that unique plate reverb sound

Unlike digital reverberation, the plate reverb is one of the true analog attempts in recreating convincing reverberation build right into a studio device. It is basically an electro-mechanical device containing a plate of steel, transducers and a contact microphone to pickup the induced vibrations from that plate.

The sound is basically determined by the physical properties of the plate and its mechanical damping. Its not about reflecting waves from the plates surface but about the propagation of waves within the plate. While the plate itself has a fixed, regular shaped size and can be seen as a flat (two dimensional) room itself it actually does not produce early reflection patterns as we are used to from real rooms with solid walls. In fact there are no such reflections distinguishable by human hearing. On the other hand there appears to be a rather instant onset and the reverb build-up has a very high modal density already.

Also reverb diffusion appears to be quite unique within the plate. The wave propagation through metal performs different compared to air (e.g. speed/frequency wise) and also the plate itself – being a rather regular shape with a uniform surface and material – defines the sound. This typically results in a very uniform reverb tail although the higher frequencies tend to resonate a little bit more. Also due to the physics and the damping of the plate, we usually do not see hear very long decay times.

All in all, the fast and consistent reverb build up combined with its distinct tonality defines that specific plate reverb sound and explains why it is still so much beloved even after decades. The lack of early reflections can be easily compensated for just by adding some upfront delay lines to improve stereo localization if a mix demands it. The other way around, the plate reverb makes a perfect companion for all kinds of delay effects.

everything just fades into noise at the end

When I faced artificial reverberation algorithms to the very first time I just thought why not just dissolve the audio into noise over time to generate the reverb tail but it turned out to be not that easy, at least when just having the DSP knowledge and tools of that time. Today, digital reverb generation has come a long way and the research and toolsets available are quite impressive and diverse.

While the classic feedback delay network approaches got way more refined by improved diffusion generation, todays computational power increase can smooth things out further just by brute force as well. Still some HW vendors are going this route. Sampling impulse responses from real spaces also evolved over time and some DSP convolution drawbacks like latency management has been successfully addressed and can be handled more easily given todays CPUs.

Also, convolution is still the ticket whenever modeling a specific analog device (e.g. a plate or spring reverb) appears to be difficult, as long as the modeled part of the system is linear time invariant. To achieve even more accurate results there is still no way around physical modeling but this usually requires a very sophisticated modeling effort. As in practise everything appears to be a tradeoff its not that much unusual to just combine different approaches, e.g. a reverb onset gets sampled/convoluted but the reverb tail gets computed conventionally or – the other way around – early reflections are modeled but the tail just resolves into convoluted noise.

So, as we’ve learned now that everything just fades into noise at the end it comes to no surprise that the almost 15 years old epicVerb plugin becomes legacy now. However, it remains available to download for some (additional reverb) time. Go grab your copy as long as its not competely decayed, you’ll find it in the downloads legacy section here. There won’t be a MkII version but something new is already in the making and probably see the light of day in the not so far future. Stay tuned.

the twisted world of guitar pedals II

Meanwhile I had the opportunity to put my hands on some Fairfield Circuitry effect pedal stuff mentioned earlier here and the “Meet Maude” analog BBD delay was right here on my desk for a deeper inspection. My actual experience was a rather mixed one.

Focusing on a rather dark and LoFi sound quality on the one hand plus a rather simplistic feature set concept wise on the other, they do not appear to be very flexible in practise and this at a rather steep price point. They appear to be very noisy featuring all kinds of artifacts even when integrated to the mixing desk via reamping. One may call this the feature itself but at the end it makes it a one-trick pony. If you need exactly that, here you have it but you get nothing beyond that. To me this trade off was too big and so I send it back.

However, I found their nifty low pass gate implementation (very prominently featured within their “Shallow Water”) that much unique and interesting that I replicated it as a low pass filter alternative in software and to have it available e.g. for filtering delay lines in my productions. The “Shallow Water” box made me almost pull the trigger but all in all I think this stuff seems to be a little bit over-hyped thanks to the interwebs. This pretty much sums it up for now, end of this affair.

Timeline & BigSky – The new dust collectors?

