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LiquidSonics Reverberate 2 Review

Reverberate Goes Fusion
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LiquidSonics Reverberate 2

Software convolution reverb from LiquidSonics .

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There are two clearly distinguishable schools in the software reverb world: algorithmic and convolution.

Almost every software maker has an algorithmic reverb, but not everyone has a convolution reverb. Why? Maybe because once the hype created by the first products died out, most users bought into the idea that what was important were the impulse responses (IRs), not the host software itself. Which explains the success of products bundled with tons of IRs and the loss of interest of certain software makers, considering the high cost of producing such libraries. As such, it's no wonder that new algorithm-based reverbs pop up like mushrooms every year while their convolution counterparts are clearly scarcer. So, who can blame you for being curious about a convolution reverb when a field expert like LiquidSonics announces a major upgrade for its flagship product? Let's see what this Reverberate 2 has in store for us…

Technical aspects

First, let's take a look at the technical specs: Reverberate 2 is a plug-in available for Mac and PC (32 and 64-bit) in VST, AU and AAX format. Its selling price is £80 excluding taxes (approx $125), but registered users of the first version can get it for £35 (approx $50), which seems quite reasonable for an upgrade.

During the installation you'll need to install both the software itself along with the impulse response libraries. Downloading the installation program is a relatively quick ordeal, since it's only 370Mb. Afterwards the installation and authorization are a mere formality (with a keyfile sent per e-mail after the purchase). Once that's done Reverberate 2 and the basic IR library eat up about 400Mb of your hard drive.

LiquidSonics Reverberate 2 : Presets

And then there are the two (free) additional libraries, FS-1 and Bricasti M7 Fusion-IRs, which stand at 7.53Gb and 4.51Gb respectively (9.4Gb and 10Gb once unzipped) for the 96kHz versions — but there are also 44.1kHz versions available. Needless to say that even with a good broadband connection it will take you a while to download them. This will certainly make some people impatient, especially considering that these libraries are one of the main highlights of the upgrade...which is something I'll touch on later. Once downloaded, a small program allows you to easily choose a location for the huge libraries. At first there was no such program and I must admit that manual installation was a real feat, to say the least. Fortunately, LiquidSonics was quick to incorporate user feedback.

To close this not-so-funky chapter of the review, one last remark regarding CPU resources. On my machine (a late 2013 Mac Pro with a six-core 3.5 GHz Intel Xeon processor and 32GB DDR3 RAM), one instance uses about 0.9% of the CPU with a very basic usage (simply loading any impulse response). It's relatively reasonable, especially if you consider that Reverberate is used in zero-latency mode. However, if you use the plug-in's possibilities to alter the IRs it can go up to 2%… Modest setups will certainly have a hard time running several instances at the same time. Fortunately, you can add some latency to provide a bit of relief for the processor. Also note that some of the new IRs are bigger than ordinary ones, with some taking up more than 50Mb! The toll on your system's RAM will be noticeable.

Okay, now let's move on to the good stuff!

Previously on reverberate…

Reverberate is a convolution reverb plug-in. It allows you to use your own IRs or those included in the bundle, which can be "simple," "True Stereo," or even more, as we'll see later on.

LiquidSonics Reverberate 2 : EQ

Often, the main critique to this type of reverb is the "static" aspect of the result. To make up for that, software makers usually resort to tricks based on the use of chorus and/or delay with a good pinch of modulation. The first Reverberate was not penny-pinching in this respect. But this new version offers an unheard of amount of possibilities to breathe life into even the most static impulse responses. First of all, it allows you to load two IRs and adjust the resulting mix, as well as their place in the stereo field. You then have several options to modify each IR at will: stretching, pre-delay, ADSHR envelope, stereo width, etc.

Every IR has its own EQ, plus the one in the output section, all of which can be modulated. These three EQs are powerful and can be used to simulate "damping" or to do something completely different, like in the following example: first is the original sound, then I applied a simple IR from the Room family and then I added an EQ sweep.

