Baby Audio Smooth Operator (Quicker Review)
Baby Audio make some of the most interesting, creative plugins about right now, and with their new Smooth Operator out, we had to put it to the test!
In this review, you'll learn all about Smooth Operator, what it does and whether it's worth the $39.
What Is Baby Audio Smooth Operator
Compatibility: Mac, Windows, VST, AU, AAX, 64-bit.
Baby Audio Smooth Operator, is an EQ, multi-band compressor, and a spectral processor all in one. And, although that sounds cool, you'll probably be wondering what the hell spectral processing is.
Well, it's just a name for processing that's applied to the entire audio spectrum.
To put it simply, without all the jargon buzz words:
Smooth Operator is an EQ and Compressor that helps to tame resonances, while you make adjustments. It does this by using an algorithm to detect the nasty resonant artefacts you introduce as you compress or EQ your sound.
You'd usually remove the resonances after, with a more surgical EQ, or maybe something like smart:EQ 3, but Baby Audio has it built it, so it's one less step in your music making workflow.
It's pretty similar to Oeksound's Soothe 2, but is cheaper, and has less control. Which, isn't always a bad thing, especially in the creative process, when you don't want to worry about too many knobs or buttons and want a quick sound, that sounds great!
And, Baby Audio's Smooth Operator, really does sound pretty incredible. We tried it out on a number of sounds, and we've recently been using it a lot.
- Because it sounds amazing and it's really easy to use.
- To give you a good review from someone who's actually used it and isn't just regurgitating the sales page.
How Does It Sound?
Smooth Operator breathes life into your music.
But, while we can tell you it sounds good, we always think it's best for you to decide based on some audio examples.
So, as always, we've left some examples of the plugin below. These have been dialled in using our very own ears, so in order to get the most out of this plugin, you will have to put in some leg work.
Presets are great starting points, but will never, ever fit your custom sound.
Sound Example 1
We used a loop from our free lofi pack coming soon, at our free downloads section.
Cleans this sample up massively! Very resonant sample due to FX used, and Smooth Operator really does live up to it's name here! Bass is tamed, resonances dealt with, nice compression and all in all a great sound.
Sound Example 3
Sample from our free liquid drum and bass pack coming soon, at our free download section.
Sound Example 2
We used a brass loop from the Cymatics Destiny Beta pack, and these settings:
It definitely cleans up the brass massively, removes some low end mud, and generally makes it sound more present. Compression is acting here a lot, and it's important to mention that when bringing down the high node, it seems to bring the bass up? Maybe due to the extra compression added.
Sound Example 4
Sample from our free liquid dnb pack. Used a preset “Heavy Plucks Control”. Turned output down to match.
There are a lot of cool features in Smooth Operator, so we're going to cover them all here, so you're up to speed with what it does.
Operating Smooth Operator (Main Controls)
The new spectral resonance suppression plugin, Smooth Operator, is pretty simple to navigate and use. But, it's so simple, you might not always know what it's actually doing to your sound.
There are 5 EQ nodes when loading up a new instance, and to start with, these are left flat so you can get in there and change things about.
- The middle node, changes the overall threshold of the compression/spectral resonance suppression. It pretty much just changes how much things are compressed from what we can hear.
- The middle left & right nodes, are used as EQ curves. Here you change the Q, by scrolling with your mouse wheel, and boost or cut certain frequencies out of your signal.
- The left edge & right edge nodes, are used for the same function as the above, but they seem to affect the compression of your signal more. They make things a lot louder and sound like they've been sent through an OTT effect with some resonance smoothing.
Sidechain Is Extremely Useful
The sidechain feature in this plugin is great. It's like a normal compressor sidechain, but with all the capability of Smooth Operator's resonance detection and suppression algorithms.
Baby Audio Smooth Operator uses fast fourier transform, to detect this and analzyes your audio 44,100 times (which is just a fancy way of saying it's 44.1kHz).
This is what makes it a tonne more useful than normal sidechain compression.
You can control where the sidechain compression reacts, and what to duck out of the way. A great example of use of this is on reverb.
If you have a large reverb, and you like the sound of it, but it's washing over everything in your mix, you can use Smooth Operator sidechain on the reverb, to duck out of a particular signal you want it to clash with less.
For instance, sidechaining your reverb to your vocals is a great use of this.
From here you can specifically choose the areas you want Smooth Operator to clean up. And, it will remove resonances, apply compression, and a little bit of EQ every time your sidechain signal hits in. How's that for a 3 in 1 dynamic EQ/multi-band, sidechain, spectral resonance suppression clean-up and a mouthful of words?
All in all, this feature is great, and it makes your music/mixes sound better. That's what plugins should do, and Smooth Operator is amazing at doing this, for a ridiculously low price.
The user interface in Smooth Operator is lovely.
It's incredibly clean, easy-to-use and you can also change the colours in Smooth Operator. This is an aesthetic thing, but it's nice to have the feature.
I think a lot of people overlook having a nice, clean looking plugin. It can really help you understand how it works better and make you more interested in using it.
Less overwhelm = more using & more music made!
The plugin is also fully re-sizeable. I tried to re-size it as big as I could and I don't think there's an upper limit. At least I couldn't find one on my screen, and I have a 27″ screen, so the opportunity to re-size, without blur seems endless.
Things We'd Love To Be Included In Updates
It's only $39 and it operates well and sounds amazing for that price (intro price), but we still think there could be some improvement.
For instance, the output knob would really work well with an actual gain reduction meter, to be able to see how much the compressor is boosting the sound.
Although you can do this by ear, it's much easier when doing important stuff like gain staging, to do with an actual meter that shows you exactly what's happening. We feel this could be included up the side with maybe a minor blow to the aesthetics, but a great increase in usability.
The solo feels like it should have a solo button next to each node. This is personal preference, but hovering over the node and it solo'ing every time becomes annoying when you want to hear everything in context again.
You have to pull your mouse back to the solo button and un-check it.
It's a minor thing, but having a solo button you could press next to the node, and it would only work when held down, would be a much better approach in our opinion.
Other than that, this is a stellar plugin. Maybe the inclusion of more controls would be nice, but you really can't complain for $39.
This is one of our most used tools right now, and it's going to stay that way for sure.
Is Smooth Operator Really As Smooth As He Seems?
Baby Audio Smooth Operator (Quicker Review)
The answer to this is: yes.
This is one of the most used plugins we have right now, and for $39 for the sound it gives you, you'll definitely want to consider adding this to your plugin collection.
If you have Soothe or Gullfloss, stop getting shiny object syndrome and get back to making music!
However, if you're in the market for a spectral processing beast, then definitely take a look at Baby Audio, Smooth Operator.
With over 8 years of hands-on experience in the music industry, Harry has run successful raves, played alongside industry heavyweights such as Max Chapman, DJ EZ, DJ Zinc and more (pictured below), had music played on national radio, DJ'd on live radio, produced until he hated every song, mixed until his ears bled, created sample packs from scratch using just a Zoom H1n and some sound design skills… and pretty much anything related to music production – he's done it, tested it, tried it.