Deep trails of analog flavor abound in this affordable delay plugin
Baby Audio is a US plugin developer with a mission to “…passionately pursue plugins that sound good, look good, feel good, and inspire good music.” In January, we reviewed its inaugural I Heart New York parallel compression plugin—a simple, practical design with clever mojo-infused algorithms that produce really great results. Now the mojo continues with the latest Baby Audio release.
Comeback Kid is a delay plugin. The resizable interface is clean and uncluttered with a choice of two skins: a darker ‘day’ and a lighter ‘night’ version. All the parameters are tweaked with toggle switches or rotary-style virtual knobs.
Along with the standard delay controls for time, feedback, and mix level, there are some unique parameters that require a little investigation to understand and use effectively. Don’t let that put you off—this is a pretty intuitive plugin to get the hang of.
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The GUI is laid out with five clusters of controls: Shaper, Delay, Flavor, Stereo, and Output. The Delay control occupies the center of the plugin along with the other principal controls. The Time knob can be set to milliseconds or synced to project BPM in increments ranging from 1/64 to whole notes. Up to 2.5 seconds of delay is available, and delays can be in straight, dotted, or triplet feel. The Feedback knob controls the number of repeats, and there’s a toggle switch for going into to ping-pong mode.
The lower right-hand portion of the display is dedicated to output controls. The direct and delayed signals are controlled by separate knobs, which is a nice touch, providing a little bit more flexibility than the standard blend control on most time-based plugin processors.
A ducking knob adjusts how the dry signal interacts with the delayed signal. As with a sidechain compressor, the delayed signal is attenuated or ‘ducked’ by the signal feeding the plugin. This allows the dry signal to dominate while playing; the delayed signal blooms and becomes more apparent between the notes, for a less cluttered and much more subtle effect.
The output section is rounded out by a Destiny knob, which I will circle back to after I outline some of the other unique features of this plugin.
The Flavor section allows you to adjust the delay sound in sonically interesting ways. The first control is a toggle labeled Cheap. This bumps down the digital bit rate to 11 bits to mimic early digital delay units. The result is gloriously grainy mid-fi delays that are less pristine than the dry signal. Next is the Tape knob. As you rotate it, the sound becomes more saturated. At 100%, noticeable distortion and hiss are induced.
The Swirl knob progressively adds pleasing analog-modeled wow and flutter artifacts, extending the vintage tape vibe. The Sauce control adds a simple, nice-sounding reverb to the delayed signal. Since many of us typically place a reverb right after the delay in our effects chains, this is a welcome and CPU-friendly feature.
The Shaper section lets you further sculpt the delayed sound. There are a pair of analog-modeled high cut and low cut filters. These are followed by a transient shaper with attack and sustain controls. These do things to the delayed signal that I’ve never encountered in a delay plugin before. You really need to play with them to understand the effect—it will be well worth the effort, trust me.
Moving in Stereo
The Stereo section has a Wider knob that adds L/R time variations to give the impression of a deeper sound field. Similarly, a Richer control adds pitch variations akin to a chorus effect. The Pan knob pans the delay to the right or left, and rounding out the controls is a Mono toggle (bet you can figure out what that does).
Worth the Wait
Comeback Kid is a blast to use. Just like the Baby AudioI Heart NY plugin, by tweaking the controls it’s easy to get good results quickly, including some unique, ear-popping effects.
I’ve owned a lot of hardware delays in my life, starting with a tape-based Watkins Copicat. With the Comeback Kid Tape control, and by tamping down high frequencies with the Hi filter, I was easily able to dial in sounds that were very reminiscent of that beloved but cranky device.
The very first digital delay I ever owned was a 12-bit Boss DE 200 rack-mount unit. It’s still in use in my studio today due to its gloriously rounded sounds. Lower resolution in a delay signal creates a subtle and dreamy effect that’s very pleasing to my ears. Between Cheap, Tape, and filter tweaking, a lot of great vintage sounds are at your fingertips with Comeback Kid.
The ‘analog’ Lo and Hi filters are well implemented, letting you carve out frequencies so that the delayed signal sits more comfortably in a mix. They’re also useful as effects in and of themselves. The transient shaper dramatically alters the delayed sound by shaping the onset and the tail of the delay.
On an Americana-like track, I got great results using Comeback Kid to add sustain and character to some slide guitar parts. Using a fair degree of Tape, pushing down the highs, and rolling off some of the lows with the filters resulted in a smoothly saturated yet unobtrusive effect. Tweaking the Ducker allowed me to very accurately fit the track into the mix. I also found it useful for adding slapback delay to lead parts (unleashing my inner Joe Meek).
On a more modern track created in Ableton Live, I used synced 1/8 triplet ping-pong delays on a percussion track tweaked with Swirl and Richer modulation to add trippy ear candy to the mix. I also used it on a single note guitar figure employing the Cheap 11-bit algorithm along with a purposely close, but unsynced delay for a dub-style effect. I also did something similar on the drum bus to achieve a sound not unlike a Roland Space Echo (unleashing my inner King Tubby). [RAS! -copy ed.]
This is just the tip of the Comeback Kid sonic iceberg. Lo-fi sounds really suit my taste, but Comeback Kid can also do beautifully pristine and everything in between. The plugin comes with over 60 presets created by a host of producers, artists and DJs. I suggest cycling through these to get a sense of the range. You’ll be inspired to create your own sonic spaces very quickly.
Don’t delay… Destiny is calling!
As a bonus, you can turn the delay entirely off and use the other controls to create saturation, chorus, phasing, reverb, imaging, EQ effects, and more—it’s very versatile. And remember that Destiny toggle? If you want to leave things to chance, switch it on and Comeback Kid will randomize your delays in a great, non-robotic and unpredictable way—this speaks to the Baby Audio ethos of less time thinking and more time making music!
At an introductory price of $29, it’s easy to make space for Comeback Kid in my DAW. I will find a thousand ways to use it, and my Boss DE 200 might get a little less use from now on…
Price: $29 (Introductory)
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