01 ePiano Dry
00:0000:24
  • 01 ePiano Dry 00:24
  • 02 ePiano Room 00:24
  • 03 ePiano EQ Sweep 00:24

You can also modulate the pitch of the IRs beginning or tail, like I did with this "Ambience" preset to which I added some pitch modulation.

04 ePiano Ambience
00:0000:24
  • 04 ePiano Ambience 00:24
  • 05 ePiano EarlyPitch 00:24
  • 06 ePiano LatePitch 00:24

There's obviously a chorus and a delay...or several to be more precise: One for each IR and one at the output! And with modulation, obviously. For the following excerpts I used a preset from the "Chamber" family, then added chorus, and finished with delays:

07 ePiano Chamber
00:0000:24
  • 07 ePiano Chamber 00:24
  • 08 ePiano Chorus 00:24
  • 09 ePiano Chorus Delay 00:38

I obviously overdid it to make a point, but used wisely, Reverberate can certainly liven up stiff IRs. On the other hand, if you push the settings to the limit, you can easily create luxurious and surreal soundscapes, like in the following example, which I achieved in five seconds ─ clocked:

00:0000:00
LiquidSonics Reverberate 2 : Delay

To be able to offer all these possibilities, Reverberate's GUI is obviously complex and it can certainly be scary at first. However, the learning curve is way easier than it seems. In this respect, the use of tabs proves to be quite useful, especially thanks to the colored lines that indicate which tabs are active. What's more, the synoptic table on the Chorus, Delay and Mixer tabs allows you to easily grasp the signal routing while at the same time allowing you to directly activate or deactivate the different modules. Finally, this version 2 features five skins, some of which are much more comfortable than the white/green standard skin ─ the "Deep Purple" skin deserves a special mention. In short, even if I wouldn't call it easy-to-use, Reverberate is one the nicest and most effective reverb plug-ins for everyday use...except for certain details. Because there are some things that could be improved.

First of all, it's not resizable. While the retractable preset browser makes things easier on a small screen, it would be nice to have a way to make it bigger to take advantage of larger screens and hence easier to read. Further, due to the sheer number of parameters available, an AB comparison tool would've been greatly appreciated when making decisions. Finally, while the plug-in provides lots of modulation possibilities, I think it's a real pity that some parameters can't be truly automated because doing so would necessitate recalculating the IR, which results in audio dropouts.

There's still lots to say about the "basic" Reverberate features, but having reviewed the essentials, it's time to check out the main innovations introduced

Cold fusion

LiquidSonics Reverberate 2 : SplitMod

The main argument behind Reverberate 2 is the use of a new technology called Fusion-IR. According to the manual, it allows you to get more organic sounds than you would otherwise get with a traditional convolution reverb. Fusion-IR captures the evolving character of a reverb by combining multiple True-Stereo impulse responses, which explains the size of some of the new IRs included in the additional libraries I mentioned earlier. Apart from the increase in quality, this technology allows you to alter the balance between the early reflections and the diffused sound field, which is pretty rare in the convolution world. Here are a couple of examples making use of just the plug-in's convolution engine, without any modulation whatsoever, so you can really get the idea:

11 Acc dry
00:0000:43
  • 11 Acc dry 00:43
  • 12 Acc Trd Empty 00:43
  • 13 Acc Trd Backstage 00:43
  • 14 Acc Fu Dark 00:43
  • 15 Acc Fu Dark Early 00:43
  • 16 Acc Fu Dark Late 00:43

The first one is the source signal. For the next two I used "classic" IRs ─ pay special attention to the high frequencies in the reverb tails. For the fourth one I used a Fusion-IR from the FS-1 library. The reverberated sound seems to blend in better with the instrument and the evolution of the high frequencies on the tail seems more natural. The last two illustrate the early reflections and diffused sound field, respectively, of this Fusion-IR. Not bad, ey? Plus, you can obviously mix everything as you see fit. And with its 9.4Gb, the FS-1 library contains more than enough goodies to entertain yourself for a while.

LiquidSonics, with the blessing of Bricasti Design, has also created a Fusion-IR library dedicated entirely to the sublime M7. For those of you who don't know this beauty, the Bricasti M7 is a digital rack reverb that has earned itself a place among the big players in the genre despite its young age. I decided to try it on a virtual drum set.

