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Baby Audio BA-1

Baby Audio BA-1

Baby Audio’s first soft synth is inspired by the baby of the Yamaha CS range, the small but immediate CS‑01.

When plug‑in developers emulate vintage synths, there’s a tendency to focus on the big beasts. And that’s perfectly understandable: given the choice between a Memorymoog and a Micromoog, most of us wouldn’t have to think twice. However, that’s not to say that smaller and cheaper instruments deserve to be overlooked. Despite, or possibly because of their limitations, they often have a distinctive character and sound of their own.

The Yamaha CS‑01 is a case in point. The baby of the range that also included the mighty CS‑80 and the versatile CS‑30, it was a cheap and cheerful portable monosynth with a basic feature set. But it had a distinctive charm nonetheless, thanks in part to its lo‑fi built‑in speaker and ability to run on batteries. So enamoured are Baby Audio of this miniature marvel, in fact, that they’ve taken it as the inspiration for their first soft synth.

Hit Me Baby One More Time

BA‑1 is more than just a pedantic recreation of the CS‑01, though. Baby Audio have added numerous additional features, including a second oscillator with frequency modulation, a ‘side‑chain’ module and an effects section with Tone, Drive, Delay, Reverb and Chorus. Unlike the original, BA‑1 can be played polyphonically, and there are many more minor improvements such as the fully variable resonance control and optional key tracking in the filter section. But what is most apparent is Baby Audio’s determination to capture the quirks and unique features of the original. Not only have they emulated the loudspeaker, with its characteristic nasal, buzzy sound, but they’ve also added a slider that allows you to imitate the effect of running a CS‑01 on dying batteries.

Even with all Baby Audio’s improvements, BA‑1 is still a relatively basic instrument. It has only a single LFO and envelope generator, and no real routing flexibility. In fact, there are probably more versatile synths than BA‑1 bundled with your DAW of choice — but that’s not really the point.

What BA‑1 has going for it is immediacy. With such a compact user interface, it’s easy to take in all the settings at a glance, and equally simple to figure out what you might need to change. Said interface can be freely resized, and comes in your choice of four entertainingly retro colours. And although there aren’t all that many controls, every single one seems to do something worthwhile throughout the entire length of its travel. It’s very hard to make this synth sound bad, a point which is brought home when you experiment with the ‘re‑gen’ random patch generator. In 10 minutes of stabbing at that one button, I generated half a dozen sounds so good I felt compelled to save them as presets.


In terms of character, BA‑1 is punchy and in your face, but not abrasive or edgy. It’s the synthesizer equivalent of a small guitar amp like a Fender Champ: not super‑big or hi‑fi, but what it does fits perfectly in the track, sitting naturally at the front of the mix without any effort on the user’s part. The second oscillator is a very handy addition, and the substitution of white noise for PWM here opens up a lot of new sonic territory. I also particularly liked the FM, which is unexpectedly musical. Instead of atonal metallic clonks, it usually generates complex, rich‑sounding but harmonious results. Like the original, BA‑1 provides glissando instead of portamento, which can be a lot of fun.

Drag the Battery slider below halfway and you’ll begin to hear pitch instability on sustained notes, with noise and distortion creeping in at the lowest settings. It probably isn’t something you’d use all the time, but I can imagine automating the slider to bring it in for effect.

The effects are well chosen, and sound as good as you’d expect from a plug‑in developer who previously specialised in good‑sounding effects. The side‑chain option introduces something resembling a tempo‑sync’ed tremolo, which can be quite cool, though I’d have welcomed a speed multiplier. And the Tone and Drive sections somehow provide fairly extensive control over the colour of the output tone without losing its character.

If what you’re after is a cheap, straightforward and charming virtual analogue synth that will put a smile on your face and deliver instant gratification, BA‑1 is hard to beat.

If you’re looking for an all‑singing, all‑dancing soft synth that offers endless depth and tweakability, you won’t find it here. But if what you’re after is a cheap, straightforward and charming virtual analogue synth that will put a smile on your face and deliver instant gratification, BA‑1 is hard to beat.


With a characterful sound and affordable price tag, Baby Audio’s BA‑1 is a worthy tribute to the plucky Yamaha CS‑01.