by Charlotte McMillan
I’ve recently been exploring FabFilter’s algorithmic reverb Pro-R. It comes in VST, VST3, AU, AAX Native and AudioSuite formats (in 64- as well as 32-bit). RTAS is available as 32-bit only. I used it as an AU plugin with Digital Performer 9.1. as well as with Vienna Ensemble Pro 5.4.1 on a desktop Mac with OS 10.7.5.
Keeping with Fabfilter tradition, Pro-R’s GUI is gorgeous. A dark blue window (which can be resized up to full screen) displays the controls across the top, and a spectrum analyzer occupies the window’s bottom two thirds. The aesthetic appeal is strong, especially the visualization of the cascading reverb lines in the “reverb+post” mode.
But behind the beautiful aesthetics is a sensible and efficient design, very conducive to a smooth workflow. There are tons of convenient features that let you dig in under the hood if desired but which stay hidden otherwise: pop up dials for pre-delay as well as the input and output signals, pop up controls for EQ bands (more about that later), drop-down menus for many controls, and help hints that appear when you hover over any parameter (this can be turned off if desired). Across the top are seven dials that allow you to shape and tailor your reverb.
Brightness. This dial essentially turns up or down the higher frequencies, mimicking the absorption (or not) of high frequencies.
Character. With the dial set at 0, the reverb is transparent. As you turn it clockwise, the sound becomes more modulated, with “chorus-like” effect at 100%. This effect is more noticeable with some sounds than others. In my experience, the chorus effect was most apparent with solo piano.
Distance. This knob would seem to be analogous to the early reflections control on other reverbs. Bring it to 0% and you’re as close as you can be to the sound source. Turn it clockwise, and you begin to move away from that sound source.
Space. Sitting in the middle and the largest of the seven dials, this controls the size of the space, indicated by length of the reverb: from 200 ms at the shortest to 10 seconds at the longest (though this can be extended up to 20 seconds with the separate decay rate dial) — small, nearly dry rooms to cathedrals and warehouses. This continuously variable value lets you hone in on exactly the size of room that you’d like. Icons representing increasingly larger spaces are helpfully positioned at six different points around the dial, for quick jumping from one size to another.
Decay Rate. This lets you increase (up to two times) or decrease (up to 50%) the current decay rate of the space you’re using, The idea is to let you increase or decrease the decay without affecting the room size.
Stereo Width. This button changes the width of the signal from mono (0%) to true stereo (50%) to multi-mono (100%) to extended stereo (above 100%, all the way to 120%), which amplifies the side signal.
Mix. This controls the wet/dry mix of the signal.
Two more important controls are the decay rate EQ and the post EQ.
The Decay Rate EQ appears as a blue horizontal line across the spectrum analyzer, with a blue decay rate scale from 12 to 200% along the vertical axis on the left side of the window. Its function is to decrease or increase the rate of decay for particular frequencies. You can create a band by simply clicking anywhere on the blue line and dragging it up or down. Up to six bands total can be created, in a variety of possible shapes: notch, low shelf, high shelf, and bell. The Q can be controlled via the mouse wheel. The band can be bypassed for comparison.
The Post EQ equalizes the final sound with available band shapes of bell, low cut, low shelf, high cut, and high shelf. It appears as a yellow horizontal line across the spectrum analyzer with a dB scale (also in yellow) from -30 to +30 dB along a vertical axis on the right side of the window. The visible range can be zoomed in to +/- 18 or +/- 9 dB.
All parameters can be automated, and I had no problem using my Korg NanoKontrol to control them.
This technical description belies the simplicity and intuitiveness of using this plugin. The simple dial setup of the seven key parameters makes them easily understood and encourages one to experiment with and refine the sound. Likewise, EQing is a cinch, particularly with the spectrum analyzer (something lacking in my other reverbs). I, for one, love the generous and clear visualization of these EQ controls. All the controls work beautifully in concert to help you craft wonderfully creative reverbs or refine existing ones with surgical precision. Looking to create a garage-y, slapbackish drum room or a pure, transparent space for a haunting, beautiful vocal? You can get to either one pretty quickly. Though I have some reverbs that are comparable in quality to this one, I’ve never felt inclined to create my own reverb while using them. With Pro-R, I did so with instant ease and pleasure.
One can venture into Pro-R easily by exploring the numerous presets, which range from small rooms to cathedrals and include plates. I found that some of the presets tended to be a little bright for my taste, though that is easily fixed with tweaking. Some of the standout presets for strings, vocals, and piano were Medium Hall 1, Neutral Room, Small Dark Hall, Concert Hall Amsterdam Modern, and Concert Hall Sydney.
As someone interested in mostly transparent reverbs for acoustic instruments, I feel this reverb meets that need beautifully. But it can also be used for creative, sound design-ish reverbs, from all kinds of slapbacks (including tempo-synced ones) for drums and vocals to interesting comb-filtering reverbs for synths.
All in all, I’d highly recommend this reverb based on its excellent sound and incredible ease of use. It works so easily and intuitively that you want to start designing reverbs! It sells for $199 on the FabFilter site. A 30-day demo is available.