The ubiquitous side-chain plugin gets an upgrade

Kickstart 2 by Nicky Romero & Cableguys

The ubiquitous side-chain plugin gets an upgrade

Portrait of musicmanta author Christof Baer with blue tint in circular shape
Christof Baer
last updated this article on 
June 16, 2023
 and first floated it on 
April 21, 2022
Kickstart 2 by Nicky Romero & Cableguys

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Can one of the most used plugins be improved?

It is no exaggeration. Nicky Romero's collaboration with Cableguys, which spawned the ubiquitous Kickstart side-chain plugin, is probably one of the most used plugins in the world. Just look at Equipboard's list of top compressor plugins, which has Kickstart most used by artists, and most ratings by users.

Side-chains are such an essential ingredient not only in EDM, but also in pop music, hip hop, and other genres. Yes, you can create a side chain with most compressor plugins, by routing a trigger signal (such as a kick drum) into a compressor on another track, which will then be ducked as the trigger signal increases above the threshold. The difference specialised side-chain plugs make is in the convenience. You can just add such plugins onto your track, select a volume shape, and you are good to go.

Plenty of Fish

But the original Kickstart was released in 2013, nearly 10 years ago. Since then, much has happened in music technology, including the release of several competitors:

The Second Coming

The second incarnation of Kickstart, called Kickstart 2, adds several new features:

  • Presets: 16 side-chain curve presets.
  • Mix: mix knob to adjust the side-chain level.
  • Drag & Change: quickly drag curves to match different kick shapes.
  • Audio Triggering: can follow any kick pattern, not just 4/4.
  • Multi-Band Side-Chain: limit the side-chain to only part of the frequency spectrum.
  • Visual Wavefrom Display: see waveforms of both kick and bass in one view to better adjust curves.

System Requirements

Windows 7, 8, 10 or 11. VST 2, VST 3 or AAX host sequencer. 64-bit.

Mac OS X 10.9 or later. Intel or M1 (Native/Rosetta) processor. VST 2, VST 3, AU or AAX host sequencer.

Our View

If you don't have a side-chain plugin in your plugin folder, and use compressors to create them, the upgrade to Kickstart 2 could be a good trigger to re-consider. I haven't used Kickstart or Kickstart 2 yet, but am using Cableguys Shaperbox 2* from the same developer. I have no doubt Kickstart 2 is a worthwhile upgrade, and with the super affordable full price is an easy purchase.


Kickstart 2 side chain plugin by Nicky Romero and Cableguys:

  • Full Price: $16 | €14
  • Upgrade from Kickstart 1: $5 | €5



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