This blog is a collection of posts that I have accumulated into one place which have assisted me in understanding how to go about writing music predominantly for Deep and Tech House.
I could have bookmarked the various sites but then I have loads of bookmarks and can't find what I want when I need it.
Hope the nuggets are useful to you if you happen to stop by.
There have been a few significant developments in the world of reverb plugins in the last couple of years, and this is reflected in a brand-new, up-to-the-minute list below.
Perhaps the most apparent difference is that many producers (myself included) are not quite so obsessed with convolution reverb – at least, not to the exclusion of other reverb types – and the idea that convolution necessarily always offers the best results. This seems to be partly because, as beautifully realistic as convolution reverb can be, it’s not the quickest/easiest reverb to get sounding good where it counts – in the mix.
There’s also the question of CPU efficiency, which never really goes away: even in these days of multi-processor CPUs, software processing demands rise hand-in-hand to take advantage of this increasing computer performance. Convolution reverbs are usually processor hogs because of the way they generate their ultra-smooth realism.
And so as if to answer these issues, there has been a resurgence in the popularity of good old algorithmic reverb designs and ‘classic’ digital sound emulations (a trend which we previously saw with compressor plugins). More developers have been releasing really good reverb plugins that owe their character more to the celebrated digital units of the 80′sthan they do to the raw, pristine sound of a real cathedrals impulse response.
This ‘new generation’ of algorithmic reverbsoffer characterful, musical sounds while having a relatively small ‘CPU footprint’.
I don’t mean to give the impression that convolution is ‘over’, of course. You still can’t beat it for realism, and for many sound design and mix situations that’s the most important thing. But it’s a question of having a range of tools that are good at different things: ‘horses for courses’.
And with plugins like the Valhalla series coming out of leftfield with weird (but weirdly satisfying) interfaces and amazing sounds, and with the many possibilities offered by plugins with loads of ‘sound design and FX reverb’ features like 2CAudio’s Aether or Eventides Blackhole, it’s cool to see there are plenty of new ideas still coming through for software reverb, with new spins on old favourites, innovative new features and new ways of implementing them in our music.
So enough rambling, see the list below:
The 10 Best Reverb Plugins – The 2013 List
Several of the plugins have remained on the list from before, but there are some important additions (and a couple of removals). The categories have been updated too.
As before, I’ve covered every type of reverb and all price ranges with the categories, and included plenty of alternative choices for most of the categories. There’s definitely something for everyone here.
Don’t forget: “In the end, ‘best’ is highly subjective when it comes to reverb – there is a lot of choice out there, and picking a personal favourite is literally a lot like choosing a favourite colour.”
1) Best Free Reverb:
Variety Of Sound EpicVerb
Not a brand new plugin by any means, but in my view the best free all-rounder, this algorithmic stereo reverb features a handy switch between two general settings – “reverb” or “ambience”. It also features six Early Reflection types, so you’re covered for the typical Hall, Plate and Room models, as well as a couple of echo FX models. Smooth and characterful sound: Developer Bootsy does it again! More info here, download here.
Also check out:
Smartelectronix / Magnus Ambience
Featured in my original list, I would still struggle to find a much better freeware algorithmic reverb.
The established daddy of all reverb plugins, and something of an industry standard. No, it’s not cheap, yes you need a powerful computer to run it… but the sound and flexibility it affords is generally well worth it. The XL version also includes surround reverb and a TDM version for Pro Tools.
A few people mentioned how they missed Aether from my original list, so here it is! I’ve been using this one a lot more recently, having cottoned on to what many people have known for ages: the sheer number of controls seem intimidating and pretty over-the-top for most straightforward mix applications, but where Aether really comes into it’s own is as the ultimate reverb for enhancing sound design and spot FX: hits, cinematic booms, club track-style swirls of shifting reverb clouds that can add a lot of extra movement, vibe and overall epic-ness to a track.
Blackhole is based on an algorithm from Eventide’s hardware processors and guitar stomp boxes, and is basically designed purely for sound design and effects creation, rather than having any pretense of trying to offer a bit of everything to cover all the bases. Plus it’s the only reverb I know of that seems to be designed for ‘performing’ reverb changes, with a ribbon strip for super-easy real-time morphing between different configurations. Best reverb for live performance/DJing, anyone?!
My bet is we’ll see a lot more of this style of plugin in the near future.
Some of the most useful reverbs are parts of bundles or series of plugins that work really well together. As I mentioned previously, the Renaissance Reverb is my personal go-to reverb, as are quite a few of the other Waves plugins. A well balanced reverb in terms of overall sound, versatility and interface/usability, with simple but effective graphic EQs for quick shaping of the reverb return signal – great for efficiently slotting the sound into a busy mix without adding clutter or low-frequency mush.
The IR1 is a convolution reverb, with some great presets that are based on many famous venues and spaces from around the world. So if you want to hear what your music would sound like in the Sydney Opera House or at legendary NY punk rock club CBGBs, this is the reverb for you.
As far as I know, the IR1 is also unique for it’s parametric controls, whereby you can plot your settings on the interface display in the same way as you would on a parametric EQ.
There’s a familiar cycle that people go through when they first encounter ValhallaDSP plugins. Step 1: Smirk at the oversized, toy-like interface. Step 2: Listen to the presets and tweak the controls to taste, turning that smirk into a big, satisfied grin. Step 3: Realise how quickly and easily you were able to make those adjustments, thanks to the ‘ridiculous’ interface that is in fact “influenced by NASA Human Interface specifications & the Swiss School of graphic design”, and marvel at the sound you can get for a mere $50.
ValhallaRoom is very versatile on it’s own, but to bring the epic-ness to your sounds you might also want Shimmer, which is specifically designed to create large, smooth-sounding tails for booms, trailer hits and other more sound design-y elements.
I rather facetiously put this reverb collection in it’s own category of Most Expensive Reverbs last time, but since then the pricing has dropped considerably so it’s now a much better deal, and a realistic proposition for small-studio producers (and not just larger facilities looking to replace their existing hardware, which is probably who these were initially targeted at). So enough about that, at the end of the day these are pretty much the best algorithmic reverb plugins you can get commercially – the sort that everyone else looks to as a benchmark.
(In fact, it’s worth noting here that ValhallaDSP’s Room, mentioned above, has been touted as a budget alternative, for it’s ability to get pretty close to the fabled Lexicon sound).
I couldn’t not mention ARR this time around, and this seems like the most appropriate category. Many producers swear by this one, which was designed specifically with the purpose of delivering flexible and convolution-rivalling reverb, whilst also keeping CPU overhead to a minimum.
It achieves those goals, and while not as flash or as characterful as the Lexicons (an unfair comparison perhaps), it does the job at a significantly lower price. [Correction: I originally quoted the Christmas discount price of $130; the normal price is $189.]
Several of the plugins on this list could slot into this category (including theUA EMT 140 Classic Plate reverb here), but special mention has to go to Softube’s TSAR-1. A point worth noting about the TSAR-1 is that, unlike the UA EMT 140 Plate for example, it’s not a straight ‘emulation’ of any one piece of celebrated vintage gear. Rather, it takes the common characteristics of much of the best-loved classics, and brings them all together with a highly useable, somehow ‘authentic’ sound (if that’s not an oxymoron?), and a very cool interface. The best of all worlds, and perhaps an example of where more plugin designers will (hopefully) go in the future.
Not a vintage-style plugin exactly, but this reverb has as much character and warmth as anything out there. Maybe it’s because 112dB seem so good at bringing the warmth in general, with their very tube-sounding compressor, limiter and preamp plugins also being highly regarded. Developed by Martijn Zwartjes, who used to work at Native Instruments, the Redline Reverb’s first incarnations were the Rev-6 and Space Master ensembles for NI’s Reaktor.
Featuring four reverb plugins, covering Plate, Hall, Room and Inverse types, CSR is a one-stop shop for many producers and guitar players. Each module can work in either Easy of Advanced mode: Easy for when you just want to get something down fast with the minimum of fuss: Advanced when you want to spend more time finessing the perfect sound – and it does have an awesome, ‘classic’ sound. Which of course also means it’s perfect for beginners, who can gradually get to grips with the more advanced parameters at their own pace.
Everything I said last timeabout not overlooking your host DAWs bundled plugins is even more true than before, as the DAW developers continue to cram as much quality as possible into their offering in order to get ahead of the competition, in a massively competitive market. Which is great news for us producers really…
The best things about using the reverb plugins supplied with your sequencer are that a) you don’t have to pay more, and you’re getting the most out of the investment you’ve already made, and b) they are likely to run more efficiently within their host program, having been optimized for that, than a third-party plugin might.
Special mention here goes to FL Studio (which has become uber-popular in the last few years, for good reason), and the bundled Fruity Convolver plugin.
10) Best ‘Price-To-Sound Ratio’ Reverb:
Would also be a contender in a ‘Best Reverb For EDM’ category, as D16 are perhaps best known for their software versions of classic drum machines and the TB-303. Toraverb doesn’t try and cover everything – it’s not Aether – but what it does do is generate lush, ‘punchy’-sounding reverb that is just what you need for all kinds of modern and electronic music. What you get for about $35 is just insanely good!