Universal Audio Lexicon 224

The Lexicon 224 was born 33 years ago.
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The Lexicon 224 was born 33 years ago.

In honor of the geek spirit that would spend a year emulating a classic reverb from 1978, this screenshot shows the “top panel” opened up, where you can see additional controls.

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Classic hardware reverb emulation for the UAD-2 platform

The Backstory

The Lexicon 224 was born 33 years ago. Although digital audio was in its infancy, designer Dave Griesinger squeezed out every possible ounce of performance— and created a trademark sound for ’80s music. Although contemporary digital reverbs tended toward “roughness,” Griesinger used multiple techniques to generate a beautiful reverb that nonetheless mixed in a touch of street-wise character.

I’ve been using Universal Audio’s powered plug-ins for years, and have been consistently impressed with their analog modeling chops. But lately they’ve been concentrating on evermore- ambitious emulations, like the Manley Massive Passive and Studer A800. For the 224, UA claim to use the same algorithms and basic processor codes as the original hardware, and emulate the complete signal chain—down to the input transformers and 12-bit gain-stepping converters. Having worked in several 224-equipped studios, its sound has been burned into my brain—so how does the 224 compare?

The Plug

Short-form, it’s a 224—warts, lush tails, great algorithms, funky pushbutton controls, and all. Any differences relate mostly to eliminating aspects that make no sense today (i.e., with hosts and plug-ins storing presets, the original, cumbersome preset management method was redundant).

The emulation is remarkable, down to the options for adding inherent system noise and reverting the “software” from the final version to a previous version with sound-affecting bugs. But really, those are details that just indicate the engineers at UA are, well, insane. What matters is the sound, and when I close my eyes, I’m taken back to tweaking a track’s reverb in a big studio. There’s that “digital vibe,” yet done so appealingly you can understand why the 224 had such a devoted following. But that’s enough details, because you can download a demo and evaluate the 224 for yourself (assuming you have UAD-2 hardware).

The Verdict

Reviewing this plug-in while simultaneously checking out the Softube TSAR-1 was surreal— they’re totally different, yet both make distinctive, personalityladen reverbs. I’d characterize the 224 as conjuring up deep, rich, evocative sounds with a digital edge—yet with a body that approaches analog. I hate to get into cork-sniffing, but the 224 almost demands it: It covers a range from subtle to brash, from smooth to rough, and provides a bridge between the best of what vintage had to offer, filtered through today’s skillful software emulation—so you’re not just getting a 224, you’re getting a perfect 224. And that just about says it all.


Extremely accurate emulation retains the 224’s classic characteristics. Covers a wide range of reverb sounds. Much cheaper than eBay!

UAD-2 hardware required.


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Softube TSAR-1
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