Field Test: Overloud Breverb Plug-InRICH-SOUNDING AMBIENCE WITH MINIMAL DSP USAGE 6/01/2008 8:00 AM Eastern
Italian software developer Overloud is offering Breverb, a synthesized reverb plug-in that's modeled on high-end hardware reverbs costing many times its $499 retail. It includes four master algorithms: Hall, Room, Plate and Inverse. Each algorithm runs in a separate environment within the plug-in while using minimal CPU resources, and has specific sets of adjustable parameters that are relevant to the ambience that they create. Breverb runs as a native app on PCs and Macs in Audio Units, VST and RTAS formats, and uses iLok copy protection.
Breverb's GUI clearly shows that incoming stereo signals are split into dry and wet (reverberation) paths. For control, there are stereo input/output faders, wet and dry level faders, pan pots and meters that surround the centralized reverb algorithm/preset selector menu. The wet signal passes through a master EQ and gate on its way to the wet/dry output mixer.
This master EQ comprises two dual-band, full-range parametric EQs with controls for gain, frequency and Q. The Q control adjusts the width of these bell-shaped filters and can also change them to 12dB-per-octave lowpass or highpass filters. The algorithm also includes a damping control (for use with halls, rooms and plates) to simulate the real-world effects of a room's wall materials and objects that absorb mostly high frequencies.
Following the EQ is a gate intended for gating reverb tails, with threshold, attack, release, hold time, shape (either linear or sigma) and slope parameters. The attack, release and hold parameters operate like any typical noise gate. Shape offers a choice of gate-attenuation curves: Linear is a straight, downward path; and sigma is an “S” shape, in which the gate closes slowly at first and then more rapidly downward. Slope controls the exact shape of this S curve — higher values mean a steeper downside.
Both the master EQ and gate are represented in the GUI as the last two in a row of five master control buttons or tabs with lighted in/out indicators. When you click on any of these five tabs, a row of up to six knobs appears for adjusting parameters under the selected tab's name/function.
Breverb's row of five master control tabs starts with the General tab, offering up to six parameters for controlling the synthesized reverbs. Nine reverb parameters are available: time, size, decay, diffusion, shape, spread, motion, pre-delay and depth. Control parameters vary depending on a preset's algorithm — i.e., a room algorithm's general parameter set offers time, size, diffusion and decay, while an inverse effect requires time, diffusion, pre-delay, motion and depth controls.
Breverb maintains a separate table of parameter values for each of the reverb's four master algorithms and their subsequently generated presets. You can properly “scale” a parameter's range to fit the selected algorithm/preset, automate and store parameter settings and then toggle between them (when changing presets) without overwriting the other parameter sets used for the other three algorithm/presets. This is ideal for comparing two different reverbs using the A and B select buttons, or shuttling sets of parameters between presets using the A-to-B and B-to-A functions. You can automate up to 133 parameters.
In Breverb, all parameters function independently of one another. One advantage of a reverb synth like Breverb over a convolution-based reverb is that in a reverb synth, all settings are completely malleable and free of any of the natural laws of physics. You can easily create room reverb sounds that are impossible in the physical world; because the reverb time and room size parameters are not connected, very small spaces can have very long reverberation times. Imagine a closet with a near-infinite number of reflections or a concert hall the size of a bedroom. I love it!
Pre-delay is configured in milliseconds or in musical notation for synching to session tempo. The Regen control sets pre-delay feedback of the left/right input channels, Motion sets the speed of the pre-delay modulation and Depth sets the amount of modulation.
To conserve screen space, you can show/hide up to six additional faders under the row of knobs or on the plug-in's right side. These six faders default to the most often tweaked parameters but can be easily reconfigured to control and/or automate any of Breverb's 37 GUI controls.
All master controls and parameters are saved with each user-named preset, and all six advanced mode faders — plus the in/wet/dry controls — are accessible via an external MIDI controller.
After installing the RTAS version on my quad-core Mac for my Pro Tools HD3 Accel system, I added Breverb to a session whose DSP resources were already maxed out and found no problems after Pro Tools reshuffled its DSP resources. In general, Breverb has a very present and bright sound, and, to be heard, does not add any appreciable level to the mix. After using it for a few weeks, I found that all of its presets cut through with ease and added a polished sheen to my mixes.
I first try all new hardware and software reverbs on drums. Percussive drum sounds are broadband and short in duration, so it's easy to hear any “boinging” or noticeable decay-looping artifacts. I used a room preset called Guitar Studio on the snare drum in a 128 bpm R&B song, which already had five other reverbs and four delays coming in and out at certain moments as effects. Breverb worked perfectly for adding a little overall ambience to the track. The Guitar Studio preset also worked for the lead vocal.
On a rock song, I modified an inverse preset called Swept Arpeggio to thicken a snare sound. Inverse patches sound unnatural, so unless you're going for a big-hair '80s snare sound, a little goes a long way. Inverse also works well on lead vocals, where it adds stereo width and size without the long-tailed reverb of a plate or hall patch.
A room patch called Chamber 1 worked smoothly on a pop ballad, and I preferred adjusting pre-delay using musical notation over using milliseconds. Using the Regen function makes pre-delay more interesting and smooths out any vocal attacks that can distract from the effect of an otherwise smooth-sounding reverb. I used the gate to ensure that the total hang time of the reverb's tail did not wash over the bar line of a chord change. Both the gate hold and release times are separately adjustable using musical notation — an extra-cool feature that gives you precise control rather than making you guess when the gate should shut.
One of the most beautiful plate presets is A Night In Sevilla. I used this on a fingerpicked acoustic guitar solo with great results. I could not get enough of this wonderful-sounding reverb! I used the master EQ to warm up the tone of the reverb slightly to better fit my track.
By greatly enlarging the size parameter of the Cello Drama Ambience plate preset while keeping the default time at 500 ms, I created a plate the size of a skyscraper with the decay time of a small room. This was amazing on an acoustic rhythm guitar, giving it a roomy sound that wasn't washed out in long reverb.
On a kick drum, I used a plate preset called Drums Up Front. I was going for a tight ambience on the kick because, by comparison to the rest of the kit, it sounded much too present, close and dry. I dialed the time parameter down to 200 ms and made the size at 45 percent. As with all very tight ambiences, I carefully added just enough to hear the effect while solo'ing the kick drum tracks. I find on most software reverbs, the left and right output levels for supertight ambiences are never exactly matched, and I would like to see separate level controls for the left and right outputs in Breverb. There are pan pots for left/right inputs and outputs that change the panoramic positioning, but not the level.
I liked Breverb's separate algorithms, its presets, the well-thought-out GUI and, most of all, its superb sound. And this plug-in lets you easily accomplish everything you would do using the remote control of a large, expensive hardware reverb. If you are interested in building your reverberation sounds just as you would build the sound of your mixes, then Breverb is for you.
Overloud, dist. by Ilio, 800/747-4546, www.ilio.com.
Barry Rudolph is an L.A.-based recording engineer/mixer. Visit www.barryrudolph.com.
Check out audio clips taken during the Overloud Breverb Review
All audio was recorded at 44.1kHz sample rate/24-bit WAV. They were edited only in length and normalized in BIAS Peak Pro 5.2 XT. If you downloaded the MP3 version of files, they were made using AudioEase's Snapper utility. They are 192 kB @ 44.1 kHz.
The single-shot snare drum sounds are from EastWest's Fab Four. You'll hear the sample dry and then a lot of the added Breverb preset. You will hear the nature of effect this way using a broadband percussive signal.