Universal Audio Lexicon 480L Digital Reverb and Effects by Arthur Stone
The etymological root of the word 'reverb' is traced to the 14th-century French language 'reverberance' or 'to strike back' often referring to the reflection of light or heat.
The UAD Lexicon 480L reverb will add sonic light and heat to whatever to put into it.
The Lexicon Story: The Lexicon company started out in 1969 (in part, making heart monitors) and in 1986, released the 480L (which then cost the same as a luxury car or modest house). The 480L's “four-voice Twin delay” capability was certainly revolutionary at the time and still futuristic today in a retro sense. As well as the famous 480L sound (heard on countless hit and quality recordings) you also got state-of-the-art features: the LARC remote with motorized-faders; digital display; etc. and the UAD emulates the original interface too with a few useful updates.
A used 480L still costs around $4000 and the UA emulation, at $349 is around the same price as the hardware preset cartridge.
Like the original, UAD's 480L covers a range of duties beyond reverb: doubling; reverse; tremolo; chorus; and even, given the specific sound that the 480L emulation produces, as a tone-box or ambience-box (for colouring a sound unnoticeably without being heard). An invisible hint of the 80's.
Algorithms: Plate; Hall; Random; Ambience; and, Effects.
The algorithms are implemented as banks and programmes; in addition the UAD Lexicon 480L offers a vast range of presets created by industry legends, and the ability to add custom user presets.
Specs: Check the UA website for latest compatibility with your system. I recommend reading the comprehensive UAD plug-ins manual which is a well-presented and interesting guide to the 480L and it's development from the hardware unit to UAD plug-in. The manual covers all the various control parameters e.g. Spin, Random, Wander, Twin-delay times, Cross-over, Spread, Space, Diffusion.... Too much to cover in the review.
The UAD manual also has tips for use as written for the original Lexicon hardware.
The 480L is true stereo in and out, or mono-to stereo, or mono-to-mono.
Engaging the Aux Ouput switches to a different physical output model with 'subtle sonic differences.'
Price: £260 - $340 – Euro 290 approx. prices.
UAD: Universal Audio Digital have been producing high-quality plug-ins for around 15 years, and prior to that, as Universal Audio, high-quality hardware (and a lot more) for over 60 years.
UAD have always tied their plug-ins to hardware processing units: the advantages for user are the self-contained code ecosystem e.g. reliability and quality; the advantages for manufacturer are security (hardware dongle for software) and a stable system to develop.
The UAD Lexicon 480L reverb is the only emulation officially-endorsed by Lexicon, and the code is derived from the final v4.10 firmware of the original. In keeping with the authentic sound is an improved redesign of the famous LARC (Lexicon Alphanumeric Remote Control) desktop hardware controller; as is usual, UAD have skilfully blended the original control features with the benefits and control afforded by the latest software and computing power.
Reverb is deep. More than something to make music sound better. More than the soundstage and more than providing an illusion of a shared sense of space...a time and a place. Reverb is deep; so intrinsic to the human psyche that the holy sites of our caveman ancestors all echo'd with natural reverb. A mirror to the voice, from the unknown.
The natural geological reverb of the landscape was incorporated into the temples and forums, the private salons and the opera houses, theatres and concert halls. The reverb was always there. Waiting.
The type or character of a reverb can greatly affect the audiences perception of the associated music e.g. mono slap-back spring or lush modulating stereo super-verb. The reverb can date a recording (that gear or style is from mid-Sixties or early 00's) or a place (Sun Studios or The Powerplant or, er. The Hollywood Bowl). The reverb can mean different things to different people. It can evoke a memory and 'take us back there in time.' Even nostalgia.
In addition to making music sound good, reverb acts on a semantic level. It has content, a character of it's own.
The 480L encapsulates the above; it is a 'space age' device, in fact, an advanced emulation of a space-age device; driven by the human fascination with disembodied echo. Semantically, it 'means' the 1980's. It 'means' the sound of countless hits. The sound reflected by the 480L is a deep part of human culture.
