UVI Sparkverb by Diogo C
- Plugin: Sparkverb
- Developer: UVI Software
- Formats: VST, AU, AAX (Win/Mac - 32/64)
- DRM: iLok (USB or Computer - three concurrent devices can be authorized)
- Price: 199 USD
Sparkverb is UVI’s entry into the competitive native reverb market. With a clean design and a very straight-forward approach to algorithmic reverb, Sparkverb is a plugin that privileges workflow without compromising the sound quality. First appearing as a module in MOTU’s MachFive 3 Sampler (which is coded by UVI), Sparkverb now arrives as a standalone plugin with the same highly flexible polymorphic algorithm capable of delivering very distinct reverb sounds.
Instead of relying on different algorithms - or even separate plugins like Lexicon - for different reverb types, the Sparkverb uses a polymorphic engine that can create a vast array of different spaces. From the very big and long and modulated ethereal hall to a short and almost dead room, the Sparkverb delivers quite well. I personally found that it really shines on shorter reverbs and this is a reverb that runs well when inserted directly into a channel with just a small amount of wet signal mixed in, besides the usual full-wet aux send scheme. It also does plates very well, as it can be heard on the “EMTribute” preset that pays homage to the iconic hardware manufacturer. Sparkverb can be shaped both into prominent and larger-than-life spaces and subtle, invisible reverbs, and it’s really a versatile piece but that also shows some personality and a quite distinctive sound character.
Sparkverb is surprisingly simple and at first glance you’ll find a plugin that’s very economical, with a restricted set of controls and a big knob for the arguably most decisive reverb parameter: decay time. Other knobs will control reverb size, shape, width, high frequency rolloff, controls for high and low frequency decay and their respective crossover filters, and simple sections with two knobs each for modulation and diffusion. Diffusion can be set to low, medium and high and there’s a light/dark option under the modulation section that controls the overall tonality of the reverb. The knobs are all very sensitive and they feel like a big macro of under-the-hood functions, so the user has to remind himself that “a little goes a long way” when working with this processor. Even though small changes in the knobs can drastically alter the sound, operating and tweaking the Sparkverb is easy due to it’s straightforward design, and to make it even easier you can grab the decay time graph to tweak the timings and frequency regions if you’re not into knob-twisting. There’s also a text strip at the bottom of the plugin that explains its functions as you hover the mouse over them. Sparkverb also offers two interface sizes and brings us a very interesting preset management system that is very close to what Arturia does, with a colors and dots on a map that the user can click to select presets and also click and drag points to generate new sounds in between those preset coordinates. Wrapping it up there are the random and mutate buttons for when all your ideas are gone. Random does what it says, but mutate just slightly changes the settings you have, allowing for some subtle variations of a given setting or preset. There is a lock function for each parameter, so that allows you to preserve some desired settings while mutating and randomizing, keeping things under control.
One small issue with the Sparkverb’s workflow is the lack of input/output controls, so you’ll have to compensate that accordingly - likely cranking up the output since its reverbs tails might fade a bit faster than usual. In fact, when doing big spaces I had to dial longer decays than usual. The “freeze” button can do some interesting tricks and turning it on and off doesn’t cause any clicks, so you can mess with that without any worries. Some contemporary touches like a drive (or some sort of distortion) and a more featured equalizer (there’s only the HF rolloff) would also add to its sonic palette. Nonetheless, this plugin is flexible enough to fit in a variety of sounds and the elegant design makes it easy to achieve very rewarding results, nonetheless an “expert” mode would be a nice addition or at least some “modes” for the core reverb sounds such as plate, hall, chamber and room. On the other hand, the presets do a good job in order to give you those basic sounds and can get you acquainted with Sparkverb’s idiosyncrasies.
Performance, documentation and support
UVI’s slick approach wouldn’t be any good if it wasn’t delivered with a hefty dose of computing performance. Fortunately the Sparkverb goes very well on both performance and stability, and you can easily run a bunch of instances on any modern computer with rock-solid stability. My aging Intel i5-2500k managed to run a bunch (more than 10) of instances with high sampling rates on busy mixes, and the Sparkverb was definitely not causing trouble as I headed into the deep waters of processing. It’s really very well optimized and also very stable.
The provided documentation (a 21 pages PDF file) covers the operations with the plugin and basic guidance on how to set it up on most popular DAWs, and there’s also a nice introductory video with a 10 minute long walkthrough of the plugin. There has been one patch so far, and UVI has a good history of updates and provides a responsive (and fast) support service.
Ever since Sean Costello and his amazing and very affordable Valhalla DSP reverbs came into contention, the native reverb plugin market has never been quite the same. Lexicon has also slashed their prices and Eventide has recently kicked back its plugin production with a new (and less expensive) approach, so getting a “big brand” sound is affordable these days. Names such as Exponential Audio (created by former Lexicon designer Michael Carnes) and 2CAudio are also worth mentioning, so we have a very well-populated reverb scene which is ultimately great for us!
In that regard, Sparkverb faces a fierce competition. At 199 USD Sparkverb doesn’t come as cheap as some of the offerings out there, but it sets itself apart by establishing itself as a high quality reverb processor and perhaps one of the most friendly to use. If you just had enough of tweaking and want to work with a simple yet effective tool, this is it. However, if you’re way too passionate about reverb parameters, Sparkverb might not be your cup of tea. If all care about is sound, then be sure to give it a try.
- Great sound and very flexible
- Extremely easy to use
- Very well optimized
- The preset system is actually very useful!
- No control over input/output levels
- Some might feel like it lacks a little depth
- Not as affordable as some of the competition