17 Drums Dry
00:0000:27
  • 17 Drums Dry 00:27
  • 18 Drums Plate 00:27
  • 19 Drums Plate Room 00:27
  • 20 Drums Plate Hall 00:27
LiquidSonics Reverberate 2 : ADSHR

As usual, the first example is the original signal by itself. On the second clip I used a Plate on the snare. For the third one I used a Room on the whole set, while the fourth one features a Hall. The results are very pleasing. I must admit that even though I've had the chance to work with a real M7 for some studio sessions, I have never owned one. So I can't really say if it's faithful or not. Nevertheless, there are several collections of impulse responses of this beauty on the web. So I thought I'd compare the Fusion-IR to two of these collections: SignalToNoize and Samplicity. I started the comparison with an electric guitar part. The basic IR algorithm used is called "CD Plate A" and then I simply added a suffix to designate where the IR was taken from (Fu for Fusion-IR, STN for SignalToNoize, SMP for Samplicity). All the IRs produce different reverb volumes, so I tried to level them to achieve comparable loudness.

21 Blue Dry
00:0000:25
  • 21 Blue Dry 00:25
  • 22 Blue M7 CDA Fu 00:25
  • 23 Blue M7 CDA STN 00:25
  • 24 Blue M7 CDA SMP 00:25

There's no doubt that all three of the IRs come from the same M7 algorithm, since they are similar in many respects. However, the diffused sound field of the Fusion-IR has something that makes it sound more natural, for lack of a better word. Or was it just my imagination? To be sure, I took the same IRs but this time with a snare from the LinnDrum.

25 Fusion Compare Dry
00:0000:04
  • 25 Fusion Compare Dry 00:04
  • 26 Fusion Compare Fu 00:04
  • 27 Fusion Compare STN 00:04
  • 28 Fusion Compare SMP 00:04

Here, the difference was more pronounced. The tail of the Samplicity IR seems quite dull in comparison to the Fusion-IR. For its part, the SignalToNoize misses the mark completely.

LiquidSonics Reverberate 2 : Mixer


In a nutshell, this Fusion-IR Bricasti M7 library is very appealing and it will surely provide lots of hours of fun together with the Reverberate 2 ─ as if it weren't enough with the FS-1 already!

At the end of the day, I must admit that the new Fusion-IR technology is incredibly effective. It seems to be an excellent solution to the "static" nature often associated to convolution reverbs. Add in the modulation possibilities offered by Reverberate and it's obvious that the word static has no place in the discussion. However, this technology is reserved exclusively to the impulse responses produced by the software maker...Will LiquidSonics open it up in the near future? There is no info on that for the time being.

Conclusion

While the first version of Reverberate was pretty nice, it had a major defect: an altogether pretty lean IR library. LiquiSonics seems to have taken notice because this second version tackles the issue with two extremely pleasing and gigantic libraries. And when you consider the multiple possibilities to modify impulse responses, especially the new Fusion-IR technology, you end up with an excellent product that will delight all fans of convolution reverb. And to be honest, I think even algorithm-based reverb fans ought to give it a try, too, just out of simple curiosity, considering how convincing Reverberate 2 is. Apart from the problems commonly associated with convolution technology (CPU resource consumption, automation, etc.), the rest of the problems detected can be easily solved with an update. And since LiquidSonics seems to actually pay attention to its users, I'm sure it will only be a matter of time before that happens.

There's only one question lingering in my mind: what about the creation of new Fusion-IRs? For the time being, only LiquidSonics can release IRs in this format. Will they ever offer the possibility to other software developers and/or users to create them too? Or will they keep the secret behind this technology for themselves? I have no clue...but considering what's available right now, you won't get bored anytime soon. In my opinion, Reverberate 2 has convincingly established itself as a key player in the convolution reverb world.

Click here for an exclusive 20% discount on Reverberate 2. Offer is for Audiofanzine readers and ends on March 4th.

