Ambience (Mac/Win, donationware), by SmartElectronix's Magnus Jonsson, is a reverb plug-in with excellent sound quality and an unusual combination of features. It comes in VST and Audio Unit plug-in formats, but the AU version is currently without a GUI. Ambience is donationware, which means you can choose when and how much to pay for it. The demonstration version is fully functional, but it presents a “nag” screen each time it is launched; a donation gets you the nonnagging version.
The Ambience control panel's Decay and Shape sections control basic reverb characteristics such as room size, predelay, reverb time, and diffusion. Clicking on the Variation button changes the characteristics of the room slightly, which is useful for eliminating unwanted echo and ringing. Clicking the Hold button freezes the reverb, which is useful for artificially stretching percussive sounds, for example. When used in conjunction with automation or MIDI remote control, Hold offers unique sound-effects possibilities. The Shape section contains a Width knob, for adjusting the stereo image from mono to full stereo, and a Quality button, for reducing the CPU load (which can be considerable) at the expense of reverb quality.
Three other control-panel regions — Gating, EQ, and Damping — process the reverb output in different ways. Gating applies a threshold-triggered attack and release envelope, allowing the dynamics of the source to affect the reverb characteristics. It's especially useful for maintaining a percussive part's rhythm in a very wet reverb (see Web Clip 1). The Damping section allows you to alter the decay times for low and high frequencies as a percentage of the Time setting. (In a natural reverb, highs and lows tend to decay faster than midrange frequencies.) The EQ section provides high and low shelving of the final output.
Ambience is a great-sounding reverb that's easy to use, yet offers unusual effects-processing features. You can download it from the SmartElectronix Web site (www.smartelectronix.com/~magnus). Trying out the demo is definitely worth your time: Ambience may well become your favorite reverb.