The use of reverbs in a mix can easily be associated with the art of gourmet cooking. Just like it takes many ingredients to produce a four-star meal, you typically need various types of reverbs to take a song to a higher level. Whether it’s a vintage plate for guitars, a wooden room for snares or a concert hall for vocals, today’s software reverbs can be broken down into two distinct categories — modeled and sampled.
Modeled reverbs use mathematical algorithms to create artificial acoustic spaces. This type tends to be extremely flexible, offering many parameters such as Diffusion, Virtual Room Shape, Reflection Control, Decorrelation, Variable Absorption Control, and so on. Virtually all modeled reverbs have useful preset folders available, so you can quickly call up different types of sounds and tailor them to your acoustic needs.
Sampled reverbs are not models of rooms, halls, or plates — they are actual “recordings” of each. Also referred to as Impulse Response Reverbs, they are produced using a technology called convolution and are created with either a “spike” of sound (a cap gun for example), or a full-frequency sweep tone. Using a microphone array (typically with varying setups), the Impulse Response (IR) of the actual space is recorded. By using a convolution engine combined with an Impulse Response, you have “real” reverb at your fingertips. The mathematical calculations involved in creating good convolution-based Impulse Responses are massive, which is why they have only been around for a few years now. Some of them run using the computers power and some run off chips on process cards. Unlike earlier versions, most of today’s Impulse Response reverbs can also be tweaked to customize the sound for your mix.
Here’s a brief look at some select choice verbs in each category.
IMPULSE RESPONSE/SAMPLED REVERBS
Audio Ease Altiverb. The first IR reverb to hit our computers several years ago, Altiverb V5 is now tweaked to run via AU, RTAS, VST, and HTDM. It features a four-band EQ, Stage Positioning Control, snapshot presets and seriously increased CPU performance.
Aside from offering an extensive library of free IRs online (impulse-Response.com), Altiverb also includes software and instructions allowing you to create your own acoustic samples. You can even sample hardware reverbs, providing they have a digital input for a “spike” to actually capture it with. Also on the website is a cool section called User Submitted IRs (self-explanatory), and the company will help make your IRs for you if you ask.
Waves IR-1 V2. The IR-1 V2 works on both the PC and MAC platforms (up to 96kHz), running with RTAS, AudioSuite, VST, Direct X (Win), and Audio Units (Mac). Users have control over reverb parameters including Size, Decay Envelope, Density, Resonance, and EQ, among others. There is also a cool Reverse button that can be used for some great sounding effects and the ability to select different miking options. It does come with pre-loaded Factory Presets and two CDs full of Impulses. It also features Convolution Start Control, which lets you trim the beginning of the IR to eliminate pre-delay, as well as a full set of tools to capture your own IRs.
Waves IR-1 L. Same as the IR-1 V2, but with fewer controls — therefore lightening the processor load. Make sure to check out acoustics.net, which is the official source of Impulse Response Samples for all Waves convolution reverbs.
TASCAM GigaPulse. This is TASCAM’s Convolving Reverb Processor for VST. It also has a cool microphone-modeling feature, which lets you either control the character of the effect, or emulate other microphones. There’s a unique cascading feature, which allows you to combine two or more impulse responses to create a totally new sound. In addition, it has user-controlled placement in a virtual room so the “source” can be moved around relative to the mic position.
Apple Space Designer. For Logic Pro 7 users, Space Designer ships with over 1,000 Impulse Responses. It also lets you create high-quality synthetic reverbs by using specially designed volume, filter and density envelopes. It also has 6 or 12dB low pass, band pass and high pass filters, and will support sample rates up to 192kHz. You can also produce your own IRs with Space Designer and load them right into the plug-in.
Trillium Labs TL Space. A bit unusual in that this is a TDM Impulse Response reverb (hence it runs on the process card chips and not the CPU), it features a fairly extensive library of spaces and effects. It can actually use up to eight Pro Tools HD DSP engines (in parallel), providing a 32-bit block floating point process (a.k.a., damn good sound).
