LiquidSonics Reverberate 2 by JEL
Sound Quality: top-score.
Ease of use: easy enough once you get used to it, but of course there are some buttons to learn.
Features: pretty much what you need. A ducking-control would be nice though.
Bang for buck: a huge bang!
Just a few words first.
When I started making music, hardware-reverbs was the only way.
When software became more useful for this, I started looking into soft-verbs and have been interested in the progress of this ever since.
I've never been a big fan of the sound of algo-verbs. It always sounded somewhat synthetic to me.
Recently I've heard some that do have a useful sound though (but only really on a narrow type of tracks, not broadly useful like i found hardware-reverbs to be)
Algo-verbs have been slowly getting better over time and are probably going to keep getting better. But I think the scope of sound-material that works well with them is still somewhat narrow. I think of them as mostly unsubtle special-FX still (YMMV)
Static convolution reverbs was a clear step forward, in my opinion. Convolution in general seems to have an edge (in terms of sound-clarity and sound-brilliance) almost everywhere it's implemented (over algo-stuff)
But of course static convolution reverbs are static and that is obviously an undesired limitation when using them for music (a limitation algos don't have)
So I'm always searching for THE soft-reverb (aren't we all )
I've been using Voxengo's "Pristine" for a long time (in my mind a brilliant static convolution-reverb), but kept missing that 'life' that a truly good reverb brings. The movement, or whatever one wants to call it. That special hard-to-define 'something' that makes music spark (in terms of reverb)
I discovered Nebula only recently (about a month ago or so) and really liked what it brought sound-wise.
However, because of my dislike of Paypal I haven't been able to purchase the Nebula, so I've only used the free version Acustica offers (which has a great sound as it is)
The free Nebula version has some reverbs which I quickly found to sound better than static convolution reverbs.
But... the ones I've heard are still static.
It seems to me the Nebula uses a more or less deterministic way of selecting which IRs the sound should pass through (I don't know exactly how the Nebula works, I'm just basing my guess on my own sound-experiments with it), which is perhaps why it sounds really good as amp/EQ sims for coloring the sound (and it does that really well, in fact much better than the algos I've used so far)
But when feeding the Nebula an A440 sine-wave (annoyingly sterile sound when listened to dry, haha ), there's no movement over time (when the sounds settles after the initial start-confusion)
In that regard the Nebula and the Pristine are completely identical static impulse reverbs.
Of course when you feed the Nebula music (and generally only geeks listen to test-tones ), you get a slightly more complex reverb than with Pristine.
I was impressed with the Nebula but got caught out by my dislike for Paypal and Acustica having no alternative ways of purchase (I've heard they have plans for 2016 that may include people like me into the geeky Nebula sect )
Then I saw LiquidSonics post a new product alert here on Gearslutz
I had earlier tried the first version, but didn't like the ping-pong modulation used on some presets. Other than that version 1 was just as good as Pristine, for my uses at least. So I didn't think anymore of it and didn't try to buy it.
Then i demoed Reverberate 2.0... and I was just about not to, because I figured it was probably just more of the same type of modulation, only perhaps a tad more complex, but still not really useful in creating the kind of reverb sound I was looking for... and if that was the case I wasn't going to spend hours downloading those huge FIR-reverbs just to demo it and find it uninteresting...
So I almost passed on it, but this is one time I'm extremely pleased to have been wrong
Reverberate 2.0 has the best sound I've yet heard in a soft-reverb. And not just the best sound but a truly magnificent sound. We may all have different tastes in what good sound is, but the sound qualities that I'm personally looking for in a reverb is all there in Reverberate 2.0.
But alas I discovered... yes, you guessed it... payments are made through Paypal
I felt so bummed right there. Something worth spending money on, only to meet the roadblock that is Paypal.
