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Earlier this year I reviewed Aether 1.5, the flagship reverb plugin from 2CAudio. It was (and still is) my favorite algorithmic reverb. However, sometimes its powerful/complex architecture can get in the way of (or, more often, pleasantly distract me from) quickly selecting or crafting a reverb appropriate for the task at hand. When you have an artist primed to record a take the last thing they need you to be doing is getting obsessive over the nuances of the density of your early reflections. Breeze is an answer to this concern. The sound quality is on par with Aether, yet I can rapidly browse the healthy library of well-organized presets, then use the refined set of controls to do any additional sculpting with a minimum of tweaks. The selection of controls is reminiscent of the Macros from other plugins, wherein you have a concise interface to control the most important parameters.
At the time of this writing the manual wasn’t available, so some of my observations are qualitative, but the fact that I was able to achieve pleasing results without it is testament to the usability of this plugin.
The 3 page GUI is an exercise in economy. I spend most of my time alternating between the Main and Browse pages. The Browse page is organized by type or principle application (Hall, Chamber, Vocals, Huge FX, etc.) After you select the type, all the presets of that type are displayed to the right, and you can audition them with a single click. No double clicking, opening/closing menu hierarchies, or waiting for impulse responses to load. Instant choices, instant feedback. Once I’ve decided on a starting point, I switch to the Main page where the fun begins. The single row of 9 large knobs allows you to manipulate overall reverb time, predelay contour, room geometry, diffusion, and modulation. Several other sliders control frequency based response, stereo image, and wet/dry mix. Conveniently, Breeze can lock Mix at a particular value. The most common application of Lock is when using Breeze on an effects bus where you want to lock the mix at %100 wet, yet still be able to browse presets without having to reset Mix every time.
Breeze gives visual feedback via 2 displays. The first is time based. It shows both the early reflection envelope/density as well as the shape of the overall decay. The second is frequency based. It shows the results of your adjustments to the high damp or low cut filters. I find this graphical representation to be helpful in both evaluating a preset and shaping a sound to my liking.
It’s important to understand that the presets are not merely combinations of the available controls. Instead each one is an array of complex mathematical representations of different spaces, distilled into a few easily understandable and standardized parameters. The designers have done a fine job of making reverb creation easy and fun, while (most importantly) delivering top shelf results. Like Aether, Breeze’s reverbs are very lush. You have to hear it to know what I mean. The tails are sooo smooth. Gone are the metallic and artificial discrete echoes of some cheaper plugin verbs. I’ve been using one of my higher end hardware units (ends in -CON) recently for some computer-less scenarios. Not only does Breeze hold up to it, but in some cases I’ve noticed how much higher the resolution of Breeze sounds, especially for dramatic or long reverbs. It feels almost like going from 16 to 24 bits.
The 2CAudio website describes its new Conservation of Energy scheme, which helps “give the same average level regardless of parameter settings.” I look forward to learning more about it once the manual is released, but I can say from experience that, whatever the means, they seem to accomplish that goal. I experimented heavily with the settings and never found myself having to fiddle with the input gain or mix much. I often put a compressor after any reverb on an effects bus to keep levels consistent, but in most cases that compressor didn’t get taxed very heavily with Breeze.
Breeze is gentle on the CPU relative to the quality of the sound. On my late 2006 Macbook using Logic 9.1.3 I got 8 stereo instances of the Hall 1 preset on a single channel (and hence, single core of the 2GHz Core 2 Duo) before I got any overload errors. I could also squeeze 7 instances per channel on 2 stereo audio tracks (for a total of 14 instances) before Logic complained.
The main downsides for me have to do with realtime manipulation. Rapid changes in Size, Shape, and Time caused zippering noises. Furthermore, Size and Shape aren’t available for automation, at least within Logic. For most applications, these limitations shouldn’t be of big concern, though if you fantasize about creating the illusion of a room that changes both its shape and size over time (as I do) you may have to jump through additional hoops.
On a lesser note it would be nice to have BPM, or at least absolute time based modulation rate control. This change would open up more possibilities of using Breeze as a combined reverb/chorus/delay unit/sound effects unit. It does a good job in its current incarnation, but you have to listen very closely if tempo sync is an important part of your music.
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…The sound quality is on par with Aether…
- Silky smoothness similar to that of Aether, especially in reverb tails.
- Distilled parameters allow quick and intuitive editing.
- Good GUI
- Light CPU load
- Solid preset library
LOVE IT OR HATE IT
- Lack of exposure and control of deeper parameters. However, it’s this streamlined interface that permits Breeze to be as usable as it is. I recommend Aether if you need to get more complex with your reverb design.
- Size and Shape can’t be automated.
- Zippering when automating or changing certain parameters quickly.
- No tempo sync of modulation rate.