SoundToys’ new reverb might be little, but it has a big sound...
Experience shows that when SoundToys announce a new plug-in, it’s always worth paying attention — especially when, as is the case with all of their ‘Little’ effects, it’s initially made available for free. The latest miniature wonder to leave Vermont is Little Plate, and represents something of a departure for the company. Although other SoundToys plug-ins such as EchoBoy and Primal Tap can be made to produce vaguely reverb-like noises with a bit of prodding, Little Plate is the first dedicated reverberator in their range.
Little Plate is available in all the major native platforms on Mac OS and Windows, but like the other Little plug-ins, doesn’t show up as a module in SoundToys’ Effect Rack hosting plug-in. As the name suggests, it is not intended to be the be-all and end-all of artificial reverb plug-ins. Nor, at the other extreme, is it one of those emulations of a hardware original that is accurate down to the last capacitor. Instead, it’s perhaps better understood as an attempt to distil all the things that people like about plate reverb into a plug-in that’s as simple as possible to use, while actually going beyond the original in some ways.
The classic plate design was, is and remains the EMT 140, and it’s this much-loved studio workhorse that SoundToys have taken as their inspiration. However, there were several different variants of the 140 — mono and stereo, valve and solid-state — and not only could the user manipulate the decay time through an adjustable damping system, but the quality of the sound was very dependent on how the plate was set up and tensioned. SoundToys apparently auditioned a number of different 140s during the making of Little Plate, and rather than giving the user extensive control over the timbre or coloration of the resulting reverb, they’ve just gone with what they thought sounded best.
As a result, Little Plate has only three user controls. The two smaller ones are a self-explanatory wet/dry Mix balance and an adjustable Low Cut, while their big brother controls decay time. The way in which SoundToys have gone beyond their inspiration will be instantly apparent from the timescale on the latter, which runs all the way from 0.5 seconds to infinity — far beyond what even the most enthusiastic tinkerer could extract from a real plate.
What’s more, Little Plate actually sounds good over this entire range. In fact, what’s really neat about it is the way it manages to sound characteristically ‘plate-y’ even when producing a sound no physical plate could ever generate. Infinite reverberation is, obviously, a somewhat niche effect, though quite a neat trick. More useful in most mix contexts is Little Plate’s ability to produce very brief reverbs. You can’t quite treat it as an ambience generator, but the short settings are perfect for snare drums, vocals and guitars even in the fastest uptempo material where a typical ‘real’ plate would quickly become mushy and indistinct.
There’s no option to adjust the tone of the reverb other than that Low Cut control, but in the vast majority of cases I didn’t miss it, and in any case it’s easy enough to insert an EQ plug-in to roll off any unwanted high frequencies or tame mid-range honk. It’s perhaps a shame that there isn’t a simple pre-delay control, though.
By the time you read this, alas, Little Plate will no longer be free, but for the amount of use it’s likely to get, the full $99 asking price is by no means excessive. It’s a simple plug-in but a very usable one, and far more characterful than the ‘plate’ algorithms built into most reverbs. It will be interesting to see if SoundToys follow it up with a Big version!