Baby Audio Smooth Operator Review

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Smooth Operator ($39 intro price) is an intelligent mixing tool that combines equalization, spectral compression, and resonance suppression in a single interface. Learn more about Baby Audio’s latest release in our Smooth Operator review.

Baby Audio has more than a few tricks up its sleeves when it comes to producing smart and innovative plugins for modern music production.

If you read our in-depth review of Spaced Out, a very cool multi-FX unit that you simply cannot sum up in one sentence, then you’ll know that this company has a knack for creating cool and great-sounding plugins.

Smooth Operator is an altogether different beast, even if it does look cute with its minimalist, pastel-color UI (that you can switch between 3 colors in the top left of the window).

Smooth Operator at a Glance

At first glance, Smooth Operator looks like a dynamic EQ or multiband compressor.

When you slap it on a track and hit play in your DAW, it visually behaves much the same as a multi-band compressor or dynamic EQ as well.

So, is it just a multi-band compressor or dynamic EQ?! That’s the question that was raging inside my head when I first opened it up.

Well, sort of but not really – there’s more going on than that!

Smooth Spectral Processing

Spectral processing is really just a fancy name for processing sounds across the entire audio spectrum.

The plugin samples your audio 44,100 times a second, equivalent to the standard 44,100kHz sample rate.

Using a Fast Fourier Transform algorithm, Smooth Operator samples audio, processes each sample independently in real-time, and then outputs the new signal.

The goal of this plugin is to reduce unwanted and fatiguing frequencies, thus smoothing out the signal.

If you’re thinking, ‘but I use EQ and compressor for that already,’ then you would be right. Still, Smooth Operator uses a combination of algorithmic spectral compression, EQ, and resonance suppression into one intelligent plugin.

This provides a quick and semi-automated route to cleaning up your tracks.

So how does it work?

Operating the Operator

By default, Smooth Operator loads up a flat EQ curve with 5 nodes.

The middle node is the key to Smooth Operator’s semi-automatic functionality. By pulling down the middle node up or down, you can increase/reduce the entire effect. The plugin will automatically attack the most dominant or fatiguing frequencies first.

Moving this middle node down slightly can smooth out the overall tone, whereas moving it up adds presence in the mids. It seemed to primarily target the bass and 2k to 4k area for most beats, synths, and loops I tried.

Smooth Operator by Baby Audio

Here’s a closer look at Smooth Operator’s user interface.

Generally, you’ll have to do more than just that to get something out of the plugin – which is fair enough.

The other four nodes are for boosting/reducing specific areas of the spectrum. You can alter their Q with the mouse wheel.

The Focus control adapts how ‘surgical’ the plugin is. More focus means the effect is applied on a more granular sample level, good for clamping down on particularly harsh frequencies. Contrastingly, less focus results in a smoother overall sound.

I found the plugin best for subtractive processing and carving out muddy or cluttered low-mids, but it also did a stellar job of boosting the fullness of drum or bass loops.

The last thing worth mentioning here is the presets, of which there are 63 designed by keynote engineers and producers.

There are presets designed for single tracks, drum busses, mix busses, and even the master bus.

The overall workflow is smooth and simple, and you can use it in a similar way to an EQ.

You’ve got to have some faith that it does more than a standard EQ and compression chain, but the more you use it, the more you realize it has the edge over standard workflows that achieve similar results.

Smooth Sidechaining

One innovative feature that Smooth Operator offers is the side-chain feature. You can feed a signal into its key input, and the plugin will duck the track using that input.

This offers a much more nuanced and creative opportunity for side-chaining, allowing you to subtract the frequencies which are truly clashing whilst leaving the rest untouched.

Classic side-chaining can be a pretty destructive process, resulting in jagged ducking that removes the consistency of a sound.

With Smooth Operator, you can side-chain your tracks much more intelligently. It’s perfect for sidechaining synth melodies and basslines to your drums, etc., without destroying their mid and high-end.

No Need to Ask, He’s a Smooth Operator

For those that didn’t get the reference to the 1984 smooth jazz hit by Sade, Smooth Operator does what it says on the tin and does it with the sleek perfection we expect from Baby Audio.

You’ve got to have some faith that this plugin is more effective than your standard compressor/EQ processing chain.

Of course, there’s nothing to say you can’t combine it with other compressors or EQs anyway.

Simple but effective, you might use this tool as a one-stop-shop for an otherwise convoluted mixing process.

I will be going back through some of my projects and slapping this on busses and master outputs to see how I can improve my mixes whilst cleaning up cluttered signal chains.

Smooth Operator by Baby Audio is available in VST, VST3, AU, and AAX plugin formats for digital audio workstations on Windows and macOS.

More info: Smooth Operator ($39 intro price, $69 regular)

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Smooth Operator Review

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Simple but effective, you might use Smooth Operator by Baby Audio as a one-stop-shop for an otherwise convoluted mixing process.

