The convolution revolution has left a gap in the market for a high-quality reverb based on more traditional room-modelling techniques. IK's suite of plug-ins looks to fill the void.
Though there are some extremely good hardware and DSP-card assisted digital reverbs available to the project studio owner, there are relatively few really good host-powered reverb plug-ins other than those based on convolution. Convolution is a fantastic tool for recreating real room sounds or snapshots of hardware reverb patches, but it has limited editability and tends to use a lot more computing power than traditional synthetic reverbs. IK Multimedia set out to address this shortcoming by designing Classik Studio Reverb, which is a suite of four synthetic reverb plug-ins dedicated to Plate, Hall, Room and Inverse effects. This is a different approach from putting all the reverb models into a single plug-in, but it has the advantage of making the individual modules easier to use, as there are no redundant controls. Though the reverb isn't marketed as being based on any specific hardware device, IK Multimedia have clearly taken note of the classic reverb treatments we all know and love in designing their algorithms.
CSR is authorised by means of the included USB key, which is similar to those used by BIAS and Steinberg. Licences may be transferred between compatible keys where necessary. The plug-in suite is available for both Mac and Windows users and supports the RTAS, VST and AU plug-in formats. Mac users need to be running OS X, while Windows users need to be working with a version of Windows XP.
I've owned hardware reverbs that have around 100 editable parameters per patch, and as Lexicon did with some of their more advanced reverbs, CSR has been designed for ease of use by giving the user a fairly simple interface augmented by the option of more advanced editing features 'under the hood'. These remain hidden in Easy mode but are available to those who wish to explore further in Advanced mode. By entering Advanced mode, you can indeed twiddle 100 parameters including a very flexible modulation matrix, LFO section and configurable Macro controls. The modulation section is useful in emulating those hardware reverb patches that include some element of parameter modulation within the algorithm to smooth out the reverb sound and create a sense of movement. However, if you just need a classy-sounding reverb with the ability to edit the essentials, such as decay time, brightness and so on, you can stick with Easy mode and still get great results.
As we now seem to take for granted in the plug-in world, CSR offers full on-screen editing control and, where the host supports it, control automation. The reverb types offered attempt to cover pretty much all bases from small rooms and ambiences, via plates, to large halls and chambers. Additionally, the Inverse module can serve up all the classic gated and reverse treatments. Whether you're doing rock, pop, folk or classical music, there's a reverb designed to fit the situation.
Each of the four algorithm types opens with a similar user interface but all are coloured differently for identification. The main controls are located towards the centre of the front panel, with the Macro sliders off to the right. The idea behind these is that you can arrange for up to eight parameters to be changed simultaneously using one slider so, for example, you could easily set up a reverb that gets brighter as it gets shorter. You could also create your own 'distance' control where one slider would increase pre-delay, darken the reverb tail and increase the diffusion.
At the bottom of the panel are dedicated buttons to switch between Easy and Advanced modes. Once Advanced mode has been activated, you see more buttons that provide access to extra pages dedicated to specific areas of the effects, such as reverb, echo, colour, reflections, modulation and macros. There's also an A/B compare function so that you can quickly switch back and forth between a stored effect and your new edits to that effect. All the parameters show up as pseudo-LED numeric displays above the controls, and there's a good selection of factory presets to get you started. I'm not a fan of presets for things like compressors and equalisers, but presets are really very useful in a reverb plug-in, and are easy to fine-tune to your own needs in this case.
The modulation matrix is a bit more advanced; in essence, up to eight modulation sources can modulate up to eight destinations, allowing the character of the reverb to be shaped by LFOs or by an envelope. In addition to allowing the user to set up audibly swirly reverbs or ones that get shorter or darker in response to a modulation source, the two envelope generators enable the shape or tonal character of the reverb decay to be modified in a number of creative ways, though they only provide attack and release controls, and there's no graphical envelope display.
I was very impressed with these reverbs, not just because they sound convincing, but more importantly, because they also integrate well with the dry sound they are treating. The Plate algorithm gives away its synthetic nature if you extend the decay too far, as the reverb tail takes on a slightly cyclic tonality, but used at sensible decay times it sounds absolutely fine with just the right amount of metallic coloration. Perhaps the most impressive module is the one dedicated to Room reverbs, as this has the ability to create some very realistic, short-decay ambiences that work well on drums, acoustic guitars and so on. The Inverse section offers nothing radically new, though it also includes a reverse tape effect, but it covers all the normal requirements with plenty of adjustment range.
Operationally, the Easy mode is extremely straightforward, yet the Advanced mode isn't at all scary once you know what the extra parameters actually do. Even setting up macros and modulation is a piece of cake. I think it was unnecessary to lock pre-delay away with the Advanced features, but other than that, the designers have got the balance about right. I also noticed that very little processor overhead is taken up in comparison with my convolution reverbs, so using two or three instances of CSR will add negligible load to a modern system.
In terms of sound and features, the most obvious competition to CSR comes from DSP-assisted reverbs such as TC's Classicverb Powercore plug-in and Digidesign's Revibe for HD Accel systems. In the native universe, Pro Tools users could consider Sony's Oxford Reverb (reviewed in SOS March 2005); Waves' Trueverb is another option, though it's now rather long in the tooth, while Wizoo's W2 (reviewed in February this year) combines algorithmic and convolution reverbs in one plug-in. Some sequencers also come bundled with good-quality algorithmic reverbs, such as the Lexicon Pantheon plug-in supplied with Sonar Producer.
- Dense, convincing sound.
- Easy and advanced editing modes.
- Macros and modulation matrix add to the flexibility.
- Low CPU overhead.
- Perhaps more graphical elements could have been used to help inexperienced users visualise the changes their edits make.
Like most IK Multimedia products, CSR takes a workmanlike approach with no unnecessary glamour or frills, but it gets the job done with style. It's also light on your CPU.
£229 including VAT.
IK Multimedia UK +44 (0)1223 234414.
+44 (0)7005 968006.