This what UAD are offering with the Lexicon 480L (and other products); not just sound-better mojo, also something familiar to billions of ears. Something to make your music a contender – just by association.
In Use: I tested the UAD Lexicon 480L reverb via a Universal Audio Apollo x8p as interface and created a track with the 480L as reverb. As soon as I heard the Universal Audio 480L, an emulation of the hardware unit and officially-endorsed by Lexicon, I recognised the character.
Apart from hearing the 480L hardware on many of my favourite records (note reference to vinyl – the format of my youth in the 60' – 80's) my only real experience with the Lexicon sound is my MPX110 hardware multi-fx rack unit. I purchased this in the early 00's and still love using it today.
One of the studios I collab with have the Lexicon PCM90 alongside Bricasti, Eventide and IGS fx units, and the Lexicon had it's own sound and character that sat comfortably alongside them.
A recurring theme of my reviews is a focus on the 'company sound' of gear and IMO Lexicon is no exception: my humble MPX110 has the same flavour or recognisable character, if not the finesse, of the high-end units. It still whoops ass of many a plug-in even after 16 years of service.
I'd describe the sound as easy and beguiling, not 'natural-sounding' but natural to the ear.
The UA Lexicon 480L emulation sounds so 'right' – either as a real space (an ideal, beautiful or ugly, real space) or as a synthetic environment or as an environment that could exist but doesn't yet. Powerful stuff. Even bashing it doesn't really sound awful; it can even sound awesome. Eno-esque.
As way of a warning about the UAD 480L's power, my experience is that a little goes a long way and it's easy to overuse it. For example, I created a full song and added the 480L mid-way, when I should have started with the 480L; it has that much influence on a track that it should be considered an instrument (of ambient tone/timbre) in itself and it's position in the arrangement should be planned for. The 480L can eat string sections for breakfast.
I don't think it's the easiest reverb to use (hence nearly losing a score point); it's complex and the early machine-based interface logic seems 'clunky' nowadays. The 100 artist-created presets are great and some are inspiring or fun to use but I often couldn't find exactly what I was looking for. Whereas, for example, the UAD EchoPlex plug-in is intuitive and easy for me to understand and control, I didn't have familiar markers with the 480L and struggled to get exactly what I was after sonically.
In a way the 480L is a specialized sound that works on many things very well but not everything; often I preferred the UAD 224 plug-in as it suited the style/genre I was creating.
A positive outcome of the complexity of the parameters and controls is education; one can learn far more about reverb than with a plug-in with fewer controls or 'go-to' presets. Part of the mystique of the Lexicon sound is what happens in the swirling reverb tail and bloom and with the 480L you get deep-tweakability to make the most of what's available.
The Tail's End: The UAD Lexicon 480L reverb is an authentic aide to producing that 'famous sound' that has adorned a thousand space-age hit recordings. In addition to the retro hardware emulation I'm sure we'll see a new generation of creators (you) using the 480L in unorthodox and unique ways.
Some things are priceless, yet UAD - as custodians of the timeless reverb first heard by our ancestors in the caves and mountains – have made this available to everyone's studio for a modest outlay.
Sound Quality: 5/5 Authentic high-quality reverb. 'One trick pony' is a misleading description as this is a super-pony on steroids.
Ease of Use: 5/5 Without the presets this might lose a point but thankfully there's a lot to start off and develop your own patches with. Basically you're getting all the mojo of the hardware (itself digital) but without the hassle. Still, a very deep and complex system with many parameters and controls.
Features: 5/5 Mostly the same as the original hardware but with extras available not present on the original. The UAD plug-in manual is extensive and includes the relevant info to navigate the complex control system under-the-hood.
Bang-for-Buck: 5/5 The sound of the original, for a fraction of the price. At $349 you'll get great value if you're prepared to dig deep into the many control parameters.
Credits and references:
Images used courtesy of UAD.
Last edited by Arthur Stone; 4th June 2019 at 05:04 PM..