Like other Baby Audio plug‑ins, Crystalline combines great sound with a refreshing GUI.
In essence, what Baby Audio have done is to develop the reverb generator from Spaced Out into a dedicated plug‑in. It retains the same future‑retro styling, which to my mind bears a passing resemblance to Teenage Engineering’s OP‑1 desktop synth, and adds a neat animated 3D waterfall display. Simple square control blocks can package multiple parameters, and like Spaced Out, Crystalline presents an intuitive range of parameters that aren’t always what you’d expect from old‑school reverbs. So, for example, there’s no distinction between early reflections and tail, and nor do you get to choose between different algorithms approximating rooms, halls, plates and so on. A handful of familiar controls such as Damping, Modulation depth, Width and Size are joined by some much less familiar ones, including Sparkle, Shimmer, Resolution, Smoothing and Transients.
The pre‑delay and length of the reverb are controlled by sliders labelled Start and End, and interestingly, both can be sync’ed to host tempo. This, along with the very effective gate, opens up interesting possibilities on percussive sources, with some patches sounding almost like discrete echoes. Set the End time to zero, and you can have lots of fun exploring alien bathrooms and creepy corridors, while if reverb as a form of sound design is your thing, the Reverse and Freeze options are also your friends.
However, that’s not to say that Crystalline can’t also shine in normal applications, and the preset library includes some highly effective rooms, halls, ambiences and quasi‑plates. Baby Audio seem to have put a lot of thought into how this reverb might be used on vocals and other lead instruments, hence the inclusion not only of the ducker from Spaced Out, but of the Transients control. As far as I can tell, this is a transient shaper placed in the input path, allowing you to adjust the relative balance of transient and sustain elements in the signal being fed to the reverb. It can certainly help to minimise that distracting effect whereby loud consonants in a vocal trigger unwanted bursts of reverberation.
Baby Audio seem to have put a lot of thought into how this reverb might be used on vocals and other lead instruments.
What’s perhaps most impressive about Crystalline is the sparseness of its design. It’s probably as versatile sonically as almost any other reverb plug‑in I can think of, yet it presents an incredibly clean and simple user interface. The 12 square control blocks in the Reflections, Depth, Shape and Clean‑up sections of the interface each do something readily apparent and different to the sound, so you’re never in the position of wondering whether a control is actually doing something, or scratching your head about what to adjust in order to hear the change you want. Whatever you want to do can be done intuitively, with a few simple click‑and‑drag motions.
Like Baby Audio’s other plug‑ins, Crystalline is also very much oriented towards music production and, in particular, towards contemporary tastes in pop mixing and production. It wouldn’t be an obvious choice if you wanted to add a touch of authentic hall reverb to an over‑dry classical recording, or make studio dialogue sound as though it was recorded in a restaurant. However, if you want a vocal reverb that’s super‑bright but still sits nicely in the mix, or an unconventional synth treatment, or even something to enhance kick drums and bass guitars, you’ll find plenty on offer here. And, just as importantly, Crystalline’s sleek user interface means you’ll be able to get the results you want quickly.
A well thought‑out, good‑sounding and refreshingly different reverb plug‑in designed with modern production trends in mind.