You are here

Wave Alchemy Glow

Wave Alchemy Glow

Released in 1978, the AMS RMX16 hardware reverb was the first microprocessor‑controlled digital delay and pitch‑shifter, and many of the classic ’80s records used them in the production of gated drums, lush synth sounds and atmospheric vocals — you could say its sound is in our musical DNA! As with much vintage gear, the magic of its sound was borne out of technological limitations of the time, such as limited processing power and imperfect converters, which in this instance resulted in a somewhat ‘grainy’ but incredibly spacious sound. A casual search for used hardware units in working order threw up astronomical prices (in the thousands).

Universal Audio offer a plug‑in recreation; AMS also offer a hardware 500‑series version. Now, Wave Alchemy have created an affordable native plug‑in alternative. Called Glow, it supports VST3, AU and AAX hosts running on Mac OS or Windows, and includes Apple Silicon support. It comes with 170 presets, and there’s a ‘dice’ function for random selection, though if you prefer to create patches from scratch it’s very straightforward. While the UA version is based on code ported from the original hardware, Wave Alchemy have taken a hybrid approach that employs impulse responses (I gather around 1000 IRs were involved!) taken from the original hardware, and uses more DSP processing to add features not present on the original, all of which are designed to increase the appeal for modern producers.

For those who baulk at the idea of the resizeable GUI being pink, there’s a choice of black, blue or grey.

The 14 reverb algorithms available are Ambience, Room A1, Room B1, Room A0, Hall C1, Hall B3, Hall A1, Plate A1, Plate B1, NonLin 2, Reverse 1, Reverse 2, Image P1 and Freeze, the latter producing a continuous reverb tail that builds up as more input is sent its way. Additional DSP features include gating, ducking, transient smoothing and Flux, the last adding pitch modulation and enhancing stereo ‘spatialisation’. There’s also a switchable Modern mode, designed to produce a tighter low end with more punch by summing the low end below 80Hz to mono and adding a wide 4dB dip centred at 1kHz. For those who like to use mono reverbs to help localise panned sounds (by panning the reverb to the same place as the dry sound), there’s a phase‑coherent mono mode, and the pre‑delay time has the option of being tempo‑sync’ed. Finally, for those who baulk at the idea of the resizeable GUI being pink, there’s a choice of black, blue or grey.

The Level, (pre) Delay and filter controls are largely self explanatory, though the new Smooth control might need some explanation. This reduces the initial transients of drum sounds before they hit the reverb engine, which allows the reverb to focus on the drum’s decay. Glow’s Duck control reduces the reverb level in the presence of an incoming sound, effectively causing the reverb to swell during gaps. Then there’s Flux, which to my ears adds a chorus‑like modulation. The three sections of the parameter window show the decay time, the high‑frequency damping filter settings and the algorithm type, where each can be adjusted independently.

Some of the algorithms may not be quite what you expect from their names. For example, we normally think of ‘ambience’ as a short burst of early reflections used to create a sense of space with little or no reverb tail, but you can take the decay time of the Ambience algorithm up to 7.5 seconds for a long and characterful reverb. The NonLin 2 program produces the classic gated reverb so often heard on ’80s drums, but Glow’s Gate time slider means that any of the algorithms can be tweaked to create gated reverb effects. In fact, I found this to work particularly well on the Room B algorithm. Reverse performs the usual trick of creating an upward ramp of early reflections to simulate a backwards sound envelope.

As with many of the early digital reverbs, the AMS RMX16 sounds somewhat coarse and crude when compared with more modern designs, but it is precisely that gritty character that creates its sonic signature. Glow’s gated drum sounds really nail that ’80s vibe, while the other spaces work magic on vocals and synth parts. The grainy nature of the reverb becomes most evident on percussive sounds such as drums, producing that distinctly ’80s flavour. It’s a long time since I used one of the originals, but Glow produces results very much as I remember them, with an unashamedly vintage character. However, I reckon the additional features make Glow rather more useful than the original. That Modern button, for instance, really does clean up the low end nicely, particularly on drums.


I think it’s fair to say that few people would want to have an RMX16, either real or virtual, as their only source of reverb these days, but it’s great for those occasions where you need to add a bit of vintage magic, and Wave Alchemy have made Glow affordable enough that it’s not too hard to justify adding it to your reverb arsenal.


£59 including VAT.

£59 (about $71).