On the other hand a very specialized synth with a limited palette might be OK on occasions, but those limitations might become frustrating if too limited and having a gallery of very specialized instruments is usually something that is far from ideal.
So, if you're like me, you'll want some powerful synth to get the job done for certain kind of sounds with well chosen parameters and some fixed choices already made. This is the case here with Hotelsinus ReeseBassline. A free VST instrument that is built for bassline. Usually this would mean: yet another 303 clone. Thank God, not this time.
I find that Hotelsinus made good choices to put together an valuable instrument. This means that it's got what it needs to make a descent 303 emulation, like you expect of any synth with "Bassline" in its name. Saw/Square oscillator, amp envelope, low-pass filter, distortion, glide setting for the portamento.
We're talking of a single oscillator synth, but it's got a unisson mode that you can push to 8 voices with variable detune, so that you get have a massive sound in no time. Then you take this massive sound into a double-filtered (LP & HP) distortion. Here you get only what you need, three knobs: LP, HP, Amount. If there's one thing a don't like about the ReeseBassline, it's the way the signal is sent from the oscillator to the distortion. There's no way to set what the velocity modulates. It seems to be fixed to the volume of the oscillator before the distortion stage. This sometimes leads to a schizophrenic behavior at high distortion level where a low velocity gives a soft undistorted sound and a high level gives a massively distorted and compressed sound, with little variation in-between. Maybe I would have placed the velocity to affect amplification after the distortion stage, not before, but at some settings this isn't such a problem. I think that a switch to choose between those settings could be useful.
Next we have a a triple filter: band-pass, low-pass and high-pass. Not a multi-mode one, but three independent filters. A change from the usual single 3-mode filter! This choice of path is good, but I'm not sure I quite like the chosen filter type. A matter of personal taste maybe.
Then the signal goes into a phaser (why don't we find them more often?), a switchable stereo-widener, and a final multi-mode filter. A chorus could be expected in this path, but then the massive 8-voice detune more than makes up for it.
The end result is a loud, raw, strong and large bass sound. One that you can use easily and that is musically useful. The way ReeseBassline distort and compress it sound gives it a very manageable behavior that will make it a instrument I like to use in lots of situation. I've read a few comments on this synth saying that there's nothing here you can't achieve with other more complete synths. This is absolutely true. What I like here is the choices that are made and the limits that are set. Limits are good for creativity. You want limits. They just have to be well chosen, and what I like here is the choices made and, above all, the end result.
For the Drum and Bass, DubStep, Reese-like sound ... I don't know and don't care either. So I can't comment on that. One thing for sure, this thing is not subtle. You get a punchy sound that gets the job done.
Sadly I must also add that there's a bug in it that makes it go into an unwanted high pitch tone on some occasions. For that reason, it can't be used in a live situation. I hope this will get fixed as it is annoying. It's also here that I must repeat that it is is a freeware. So it's a terrific value, but it also means that the developer may have only limited time to support it. The last update, 1.3.1, dates from march 2008.
To know more on HotelSinus:
The VST page: