Reverb – an indispensable tool for sound engineers, one that has been through countless mutations over the course of recording history. While any and all recordings benefit from the subtle embellishment of a little reverb “space,” the effect is sometimes applied in dramatic doses. Be it from a room, a plate unit (like the venerable EMT 140), a digital rack unit (like ones made legendary by Lexicon), or a state-of-the-art plug-in, reverb is squarely cemented as the quintessential sound processing tool of pros and joes alike. It seems that software reverbs have been through just as much permeation as their hardware counterparts. While much fanfare has, in recent years, touted the value of the impulse response, many artists and producers have been leaning toward the more obvious, algorithmic reverbs lately. A rising star in the field, Valhalla DSP serves their latest update to their lauded Room plug-in, version 1.0.7. The update adds new “Dark” chamber and space modes, bringing a new dimension of grit, warmth, and girth to the already popular reverb plug.
While plentiful in both the hardware and software worlds, it seems that truly great, certifiably useful reverbs are few and far between. Thankfully, Valhalla has done so well with their reverb plug-in, that it is quickly gaining ground as the foremost in the field of algorithmic reverberation units. Room is a cross-platform (Win/OSX 32/64- bit) plug-in available in both VST and AU formats, respectively.
The plug-in’s interface is decidedly simple, concealing a strikingly robust feature set. With a typeface that is loud and proud, the intuitive controls also benefit from mouse-over tooltips for each parameter. These controls are smart and include the expected sliders for Mix, Pre-delay, Decay, High Cut, and Depth. These basic controls work in conjunction with the intriguing and powerful ‘Early” and “Late” dialogs which are switchable, allowing both views to occupy the same screen real estate. It is in these reflection – algorithm controls that Valhalla Room really steps out from the rest of the pack. The knobs let the user adjust various settings related to the respective elements that make a reverb (quite literally) what it is. The “Early” view allows the user to adjust the relative “size” of the space and control the amount of modulation ,among other useful features. The “Late” view offers the user all that, plus adds filtering and crossover options for increased realism.
Sonically, there is something beautiful, musical, and precise (yet not surgical) about the sound. The new “Dark” modes are aptly fitted to their moniker, offering a warm wash of ambiance to treated tracks in a truly ear-pleasing manner. The original room and chamber modes from the plug are just as useful, too, from subtle room-sized emulations to massive chamber and hall emulations. Whereas in the past, most reverb units were hit-and-miss in terms of consistent quality between their included room types, Valhalla demonstrates incredible consistency between room modes. The large, small, bright, and dark types are all distinct from one another, and distinctly useful. This consistency makes the $50 USD price-tag of the Room plug all the more irresistible.
Like many sound fanatics, I have been using impulses for some time now, and had come to feel that those technological wonders might well be the pinnacle of reverb on a budget. Valhalla Room has cast doubt in that direction. Not only does the plug-in sound great, it is also light on its feet. In my Intel I3-equipped laptop, the plug-in performed on under 2% or CPU in each instance, allowing me to treat tracks and buses in a variety of working scenarios. That kind of performance negates most of the impulses out there. From the resource efficiency, to the clean interface, great sound, and tool-tip implementation, everything about Valhalla Room simply screams “tightly coded excellence.”
As in life, variety is the spice of reverb, and while it may not truly replace every other unit out there (notably absent are any “plate” reverb-like sounds), Valhalla is a worthy addition to any plug-in collection, and can quickly and easily become the “go to” reverb for practically any sound engineer.
…everything about Valhalla Room simply screams “tightly coded excellence.”