TC Electronic Reverb 4000

Take it out of the box, plug it in, and the first thing you'll see is a screen that's large enough to read from across the room.
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I'm going to start this review by telling you that TC Electronic was kind enough to let me have this unit for eight months. During that time, I've taken the Reverb4000 ($2,995) with me on a variety of projects, to a variety of studios. More than once, the studio owners (large to small), after hearing the R4000, went out and bought one in a matter of days. That tells you the unique qualities of this reverb.

Product PointsApplications:

Studio, live sound

Key Features:

Two-channel; 24-bit A/D-D/A; up to 96 kHz sample rate; USB port; Windows, Mac software

Price:

$2,995

Contact:

TC Electronic at 818-665-4900,
http://www.tclectronic.com/.

Before getting into the technical side of the unit, know that I grew up with EMT plate reverbs, live reverb chambers, and the EMT 250, the "R2D2-looking" three-foot high digital reverb that defined digital reverbs. TC Electronic has brought back those classic, genuine and full sounds, while making the device extremely user-friendly. Actually, most people who tried this unit with me, started early in their careers with the EMT 140 plate reverb, or the digital EMT 250, and then stayed on these settings for the entire session.

Features

Take it out of the box, plug it in, and the first thing you'll see is a screen that's large enough to read from across the room. No squinting to see which program you're on. The important information is in large and bold print. Next, on the far right there's an input /output switch (I/O). Hit it once. This allows you to decide on analogue (balanced XLR), or digital inputs (digital inputs are AES/EBU, S/PDIF and ADAT optical), 44.1 kHz - 96 kHz, 24-bit sample rate (if digital). Then choose which input connector (left or right), or both inputs you'd like to use, etc. Hit it again, and you're back to looking for the effect you'd like to use. Step one took me 15 seconds.

Next, two buttons (one 'up arrow,' one 'down') allow you to search through the four basic groups of "Halls, Rooms, Plates, EFX," with a fifth group allocated for personal settings. A nice feature is that each of these basic groups (and their presets) are sequentially numbered, with the "Halls" starting in band 001, "Rooms" starting in 100, "Plates" in 200, etc. Find your program, then select the individual "type" you want in that particular group, i.e., Rooms (large, small, etc.), and you're there.

The three large knobs on the unit control what you most often need to adjust. And quickly. Predelay, reverb decay time, and high-frequency roll off. That's it. (However, if you'd like, to the left of the main knobs are two buttons that get you to additional pages, allowing you to modify the basic settings even more.)

Additionally, there are PC and Mac versions of the Editor Icon controller, allowing the user to control parameters, remote control the unit, and monitor operation of up to eight R4000s.

There is one small, and I mean small, suggestion I have: When switching presets, the effect that you're using mutes for 2-3 seconds.

In Use

As mentioned above, this puppy recreates the original EMT 140 plate (even though each 140 had its own character), and the EMT 250 digital reverb, along with other classic reverb sounds, in an amazing fashion. That is only the tip of this iceberg. Add how it incorporates some of TC's best reverbs from their System 6000 (used by top film mixers), and the M5000. Top that off with its superb emulation of natural environments (halls, rooms, clubs, etc.), and you're looking at a superb addition to any studio. You can have the vintage and classic reverbs, in addition to the more pristine and glassy sounds.

If you are a computer-based studio, even the best plug-in reverbs leave something to be desired. Some have a grainy decay, some sound forced, some an "unnatural" sound that doesn't really epitomize and support the original source. Not so here. Reverb decays that are smooth, without being artificial. Initial reflections of the source that are not harsh, especially in the smaller halls and rooms. These programs actually place the listener very naturally in the selected environment.

I had the unit at Mad Dog Studios in Burbank, Cal., home of many Dwight Yoakam recordings. Owner and producer Dusty Wake tried the unit for a couple days. I paraphrase from Dusty's comments: "Tim recommended the EMT 250 plate program (#201), which I immediately used and had a hard time getting past to try any other programs. Eventually, I found my way to the EMT 140 short plate (#216), the snare plate (#239) and the amazing cheap spring (#304), which sounds great on a twangy baritone guitar."

Summary

If you are doing enough mixing with a console, analog or digitally, in your studio to afford a quality external reverb, this is the one. If you are computer-based without a console, instead of another reverb plug-in that either doesn't quite make it sonically, uses up a ton of processor power, or taxes the computer's farm card, try this unit. Rent it, steal it, buy it, etc. Set it to the EMT 250 or 140 setting. Then go from there. You'll understand.