Review: Waves H-Reverb - EMusician

Review: Waves H-Reverb

This plug-in helps you get creative
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Hybrid Reverb (aka H-Reverb) is the latest addition to Waves’ impressive Hybrid line, joining Hybrid Delay, Hybrid EQ, and Hybrid Compressor. H-Reverb gets its “Hybrid” moniker by combining convolution and algorithmic reverbs, and its integration of DSP processes that you don’t typically find in a reverb, such as compression and modulation, among other things. The result is a plug-in with more creative potential than a conventional reverb. If you’re not the tinkering type, you don’t ever have to go “under the hood,” and you can use its many presets and basic adjustments—but you’d be missing out on the fun.

PLUG-IN POWER

H-Reverb is compatible with both stereo and 5.0 or 5.1 surround systems. You can open either a “regular” or “long” instance of it. The former gives you up to six seconds of reverb time, whereas the latter offers 12. Waves did this to save CPU in situations where you don’t need more than six seconds, which is more than enough for most music- production scenarios. The Long version uses up about 30 percent more CPU. Even the short version of H-Reverb is fairly CPU-intensive, but in my testing, it didn’t seem much different in its requirements from other quality reverb plug-ins that I compared it to.

When you open H-Reverb, its GUI is dominated by a large and colorful display (see Figure 1) that indicates time on the horizontal axis and amplitude on the vertical. It shows you the reverb tail in orange, early reflections in white (which are only visible in detail if you zoom in using H-Reverb’s own Zoom control), and any Input and Output echoes you’ve dialed into the patch, which I’ll get into more later. The display reflects changes you make to time and amplitude-based parameters; it can also be edited graphically by dragging control points.

Six knobs are visible: three each on each side of the Reverb Time numerical display, which is reminiscent of an old-school digital clock. The knobs provide an early clue that this plug-in is anything but typical. In addition to Dry/Wet, Output (there is no input level, however), Size, and Pre-Delay, you’ll find the ER/Tail Balance knob, which is hugely helpful, because it lets you control the relative levels of early reflections and reverb tail that are in the signal. The Build Up Time knob governs the time it takes the reverb to get to its peak. The effect of the Build-Up parameter is somewhat similar to pre-delay, except that instead of delaying the start of the reverb, it controls the degree to which it ramps up—sort of like the attack parameter in a volume envelope.

I was very pleased to see that H-Reverb included a Sync button for its Pre-Delay function, letting you sync it to the tempo by rhythmic values. It surprises me that more reverbs don’t provide this, as pre-delay is a parameter that can sound really good when synched to a song’s tempo.

Another cool feature is ER Select, a pull-down menu that lets you choose from 10 different early reflection algorithms, which have a pretty big impact on the reverb sound. Also quite useful is the Test button, which shoots a short burst of noise into the reverb, allowing you to preview the sound even before you have any signal coming into the plug-in. This could be really helpful in live sound situations, and for working on settings outside of the studio.

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On the far right is a Reverse button, which reverses the direction of the reverb. My only complaint with it was, when you click on it, the button gets highlighted, and stays highlighted until you press another button. This gives the impression that the reverse feature is on when it isn’t. The same issue exists with most buttons in the GUI.

EXPAND YOUR HORIZONS

Fig. 2. Pressing the Expand button reveals the full GUI, featuring controls for a slew of creative processing options. Just below the Output knob on the right is the Expand button. When you press it, it opens up a huge new layer of parameters that control much of H-Reverb’s impressive array of processing options (see Figure 2). These give you the ability to tailor the sound and behavior in a way you just can’t do on most reverb plug-ins.

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The Decay Envelope of the reverb is controlled with three knobs—X-Time, X-Gain, and Density. These let you manipulate the reverb as it decays, and changes are reflected in real time in the main display.

Input Echoes let you add up to six taps to a copy of the input signal and feed it into the reverb, providing added rhythmic interest. You can choose different Input Echo types, including 6Tap 8th FB, 2Tap St 8, and five others. The echo volume is dialed in using either the Discrete or Diffused knob, or both.

You can also add Output Echoes, which are four repeats of the reverberated signal. Parameters include Amount, Size (which lets you change the timing of and between the echoes), and Tone. Between the Pre-Delay and the Input and Output Echoes, you can create a lot of rhythmic effects inside the reverb, either subtle or not so subtle.

