BABY Audio is quickly developing a reputation for boiling plug-ins down to their essential components and reshaping them into concentrated, powerful production tools. With their newest release, a sleek reverb plug-in called Crystalline, they’ve reinvented the algorithmic reverb wheel, drawing inspiration from various 20th-century predecessors while coming up with a sound all their own. As their website says about Crystalline, “Its rooms and halls won’t sound anything like those in your house – but closer to those of your dreams!”
Like most BABY Audio plug-ins, the GUI is very clean and, in this case, reminds me of the interior of the spaceship Nostromo from the movie Alien. That should give you a hint about where their ambitions for this plug-in are aimed. Unlike some of their other more simplistic plug-ins, a reverb plug-in needs more tweakability, and BABY Audio has managed to present a comprehensive set of parameters in an immaculate and intuitive way. First, and most noticeably, there are no numbers, values, or other quantitative markers. Instead, we find minimalist shapes and graphics that symbolize a given parameter. For instance, Width (stereo width) is represented by a circle that contracts and expands via mouse dragging – even breaking in half visually when it moves past 100% wide into out-of-phase-territory.
Similarly, Sparkle is represented by a group of random dots that multiply as the value increases and vice versa. It’s a little difficult to describe how very accessible such a visually-minimalist GUI is, but it’ll take less than two minutes to understand how BABY Audio has laid it out. The goal here is to remove you from your comfort zone (gently), force you to use your ears, and perhaps ultimately come up with something inspiring based on intuition and inspiration, rather than the old “I like to add a 20 ms pre-delay to my medium room vocal reverb” mindset.
Crystalline does present some new twists that one may not be used to seeing in a reverb plug-in – specifically the option to freeze the tail, reverse the reverb, duck it out of the way, sync it to the tempo of a DAW, provide control over the mid versus side volume, and a few other bells and whistles. While most of these features aren’t something that the average rock ‘n’ roll mix engineer will use daily, they’re a dream come true for modern music producers and artists.
In use, Crystalline is lush, expansive, and inspiring, eliciting textures of the ‘80s and ‘90s. Choose among five different Size settings, and then further change the decay time from there. It shines in all the expected ways – huge gated drums, spacey guitars, effervescent vocals, Vangelis-style synths, and a ton of presets to get going. But this plug-in isn’t limited to vast soundscapes, it’s also right at home with short and medium spaces. Crystalline is refreshing, fun, and powerful, and I heartily recommend trying the demo. There’s even a $49 limited-time introductory price.