Berlin, 1977, in Hansa Tonstudio: Tony Visconti is recording Bowie's soon-to-be hit song Heroes, but he has run out of tracks. Hansa's studio 2 was the historic Meistersaal Hall constructed in 1910 for classical music performance. It was of course ideal for ambient vocal mic setups, but because only one track was available for three microphones Visconti decided to gate the ambient mics and print them along with the main vocal. At that moment was born a unique and special sound and Eventide have teamed up with Visconti to develop a plugin that recreates the complex routing and space involved in his iconic three mic setup. With a few extra options available and a variety of mono and stereo modes this seems a very promising prospect.
The plugin GUI is split into three sections, a Preset Bar, an image of the famous room and a console section. The top Preset Bar offers such functionality as preset selection, saving and loading. A compare function is included which becomes illuminated when a change has been made from the preset, clicking this button toggles between the original and the alteration. There is a button marked “i” that will load up the manual and finally two buttons pertaining to mix function. A Mix ratio setting that can be dragged from 0% to 100% and the Mix Lock function allowing the Mix setting to be locked when new presets are loaded. This avoids confusion when cycling through presets as some are intended as inserts and others for bus sends.
In the room view we see three microphones on stands. Mic 1 is locked to a central position but Mics 2 and 3 can be dragged around the room as desired. Hover the cursor over a mic and a readout appears beneath the stand showing distance down the room and offset angle. These values can be manually typed or one parameter can be locked when right click dragging. If Shift is held whilst dragging, the mic in question is conveniently soloed. Lateral position influences how much of each channel is picked up when in stereo input mode. Furthermore, Mic 1 offers a menu giving a choice of Omni, Cardioid, or Figure 8 patterns plus high-pass and low-pass filters at 150Hz and 8kHz. The choice of polar pattern on it's own is often enough to provide a nice ambience to many sources.
Some extremely interesting effects can be achieved by automating the mic positions, which can of course be moved at speeds impossible in the real world — even with the lightest footed assistant engineer! It is worth noting how smooth the mic movement is sonically. There is no discernible parsing time as one might encounter with a convolution reverb and no noticeable zipper noise as often happens on algorithmic reverbs. Eventide even suggest an Inverse Tverb setting which uses exact mic placement and phase cancellation to apply room sound only when the input source drops below the gate threshold on Mic 2.
Beneath the Eventide and Tverb logos we come to the console section, a familiar looking white and blue-grey beast. The manual of course confirms that this was inspired by the Neve used for the 1977 Heroes sessions. There are three channels, a Master fader and a Room parameters section. The Room section allows damping control for two sweepable frequencies with a trim of -8dB to +4dB. Diffusion and Decay knobs allow the user to tweak the room further, even taking the Decay beyond the actual hall's RT60, up to 7 Seconds.
The console channels offer Level, Pan, Mute, Solo and Phase Reverse for each of the 3 mics. The Mic 1 channel has a compressor and of course Mic 2 and 3 both have gates. Each has a bypass toggle and meters to show Input level and Gain Reduction. Because this plugin models a room, compression does not apply to the input source of Mics 2 and 3. The compressor seems quite powerful in its own right and due to the low CPU overhead one could use this plugin as simply a compressor. The Mix control even allows for parallel compression. The parameters and sonic have a Neve flavour as one would expect. Attack and Release usefully both range from 1mS to 300mS and Ratio offers everything from 1:1 to 20:1 limiting. When using the plugin in a Visconti three mic vocal mode, with the distant mics gated, it is worth not compressing too much before the plugin as this reduces the efficacy of the gate threshold. The vocal compression can be performed in the plugin or post send if using Tverb on a bus.
The gates that can be applied to mics 2 and 3 have a useful enough parameter range and both Attack and Decay range from 10mS to 3S, with a Hold from 50mS to 3S. A wide variety of swell and gating effects can be implemented on the reverb. There are also switches for a side-chain input from Mic 1 pre-compression (post polar pattern) which is labelled Pre and a Link switch to synchronise the parameters of the two gates. There are a couple of minor annoyances in the console section design. Firstly the lack of Hysteresis and Depth controls on the gates. Sometimes the gates can be just a little too harsh in their cutting off of the reverb. Of course one could use two instances of the plugin as a workaround for this. Also because of the angled fader section of the console graphic the Pan pots can sometimes be a little difficult to see the position of at a glance. The Master Fader is a simple level control, there may be some harmonic distortion modelled here but if so it is difficult to identify and there is none of the pesky noise modelling that so often accompanies vintage gear based plugins.
The plugin should definitely not be thought of as just a reverb, nor as a magical black box signature- sound plugin. Despite being based around a single room model it is amazingly versatile, offering solutions for phasey vocals, tight ambiences and epic long tail reverbs. The over one hundred presets with which it ships are testament to this versatility. It particularly shines for constructing a room space that was not present in smaller tracking studios. In terms of the reverb sound these things are always a matter of personal taste, however it is notable that the reverb has a beautiful open sound that doesn't seem to step on other mix elements. Tverb doesn't have that low-mid hump that one often hears in many reverbs. Whilst the top end is sparkly, it builds slowly so doesn't mask high frequency content and there is almost no need to filter this reverb in most cases. If you are the kind of mixer who likes to time their pre-delays to the track this of course can be done by placing the mics at the relevant distances. Eventide usually hover around the top end of the market in price, but at $249 this plugin is by no means placed far outside the normal reverb plugin price-point. But of course ... this is not merely just another reverb plugin.