It may be new in the plug-in market but Exponential Audio’s reverbs are already making a name for themselves, writes Mike Aiton.
These two surround reverbs plug-ins (also available in stereo-only versions) are from a brand new company, founded by audio legend Michael Carnes, the man who programmed Lexicon Reverbs from the PCM 90 upwards.
I grew up with a Lexicon 300 and loved its lush sound and post-friendly small room presets, so when I heard these plugs were in development my ears pricked up.
Both reverbs are available in a multiple of flavours, as Mac format (AU, VST, RTAS, and AAX Native) and as Windows 7 upwards (VST, RTAS, and AAX Native). Both 32- and 64-bit versions are supported using iLok2 authorisation. Sample rates up to 352.8kHz (DSD) can be enjoyed and a plethora of DAWs are supported too.
Best of all, each plug-in is available not only as a big fat juicy surround version with support of all formats up to 7.1, but also as a stereo-only version. The surround versions not only have more channels, but much more extensive control of early reflections and different ways of distributing them, which are vital in post.
R2 and PhoenixVerb are very different souls. Phoenix is very transparent and naturally vanilla in its character and can suit applications such as classical music or jazz; whereas R2 is more ‘Lexicon like’ with a deliberate character, and can feature a gate (driven by the reverb input) and pitch modulation on its tails, to give a more pronounced flavour.
These reverbs have been designed with a very smart interface and operational features that make them a total joy.
The CPU efficiency is very impressive and even further helped by its own custom user-controllable dynamic processing where they will shut themselves off to conserve CPU cycles if nothing is happening below a certain user controllable threshold. When presented with a new input signal, they will start up again without missing a sample.
Careful consideration has been given to presets and their use. The surround versions for instance have over 900 presets each (and growing), so Exponential has wisely chosen to bypass the Pro Tools preset user interface and use its own preset manager.
Hardware reverbs have banks, so in the old days you had to remember or randomly find the bank that a preset lived in, but Exponential presets have keywords. A preset can live in many different keywords, so you can find it in multiple ways.
If you get into editing presets you can create your own preset and your own keywords. Grab a hall, edit it, and when you save your new preset you can assign it to various keywords such as Music, Interior, Halls, My Best Kept Secret Reverbs, etc.
One of my favourite features is that auditioning presets is so easy. Clicking anywhere on the plug-in preset manager will make it active, and then pressing the up or down arrow will change the keyword. Once you are in the right keyword area, pressing the left or right arrow will scroll through the presets. How easy is that?
The GUI has also been carefully thought out, and all of the most often used controls such as Mix, Pre Delay, Reverb Time, Early Reflection Level, and their EQ controls are at the front of the GUI. Deep editing is available for other parameters in another panel. It is very clear, logical, and fast to use.
For plug-in control, Eucon is fully supported and for me, as a disciple of the Slate Raven, I am in plug-in heaven, as there is a ‘+’ button that zooms the plug-in GUI to twice normal size (if your display is big enough to allow it). This makes touch control a total joy as my Raven MTi 27in touchscreen is totally filled by the reverb GUI!
Another nifty touch is that should you have a problem or need the manual (really?), just click the Exponential icon and you get a new page where you can open the manual, link to the website, or email support. The email will rather handily include a log of the plug-in’s recent activity and version numbers and all the techie stuff (other developers please take note!).
The use of early reflections in the surround version really shows how much homework has been done by Exponential within the post and surround community. It’s what really separates the wheat from the chaff! Early reflections can be controlled with the ‘early distribution’ knob and be made to appear in many different planes or locations
1. In MONO – i.e the same location as the original source, which is great for dialogue and centre channel stuff.
2. In WIDE MONO – the reflections come from the adjacent channels too. i.e if the origin is in the C channel, the early reflections will also come out from the L and R.
3. In LR – i.e. if the origin is in the C channel, the early reflections will come out of LR front plane.
4. In FB – if the origin is for example in the L channel, the early reflections will come out of L and L’s front to back plane.
5. Full Surround – the early reflections will come out of all speakers and be much denser. Great for music. This control applies to the early reflections only and the reverb always comes from all speakers in totally full and natural surround.
The final analysis for any audio product, and where the final buck stops, is with its sound, so let me start by concluding that these reverbs, to my ears, demonstrate their designer’s pedigree and are the best that I have ever heard. Even better, they have the unique combination of the efficiency, reliability, ease, and depth of sophistication and capability that make them the new gold reference standard for reverberation – in surround or in stereo.
Mike Aiton was weaned at the BBC. But after breaking free nearly 20 years ago and becoming one of London’s busiest freelance dubbing mixers, he can mostly be found in his Twickenham dubbing suite, mikerophonics. In his spare time he takes therapy for his poor jazz guitar playing and his addiction to skiing and Nikon lenses.