Softube TSAR-1

There are two types of reverb: a real acoustic space . . . and everything else, which is what most studios use.

The user interface encompasses a lot of parameters, but they’re all laid out in a logical fashion.

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True stereo algorithmic reverb with outstanding smoothness

The Backstory

There are two types of reverb: a real acoustic space . . . and everything else, which is what most studios use. The two “in the box” options are convolution reverb, which loads an impulse of an acoustic space (think sampler), and algorithmic, which models an acoustic space (think synthesizer). Convolution reverbs are more like a photo and are optimized to work with dry sounds, while algorithmic reverbs are more like a painting and can supplement or complement existing ambience in the material being processed.

To carry the analogy further, if some algorithmic reverbs use fingerpaints and crayons, then the TSAR-1 offers watercolors, fine oils, charcoal, or gouache. I tend to use algorithmic reverbs because I prefer to tailor the space to my specs, rather than work with a relatively fixed space—so I was definitely listening to the TSAR-1 with a critical ear.

The Plug

To me, the four most important reverb characteristics are smoothness (no “flutter” or periodicity to the sound, unless you want it), realistic early reflections (easier said than done), diffusion that can go from “marbles-bouncing-on-steelplate” to ultra-lush, and tone controls for manipulating the bright/dark character. TSAR-1 scores extremely high on all four points. I was particularly impressed with the ability to control early reflections and add room ambience to normally sterile sound sources, like analog electronic drums.

The user interface, which is comprehensive yet invites experimentation thanks to its ease of use, deserves props. But if you don’t like tweaking, the presets are excellent. In fact overall, TSAR-1 is a class act—it handles mono or stereo from 44.1 to 192kHz, does true stereo, and even comes bundled with the “little brother” TSAR-1R reverb. (This uses the same engine, but is designed to get sounds fast and has only three controls—predelay, color/tone, and time, a macro that controls multiple parameters.) Even the documentation equals the rest of the package’s standards.

The Verdict

Diaphanous, lush, smooth, transparent—it’s as if there’s some gnome inside the reverb who sands and polishes the reverb tail before it goes out into the world. The only complaint I could imagine someone having is that it’s almost too perfect, like those airbrushed pictures of models that make them look like goddesses instead of humans. But I like goddesses, and this is one seriously gorgeous reverb.


STRENGTHS: Flexible, useful choice of parameters. Comes bundled with “junior” version for fast setup (same engine, limited controls). True stereo algorithm. Clear interface and documentation.

LIMITATIONS: Nothing significant. (North American distributor:

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