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Thursday, May 6, 2010

Finally, A Reverb Plug-In I Can Love

I'm not ashamed to say that I've always had trouble with reverb. It just seemed so hard to make it sound good. I could make it mesh perfectly with a vocal or instrument when soloed only to find that it stuck out from the track like a sore thumb with all the instruments in the mix. I would find that the correct wet and dry balance was always elusive, with the verb either disappearing or washing everything out (I've since learned a lot of tricks to make things work better, which I've shared in previous posts).

Of course, there were those times when the verb sound came easy if I worked in a studio that had an EMT 250, a wonderfully tuned EMT 140 plate, or even a great chamber (like at Capitol or the old A&M), but if you weren't working in the A-list places, you could probably forget about having access to any of these. When the Lexicon 224 and the later 480 came along, I was afraid to tell anyone that I had one personal setting that I thought sounded good and worked for me, and I would never deviate from it because I found the unit too complex to set up. Only years later did I find out that I wasn't alone, and most engineers felt the same way.

When the DAW came along, reverbs got a little easier to make sound good, especially with convolution-based reverbs like Altiverb, but I still had to fiddle more than I wanted to make everything sit in the mix just right. That's why I'm so blown away with the new Lexicon PCM Native Reverb plug-in. No matter what you do and how you do it, it always sounds great.

The PCM Native Reverb is actually a bundle of different reverb plug-ins - vintage plate, plate, hall, concert hall, random hall, room and chamber. It works on the Mac 10.4.2 or later, Windows XP, Vista or 7, and any version of Pro Tools after 7.3. It also works as a VST, Audio Units or RTAS plug-in, so it's compatible with just about any DAW on any platform.

It takes up about 500 meg of disc space and isn't very processor intensive at all like you'd expect. I haven't tried more than 3 plug-ins at a one time yet, but the processor load hardly budged under those conditions.

I won't get into a long review here except to say that I can't make it sound bad, regardless of the type of verb plug-in or it's setting. I especially love the chamber, which just sounds so thick and gorgeous, yet lays in the track perfectly. I compared the Lexicon to 4 of my other plug-in reverbs, all of which I think sound pretty good and I was pretty happy with, but they just don't sound as good. I'll continue to use them, but the Lexicon is now my go-to verb.

Michael Carnes and Casey Young should really be commended for their work on the PCM Native Reverb, especially the user interface. Unlike Lexicon hardware of the past, the PCM Native plug-ins are logical and easy to use, and have a built-in help screen that tells you what each control does if you need it. The fact is, it's harder to make it not sound good than the other way around.

So kudos, Lexicon. I don't think I'll be having any of my former reverb problems ever again.

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