Going into the exact opposite direction might be a funny idea and so I grabbed some Strymon stuff which aims to be the jack of all trades at least regarding digital delay and reverb in a tiny stomp box aka desktop package. To be continued …

Further readings about BBD delays:

utilizing early reflections in a production

A quite often underestimated or even forgotten production technique is to take advantage of artificial early reflections which could be added somewhere during the mixing process. Without inserting any fully fledged reverberation at all, applying such techniques allows to dramatically increase stereo width and depth perception as well as a way better instrument localization even in a busy mix. Creating density is not the goal here but the opposite is the name of the game: achieving a clear and intelligible mix.

In a simple case, one can place a short and plain delay (a slap-back echo) on a track and properly place it in the stereo field – maybe on the opposite side of the source but that’s just an example. More sophisticated tap delays could be used to create a sort of room experience and some reverberators are allowing to disable the late reverb diffusion and just to use their early reflection generation. There are no restrictions in general – allowed is what gets the job done in that specific mixing situation.

the Lexicon 224 reverb sound

As one of the first digital reverbs ever, the Lexicon 224 indeed is a classic device and even today, the Lexicon 224 reverb has its place in quite a lot of studios and productions. Whenever it comes down to that larger-than-life sound or that certain graininess, which cuts through a busy mix that easily, the 224 delivers. Of course, it can’t compete with todays smooth and silky reverb algorithms at all but instead and with its typical movement and animation, the 224 reverb tail offers tons of charm and character. [Read more…]

the many shapes of delay


About the different applications of audio delay effects.

There are quite a number of different types and applications for the audio delay effect in the audio production ranging from plain technical delay application up to all the musical and creative ranges of application. The rather technical or correctional delay typically is a plain digital delay which serves as a sample accurate alignment tool. Such alignments might be necessary for example for plug-in delay compensation (when a plug-in introduces latency) or during the mixing process to align a group of recorded tracks or samples. The so-called pre-delay can also be seen as an alignment sort of thing where the direct source signal has to be aligned in a positive or negative manner in relation to a processed signal, e.g. in a reverb effect. [Read more…]

reverb and delay, retro style


the Dynacord VRS-23 analog delay

(click images to enlarge)

The VRS-23 was a quite successful BBD delay in the 80’s and some thousands of units were sold during that time. It’s a mono-in / stereo-out device and capable of delay times up to around 400ms. Providing also very short timings and a modulation option makes it capable of creating chorus and flanger type of effects as well. There were different revisions available and shown here is a later one with the white faceplate. [Read more…]

some great freebie tips

Urs' Tyrell Nexus6

Quite recently u-he released his awesome “Tyrell” software synthesizer as a freeware for the german online magazine If you are seriously into synth based music production then this is a must try for sure. It does not feature any fancy fx section but just raw synth waveform combination and modulation which are executed brilliantly. Soundwise this offers true analog qualities which includes both, punch and balls as well as some mojo which you rarely find in digital synths as of today. [Read more…]

NastyDLA – some tape delay fun

To make up a complete and sustaining sequence out of  some melodic pattern is a standard task for the electronic musician. The good old tape delay is his best friend then, providing not only consistent and sustainable echos which are glueing nicely with the original signal but also offering some realtime modulation possibilities as well, to animate some maybe rather static sources.

In this short demo a static pattern is used and NastyDLA is going to be in charge as a tape delay replacement. The chorus is not used in this example but the plug-ins coloring possibilities are shown to some extend: After some bars the timbre of the delay feedback loop changes to a higher pitch and then to a lower one (and vice versa) while simultaneously the feedback amounts are going to change. To the end when the pattern stops, the “tape speed” is slowed down first and accelerated back again afterwards to demonstrate its artifact-free modulation capabilities.

Note how smooth the saturation behaves when driven into self oscillation w/o the usual amount of aliasing artifacts. The delay line generation in this example is set to “dual mono” mode (with 8th to the left and dotted 8th to the right) and the time modulations can be done separate per channel. All animations were done in realtime with host automation and in general all plug-in parameters can be automated in the host.