Relab VSR S24 by Funkybot
- Product: VSR-S24
- Developer: Relab
- Formats: AU, VST, AAX (Mac/PC)
- Price: $229 (subscription option available)
- DRM: iLok (machine or dongle, 2 Authorizations per license)
In the early 2000’s, the state of VST reverbs was pretty bleak, whereas today we’re probably a bit spoiled for options. Most reverbs back then were variations of the Freeverb algorithm. My first good reverb was the Princeton Digital Stereo Room 2016, and my second was IK Multimedia’s CSR, which I found out years later was developed by Martin Lind. It’s been something 12 years since CSR was released, but it’s still a capable product and one that gets occasional use even though I have a lot of other options available. Martin Lind is one of a few names that I just associate with reverb (others include Michael Carnes, Tony Agnello, and Sean Costello).
So it was no surprise that his current company, Relab, hit the scene with a vengeance upon the release of their LX480, which has been described as a bit-for-bit clone of the classic Lexicon 480L reverb, probably the most revered digital reverb. Their new plugin, the VSR-S24, is a recreation of another holy grail reverb, this time a stereo version of the TC Electronic VSS6.1. A TC Electronic System 6000 costs more than my car, so I have no experience with the original, but that makes the prospect of VSR-S24 all the more appealing.
Interface & Features
First up, installation was a breeze, and protection is handled via iLok (either the machine-based authorization or dongle). As of the latest update (1.03), Relab includes two authorizations, so if you’ve got two dongles or want to tie it to two machines, you can do so without having to pay twice. They’re not the only developers who do this, but I love it when developers offer this option and wanted to call it out in the hopes that others will do the same.
As to the plugin itself, VSR-S24’s interface is broken out into 6 tabs on the left. You’ve got a Main page, which covers common controls like for the Early Reflection and Reverb along with your level controls. Rather than a simple wet/dry knob, VSR-S24 opts for a Dry level control, along with independent level controls for the Early Reflections and Reverb respectively. Each level control has a lock with three modes: 1), 2) lock the level (only), 3) lock level+main reverb parameters. These modes were clearly well thought out and the third mode is particularly helpful in that you can do things like browse presets, while having the decay time and reverb level locked.
The Early tab covers your Early Reflection (ER) section. You’ve got 10 different ER models to chose from (3 have an extra variation, so technically 13) with additional controls for the lo/hi color, and start/end points of the ERs. You’ve also got a Position control that’s not found on the original that aims to place sounds in front or behind you, and an ER Decrease knob that almost softens the ER’s as you increase it.
The Reverb window covers your tail, with typical controls like Reverb Time (decay), Diffusion, Size, and Pre-Delay. Beyond those, you’ve got a Color section which allows you to set your Lo Freq crossover and Dampening, along with Hi-Cut and a great Hi Softening control that can soften up high frequencies with negative values, or get things bright and up close with higher settings. You’ve also got 4 Decay Multipliers, which really help you shape those tails in a detailed way.
The Mod window covers modulation, with another 10 modes to choose from, and the expected controls for Depth and Rate. The Advanced window is perhaps the most unique in that you’ve essentially got 4 different tail engines (L>L, L>R, R>L, R>R) which can each run one of 5 different reverb types. This manual explains that this makes sure the tails remain de-correlated (since you’re essentially running multiple tail engines) and helps keeps things transparent. There are Decay Multipliers and Level controls for each engine. If this section sounds too complex for you, don’t worry, the default settings sound great.
The last window is called Setup and covers some UI controls, allowing you to change the colors, reduce the background glare, and more. Note: the UI is not scalable, which would have been nice.
Presets are found on the main page, but other than a set of simple previous/next buttons, there’s no proper preset browser as of version 1.03. Relab has stated a preset browser is in the works, but there’s probably somewhere in the neighborhood of 300 presets included in this and finding what you’re looking for either involves a lot of hunting or relying on your operating system’s file system to locate what you want.
Let me just cut to the chase and say that VSR-S24 sounds incredible. It’s capable of just stunning rooms, chambers, churches, and halls in particular, and it’s startlingly lifelike.
In practical use, it’s very different from the typical Lexi-style verbs I’m more accustomed to. What do I mean by that? I put it in a bus, soloed the bus, and tweaked the reverb until I got a sound I was happy with. I turned the solo off and the reverb completely disappeared. There was a healthy amount of level showing up in my DAW meters, but I couldn’t hear the verb at all. Until I muted the bus. As soon as I did, the depth was gone. VSR-S24 is capable of adding a transparent depth to sounds that I’m just not used to from my other reverbs. Compared to a verb like Nimbus, which I consider excellent and transparent, VSR-S24 is capable of sounding more subtle and realistic.
Using VSR-S24 on pianos is just a joy. Need to put drums in a room verb? This will be first choice. Percussion, acoustic guitars, vocals, there wasn’t a source that it didn’t sound great on. Now, that doesn’t mean it will be the only choice. There were times where I preferred my other options in the mix for creative purposes. For instance, the plates on VSR-S24 sound very good, but don’t have that classic EMT-140 type sound that I can easily pull out of Valhalla Plate, nor do they sound quite like the modulated digital plates that I can squeeze out of the EMT-250 or something like Valhalla Vintage Verb. Sometimes you just want that sound.
If I want a verb I really want to hear because I’m going for a specific vibe, VSR-S24 may not be my first choice. However, if I want to make a recording sound like it was made in a much better sounding room, I’d reach for VSR-S24 first. It’s the most hi-fi verb I’ve ever heard and is stunning in that regard. That said, sometimes the mix will call for something with more character. And don’t get me wrong, there are some stunningly modulated shimmer-type presets here, so it’s not just a one-trick pony.
VSR-S24 is an absolute winner. If you’re looking for incredibly lifelike and gorgeous sounding room and halls, this should be at the top of your list. With VSR-S24, Relab has cemented itself in my mind as the Aston Martin of reverb developers. This is an absolutely high-end piece of kit and has an incredibly refined sound. The price is on the higher end of the spectrum, but it’s worth every penny and more. Regardless of what other reverbs you may already own, I suggest everyone rush out and demo this one!
- Absolutely incredible sound
- Well laid-out UI
- Desperately needs a preset browser (Relab have indicated this is already in the works)
- Scalable UI would be nice
Sound Quality - 5/5: Unimpeachable sound.
Ease of Use - 5/5: The magic bands make EQ’ing a breeze, and everything else is what you’d expect from a parametric linear phase EQ.
Features - 5/5: Includes all the features of the original (and more) in a nicer UI. Not knocking off points for a preset browser as one is currently in the works, but the lack of one is definitely the one big sore point with the current version (v. 1.03 as of this writing).
Bang for Buck - 5/5: While VSR-S24’s pricing is on the higher end of the plugin spectrum, TC System 6000 hardware would cost me more than my car.