  • Features
    7
  • Workflow
    9
  • Performance
    8
  • Design
    9
  • Sound
    9
  • Pricing
    10
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About Author

Sam is a drummer, audio producer, and writer from London, UK. Often found nodding his head to funky beats and jazzy riddims.

16 Comments

  1. Is this is a sponsored review?
    Cause it may be a nice and affordable plugin, but no mention of Sooth by oeksound? The proximity of the two plugins names, UI and features worths mentioning, especially cause Sooth is the reference in this domain.
    and also DSEQ3 by TBProAudio which have the same purpose and do it with more feature at about the same price. It would definitely deserve a review on BPB too.

    • Tomislav Zlatic

      on

      Hi Tom, none of our reviews are sponsored. In the majority of cases (this one included), the writer receives an NFR (not for resale) license of the software (for review purposes) but the shared opinions are independent and based on the writer’s impressions about the software. In other cases, we obtain the software licenses independently (as in our recent Reverb Wars article). As for Soothe2, it’s on our list of software that will be reviewed on BPB very soon. :)

      Full disclosure: We do run affiliate programs with various platforms and developers, including Baby Audio. This doesn’t influence the writer’s opinions shared in our reviews and articles.

      • Hi,
        I found it very weird that only one single audio plugin website among all the ones I saw speaking about Smooth Operator mentioned the similarity with Sooth, especially considering Sooth popularity, extensible feature, same purpose and almost same design as this one.. In every case though, the comment section is here to tell it.

        As you are not sponsored, I would have expected that the review at least mention it. I’m not pretending this review is false in any way, but for sure, the fact Baby Audio is part of affiliation programs seems enough to prevent the mention of its main competitor in articles. The results looks more like an ad than a review because of this lack of contextualization and comparison. That’s too bad cause their other products were way more original, conceptually.

        Thx for not deleting my comment anyway and for your explainaition!

        • Tomislav Zlatic

          on

          Hi Tom, as I already mentioned, our reviews are not sponsored and the author (Sam in this case) is completely free to share their opinion about the reviewed product.

          If you’re interested in submitting a comparison between Soothe and Smooth Operator, I’d be more than happy to publish it on BPB, whether here in the comments section or even as a separate article (if it’s long enough).

        • Why would they mention Soothe when the review is about Smooth Op? It’s obvious that there are various similar eatlier products out there (not only Soothe). Do you expect reviewers to mention Fabfilter Pro-Q everytime they review any other newly released EQ plugin?

          • Tomislav Zlatic

            on

            That’s a valid point. However, I do think that a Soothe vs Smooth Operator article would be an interesting read. Working on making it happen.

            • @Tomislav Zlatic
              There are various video on youtube now about Sooth 2 VS Smooth Operator now (I guess this highlight the fact that the analogy between the two wasn’t just obvious to me ^^).
              The plugin is also often compared to Gulfoss and Teote which also targets resonance but these ones doesn’t have the parametric approach we have in Sooth and DSEQ (and they have different approach internally too).

          • The answer to your question is exposed right in my first post:
            Because Smooth Operator does looks like a Sooth clone, by its Name and it’s GUI color scheme.
            Also, the review seems to implies that Smooth Operator approach is new (it is only compared to an EQ in introduction): it isn’t, and so could have been compared to other Dynamic Resonant suppressor.
            Having more contextual infos in a review is IMHO something expected, to give the full picture. Plugins don’t come in vacuum, they come in a rich and diverse ecosystem (in which BPB help us a lot). The most interesting thing in Smooth Operator isn’t that it is a new kind of treatment – cause it is not – but precisely because the main popular, alternative is 200$.
            But it worth noticing that at the same regular price, DSEQ will offer more features and controls, and would have also definitely deserve its review here.

            • Tomislav Zlatic

              on

              I totally see your point and I agree that comparing Soothe2 and Smooth Operator would be interesting, so that’s coming soon on BPB. Your first comment suggested that our article is sponsored and biased which isn’t true, so I hope that’s clear, too. Cheers and thanks for the suggestions!

  2. Ian / Nihil Quest

    on

    I agree that similarity to Sooth should be addressed in a review such as this. It may not be a rip off, but it sure looks like one.

  3. Sleeper Service

    on

    “The plugin samples your audio 44,100 times a second, equivalent to the standard 44,100kHz sample rate.”

    How is this effected if my project is ay 96kHz (or even higher)?

  4. Soothe is overpriced IMO. I have DSEQ and was using it quite a bit. Its great, but a bit complex to dial in. I demo’d Smooth Operator for about an hour on multiple mixes and tracks and bought it with a discount code for $35. IMO the UI is incredibly efficient and intuitive. I was able to get better results than DSEQ in a fraction of the time. By better I mean the resulting sound was smoother with fewer artifacts and it was much easier to dial it in to tame the offending frequencies. Now maybe I could get similar results with DSEQ but it would take alot more tweaking.

    • Tomislav Zlatic

      on

      That’s interesting! I haven’t tested Smooth Operator in-depth yet, but first impressions were quite positive.

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