Wave IR-360. Another Waves release, this one is extra cool in that it is a true Surround Impulse Response Reverb. You can choose mono to 5–channel using 4 or 5 convolutions (individual samples), stereo to 5 channel discrete, Efficient stereo to 5 channel discrete, Mono to 5 channel using 3 convolutions or Full Stereo to 5 channel using 6 convolutions. What all this means is that when working in surround with the IR-360, it sounds damn close to actually being in the room.
Voxengo Pristine Space. I recently discovered this gem, and it’s a native audio plug-in with an 8-channel convolution processor. Currently at V.1.5, you can run true stereo (requiring 4 convolution channels), and it works directly with Voxengo’s Impulse Modeler so you can create your own IRs. Check out noisevault.com as a cool source of impulses.
McDSP Revolver. This convolution reverb runs via AudioSuite and RTAS on Macs, and provides a fairly comprehensive set of controls for sonic customizing. There’s a unique stereo field control, positive and negative predelay, and a split delay feature that lets you create an image shift of up to 50ms between the left and right speakers. Note that Pro Tools 7.X and higher are needed for TDM, LE, and M-Powered systems.
Sony Oxford. Several years ago, Sony actually released one of the first “affordable” Impulse Response hardware units, the DRE S-777. However, with this plug-in they changed gears and went with a reverb modeling release that focuses on maximum control and sonic performance. Sounds range from rooms and halls to dry reflection ambiences, sound effects, and wide-open reverberant spaces — with extra attention paid to the Reverb Tail section. Running on Pro Tools HD Accel, HD, and LE systems, it provides real-time continuous control over virtually all the parameters.
Digidesign ReVibe. This is a Digidesign release geared exclusively toward HD/Accel users. It’s mono, stereo, and surround capable and has over 200 early room reflection/coloration models. It features 96kHz support using the 321 DSP chips on the company’s HD Accel card, and has an easy to use interactive display for EQ, Decay Color, Early Reflections, and Reverb Shape. Its little brother is the Digidesign Reverb One plug-in, which is similar in character and runs on all TDM systems.
Apple Platinum Verb. A Logic reverb that is kind to your CPU, it features a “dual-band” concept that takes full advantage of natural room characteristics. There are additional parameters to tweak, and a cool GUI to view while doing so. Also, Apple’s Enverb plug-in features control over the envelope of a diffused reverb, a wild reverse effect, and the ability to gate through use of delays.
Princeton Digital 2016. Some software reverbs, such as this one, are modeled after their hardware counterparts. This is a TDM release that has three plug-ins within it; Stereo Room, Room Reverb, and High-density Plate. There’s support up to 96kHz on HD Accel rigs, but you’ll need Pro Tools 6.0 on a Mac OSX 10.2.4 or later systems.
Eventide Reverb. Another TDM reverb that uses algorithms from a hardware unit, in this case their popular Orville hardware processor. Aside of pre- and post-stereo three-band EQ, reverb contour (for tone shaping), and snapshot features, it’s a bit unique in that it features a pair of delays, a decent compressor, and a cool Lo-Fi effect.
TC Electronic VSS3. This is the Stereo Source Reverb plug-in taken directly from the System 6000. Divided into four main pages (Main, Early Reflection, Reverb Tail, Modulation), this TDM release gives you almost 800 parameters to tweak. There’s more than 500 presets provided and the built-in preset converter lets you import VSS3 presets from the System 6000. The “Focus Fields” on the bottom of GUI let you easily select and tweak the most important parameters.
Waves R360 Surround Reverb. Unlike the IR-360, this is a modeled reverb for 5.0 and 5.1 mixing environments. Working up to 96kHz, it has six channels of perfectly de-correlated reverb with controls for front and rear sound. It works with Nuendo 3, Cubase SX 3, Pro Tools Mix, and HD systems.
Waves True Verb. A room emulator for Native and TDM systems, it combines two different modules — a Reverb and an Early Reflections simulator. You can alter the room size, frequency response, and even the distance beyond the speakers to the sound source. As with all other Waves plug-ins, there is a comprehensive library of presets.