Baby Audio’s BA-1 is a reimagining of the cultish ‘80s analog synth, the Yamaha CS01, bringing with it some pure and authentic textures that are easy and intuitive to program. The CS01 was routinely used by some of Sweden’s most successful pop producers, and was also a staple of 1990s digital dancehall and indietronica scenes. Baby Audio modeled the hardware while upgrading it with new and useful features, including a second analog-modeled oscillator, FM, and polyphony, among other features. The BA-1 includes an effects section inspired by budget 1980s hardware, offering “authentic, lo-fi leaning, synth textures in a plug-in.” If that’s not enough to keep one tweaking for hours, the BA-1 lets us drain the battery, bend the circuits, and even models the synth's built-in speaker, generating a real-world, lo-fi aesthetic normally achieved only on hardware. It’s also polyphonic/monophonic switchable. All settings are automatable, giving one full control over the instrument.

This is not a typical virtual instrument, and I feel it stands out in the crowd. It's easy to get going, and loads with a brassy sounding sawtooth preset. The "re-gen" button was my first cool discovery, and I kept pressing it for tasty delay and arpeggiating effects. It turns any default preset into something different and interesting. All the controls are easy to understand, even if you haven't taken Synth 101. I quickly found myself jamming and exploring.

The BA-1 comes loaded with over 500 presets, including specialty packs created by some of the top sound designers in the industry. Additional expansion packs are $10 (or $29 for all four). The stock presets are well-labeled, self-described, and will jumpstart you on your creative journey. I'd recommend exploring them fully before deciding which expansion packs to buy, as each pack has its own character. My favorite packs are City Pop Vol.1 and 2, which include lush pads that would make The Weeknd shiver. When exploring presets, be sure to toggle the speaker switch and battery drain slider to pull different vibes out.

One could geek out for hours with this virtual instrument – all you need is a computer and keyboard controller. I hear a lot of cinematic and sound design potential with this instrument. There is a free trial for a taste before purchase, but it will output 5 seconds of silence for every 60 seconds until activated with a license key. For $99 it's a great addition to your virtual instrument collection, but currently you can get it for $49. Or better yet, get one of Baby Audio’s plug-in bundles; everything I've tried from them has a unique character and versatile place in my sonic tool kit.

Tape Op is a bi-monthly magazine devoted to the art of record making.

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