“Never have I ever…” mashed video game buttons in a fighter to win? Randomly tried a delay on a track with some arbitrary settings to try to make it better? Yeah, okay – take a drink. And take a free plug-in, BABY Audio’s new Magic Dice.
The news here is simple. BABY Audio are trying to get you hooked on Spaced Out by giving you the full engine, but no controls – just a big dice icon so you can try some random combination of parameters. And yes, it isn’t just shuffling presets; I double-checked with the devs that it randomizes every parameter. (Richard Devine told me years ago that for a while he did that with his entire plug-in folder thanks to some obscure Windows VST host.)
But let’s start by talking about Magic Dice’s big sibling. There’s some whole cottage industry it seems debating this developer on YouTube, but I’ve been a bit busy, uh… producing, and at least finding some creative results.
BABY Audio’s Spaced Out is a revelation. It’s oddly hard to describe – a delay/reverb engine with a built-in step sequencer. I think the word has gotten around because BABY tells us it’s been downloaded 100,000 times. But while there are lots of great reverbs out there, and plenty of precise delays, it’s unique in that it fills the category of being somewhere between delay and reverb without being a copy of the Roland Space Echo.
That is, what if you had something like the Space Echo – able to create delays and wet textures and echoing resonant environments – but it could be more modern? Spaced Out even has fuzzy, gauzy tape modes, but that doesn’t sound like a Space Echo, either. It’s divided into a tripartite structure, as follows:
Far left –
Echoes is a 16-step delay sequencer with tempo sync and four modes – clean, “wonky tape,” lofi, and hazy, plus a reverse option, low pass/high pass filter, and intensity and spatial and animated “dimension” modes.
Far right –
Space gives you a cute X/Y joystick – very KAOSS Pad in vibe – to dial in different reverb length and modulation – plus controls for pre-delay, programs for different space sizes, “clean-up” which lets you dial in additional dry signal, width, a shimmer feature (“stardust”), and width.
Mixer gives you yet another X/Y control, “lift-off” which is sort of a mastering-style combo of mid/side + EQ + compression, and a synced ducker.
Look, if you want to open the airlock and drench things in analog noise and delay, there are great Space Echo recreations out there. Arturia’s Delay TAPE-201 model I’ve found to be really great and I use it all the time; Cherry Audio just came out with a great one, too. Or for even more analog models, I love Soundtoys’ EchoBoy (including the Jr.) which lets you recreate all the popular analog delays. And that produces some wonderful effects; it just doesn’t work on everything, and it tends to sound old because it is the effect we’re used to.
Spaced Out gets that modern sheen by constantly tucking in features to clean up your signal so it doesn’t get lost in space and time, adding tempo sync and clean and shine and all the digital goodness. You can get fuzzy if you want to, but that also doesn’t have to muddy up your entire mix.
BABY bill this as a “Space Echo for the 21st Century,” which is what made me first try their stuff in the first place. I’m just pleased they actually got there – and I hope other developers take notice, rather than just make more models of old stuff.
But part of what BABY managed to get right with Spaced Out was to make it playable – so you can dial in some settings – which is what makes the vintage Roland hardware so great.
That, in turn, is a combination of a lot of details in the engine in each stage for treating the signal and keeping things clean and bright or gauzy and fuzzy or spacey and trippy – in any combination – as you like, without the thing you hate – muddy.
If it sounds like I’m writing ad copy, honestly, I owe the damned thing that much for all I’ve used it lately. If you could buy Christmas presents for a plug-in, I should give it a Barbie Dream House and that full-sized Death Star.
Anyway, I’m genuinely curious to see what happens with Magic Dice. The reason I mention all those stages to the sound engine is, randomizing all of them with no other controls is an intriguing way to get around presets – and even outside your own brain when you use plug-ins every day.
The randomization is already inside Spaced Out, so if you own it, you don’t really need this. But you can bet I’m doing it anyway just because I love the concept. It’s like an Oblique Strategies – Cage-Cunningham random button for a channel, and why not?
Spaced Out is almost the one desert island plug I’d choose from BABY Audio, except that they just came up with TAIP, which I’ll write up in the next days since both are on a Black Friday sale.
Their freebies section is now pretty loaded. Magic Switch is a JUNO-60 style chorus if it were even fuzzier and more retro-chic detuned. Baby Comeback is actually dangerously close to giving you all the best stuff in Comeback Kid, if you’re just looking for a delay (though they’ve improved a lot in the UI design department since they did it). Have at it: