Article sponsored by NUGEN Audio.


There is no shortage of great reverbs at our disposal, but most are geared towards stereo applications and only a handful are conceived with multi-channel audio in mind. Few plug-ins have a feature set that addresses the needs of those working in post-production, who need to create virtual spaces in a way that is often quite different from the approach taken by those working with music. UK-based developer NUGEN has solved this issue, and who better than them - an established name, when it comes to specialist plug-ins for post-production? Enter Paragon, a reverb plug-in that features a unique reverberation engine designed for ultra-realistic sounds that can work with up to 10 channels (from to mono/stereo to 7.1.2) of incoming audio with ease, providing a dedicated set of tools for each individual channel.

Convolution - not convoluted

Paragon innovates on a tried & true reverb technique: Impulse Response (abbreviated simply as IR) - a convolution-based approach that “samples” an environment (or piece of equipment) in order to capture it’s acoustic response. Looking ahead, NUGEN went a step further with what they’re calling “Modelled Impulse Responses”, and according to product specialist Tom Griffin, these IRs were “specially commissioned recordings for Paragon. These are 3D recordings that have been designed to allow for Paragon's decomposition and re-synthesis processes in order to maintain realism. Each time you change a parameter in Paragon, the IR models go through this process and essentially an entire new IR is created which as far as we're aware is a unique process specific to Paragon.” The end result is a highly adjustable reverb that retains clarity all the way through, and unlike “regular” IR-based processors it does not degrade or distort the sound once the IR is modified or changed in any way. The only drawback to the ‘Modelled IR’ method is that right now it is not currently possible to load 3rd-party impulse responses (many engineers already have a collection) - but it’s not a lost cause - according to NUGEN they “are thinking of implementing a method where this is possible in the future”.

Applications

Paragon is first and foremost aimed at professionals working with surround sound and immersive formats such as Ambisonic, Auro 3D, Dolby Atmos and DTS:X/DTS:X Pro, which are becoming increasingly popular each day in movies, TV/streaming series and also gaming. This is Paragon’s ‘natural habitat’, and it shines thanks to a comprehensive set of features that allow the user to precisely adjust the sound going to each channel along with a flexible reverberation engine capable of delivering realistic sounds that are highly adjustable via NUGEN’s Modelled Impulse Responses. Recently, Avid and Steinberg incorporated Dolby Atmos into their flagship DAWs, so Paragon should be a great fit for those working with multi-channel audio in Pro Tools and Nuendo respectively. Needless to say that NUGEN supports all popular plug-in formats, so users of other DAWs or even video editors such as Final Cut Pro can also take advantage of Paragon’s power in their surround sound productions.

What about music? Although Paragon’s target audience is the post-production crowd, it is also suitable for music production whenever realistic reverbs are required. Real-world spaces such as chambers, rooms or halls that are commonly used for music production can be easily achieved with Paragon. One particularly interesting application for Paragon in music production would be quadraphonic audio, which is a “double stereo” (4.0) setup made popular among synthesizer-enthusiasts by experimental composer Suzanne Ciani. It’s also important to note that immersive formats are also making their way into music production, with Dolby Atmos leading the way by offering listeners a new listening experience with a growing list of available records for streaming on services such as Amazon Music HD and Tidal.

Features walkthrough

Let’s have a quick look at Paragon’s feature set. The first ‘page’ of controls allows for quick adjustments of the core parameters, visualization of the reverb action and per-channel output levels. Here are the available parameters:

  • HPF/LPF: global high-pass and low-pass filters, affects the global output of the plug-in
  • Pre-Delay: how much time will the reverb “wait” before kicking-in.
  • Decay: how long the reverb takes to dissipate and disappear from the audible range
  • Crosstalk: controls the interaction or “bleed” between channels, adding to the realism
  • Size: the size of the simulated space from the modelled impulse response, which also affects the decay
  • Brightness: controls the balance be low and high frequencies
  • Mix (Dry/Wet): the proportion between reverb (wet) and the unprocessed (dry) signal
  • Trim (Gain): boost or attenuates the global gain of the plug-in

Below the main page we have the the IR (impulse response) page, which is really the heart of this reverb and presents NUGEN’s groundbreaking technology for highly-adjustable impulse responses - let’s take a look:

