Baby Audio’s new Yamaha CS01 plus FX extras is killer – shoegaze or acid

Effects maker Baby Audio debuted their first synth plug-in this week. It’s modeled on Yamaha’s CS01, the analog monosynth that came before better-known rival Roland SH-101. And packed with cute extras and effects, it’s simply irresistible.

The Yamaha CS01 is a cute little monosynth and – in the days before the online synth craze, the sort of thing you’d pick up at a garage sale. It’s classic entry-level Yamaha synth, with accessible faders and dials. But it’s also got a decent architecture – VCO with triangle, saw, pulse, and PWM, envelope controls, pitch and mod. The 1984 revision updated the filter to 24dB slope with resonance. And the instrument has held up, with wide use across songs.

1982 advertising from one of my favorite sites ever:

Yamaha CS-01 “Full Synthesizer Performance You Can Take Anywhere” brochure, 1982

“Looked like a toy but sounded like a beast” – yeah, accurate. And indeed, whereas the SH-101 and TB-303 are favored for their particular sound, for better or worse, they sound positively thin next to Yamaha’s instrument.

Baby Audio, known for their rich reverbs and delays, decided to riff quite a bit on that design – and include some of their retro-tinged effects prowess.

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So instead of one oscillator, you get two, tunable with both coarse and fine controls. There’s a crossfade control, so you can mix or swap back to single-oscillator sound if you like. Baby Audio wisely opted for the 24dB filter with resonance, too, but keeping its overdrive and self-oscillation characteristics.

I don’t have the original handy, but Baby Audio has put a lot of effort into giving this retro character, both in grit (including on the master out) and drifting oscillators. The FM sound is distinctive and 80s-ish,too.

And then the extras keep coming:

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  • LFO, delay, and sidechain, each with BPM sync to host. (That sidechain has a pre/post switch, and can be used not just for obvious rhythmic effects but subtle pulsing, too.)
  • A Tone + Drive section. Overdrive includes both a vintage overdrive pedal mode (‘OD’) and a model of a circuit-bent CS01.
  • Delay / reverb / chorus section, also nicely modeled.
  • A Battery setting which they’ve “exaggerated” into an extreme pitch fluctuation/distortion effect. You’ll hear this right away, as it kicks in every 60 seconds in demo mode, though even that’s kind of entertaining for a while. (I’m sure we’ll see some of this in separate effects plug-ins – this would be my top pick for that.)
  • A Speaker switch simulating the lo-fi sound of the internal speaker.
  • Re-Gen for randomizing parameters. (Do not touch this while programming, or you’ll wipe out your settings. I heard from… a friend.)

You also get a range of colors, inspired by the original hardware. Also note some additional features, like these MIDI options tucked behind the “CC” button on the top right:

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I love their approach here. We have enough reproductions of vintage hardware. This feels like how you’d create a CS01 today – or like a bundle of synth and 80s-ish effects.

Actually, with all the emphasis on effects, my only real gripe is that I desperately wanted to be able to change the routing order of the effects section, because there are clearly some additional possibilities to routing various modules pre/post speaker or filter. BA-1 Pro?

They’ve made a pretty official tutorial video:

But here are some quick examples. The first I literally made on a plane from Lebanon to Germany, mashing notes on my QWERTY keyboard. But the idea here is to show how you can get shoegaze-y and gauzy as you like – taking particular advantage of overdrive, thick application of the effects section, and things like battery controls for extreme drift:

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Mother****ing synths on a plane!

The BA-1 isn’t known for that nearly as much as it is for bass. And – don’t shoot the messenger here, but I like the sound better than the 101 or 303. With two oscillators, I’m even more sold. (Then again, we are biased when it comes to two-oscillator bass synths.)

I mean, just listen. This was absolutely minimum effort – just drop Skinnerbox’s old Max for Live acid generator into a track, tweak some controls, and go.

BA-1 is available now, at an entry price of US$49. $99 thereafter. A free trial is available with… battery dropouts every minute.

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