Lexicon PCM Native Reverb Plug-In Bundle (Mac/Win) Review

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FIG. 1: Concert Hall is one of seven plug-ins included with the Lexicon PCM Native Reverb Plug-In Bundle. The default, basic mode of operation is shown here.

Lexicon''s high-end, hardware-based reverb units have populated upscale studios for more than three decades. Now the venerable company has ported algorithms from its lauded PCM96 to a bundle of cross-platform plug-ins.

Available in AU, RTAS, and VST formats (iLok required), the PCM Native Reverb Plug-In Bundle comprises seven different reverb plug-ins: Chamber, Concert Hall, Hall, Plate, Random Hall, Room, and Vintage Plate (see Fig. 1). Mono, dual-mono, and stereo configurations of each plug-in are included. Hundreds of outstanding stock presets will whet your appetite, but each plug-in also offers a glut of highly editable parameters so you can roll (and store) your own. I tested Version 1.04 of the AU plug-ins in MOTU Digital Performer 6.02 (DP) using an 8-core Mac Pro running Mac OS X 10.5.4.

The GUIs are almost identical for all plug-ins here, differing only in the number of parameters (and their controls) offered. Each plug-in has several different preset categories, some including more than just reverbs. Concert Hall offers users a choice of different-sized halls, rooms, and effects, such as ambience and delays. Choose the category you want, and then select from dozens of presets in that category. If you wish, you can then adjust the values of nine different effect parameters using sliders in the GUI.

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FIG. 2: Full-edit mode allows you to assign any parameter to each control slider by way of a dropdown menu (seen here overlaying roughly the center of the GUI).

The parameter assignments for the sliders are initially preset. Click on the Edit button, however, and you enter full-edit mode, in which you can assign any one of dozens of parameters to each slider using a dropdown menu (see Fig. 2). These parameters range from the expected (pre-delay, reverb time, and diffusion) to the arcane (tap slope, spin, and wander).

The GUI''s Soft Row control strip offers fast access to groups of closely related parameters. For example, the four Soft Row parameter groups for the Plate plug-in are Input & Mix, Reverb, Reflections, and Echoes. Click on the Input & Mix button to access sliders for adjusting wet/dry mix, pre-delay, diffusion, shape, and spread.

Another control section lets users independently tweak one band of equalization and relative levels of early reflections and the reverb tail. Filter types include low- and highpass (single- or double-pole), bandpass, and notch. Bandpass and notch filters include bandwidth controls.

A Shelf control modifies the effect''s frequency response. For example, with Shelf turned off, a 2-pole lowpass filter rolls off highs at a rate of 12dB/octave ad infinitum. But as you raise the shelf control, the roll-off levels off at a progressively lower frequency. In this way, you can limit the filter''s degree of attenuation to a fixed maximum above a frequency you choose.

A defeatable real-time display shows three dynamic analyses of the reverb: traditional wideband RTA, multiband (split into five frequency bands), and impulse response (essentially a waveform view). I/O meters, defeatable balloon help, and a Compare function (which toggles between the edited and default states for the current preset) aid your sonic sculpting.

Each of the plug-ins demanded roughly the same amount of CPU power, which was surprisingly little. I liked how the GUIs let me choose how simple or complex I wished operation to be: I could recall a preset and make a few ground-level tweaks, or jockey a cockpit brimming with controls where the sky was the limit. That said, documentation for some of the more unusual parameters was so vague that I was left scratching my head.

The PCM Native Reverb Plug-in Bundle produces realistic-sounding and superb-quality plate, chamber, hall, and room reverbs (see Web Clip 1). Additionally, Concert Hall and Room both offer excellent ambience and delay presets, which sound awesome on vocal tracks. In Room, delays comprise multiple reflections, whereas delays for Concert Hall are discrete (until they pass through the algorithm''s input diffuser). http://emusician.com/web_clips_streaming/lexicon_pcm_native_WC1Vintage Plate and Room include some gated and reverse reverb presets, respectively, which sounded great on drums (see Web Clip 2). None of the plug-ins include gate-time parameters, so fashioning your own gated-reverb presets becomes somewhat roundabout. To create my own gated-plate preset, I had to edit several parameters—including reverb time, size, spread, shape, and tap slope—in the LexPlate plug-in. But once I got the hang of it, subsequent setup was fast due to the plug-ins'' easy-to-navigate GUI. Note: Lexicon is considering adding a gated reverb into future plug-in processors.

I loved being able to sync the plug-ins'' pre-delays and discrete reflections to DP''s host tempo, using any of 13 different values ranging from half- to 32nd-notes. In fact, I could sync the pre-delay time for the overall effect (that is, how soon early reflections began to voice) to one note value and the delay time that separates early reflections from the reverb tail to another note value. Wow! I could also toggle between finite and infinite reverb times to create otherworldly vocal pads.

The plug-ins also let me set different reverb times for user-defined bass and mid-frequency bands. I could dampen highs over time or simply roll them off statically.

Unfortunately, none of the plug-ins let you adjust a gate to dynamically transition between two different reverb times based on input-signal level. One application for such dynamic reverb programs is creating a reverb tail that explodes (dramatically increases in decay time) or implodes (dries up quickly) at the end of vocal phrases. My Lexicon PCM70 can do this, but the PCM Native Reverb Plug-In Bundle cannot.

On a less-important note, none of the plug-ins include a master output-level control—a minor inconvenience. Also missing are Undo and Redo functions.

Even if you never touch any of the parameter controls, you''re likely to be happy with the wide variety of sounds available from the plug-ins'' outstanding presets. However, a thorough understanding of the effect parameters is important if you are going to use the plug-ins in mono-to-stereo configuration (feeding mono tracks to the plug-in and outputting stereo effects). This is because reflections for both left and right channels will only voice if fed signal from a stereo bus. Therefore, feeding the plug-in from a mono bus will throw the effect''s imaging off to one side of the stereo field. This is not a defect of the software but a consequence of having independent control over gain for left and right reflections—a good thing.

I was happy to note that all of my stored custom presets could be accessed directly from the GUI''s category and preset menus. Navigating to a folder on my hard drive wasn''t necessary.

At $1,499, the Lexicon PCM Native Reverb Plug-In Bundle is pricey as compared to other reverb plug-ins on the market. The plug-ins can''t be bought separately. While the bundle doesn''t quite offer all the features of some of the company''s more upscale hardware-based products, its stellar sound quality is in the same league. For professional use, this is the reverb bundle to beat.

EM contributing editor Michael Cooper is the owner of Michael Cooper Recording in Sisters, Ore. Visit him at myspace.com/michaelcooperrecording.

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Click on the Product Summary above to view the Lexicon PCM Native Reverb Plug-In Bundle product page.