What is it?
In a relatively short space of time, Baby Audio has gone from producing the quirky, simple and much-loved ‘New York sound’ I Heart New York parallel compressor to some of the best plugins in the business.
“We want to simplify workflow and make mix tools that inspire instant creativity and experimentation,” the company’s founder Caspar Bock told us then. “And where you don’t need to read a manual to get started.”
That ethos is very evident in the company’s new plugin, Spaced Out, but it also follows a kind of ‘what if’ path, that being, as Baby Audio say: “How would we design a Space Echo today, almost 50 years after the original, with the abundance of computer power and algorithmic complexity at our disposal?”
How indeed? The Space Echo is Roland’s much-loved vintage hardware effect that has, in numerous ways, appeared in software but more as an emulation. There are options from Arturia, Universal Audio, AudioThing and many more, but Baby Audio’s take is more a re-imagining than emulation; take the original’s forward-thinking and fun ethos and place it slap bang into the 21st century inventing something new along the way.
Those that want pure recreation will have to back up to those companies mentioned above as this is as much about breaking new ground as it is treading old.
Spaced Out comprises three main areas – very clearly laid out on the UI as you can see above. From left to right these start with the Echoes Engine which has 16 blocks representing individual tap delays and where they will play when synced to your DAW. These can be either Off, On (click once) or Low Accent (click twice) where the delay is on but has a low output and utilises less of the filter option.
Mixing it up
Whereas the Space Engine provides plenty of reverb and modulation and Echoes Engine provides delayed and rhythmic fun, the central part of Spaced Out is a mixer that allows you to blend everything together… and more. Again it utilises an X-Y pad to morph between the wet-FX engines of delays and reverb/modulation. Move it to the top, for example, and you have maximum wet signals of both mixed; the bottom and it’s dry; to the right just spaced.
As with the other two sections, the Mixer has its own extras including Ducker which lowers the wet effect according to an external signal level for classic and perhaps not-so-classic ducking effects. Lift Off ‘glues’ the wet signal together with compression, MS processing and EQ for extra punch. Finally, you get another roll of the dice.
Whereas the one in the Echoes Engine only delivered random delays, this one, called Generate, randomises all Spaced Out parameters but, it promises, in a musical way, and we can certainly vouch for that – we were reaching for the Save button after just two rolls. Which leads us to the presets. 125 expertly crafted and great ones to be had here, mostly fab, but you’ll soon be saving your own, so good is Generate.
Performance and verdict
It’s a neat and easy-to-use system and you’ll quickly get the hang of how it works just by loading up a preset, or you can use one of two sets of random dice on the plugin on the left of the Echoes Engine to load up different variations of these tap delays to learn more. At the top of Echoes Engine, four timing modes (Straight, 2x, Dotted and Triplet) also offer different delay times.
Below the main 16 blocks are more parameters. Intensity allows you to set the Sustain level (left of dial) which increases the impact of later delays, potentially very much cluttering up your output so be careful.
Feedback (right of dial) increases the actual number of the delays and both are very easy to control and tweak. Dimension is another three-toggle button, this time for stereo width; Off is no effect, Ultra-Wide is maximum width and Motion auto-pans your delays across the breadth of the spectrum.
Next up is the Texture area, very much an effects unit for the delays offering Lofi, Wonky Tape and Hazy which pretty much do as they say, although we’re a little hazy about Hazy – they’re all good though! Reverse does just that to the delays and we finish with a very easy-to-use Filter which has both HP (left of dial) and LP (right) options and again can easily be tweaked for both subtle and dramatic results.
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We discussed the second Mixer section of Spaced Out above, so move straight to the third section and main event, the Space Engine. Here you get an X-Y control that allows you to move smoothly between Trippy, Alien, Lush and Cosmic modulation effects and the length of the reverb (with four main settings for Reverb space type-selectable along the top).
We’ve probably made this sound a little more complex than it actually is; basically if you are in the centre of the dial you are at the zero point of both parameters. Move left or right and you increase the Reverb Length (up and down decreases it) then move outwards to the top left and you increase the Cosmic effect as you go further out, the other three modulation effects being in the remaining three quadrants.
In short, it’s just brilliant fun messing with the X-Y dial and getting as trippy as you like (man). You can create wild reverbs or, of course, rhythmically controlled ones with the delays on the left. This being Baby Audio, it doesn’t end there.
Controls along the bottom allow you to alter Pre Delay, add Stardust (a shimmer effect) and Mellow (more of a filter) while Cleanup is important as it does just that when things get too messy… which they well might.
We’ve deliberately quoted Baby Audio and its founder Casper a lot at the front end of this review because Spaced Out is perhaps the one plugin it has produced that encapsulates everything it strives for – simplicity, creativity and an amazing sound – but one that also does invoke the feeling (at least) of an original Space Echo.
However, it takes what that stood for and ramps up the instant creativity stakes even higher. You’ll be rolling dice and creating your own modulating and pulsing ‘verbs that are way beyond what the original could do (and way quicker).
It really is a completely new tool with hints of the boldness of the original. More than that, it’s fun and as Baby says, you don’t need a manual. Get in, tweak your X-Ys, add whatever you want and smile. It’s quite brilliant.
MusicRadar verdict: Spaced Out is yet another cracking, great value, hi-spec tool from Baby Audio that packs more creative punch per dollar than just about anything else out there.
The web says
"This is a beautiful sounding and hugely creative reverb and echo processor that comes with a thoroughly reasonable price tag. If the classic Space Echo was invented today, this is probably what it would sound like!"
Produce Like A Pro
- TYPE: Plugin reverb
- KEY FEATURES: Reverb engine with modulation, Generate function for texture creation, 16-step delay sequencer, combines 50+ effects
- CONTACT: Baby Audio