(I know it's MY headache, and that others happily buy through Paypal, but for me it's a self-imposed roadblock i simply refuse to lift. Whatever. It is what it is)
While feeling the pain of losing out on Reverberate 2.0, I get an email from Waves about a sale they have in which they mention the "H-Reverb hybrid". I see they mention the word FIR, which is also mentioned with Reverberate 2.0, so I can't help but think that maybe this reverb uses a similar technique and could be a viable alternative (especially since it's on sale and since Waves do NOT use Paypal )
So I download the Waves-reverb and put it through the paces of my usual testing...
It's not a bad reverb by any stretch, but it uses a similar modulation technology as Reverberate 1.0.
When I feed it the A440 sine-wave, the Waves reverb keeps the sound modulated, but in a repetitive and cyclical way. They seem to have a semi-random (it sounds like 2 oscillators running side-by-side but slightly out of sync) type of modulation going on, but after a short while the repetitive pattern is fairly clear.
If it was a step-up from a normal static convolution reverb, this would be an improvement. But after having heard Reverberate 2.0, it was a step backwards.
The Waves reverb had 3 modulation-controls. An "AM", an "AM-rate", and an "FM" control.
I didn't read the manual, but the AM sounded like volume-changes, so I assume AM is amplitude-modulation.
What it did sound-wise was to raise and lower the volume of the sound, in different tempo on the left and right channel. It could be dialed in to sound fairly well, but the repetitive pattern couldn't be completely avoided. It didn't sound musically interesting to my ears. It's the kind of modulation you could set up before a normal static convolution reverb by simply automating the pan and fader buttons on the send-signal going into the reverb.
Of course the Waves reverb wouldn't require you to set up such automation, as it has the controls for this itself. So clearly convenient in that respect, but sound-wise not very impressive.
The FM sounded similar to a phaser effect. Like the AM it also seemed to modulate the left and right channel independently of each other and in a semi-randomly way, but also like the AM a repetitive cyclical pattern could be heard.
I wasn't able to make the Waves-reverb produce a non-repetitive sound in its modulation.
For some types of music this may not be a big deal, but if you have music with more slowly evolving patterns (chill-out and ambient styles, for example) I feel pretty sure the Waves-reverb would fall through and not sound too useful. In fact I think a clean static convolution reverb would sit better than the Waves-reverb in such types of music, because a static reverb wouldn't draw attention to its cyclical repetitive patterns (obviously since there aren't any in a static reverb )
Of course for such use you could dial out the modulation on the Waves-plugin, but then you'd have nothing more than a beefed up static convolution reverb (with included EQ and reverb-ducking (a very nice feature, by the way, the reverb-ducking)
When I ran the same test through the Reverberate 2.0, I never experienced the sound becoming repetitive or cyclical in its modulation (when using the new FIR reverbs)
Instead I got a continuous motion going that seemed to buzz gently around (much more subtle and sonically pleasing than I could dial in with the Waves-modulation. In fact the Waves-reverb's modulation was hard to keep calm and I never really managed to get it to do gentle subtle swirls to the sound. It was always too intrusive)
It's hard to describe the sound, but sonically Reverberate 2.0 does that special something to the sound that you would hear in a real room.
Over on Voxengo there was a debate a long time ago, about how church-organs sounded lush when recorded in a real church, versus how it sounded when played through a static convolution reverb. And in that debate things such as air-density and micro-flow was talked about. All very interesting stuff if you're into the science of reverberation (geeky stuff )
And Reverberate 2.0 is the first soft-reverb I have heard that manages to capture that elusive spirit. That strange motion that keeps playing with the sonic character of your audio in a real room and which sounds so amazingly delightful when done correct. No wonder architects get famed when they manage to draw and build a truly wonderful sound-stage. It really is something else to hear that special reverb sound of a 'perfect' room
Reverberate 2.0 is the closest I've personally been able to get to that sound with a soft-reverb.
And for that achievement LiquidSonics get a full 10 out of 10 from me.
It even has a nice GUI (something that doesn't always come in plugins with otherwise good sound), so from my point of view the superlatives I've used describing Reverberate 2.0 are all very well deserved (anything that can make even an A440 sine-wave sound nice... it's a winner! )