A Modern Take on a Classic Synth

In our quest to explore the world of sound synthesis, we sometimes stumble upon innovations that blend the old with the new, thus creating sonic masterpieces. The Baby Audio BA-1 is one such marvel. A modern take on the Yamaha CS01, a cult classic that subtly commanded respect among synth enthusiasts in the 80s, the BA-1 is a testament to the power of modern technology in revitalizing vintage audio gems. Even though the CS01 hails from an era before my musical journey, using the BA-1 felt like being granted a rare opportunity to glimpse into the past, and discover what made the CS01 such a beloved instrument in its era.

History

The Yamaha CS01, first released in 1982, was known for its simplicity, fat analogue sound, and beginner-friendly price. It sported a single oscillator, half-sized keys, and simple controls, but don’t let that fool you. This little beast was capable of creating the fattest bass sounds that had a way of worming their way into music across various genres over the decades.

Yamaha CS01
Yamaha CS01 – Looks can be deceiving

Fast forward to today, the minds over at Baby Audio have taken the CS01’s DNA and supercharged it. As a faithful software recreation, it meticulously models the original hardware, but also introduces a host of new features that increase its versatility without compromising on its simplicity or fun factor.

Hands On

Playing around with the BA-1, the first thing that struck me was the doubling of the oscillator count. Two oscillators, each capable of triangle, sawtooth, and square waveforms, with the first also boasting a pulse width modulation setting and the second, a white noise setting. The result is a synth that’s capable of a wider range of sounds than it’s inspiration, and it’s all made easy with a cross fader for blending the two oscillators. It felt like Baby Audio had taken the CS01 and given it a modern makeover while staying true to its roots.

One of the standout features of the BA-1 is its filter section, which models the MK2 version of the CS01. With a 24db lowpass filter and the ability to adjust resonance, the BA-1 can create some wild sounds that can take your tracks to another level.

The BA-1’s envelope generator is fairly typical, but it comes with a new feature that allows the synchronization of these settings to your DAW’s tempo, which adds another layer of flexibility to your sound design process.

The LFO section, like the CS01, is simplistic, but it comes with a hidden function that really adds to the fun factor. By clicking the word ‘target’ on the UI, you can target the X-fade slider and modulate the blend of the two oscillators.

Another intriguing feature is the side-chain, which can introduce a 4/4 ducking pattern synced to the host tempo or allow for external side-chaining. This was a particularly useful feature when I was using the synth as a bass, allowing me to duck the signal according to an external input like a kick drum.

The effects section of the BA-1 is straightforward, but incredibly effective. With a tone control made up of two shelving filters, an analogue-modelled drive control with two switchable modes, and time-based effects including a delay with tempo sync, a shimmering digital reverb, and a chorus styled after Roland’s famous Juno synths, it’s hard to make any patch sound bad. The time-based effects especially, made me feel like I was scoring the next big sci-fi series.

The BA-1 comes with 500 presets loaded by default, and while I didn’t have time to test all of them, the ones I played around with were well-crafted and and production worthy. From 80s synth strings to 303-style acid house leads, spacey pads, and lo-fi organ sounds, this synth is a treasure trove of inspiration. And if that’s not enough, hitting the Re-Gen button spits out a randomized patch, that for the most part required little to no modifications for it to be usable.

Two unique features that really caught my attention were the emulation of the CS01’s speaker, which instantly imbues your patch with lo-fi goodness, and the Battery fader, which models the effect of the audio degradation caused by operating the CS01 with dying batteries. This feature adds pitch variation, distortion, fizz and filtering to the sound, and the results were nothing short of vintage nostalgia.

During my evaluation of the BA-1 I found myself spending hours designing new patches. The layout made of the plugin made it a very approachable process and I can’t help but wonder if this is how beginners felt about the CS01 in the 80s.


Baby Audio has seemingly paid great detail to the smallest details while creating the BA-1, and it’s in these details that the true essence of this virtual instrument emerges.

10 Extra Presets by MPD

While the BA-1 comes packed with 500 presets including presets. I wanted pitch in 10 extra presets designed by me during the course of my evaluation here:

MPD BA-1 Presets

To install, simply unzip and copy the folder to this location on your Mac:

HD/Library/Application Support/BABY Audio/Presets/BA-1

Or Windows PC:

C:\ProgramData\BABY Audio\presets\BA-1

Conclusion

It’s should be noted that the BA-1 is not a workstation synth. You won’t be recreating every analogue sound on your favorite Kraftwerk record or producing an entire dubstep track from the ground up with it. But that’s not what it’s designed to do. This synth is a unique blend of simplicity, fun, and versatility that makes it a valuable addition to any producer’s arsenal. It’s tweakable and programmable enough to keep you engaged, but simple enough that you don’t need to spend hours on YouTube tutorials to understand it. And despite its fun features and multiple options for UI colors, this is not a novelty plugin, but a tool that can leave a distinct sonic footprint on your tracks.

The BA-1 left me feeling inspired and excited to create. It was a joy to explore the synth and make some patches, with the experience feeling very much like playing with the Yamaha CS01 it’s inspired by. If you’re producing any sort of retro or lo-fi synth-based music, the BA-1 may just become your new best friend. And even if you’re not, I highly recommend giving the free trial a go. You might just end up having so much fun that you find yourself venturing into new musical territories.

More Information: Plugin Boutique

Baby Audio BA-1 Review

Final Verdict

In conclusion, the BA-1 by Baby Audio is a delightful synth that brings the charm of the Yamaha CS01 into the modern era. It’s fun, versatile, and easy to use, making it a valuable addition to any producer’s toolkit. While it’s not a do-it-all synth, it shines in its niche and offers a unique sound that’s hard to find elsewhere.


Get this if: You’re a fan of the Yamaha CS01, want a synth that’s easy to use but still versatile, and love exploring new sounds with a vintage touch.

Don’t get this if: You’re looking for a workstation synth or need more complex sound design capabilities, or if the lo-fi aesthetic doesn’t appeal to you.

 

Pros

  • Faithfully models the original Yamaha CS01, but with added features that increase versatility
  • Doubled oscillator count and filter improvements open up a wider range of sound possibilities
  • Easy to use, with 500 presets and a random patch generator for inspiration
  • Unique features like the speaker emulation and Battery fader provide a unique lo-fi sound palette

Cons

  • Some may find the simplicity limiting, particularly if they’re used to more complex synths.
  • The hidden features, while fun, may be difficult to discover without external guidance.