Baby Audio has been one of our favorite audio software teams of the last couple of years (we featured their Super VHS in our ‘How To Make A Late ’70s/Early ’80s Sounding Album‘). Spaced Out is their new plugin (yay!), and according to the company, it’s a lush wet-FX generator built for sending your sounds and vocals into weightless, heavenly orbit (!).
Spaced Out combines a crystalline reverb engine with a wealth of modulation options and a 16-step delay sequencer. In total, more than 50 individual effects come together in a singular creative experience with endless outcomes and zero sub-menus.
Spaced Out also comes with an automatic ‘Generate’ function, which will create new textures at the click of a button and give you fresh ideas for where to take your tracks.
A Space Echo for The 21 St Century?
According to Baby Audio, the Roland Space Echo was taken as an iconic reference for this plugin. In their words: “with Spaced Out, we asked ourselves this: How would we design a “Space Echo” effect today, almost 50 years after the original, with the abundance of computer power and algorithmic complexity at our disposal? We set out to create an effect as fun, flavored, and futuristic for the 21st century as the Space Echo was for its own time. ”
Well, that’s quite a bold claim, so I had to take Spaced Out for a quick spin and see for myself.
Hands-on Review (and Demo Track)
Spaced Out, like Baby Audio’s previous products, boasts an incredibly attractive interface. I find the GUI strikes a great balance between retro-futuristic inspiration and functional modern design. Also, it’s fully resizable (a BIG plus in my book!) and it even comes with a dark mode option. Hats off!
As for the sound, I created a short demo tune with just a few pretty basic tracks. I wanted to see if Spaced Out would succeed in turning some pretty bland patterns and sounds into something more interesting and usable.
I’ve assigned Spaced Out to each of these tracks (but the bass), in order to try out the plugin with different sound sources.
Spaced Out Demo Track
Spaced Out, like the previous Baby Audio plugins, is an instant-gratification tool. With just a few clicks, I was able to get some inspiring sounds. No submenus, no distractions – everything is extremely intuitive, and there are also over 100 quality presets created by renowned producers.
Spaced Out is exactly what it says on the tin. It’s a perfect plugin for creating interesting soundscapes, adding a touch (or a lot) of character and atmosphere to keys and plucks, enhancing drum patterns, etc. All of this, with that organic vibe you would expect from Baby Audio.
The Echoes section with its tap interface makes it easy to spice up even the most boring beats, and the Texture parameter works great to give some extra character to dull-sounding tracks.
The middle Mixer section allows you to nicely blend between delay and reverb (besides the obvious wet/dry parameters) and the Ducker/Sync is another cool feature I wish more developers would implement. Also, the randomizer (Generator) is a welcome bonus.
Last but not least, the Space section on the right is a brilliant take on reverb design. The joystick allows you to morph between length and modulation, and other less standard parameters such as Stardust (a sort of shimmer) and Cleanup (a density reducer) make this section even more complete.
Things I would improve? It would be nice to be able to tweak the Texture parameter – i.e., to increase or decrease the amount of tape or haze. I know that would go against the streamlined design choices made by the developer, but one can hope. I would also like to see a master filter in the Mixer section – maybe this could be an idea for a future update.
Now, is Spaced Out a Space Echo for the 21st century? Tricky question. That’s a catchy marketing claim, but honestly, I am not sure I would have used that reference for a plugin. With a Space Echo, the tactile experience is paramount – there’s a reason why they say it as an effect you can actually play like an instrument. Also, the Space Echo has an organic (read not linear) sound quality that is still unmatched in the software realm.
While Spaced Out has a gorgeous interface and is indeed ‘playable’ (mainly thanks to its virtual joysticks), to me, it’s mostly a ‘set and forget’ kind of tool. Like the great majority of plugins, it is not nearly as fun as messing around with a tape machine. Maybe in a few years, when we will all be controlling devices like Tom Cruise in Minority Report, things will be very different, who knows?
There are different sides to this story, though. Spaced Out is MUCH cheaper than any vintage tape machine on the market, faster to set up, you can have as many instances as you need… and you don’t need to buy expensive tape reels!
All in all, Spaced Out is an inspiring and innovative multi-FX that I’m happy to have in my collection and that I’m going to use a lot. Plus, it’s a bargain!
As for the Space Echo reference, I would rather say let’s enjoy Spaced Out for what it actually is, right here right now. I don’t know if, in 50 years from now, Spaced Out will be considered a classic as it happened with the RE-201, and frankly, I don’t really care.
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