The Dynamics section adds compression to the reverberated signal, using one of three different settings. The first two, Duck and Comp, react to the dynamic content of the dry signal coming into H-Reverb’s input. The difference between them is that Duck reduces the wet signal when the dry signal is present, whereas Comp compresses the wet signal in its entirety. Duck allows the dry signal to punch through more, because the reverb is reduced only when input audio is present. Compression can be used to add pumping and breathing to the compressed signal. Both are controlled with Threshold and Recovery (release) controls.

The third Dynamics option is DeEss, which works on the dry signal. The developer says it can be used to create an overall bright reverb, but eliminating the sibilant spray from vocals—another useful tool for dynamically shaping the tone of the reverb signal.

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TONING IT DOWN

The center part of the expanded view contains the EQ section, which offers four bands, two fully parametric and two semi-parametric. On either end are low- and high-shelving filters, and in the middle are two bandpass filters. Each can be turned on an off individually. Their gain and frequency settings are adjustable numerically, or by dragging control points, just like in most Waves EQs.

The EQ section also contains the ER Filter, which lets you adjust the virtual space in terms of its reflective surfaces. In other words, you can set the room to be more or less absorptive or reflective, which is pretty cool.

TIMING IS EVERYTHING

The Time Filter section offers Damping, Envelope and LFO features. Damping is a fairly conventional reverb parameter that lets you control the speed (based on the Reverb Time setting) at which the high- and low-frequency ranges of the reverberated signal decay.

Envelope and LFO, the two Resonant Filter modes, can be used to add filter sweeps to the reverb signal, and to really change its tone and character. They share three common parameters: Filter Type, Q, and Mix. In the Envelope editing window, you edit the Attack and Release times graphically by dragging sliders.

The Modulation section makes it possible to dial in amplitude and frequency modulation, which also impacts the reverb signal, although their effect is usually pretty subtle.

The final section, Global, features the Drive effect, which provides a clipping-like distortion to the reverb. You can also set the plug-in to Analog mode, imbuing the overall sound with nonlinear characteristics, like in an analog console simulation. I was quite impressed with the sound of both of these features. The Digital switch lets you turn on 12- and 8-bit simulations, as well.

All the parameters in H-Reverb can be automated, so you can create some pretty wild-sounding effects.

H-Reverb comes with a nice selection of presets, including “celebrity” patches from audio luminaries such as Ross Hogarth, Tony Maserati, and many others. These presets are useful for quickly dialing in good settings, or as jumping off points for creating your own patches.

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H-REVERB, H-SOUND

Sonically, I found H-Reverb to be in the same ballpark as some of my favorite software reverbs by other developers. Its tails sounded warm and decayed smoothly. I used it on drums, vocals, acoustic guitars, electric guitars, keyboards—you name it— and was always able to dial in a good sound.

What really differentiates H-Reverb from its competitors is the rich selection of processing tools. If you’re into doing more with reverb than just slapping a preset on a vocal, snare drum, or other track, H-Reverb gives you the tools to get really creative.

STRENGTHS
Ten different earlyreflection settings. Pre-delay can sync to host tempo. Input and Output Echoes. Fully featured dynamics section. Envelope, LFO, and Modulation sections. Drive and Analog settings. Test button.

LIMITATIONS
No input-level control. Some buttons can be confusing as to on/off status.

$349
waves.com

Tip: Dial in a Tempo-Synched and Processed Reverb

Here are some settings to try when exploring H-Reverb’s creative capabilities. The results will be different, depending on the instrument or other element to which you’re applying it. As long as the part has a rhythmic element of some sort, this should work very well.

Start by pressing the Sync button under the Pre-Delay knob, and then set the Pre-Delay itself to one of the longer rhythmic values. Use the Dry/Wet level knob to control the level of the effect. You can add further rhythmic interest by turning on the Output Echoes and experimenting with the settings until the results sound locked in.

Next, add in some unnatural filtering effects: turn up the Q in the Envelope/LFO section; slide the Attack and Release Envelope sliders until they’re both very short; and turn the Q-control in that section to 10. Experiment with different LFO values, and try hitting the Flip button.

Finally, to change the sound of the reverberated signal, boost some highs in the EQ and turn up the Global Drive control.

Mike Levine is a producer, engineer, and multi-instrumentalist who lives in the New York City area.