Eventide SP2016 Reverb Plug-in by Diogo C
What it is: First introduced in 1982, the SP2016 was the first programmable hardware effects unit ever made and also the one to introduce the idea of expansions through hardware chips that could be added to the original factory unit. These were “real world plug-ins” that could be installed inside the box in order to give it more effects options and thus expanding the available sonic palette, and could even be coded by users through a special software and reusable chips. It went on to become a studio staple that was widely used by the likes of Mick Guzauski, George Massenburg, Dave Pensado and other studio greats, making it into many worldwide famous songs from artists such as Talking Heads, Mariah Carey, Eminem and countless others. Fast-forward to 2018, and Eventide has revived this glorious box while also seizing the opportunity to update one of its earliest “virtual plug-ins”, the Stereo Room 2016, which now resides within the SP2016 Reverb plug-in along with two other classic reverb algorithms.
For more on the historical background of the SP2016 check out this great article, which despite being devoted to the H3000 also contains a good chunk of Eventide history, SP2016 included.
What can it do? The SP2016 plug-in presents three different reverbs types (room, stereo room and plate) modes with two modes (vintage and modern) for each one, leading to a total of six reverb algorithms. As a rule of thumb, “modern” algorithms presents the highest possible quality while the “vintage” algorithms have their bandwidth restricted and less overall resolution, giving them a lo-fi and more gritty aspect. The three reverb types are self-explanatory, but don’t get fooled by the labels as the “rooms” can easily be pushed into “halls” territory. All types share the same set of controls, including pre-delay, decay, diffusion, position (for determining the proportion for early and late reflections) and 2-band (low/high frequencies) equalisation. The exception to this rule is the vintage plate algorithm, which is limited to pre-delay and decay adjustments. The SP2016 also offers input/output level adjustments with metering, a “kill” switch that instantly mutes the reverb, and last but least there’s the mix control. Some may say that’s not a lot to play with, but all controls are meaningful and can lead to big changes, not to mention that flipping through the six algorithms brings entirely different reverberations.
Sound quality: As we come to expect from all that what comes out of those bright minds at Little Ferry, the SP2016 offers some exquisite reverb sounds. Unfortunately I can’t compare it to the original unit, and to be honest I reckon that very few of us have the luxury to do so, so I have to approach it on its own merits and the outcome is very positive regardless of the perennial “software vs hardware” comparisons. All six reverb algorithms have their strengths, but the vintage/modern stereo rooms were my favourites by far - they sound lush and spacious, with “modern” leaning a bit towards to the Lexicon units from the 1980s but slightly denser, less airy and not as flexible. Speaking of which, some degree if flexibility comes at the form at the other algorithms, room and plate, that along with their respective vintage/modern variations widens the range of uses for this plug-in. Although I didn’t love those two like I loved the halls (aka stereo rooms) they’re both interesting in their own right, and vintage plate was a surprisingly cool sound that I didn’t initially expect to get out of this unit. Nevertheless, vast flexibility isn’t something one should expect from such a niche-oriented processor, but the SP2016 does have some tricks up its sleeve and it’s not a one-trick pony (like the older 2016 Stereo Room) by any means.
Ease of use: It is hard to think of a reverb that is as effortless work with as this one, and that’s mostly due to the fact that there aren’t many things to tweak, so the real difficulty lies on determining whether or not the algorithms available will work for each particular situation, which is ultimately what reverb is all about. On the technical side, the CPU footprint is minuscule and it’s unlikely to hog a system or working project, so if my 4th generation Intel i7 can handle multiple instance then current machine won’t even notice it. Adding to the easy ride are amenities such as mix and levels lock when browsing the numerous included presets, I/O level metering, “compare” button for A/B settings checks, and a well-written user manual. Lastly, the SP2016 plug-in is available on all major formats for Mac or Windows.
Features: The SP2016 is not about providing the user with a bunch of features and extensive control over each reverberation aspect, which was something basically impossible to achieve when it was first developed in 1982 due to the limited computing resources that were available back then. With that in mind, it’s all about presenting the right features to support its core, which is first and foremost its magnificent sound, and it succeeds by following Eventide’s footprint for plug-in that has been established over the past few years, with a neat preset browser, the aforementioned mix and I/O locks, appropriate interface size and so forth. As it’s almost irresistible with this sort of plug-in, the feature set plays within the constraints of historical accuracy, and even though I’d certainly favor a H9-esque and more loose interpretation of the original box I can’t really complain when a plug-in is as effective in its simplicity like the SP2016 is.
Bang for buck: Once again Eventide honors its tradition of delivering high quality goods, but this time it comes at a relatively steep price of $249 if you don’t happen to own the old 2016 Stereo Room plug-in or the Anthology XI bundle, in which cases the price drops to $99 and obviously becomes much more enticing, basically pushing it into the no-brainer territory. Without such incentive it’s a harder decision to make given the abundance of affordable high quality reverb plug-ins that are out there, but ultimately the SP2016 algorithms are what many have been craving for many years, and now they’re packed on a much more friendlier format than an elusive vintage hardware unit that has become increasingly hard, if possible, to find - and when one is found it will probably cost much more than most with a sane mind could pay for.
Recommended for: producers and mixing engineers looking for quality digital reverb sounds straight from the eighties.
- Unique sounding reverbs from the pioneers of digital effects.
- Effortless to use and easy on the computer.
- Good preset selection, both in number and quality.
- A bit pricey if you don’t own the old 2016 Stereo Room plug-in or the Anthology XI bundle.