It can also cost a lot of money.
Pro-quality hardware reverbs can soak up well over $1K at checkout; high-end software is generally not cheap either, and it still might suck (CPU power, as well as eggs). IK Multimedia neatly addresses all these issues with their Classik Studio Reverb plug-in, which packs some serious algorithms and delivers them with a detailed, yet facile interface that mimics the vintage hardware units the software emulates.
CSR includes four separate plug-ins: Hall, Inverse, Room and Plate. Each plug-in has its own interface, with an Easy mode that puts all the major controls on one screen, and an Advanced mode (spread over several pages) for precise control over all plug-in parameters.
Very cool: Four assignable macro controls provide simultaneous control of up to eight destination parameters via one manual control. You can have each macro set value limits for each parameter, as well as choose a linear, logarithmic, or exponential response curve. This is extraordinarily useful and highly entertaining, as you can shift on-the-fly between different acoustic spaces with one fader.
What’s more, two LFOs and two envelope filters provide additional modulation sources, and you can automate up to eight parameters per modulation source. (Interestingly, a key to the vintage hardware reverb sound was modulation, which added complexity to the simpler algorithms of the day.)
The sound, by the way, is fantastic. But let’s get this straight: CSR is not a convolution reverb, it’s an emulation reverb. The program emulates the sound of the classic ‘verbs you’ve heard on records, rather than using algorithms sampled from actual acoustic spaces. This frees the program from having to sound like a cathedral in France or a bathroom stall at Wendy’s, and also frees the CPU from having to calculate the convolution algorithms. It can instead focus on providing more control over more parameters of the classic reverb sound components.
This kind of control can be almost frightening. You can still construct virtual spaces by tweaking parameters in Easy mode for a classic sound, but you can also wave your freak flag high in full psychedelic regalia by getting really weird in Advanced mode — where I suspect hardcore reverberites will spend most of their time.
I opened CSR in Acid 5.0 on my 3GHz laptop with an RME interface, then set up all four plug-ins in Advanced mode. Unfortunately, the Hall plug-in had a couple of freakouts and locked up on me. Reloading seemed to solve that issue, but this particular plug-in has issues with noise when manipulating controls. [Editor’s Note: We were not able to duplicate this on our system.] If you get your settings, then leave it alone. The Hall works well, and creates acoustic spaces very easily. The other three plug-ins were rock solid no matter what I did to them, whether inserted alone on a bus, or assembled to warp and mangle a single track.
The Plate plug-in is fantastic for vocal tracks and drums — I like tight reverb on vocals, and this ‘verb is certainly tight. I don’t really get into the Inverse style all that often, but modulation control of the buildup and cutoff can get you to a very dreamy place. Hall is fine, but the Room plug-in is my overall favorite. The sound is so detailed that you can almost feel out the space with your ears. It is also one of the easiest ones to mess with, as the parameters are pretty straightforward.
The down side? Actually, not much. I would have liked to be able to warp the Hall plug-in more, but it certainly performed its standard duties well. The gorgeous, large screen kind of clogs up the interface in most DAWs, but there are workarounds (like two monitors or screen layouts). My only real complaint is the USB dongle key, which takes up a precious laptop port and is an accident waiting to happen while mobile. Oh well, I guess these are dangerous times.
All in all, CSR delivers a whole lot of reverb — with a great interface, useful automation, and terrific sound — without brutalizing your processor or cleaning out your bank account.
Sam Wheeler has been creating and recording his own music since before he was 10. As a player of various stringed instruments, he irritated the eardrums of many unsuspecting New England rock aficionados in various group and solo performances toward the end of the last millennium. He currently resides in Cambridge, MA, but may return to his home planet any day now for a long overdue extreme makeover.
Product type: Plug-in for VST/RTAS (Mac, Windows) and Mac AU; Windows XP/2K, MacOS X 10.3 or later.
Target market: Those who want the sound of classic hardware reverbs.
Strengths: Great sounds. Versatile. Extensive modulation options. Easy and Advanced interfaces.
Limitations: USB dongle used for copy protection.