  • Modelled IR Loader: arguably Paragon's most important parameter, offering fifteen impulse response options, all covering natural spaces that were thoroughly sampled using special proprietary techniques as mentioned earlier. The available spaces (so far): Car, Chamber, Church, Hotel Lobby, Hotel Room, Hotel Corridor, Large Theater, Small Theater, Bathroom, Little Bathroom, Office, Packing Room, Stairwell, Big Concrete Room, Glass Diner.
  • Test Sounds: this section offers a handy way to quickly preview how the reverb will sound on different sources such as guitars, bass drum and singing.
  • Amplitude: sort of self-explanatory, sets the overall gain of the loaded impulse response.
  • Decay: controls the overall decay of the loaded impulse response
  • Complexity: controls the frequency content of the IR, turn down for a more basic sound or turn up for a richer and fuller response
  • Nodes: Up to 4 nodes can be added to adjust the amplitude and decay. These nodes are visually similar to EQ bands, but only visuall - instead of equalizing the sound output they act directly on the amplitude and decay of the modelled IR. Can be added or removed by double-clicking the graph or through the “X/+” buttons on the lower left side.
  • Channels: Located below the amplitude graph, toggles which channels are affected by the nodes and amplitude/decay adjustments

Lastly, we have the I/O page for per-channel adjustments of low/high pass filters, input delay (from 0 to 100ms), decay ratio (from 0.20x to 5.0x), In/Out crosstalk (from 0 to 100%) and a button that allows the wet signal to be enabled or disabled. That’s plenty of control over each channel for immersive reverb tweakage.


Paragon also offers GUI adjustment on the cogwheel below the I/O button, including an option for automatic or manual routing and color-coding for each channel and level range. It also allows the user to change the color of the main parameters such as sliders and buttons to customise the interface which could be handy on a high-pressure, fast moving dubstage. The GUI can also be resized but only for enlargements, which is very helpful on big screens or when working with resolutions bigger than Full HD/1080p.


In use

Basically, there are two ways to get started: 1 - load one of the 49 included presets and adjust according to your needs and or 2 - select a modelled impulse response (IR) and build it up from there. If you’re a preset tweaker, the first page gives you some powerful settings that can dramatically affect the resultant sound and should do for many ‘everyday reverb’ tasks. If further control is required, then it’s worth going to the IR and I/O pages to fine-tune the response or for per-channel refinements. If you want to construct a reverb from scratch, we recommend taking a slightly counter-intuitive approach to workflow:: first, go to the IR page, select an impulse response for the desired acoustic space, tweak the amplitude/decay graph if needed, and only then head back to the main page to proceed with the general adjustments, wrapping up on the I/O page if needed.

Paragon also offers thorough automation options - quite literally, any control can be automated. Unlike other convolution-based reverbs, there’s no “zipper” noise or other artefacts when automating parameters. However, due to the complexity of the process and all the crazy math involved, there can be a slight latency when adjusting certain parameters, so keep that in mind when making certain automation moves as they’re not always instant - thankfully, a spinning wheel on the top right part of the interface indicates those calculations are happening so you can figure out what works best as you go.

Insights from the developer: three parameters to try

We talked to NUGEN for the inside scoop on Paragon's key parameters so users can speed up their workflow. Here's what they had to say:

Crosstalk: Available the main GUI (global) and the IO panel (individual channels). This is the amount of interaction of the dry signal between channels before the reverb is applied. The more the cross-talk is applied, the more of the dry signal is sent across the other channels i.e dry centre channel signal gets sent to L R & Lr Rr channels etc. This is to maintain the realistic nature of a reverb, as in reality, the sound will reflect and travel in various directions rather than down the strict directions of each channel position. Following on from this, you can control the In/out of the crosstalk for the C channel. If you have source audio with no audio in any channel other than C, then with cross-talk turned off, there will be no output audio in any channel other than C. With the cross talk on, a percentage of the C channel (as specified on the I/O panel) is fed into the signal that goes into the convolution calculations for the other channels. A situation where this would be useful: you can mute the reverb on the C channel, but leave the cross-talk out on. This means that the sound coming from the C is still the crisp and clean dialogue, but that dialogue echoes around the room and the reflections can be heard in other speakers. The result is crisp and clear dialogue but you get the "feel" of the room you're in.

Frequency-specific Decay: In the IR panel of the plug-in, this is situated on the frequency display in the lower half of the interface. As well as the amplitude of the impulse response, you can edit and affect the decay rate of the dry impulse response for specific frequency bands to allow for precise and meticulous control over the sound if so required. This may also be useful in a situation where clarity needs to be maintained in certain frequencies, but less so in others where you'd want the reverb to be more audible.

Individual channel controls: On the same frequency graph display that I've mentioned above, you have the ability to choose which individual channels you're EQ edits are applied to. This works right the way up from stereo to 7.1.2. So the decay and amplitude edits you've made on the graph can be specifically applied to a channel as opposed to globally.

We hope this guide helps you on your immersive-reverb journey with Paragon, but if you have any questions or further tips, please feel free to comment below. Finally, if you haven’t already, be sure to try the free demo - it’s fully-functional for 15-days and you can download it by clicking here.

For more information on Paragon, visit: https://nugenaudio.com/paragon/