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PAR Picks 6: Software Reverbs

Our software editor shares a half-dozen of his favorite reverb plug-ins.

In the continuation of our “PAR Picks 6” series, we move on to the all-important category of reverberation software. Whether you use a little or a lot, reverb is one of the most critical production elements for adding depth, space and artistic interest to our productions. From synthesized plates, rooms and halls to impulse responses of production reverbs and real spaces, each of these six recommended plug-ins offers unique colors and characters.

Audio Ease Altiverb

1 Audio Ease Altiverb

Altiverb was the first convolution plug-in reverb to hit the market back in 2001 and was a massive breakthrough. [Convolution reverb is a digital simulation a physical or virtual space’s reverberation characteristics, based on a pre-recorded sample of the space’s impulse response. — Ed.] The ability to have real reverb samples on our desktop was huge, though it ate processors for breakfast. Altiverb — currently in v.6 with a v.7 coming soon — has one of the deepest impulse response libraries out there.

The ability to put your strings in Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw concert hall, drums in New York’s Clubhouse live room, guitar into a silverface Fender Super Reverb and then put your ambient vocal into France’s Chartres Cathedral still amazes me, all these years later. And it still wows clients to call up the images (including some QuickTime movies) of each space and show them why the reverb sounds so good.

Altiverb will run as a VST, RTAS, MAS, AudioSuite, AU and TDM (up to 5.1).

Prices: $595, $995 and $400 (Altiverb 6 Native; Altiverb 6 XL featuring TDM and surround sound support; and 6-to-6 XL upgrade, respectively)
Contact: Audio Ease |


2 AVID ReVibe

AVID’s ReVibe is an “acoustic environment modeling” reverb that has been a mainstay in my HD mixing rig for many years. With reverbs, it’s all about how it fits inside of your mix, and ReVibe simply works every time, plain and simple. It gets the job done with pristine clarity, “tweakability” and excellent presets.

As its capsule description suggests, ReVibe is a type of room modeler. It also includes a nice selection of Halls, Plates and Chambers as well as some neat oddities. For example, the preset called Gale Force Winds in the Wild Spaces folder sounds great on cymbal swells; it adds a unique element of atmospheric sound design. But usually, I’ll call up some nice reflective plates and put them on vocals and guitars, then tweak the sound by simply grabbing the control dots on the Decay Color and EQ graph. Then I’ll modify the settings in the Room Coloration Section, choose any of the nine types of reverb tail, 14 room types, give it some predelay and then move on.

Aside from running mono or stereo, I’ve also used it many times in 5.1 sessions, as there are separate controls for the front, center and rear reverbs. The only negative with ReVibe is that it’s for AVID HD/Accel systems only. I frequently wish I could use it on all my systems.

Price: $995 list (TDM only)
Contact: AVID |

McDSP Revolver

3 McDSP Revolver

Revolver is McDSP’s convolution reverb. It has great impulse responses and is crazy-easy to tweak. Some of my favorites are the Amp Spring (try that on a dub mix!), M5K Reverse and Rendered Fast Gate (so cool on percussion), Church Buiksloterkerk (vocals) and the DSP4500 ER (acoustic guitars).

You can quickly access buttons for Main, Equalizer, Delay 1, Delay 2, Tweak, Contour, XOver and Level, and then adjust those parameters using the sliders at the bottom of the plug-in. On the right is a display window for seeing the Impulse, Image, Plot, Flow and System settings. The Main page has some nice go-to settings such as predelay (up to 500ms), Wet/Dry, Attack and faders for LF and HF color, and their associated frequencies. When adjusting either the Equalizer or XOver section, the Plot tab will display your settings in the window — a nice touch.

With the Delay pages, you can actually set two different independent tempo mapped delays and pan each one to the opposite side for a really cool rhythmic effect. Then, on the Levels page, you can control how much of each effect you want to hear: Reverb, Delay 1 and Delay 2. Revolver is certainly a useful reverb for most any application.

It runs as RTAS and AU.

Price: $449 list (Native)
Contact: McDSP |

Sonnox Oxford Reverb

4 Sonnox Oxford Reverb

The Sonnox Oxford Reverb is another one that “just works.” The main reason I turn to it is because of its sonic flexibility, as you can go deep into the parameters of Early Reflections, EQ and Reverb Tails. For example, in the Early Reflections section alone, you can choose from four different shapes, as well as make adjustments of the front/back Position, Size, Width, Taper, Feed Along, Feedback and Absorption.

Another nice touch is the ability to crossfade the sound between the Early Reflections and the Tail. All settings can be viewed in the large Graphic Display area.

In the EQ section, you can toggle on/off any of the five bands (great for comparisons), and choose from Band Pass, Filter and Shelf selectors for the upper and lower bands. The Reverb Tail section offers sliders for Reverb Time, Overall Size, Dispersion, Phase Diff, Phase Mod, Absorption and Diversity. Do I tweak all these parameters? Well, no, but I do focus on the Tail Mix and Reverb Mix sections (usually with headphones on) when going deep in mix mode. I have found it to be a great snare reverb, as it can give not only the drum height and depth, I can “tune” it accordingly. The Oxford Reverb runs on TDM, RTAS, VST and AU.

Price: $575 and $235 (TDM/Native and Native only, respectively)
Contact: Sonnox |

Universal Audio Roland RE-201 Space Echo

5 Universal Audio Roland RE-201 Space Echo for UAD-1 and UAD-2

You gotta love this toy: the classic Roland Space Echo, modeled by Universal Audio. This is the only one in the bunch that is not a “general purpose” reverb, but a specific emulation. So, the reason it’s here, you ask? It just sounds so damn good.

Created in 1973, the original RE-201 was a spring reverb and tape echo; by adjusting the mode selector, you could select different head combinations for reverb, repeats, or a blend of both. Unlike the original, the RE-201’s software features extras such as tempo sync, a master Output volume, a tape select switch (New, Used, Old) and individual pans for Echo and Reverb.

The RE-201 sounds amazing on guitars; a favorite trick is to pan the Echo and Reverb to opposite sides while independently adjusting their volumes. It gives guitars a wide, lush feel that no other unit can deliver. Thank goodness for software, because the hardware units were often nightmares to keep tuned up and running.

Bummer that the RE-201 will only run via Universal Audio’s UAD-1 or UAD-2 DSP accelerator card systems. Come on UA: release the hounds and let us run it on every system, ‘cause this thing is cool. [There is the new UAD-1 Satellite for portability — Ed.]

Price: $249
Contact: Universal Audio |

Waves Renaissance Reverb

6 Waves Renaissance Reverb

This oldie but goodie has also been around for many years, but it still sounds nice with many applications. It offers 12 basic reverb types to start with in the pull-down menu, yet I like to just call up a preset and start tweaking.

You can quickly and easily adjust Reverb Damping, Time Response and Reverb EQ in the graphic section, then grab any of the relevant slider controls underneath for the usual suspects: pre-delay, size, time (up to 20 seconds), decay, etc.

I’ll often dial in some of my reverse gate presets (I know, how ‘80s!) and put them on percussion and shaker elements. Sometimes I’ll also take two mono versions panned opposite, set the reverbs to the same preset (especially the Dark Vocal Plate), then increase the predelay on one and radically change the EQ. I think of the Renaissance as a “no brainer” reverb; it may not be the best in the bunch, but it always works.

It supports TDM, RTAS, AU, VST and Audio Suite.

Price: $300 and $150 list (TDM and Native, respectively)
Contact: Waves |

Rich Tozzoli is a composer, engineer/mixer and the software editor for PAR.