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Nicky Romero/Cableguys Kickstart 2 review

A longtime favourite for automated ducking in the EDM world, has Kickstart 2 got enough flexibility to appeal to users beyond the 4/4 realm?

  • $16
Nicky Romero/Cableguys Kickstart 2
(Image: © Future)

MusicRadar Verdict

Kickstart 2 does an excellent job of adding depth and flexibility without compromising the simplicity that’s key to its appeal.

Pros

  • +

    Audio sidechain makes it easy to go beyond 4/4 rhythms.

  • +

    Adjustable curves allow for more precise control.

  • +

    Band split feature can apply far more subtle low-end ducking effects.

Cons

  • -

    For more advanced control, Shaperbox is still a better choice.

Nicky Romero/Cableguys Kickstart 2: What is it?

The original Kickstart, which launched almost a decade ago, was a straightforward volume automation tool designed to help duck basslines around a kick drum or replicate the pumping sidechain compression that was particularly prevalent in dance tracks of the era.

At a glance

KEY FEATURES: Rhythmic volume automation tool with Sync, MIDI and Audio sidechain modes. Includes 16 preset automation curves and bandsplit more. CONTACT/Buy: Cableguys (opens in new tab)

Unsurprisingly, given Nicky Romero’s name attached to it, Kickstart was primarily targeted at EDM and ‘big room’ house. Its simplicity made it an instant hit with that audience, and a range of pre-designed automation curves made it flexible within its remit. However, Kickstart’s synced pumping was effectively locked to divisions of a 4/4 rhythm and, while it was possible to work around this using MIDI triggering, that limited its appeal beyond house, EDM and techno.

Kickstart 2 does a lot to expand the flexibility. Most significantly, it adds an actual sidechain input, meaning the ducking effect can be triggered by a custom kick pattern or any other audio source, which immediately opens up its rhythmic capabilities. This mode joins the existing functions from the original – Sync, once again offering 1/8, 1/4, 1/2 and 1/1 pumping, and MIDI triggering, slightly easier to access here having been moved from the advanced menu to the front UI panel.

Sidechaining techniques have become ubiquitous over the past couple of decades, and tools that apply – or emulate – the effect of a sidechained compressor are far more commonplace now. As a response to this, the developers have added a handful of new features for Kickstart 2 that mean it’s now not just an easier source of rhythmic automation than those likely available in your DAW’s stock plugins but a significantly more powerful one.

Nicky Romero/Cableguys Kickstart 2: Performance and verdict

As with its predecessor, Kickstart 2 comes stocked with 16 preset automation curves. These can be used to apply everything from extreme volume cuts to slower fades. There are both down and upward curves, meaning that along with rhythmic ducking, Kickstart can also automate a sound’s decay/release. As with the original, the whole curve can be nudged left or right to adjust timing. However, here users can also click and drag the curve itself to precisely control the length of the effect. This is particularly useful in combination with the real time waveform displayed by the plugin’s UI, which here can display both the main audio and sidechain inputs simultaneously, allowing users to drag the curve to match the displayed waveform.

Nicky Romero/Cableguys Kickstart 2

(Image credit: Future)

Kickstart 2 introduces a band split mode too, whereby the ducking can be applied solely to the low frequencies below an adjustable cutoff point. This is an excellent touch, making the plugin far more useful for subtle mixing applications as well as more overt pumping.

Kickstart 2 is smartly pitched between simplicity and flexibility

Kickstart 2 is smartly pitched between simplicity and flexibility. There’s nothing here that can’t be done using Cableguys’ own flagship tool, Shaperbox. However, the point of Kickstart is that it’s still quick to apply and simple to operate, which makes it a go-to for producers, both in the EDM world and beyond. At $16 it’s a bargain too.

MusicRadar verdict: Kickstart 2 does an excellent job of adding depth and flexibility without compromising the simplicity that’s key to its appeal.

Nicky Romero/Cableguys Kickstart 2: The web says

"I can hardly live without this plug-in. You don’t want to overdo it with this tool, but when you apply it with proper restraint, a whole song can get better definition, becoming bouncier and more rhythmic."
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Nicky Romero/Cableguys Kickstart 2: Hands-on demos

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Cableguys

Nicky Romero

SumnSumnSumn HTK

M-Squared

Nicky Romero/Cableguys Kickstart 2: Specifications

  • KEY FEATURES: Rhythmic volume automation tool with Sync, MIDI and Audio sidechain modes. Includes 16 preset automation curves and bandsplit more.
  • CONTACT/Buy: Cableguys

I'm Editor-in-Chief of Music Technology, working with Future Music, Computer Music, Electronic Musician and MusicRadar. I've been messing around with music tech in various forms for over two decades. I've also spent the last 10 years forgetting how to play guitar. Find me in the chillout room at raves complaining that it's past my bedtime.