What Is The Best Reverb For Orchestral Samples?

Christian and Jake duke out what they prefer to add as ‘gravy’ to their orchestral mixes. From a selection of 6 favourite reverbs, they discuss whether a $16,000 reverb is really 320 times better than a $50 one.

Here’s a quick summary of the “large warm halls” they auditioned across a hybrid orchestral cue. Jake’s big takeaway for determining a good reverb? “It’s all about the tail”.

TC6000 - $16,000

The favourite of the majority of professionally mixed orchestral film scores. Christian uses this not necessarily because it can be proved as the best, but “if you want your stuff to sound like film scores, use the reverb used on all film scores!”. They found the reverb to be engulfing, not adding just sustain and ‘tail’ to the recording but a real sense of space. The tail was smooth and faded off into infinity without a sense of it artificially dying out. The TC6000 was the only hardware reverb they tested.

www.tcelectronic.com

Vss3 Native by TC - $199

Seeing as the TC6000 uses the same algorithm surely these two should be identical (the TC6000 offers 5.1 versions where the VSS3 Native is just stereo). Christian and Jake both agreed that the brains controlling these two algorithms were different so there would naturally be subtle characteristics unique to both. Whilst the two of them found it difficult to tell too much of a difference, they detected a slight modulation at the very end of the tail of the native version. Christian also felt it sounded a little more “metallic” than the hardware version.

www.tcelectronic.com/vss3-native/

Altiverb by Audio Ease - $899 (XL = 5.1) & $520 (Stereo Only)

By far Jake’s reverb of choice, the Mechanics Hall Worcester really did square up to the TC6000. Christian suggested that Jake’s appeal may come from the slightly less engulfing nature and greater focus it gave to the samples; something that adds to the brilliant quality of Jake’s recordings. Christian himself felt his ‘imposter syndrome’ left him wanting more ‘lipstick’ on his notes. They both agreed that the tail felt a little abrupt compared to the TCs. It’s also worth noting that where Altiverb is more expensive than most other software reverbs, it is an incredibly feature-rich plugin, offering reverbs, not only for music, but for sound dubbing too.

www.audioease.com/altiverb/

Lexicon Native - $399 (or $199 for LXP)

An old favourite in the mixing world, brought to us in software form. This was the first to really sonically differ from the first three offerings. Jake & Christian felt it was incredibly musical with certain notes hitting ‘nodes’ within the reverb. The tail was highly modulated, almost eccentrically so, but with a smooth taper and a general sense of space.

Pro-R by Fabfilter - $199

A new arrival and winner by far of the day’s ‘sexiest GUI’. Fabfilter offered a new alternative to the 4 stalwarts above. Jake felt that the fantastic GUI offered great insight into what was going on with the sound, whilst adopting a more approachable language for composers without masses of engineering know-how. They both felt that whilst the tail was nice, along with the smoothness of sound, it didn’t engulf and offer-up a sense of space as effectively as the previous four.

www.fabfilter.com

Valhalla Room - $50

Winner by far of the most value for money plugin of the day, Valhalla’s extraordinary reverb offers professional quality verbs ideal for orchestral for people on a budget. Whilst there were certain artefacts present, not heard in the others (namely a digital fizz to the top end) Jake and Christian argued that with a little TLC, major projects could be mixed on this no problems.

www.valhalladsp.com

Verdict

Taking the expensive TC6000 out of the equation, Jake felt the Altiverb came out on top, with the Pro-R being his second go-to in the future. Christian reaffirmed his faith to TC with VSS3 being his favourite followed by Lexicon native.

*Neither Jake nor Christian are endorsed by any of the companies featured.