Sean Costello has been designing quality reverbs for some time. He first came to my attention designing a Bode Frequency Shifter for NI’s Reaktor way back when and then for coding Audio Damage’s Eos reverb in 2009. Eos delivered two digital plate emulations and a ‘superhall’ algorithm to good reviews.
Since then ValhallaDSP has been releasing high-quality reverbs (and a delay) at a quality:price ratio that defies expectations. All Valhalla products so far are priced at $50 each. There is even a ValhallaDSP card for Tiptop Audio’s Z-DSP Eurorack module.
Valhalla Plate – What is it and what does it do?
Unlike ValhallaDSP’s previous plate emulations, which model vintage digital boxes, Plate seeks to emulate hardware plate reverbs as well as some unheard of plates.
Plate offers 7 virtual plate algorithms: Chrome, Steel, Brass, Cobalt, Aluminium, Copper and Unobtanium (sic). In addition, Plate offers Mix, Pre-Delay, Decay, Size and Width controls plus EQ and Modulation all in a slick, 2D resizeable vector GUI.
The GUI is a refinement of the ValhallaDSP family look. I would even go as far as to say that Plate is my favourite VST UI at the moment. Everything is in its place and the colours and contrast are perfect for my eyes: Black background, Blue module sections, black knobs and white indicators/text. Resizing is a simple drag of the corner to as large as you like without blurring – very pleasing.
Sean Costello – If you want to know anything about software reverb, Sean’s blog is the place to go. Here he discusses the theory behind various classic and theoretical reverb algorithms and answers any and all questions, although he doesn’t give away his deepest tech secrets – which is understandable.
The controls offer a lot more control than a hardware plate. Most hardware plates have a fixed length decay which is damped by an absorbent pad. Plate offers anywhere between 0.5 seconds and 30 seconds which is great for ambient pings and textures.
A hardware plate comes without pre-delay, Plate offers from zero to a half second. One can always go old school and use a delay unit for synced or longer pre-delay.
The size control ranges from 0 – 200% which, I guess, means tiny to massive. The EMT 140 plate measures @2.4*1.2m so maybe double that?
Plate’s width control makes for interesting use as it emulates the position of the output pickups. At 0% you have a mono out plate. At 100%, you have the standard distance between pickups and at 200% you have insanely wide. The width control also affects the amplitude significantly, which if automated and used in conjunction with a gate got me excited…
A basic low and high-frequency parametric section follows and the whole is completed by a simple modulation LFO with speed and depth controls.
So, how does it sound? In a word: SUPERB… Each plate has its own distinct character, from deep, dark and resonant to bright and splashy, but without all that top end hash one has come to expect from plate emulations. It can widen drones, adding convincing resonances if you hit it hard enough, or add richness and depth to vocals and the control set is minimal and perfectly chosen for dialling in that perfect plate sound.
Plate Reverb – A large steel plate suspended in a steel frame with input transducers and output pickups, placed to give either mono or stereo reverb effects and all housed in a large soundproof box. The most famous example being the EMT 140S, which weighed in at over 270kg. To get an idea of how it might sound, there are plenty of impulse responses available for your convolution reverbs, but they tend to be a static snapshot rather than a dynamically shifting reverb
I’ve not really enjoyed using many software reverbs before as I find getting a sound frustrating and usually give up and make do. Valhalla Plate is different and behaves like a proper instrument, in that it is very dynamic in its response and so reflects the dynamics of the source material. It won’t serve all needs, it doesn’t do rooms and halls but for specific jobs in live recordings or special treatments in electronic production I would recommend demoing Valhalla Plate a matter of urgency.
Price $50 (FYI: a demo version is available).
Compatibility Fully compatible with 32 and 64 bit DAWs (32/64 bit VST for OSX and Windows, 32/64 bit Audio Units for OSX, 32-bit RTAS for OSX and Windows, 64-bit AAX for OSX and Windows).