Cableguys Kickstart 2 review: A flexible sidechain tool at a bargain price

Nicky Romero and Cableguys update Kickstart with promising new features so you can sidechain like a pro.

Cableguys Nicky Romero Kickstart 2

Review Overview

Our rating

9

Our verdict

Incredibly quick and easy to use
Audio triggering greatly improves flexibility
Excellent value

Can only apply the effect to lower frequency bands
Can’t draw your own shapes

EDM superstar Nicky Romero and software developer Cableguys teamed up in 2013 to drop Kickstart, a sidechain compression tool that is now a staple in the plug-in folders of many dance producers. It lets you effortlessly dial in a 4/4 volume pump, making it ideal for EDM, house and techno genres. It is, however, a little limited. And since then, several other LFO-based sidechain tools have hit the market with superior flexibility.

This year, with Kickstart 2, Cableguys has pushed the envelope with features that tremendously improve the usability and make it more versatile. Is this the new king of sidechain?

Fundamentally, the plug-in looks strikingly similar to its predecessor, with a large mix dial for setting the pump amount and the same 16 preset shapes. These include 10 for ducking and 6 for trimming the decayed part of the sound. The first, and arguably most important new feature, is the ability to trigger the shape via an audio sidechain input. This means that any signal, be it a kick drum, snare or other instrument, can trigger the effect and it will follow along. Although you could do this with the original Kickstart using MIDI triggering (which is still included here alongside the normal DAW sync mode), it was awkward to set up. It now allows artists creating trap, hip-hop, DnB, or any other genres with more broken kick patterns, can dial in dynamic ducking effects with ease.

Once you set your sidechain input, the display shows the waveform of your kick superimposed on top of your bass (or whichever instruments you’re working with). You can then grab the Movable Slope and slide it left or right to get the perfect blend between the two, where the bass rises as the kick falls. It’s a simple and lightning-fast system. Elsewhere, there are buttons to nudge the entire shape forwards and backwards in small or large increments, and you have four timing settings to double or half the speed.

The final new feature is the ability to split the signal with an adjustable crossover point and to only duck the low-frequency band. You can now get more transparent ducking effects by making space in the low frequencies, while the rest remains untouched. This is useful in principle but in practice, it can sound better if there’s still a little pumping in the high end. With that in mind, it would be useful if you could dial in the amount for both bands separately.

If you’re looking for maximum flexibility, consider Cableguys’ VolumeShaper, which will let you draw custom curves across three different bands. However, if you’re just after a refined and easy-to-use sidechain tool, then this new and improved version is a no-brainer for the super-low price of $16/€14.

Key Features

  • Sidechain LFO-style tool
  • Sync to host, MIDI trigger or audio trigger modes
  • 10 ducking shapes and 6 decay trimming shapes
  • Sidechain input visible in oscilloscope
  • Grab and slide the slope left or right for a perfect fit
  • New multiband mode with adjustable crossover
  •  €14 / $16, | €5 / $5 upgrade from Kickstart
  • Contact Kickstart Plugin
  • Buy: Cableguys, Splice
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