Download the audio files (in FLAC format)

  • LiquidSonics Reverberate 2 : SplitMod
  • LiquidSonics Reverberate 2 : Presets
  • LiquidSonics Reverberate 2 : Mixer
  • LiquidSonics Reverberate 2 : EQ
  • LiquidSonics Reverberate 2 : Delay
  • LiquidSonics Reverberate 2 : Chorus
  • LiquidSonics Reverberate 2 : ADSHR

 

8/10
2016 Innovation Award
Pros
  • All the benefits of the first version
  • New Fusion-IR technology
  • FS- library1
  • M7 library
  • Overall sound quality
  • New skins
  • Complex but functional GUI
  • Zero-latency option
  • Easy to install and authorize
  • Huge compatibility
  • Attentive software maker
  • Upgrade price
Cons
  • GUI not resizable
  • No AB comparison
  • Resource-intensive
  • Some parameters can't be automated
  • Closed nature of the Fusion-IR technology...?
  • Garrard401
    Garrard401
    New AFfiliate
    13 posts
    REVERB DEMONSTRATION: GLUED v. NON GLUED
    For the purpose of this demonstration, I have enclosed two short royalty-free audio files courtesy of MusicRadar.Com so that you can compare the “glued on” effect with the unglued version. MEMO: Please use good quality headphones to hear the differences.

    Glued Version: https://en.audiofanzine.com/medias/audio/a.play,m.478070.html
    I used a standard approach like many other engineers when applying a plugin reverb to a vocal track. Pay particular attention to the words "Stars" and “Sky”, where you can clearly hear in this glued-on version, a blurring effect that detaches the Vocalist from the reverb tail. When listening to it you might be tempted to add more Eq to brighten it up, but it still makes no difference as the glue artefact remains the same. Secondly its very difficult to connect with the emotion of a singer such is the distraction that the glued-on effect has on the vocal performance.

    Non-Glued Version: https://en.audiofanzine.com/medias/audio/a.play,m.478071.html
    In the non-glued* audio sample, and with the female vocalist to the forefront, you can definitely hear the singer is fully embedded with the reverb tail, as you would expect in a real world situation like a church or hall for example. More importantly with the glued-on artefact removed, the potential to sense the emotion of a singer cannot be underlined enough in a full production setup.

    *Erratum: In the heat of the moment after uploading the non-glued audio demonstration, it states "Standard Reverb Setup, this is incorrect as I used a reverb template to help eliminate the glue effect. So I am extremely sorry over this mix-up but hopefully you can hear the difference?

    RE UAD 140 PLATE:
    Mike, your interest in the UAD 140 Plate comes as no surprise, as one of the reasons why many engineers become addicted to Plate and Spring Reverb is that both hardware systems have a backbone to the reverb tail, whereas many reverb plugins seem to struggle trying to replicate it? Perhaps going forward this is one area that plugin programmers might have look at so as to make vocalists, and instruments stand out more in a spatial context?

    Technical Detail:
    The Reverb used in both demos was QL Spaces convolution reverb plugin. To create the non-glued verson, I used an old reverb template that I have been working on and off for the last few years, that needs further refinement. That said, as a stop-gap the template does help eliminate plugins that suffer from the "glued on" fate. When I am satisified with the final version of it I will post it on YouTube. The term "standard approach" means a singular reverb plugin was used to treat the vocal track.

    CREDITS:
    Singer: Mandy Edge (Mandy is an excellent singer as you will hear in the free sample pack link below).
    Samples Courtesy of MusicRadar.Com
    Royalty Free Link: https://www.musicradar.com/news/tech/sampleradar-275492

    Cheers
    Dave (Aka Garrard401)
    P.S. Apologies to LiquidSonics in getting side-tracked on plugin reverb artefacts, when I should have focused on their plugin only. Hopefully they will take on board what has been discussed so far?
  • CaliMoose
    CaliMoose
    AFfinity Poster
    121 posts
    Quote from Garrard401:
    P.S. In order to address question No 2, I had prepared two audio examples of both of Glued and Non-Glued using Convolution Reverb for you to compare with, but alas there doesn't seem to be an option in uploading to your server unless I am missing something?


