but it’s not meant to be the most complete virtual instrument ever. Rather, it helps you compose and arrange complete basslines quickly.
4. Waves Bass Slapper [$79]
Waves set out to develop the “most elaborate and realistic-sounding” slap bass plugin ever, and the Bass Slapper is the result. The instrument itself is a 5-string bass with a slew of effects pedals and amps, and a range of articulations including thumping, popping, muting, and more. Slap bass is actually versatile enough to suit a bunch of genres, and the plugin is routinely on sale for much less than $79, so it’s worth giving a go on the cheap.
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5. Native Instruments Scarbee Rickenbacker [$99]
There’s nothing quite like the sound of a Rickenbacker bass. That punchiness and midrange grind is immediately recognizable. This particular 4003 plugin is a sample-based instrument, played with a pick and ideal for gritty, distorted bass sounds. It’s a KONTAKT instrument, so you’ll need at least the free player to load it up. This thing is awesome for a very specific style of bass guitar.
6. SubMission Audio Bass VST Packs [$89 – $139]
SubMission Audio offers a range of realistic-sounding bass VST packs that cover a massive range of needs. These packs offer a range of options that are based on the instruments and playing styles of some of the world’s best bass players and feature excellent clarity and punch across the board. Whether you play Prog, Rock, Punk, Metal, Pop, or anything in-between, these SubMission Audio bass packs will have you covered.
Closing Thoughts: Best Bass Guitar VSTs 2023
There are lots of great options for any style of bass. Bass guitar and upright bass are both widely represented, and synth bass even gets some love here and there.
From “Real Natural String Bass” to “Virtual Electric Bass Guitar”
Ultimately, you can find whatever you’re looking for, whether that’s natural acoustic or any type of electric bass you can dream up. The best free bass guitar VST is the Ample P Bass, thanks to its included articulations. For paid bass guitar VSTs, you can’t go wrong Trilian, but MODO Bass has a beautiful interface and really cool ways to customize the tone.