Baby Audio BA-1 virtual CS1 synth

BA-1 is a modern re-imagination of a cultish 1982 analog synth that looked like a toy but sounded like a beast. It brings you pure and authentic lo-fi textures that are fast to program and dripping with color.

Baby Audio is not hiding that the Yamaha CS-01 was their inspiration. While the original looks like a toy, it has found serious musicians coaxing inspirational sounds from its tiny footprint. The similarities are unmistakable when looking at the design of both hardware inspiration and the plugin. A slew of sliders dominates both interfaces.

Under the hood, both are based on the same waveforms:

  • Triangle
  • Sawtooth
  • Square
  • Pulse Width Modulation

But there are several areas where BA-1 expanded the capabilities of the hardware inspiration.

  • Two oscillators (instead of one).
  • Two envelopes, one of amplitude, one of filter (instead of one).
  • FM (Frequency Modulation) between OSC 1 and 2.
  • Polyphony (instead of monophony).

Some of the hardware quirks made it into the plugin. You can in fact drain the “battery” in the plugin. Why? It is not just a gimmick. Reducing the battery power through another slider introduces warbles and glitches which add extra character, just like lo-fi plugins such as XLN Audio RC-20 Retrocolor, iZotope Vinyl, and other such plugins do.Baby Audio audio also added a built-in “speaker”. Switching it on seems to introduce an equalizer which sounds like a bit like listening through a small loudspeaker. A bit thinner and tinnier. I am not sure this quirk is that useful in practice.

When it comes to formats, there are no surprises: VST, VST3, AU, AAX are all available. Of course both major platforms are supported: Mac OS 10.7 and up (including Native M1 Compatibility), and PC Windows 7 and up.

The sound of simplicity

BA-1 comes with over 500 presets, so you will have plenty to play with, across the usual bass, synth, pad, lead and effects categories. The quality of the presets is high, and I found plenty of inspiration from the get go. As you can hear in the demo below, I appreciated how well the BA-1 blends into songs. You don’t have presets that are too crazy and “impressive” at first listen, but then in practice do not fit into any song.

The basses are warm and “fat”, the pads range from lush to glassy to subtle, and I came across raspy leads and plucky plucks aplenty.

The simple interface makes tweaking presets accessible to all. I appreciated that the sliders from the Yamaha hardware were transferred into the Baby Audio plugin version. Compared to circular knobs, sliders are much easier to discern, and I was able to graphically grasp each parameter more quickly.

If you get stuck for inspiration, the “regen” button below the output knob provides usable starting points for new presets. And for a black sheet approach, the reset button serves up a clean slate with an init patch to start your own creations from scratch.

More info at Baby Audio.