    Hi Dave,

    Here's the media tab Mike's referring to where you can click on Add an Audio File.

    Looking forward to hearing your audio examples! Let us know if you have any issues uploading them.

    -Armon
  • Mike Levine
    Mike Levine
    AFicionado
    1064 posts
    Hi Dave--Wow, thanks for the detailed answer. I appreciate it. I totally agree with you regarding UAD's AKG BX 20. It's an awesome plug-in. I also really like UAD's Plate 140. It's my go-to when mixing, and it never lets me down.
    Quote:
    In order to address question No 2, I had prepared two audio examples of both of Glued and Non-Glued using Convolution Reverb for you to compare with, but alas there doesn't seem to be an option in uploading to your server unless I am missing something?

    You can upload MP3 files. If you look at the top of the page under the Media tab, you'll see an Add an Audio File option.
  • Garrard401
    Garrard401
    New AFfiliate
    13 posts
    MIKE’S QUESTION NO 1 : Do you find this problem with all reverb plug-ins, or are some types better than others:

    GARRARD401 REPLY:
    Thankfully there are a couple of reverb plugins available, particularly some of the UAD reverb plugs that seem generally free of the “Glued On” effect. For example I take my hat off to Universal Audio for nailing it in plugin form one of the best reverbs for vocals, and guitars, namely the AKG 20 Spring Reverb. In addition the new Waves Abbey Road Reverb Plates plugin also seems to be glue free. [if you have a hardware reverb, then you shouldn't hear any glue, since this appears to be a plugin design anomaly]?

    MIKE'S QUESTION NO 2: For example, do you notice a difference between convolution and algorithmic reverb plug-ins in this respect?

    GARRARD401 REPLY:
    Anyone who knows me would be aware that I am not too enamoured with convolution reverb, as it can be very static. Nevertheless I think Overloud's ReMatrix convolver reverb is a step in the right direction so as to improve the motion of these types reverbs, which I find very encouraging.

    P.S. In order to address question No 2, I had prepared two audio examples of both of Glued and Non-Glued using Convolution Reverb for you to compare with, but alas there doesn't seem to be an option in uploading to your server unless I am missing something?

    Take care.
    Garrard401 (aka Dave)
  • Mike Levine
    Mike Levine
    AFicionado
    1064 posts
    Do you find this problem with all reverb plug-ins, or are some types better than others: For example, do you notice a difference between convolution and algorithmic reverb plug-ins in this respect?
  • Garrard401
    Garrard401
    New AFfiliate
    13 posts
    Yes Mike, its what old engineers like myself refer to as the "Glued On" effect. The issue with reverb plugins is their inability to place a vocal or instrument in a reverb environment, without having to add extra wet to the reverb sound to make it sit in the mix. Regrettably the more wet you add, the more the singer is moved away from the foreground, whilst using less wet, creates an unnatural buffer zone between the vocalist and the reverb tail, thus the expression "glued on" effect.

    Unfortunately modern vocal mixing is overdosing with the problem, as there is no natural reverb reference point going from foreground to background, because the "Glued On" effect is disrupting the reverb tail. A good reverb design should be able to create the illusion of space, whether the subject matter is placed in the foreground or otherwise, without having to suffer from disruptive artefacts as mentioned above.

    If you listen to the late Larry Levine's engineering work on the Righteous Bros, and Tina Turner records etc., you can hear there is absolutely No "glued on" effect on the vocals, because he had a perfect understanding on how to blend reverb with everything else. In other words the less calculating the brain has to do with your mixes, the more it can get hooked on your music. So now you know how to sell millions of records just like Larry :)
  • Mike Levine
    Mike Levine
    AFicionado
    1064 posts
    Hey Gerrard--Interesting comment. When you say, "glued on," do you mean that to you it doesn't sound naturally integrated with the source?
  • Garrard401
    Garrard401
    New AFfiliate
    13 posts
    The problem with this reverb and many others, is that the reverb effects as demonstrated here... sound glued on. I hope to post a detailed solution to this problem on my YouTube channel in the coming months. Will let you know about it.
    Cheers

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