In the search for a perfect reverb I came across Valhalla DSP, founded by algorithmic wizard Sean Costello. You’ll have to look no further than his Manifesto on the website to learn how passionate he is about digital signal processing algorithms for audio. His work is ‘grounded in a deep appreciation and analysis of analog and digital techniques of the past, and extending these foundations into new directions of awesome.’ His goal was to create powerful tools with simple interfaces that could be accessible to all producing musicians. And, just from a few introductory minutes on each plug-in, I saw this to be true.
The Valhalla reverbs have been released for a few years, but if you somehow missed the opportunity to try and buy these fantastic plugs, here’s a gentle reminder to go explore. The four Reverbs include Plate, Room, Shimmer and Vintage, and all have wonderfully different textures depending on your needs. In this article, I briefly cover the unique aspects of each. I also include an audio example of me playing flute through a setting in each reverb. The reverb settings are displayed in the screenshots provided.
Flute through Valhalla Plate:
Valhalla Plate is modeled after the real world sound and behavior of steel plate reverbs and allows users to go beyond the physical capabilities of this sound. Steel plate reverbs were some of the first reverb sounds used in recording production, starting in the '60s, and quite complicated to set up. Now that we are well into the digital recording revolution, there are a plethora of digital reverb models that emulate this sound that we can quickly load up and implement. The Valhalla plate realistically models the physics of plate reverbs in addition to providing extra control or extended techniques. These include controlling how metallic the reverb sounds and a lush modulation setting that eliminates any metallic artifacts. There are Plate sounds available in the Valhalla Room plug-in but for producers and engineers who tend to gravitate towards plate for signal processing, this stand-alone tool is a worthy investment.
Flute through Valhalla Room:
If you were to decide on only one reverb of the four, Valhalla Room would be a great versatile choice. There is a little of everything here as far as sizes of rooms, including light ambiences, traditional hall and plate sounds and complex, modulated spaces. There are twelve unique reverberation algorithms to choose from and a host of presets to get started as well. Also of note are the ‘Early’ and ‘Late’ sections. The ‘Early’ section allows you to design short bursts of reverberation energy like gates and chorusing effects while the ‘Late’ section allows for shaping control over the decays up to 100 seconds. There are so many preset choices and possible algorithm combinations, that one could spend hours listening to the various nuances produce by subtle and dramatic changes a like.
Flute through Valhalla Shimmer:
Valhalla Shimmer is the first plug-in that intrigued me out of the four available. I like to use big, long tail reverbs in my music meditation recordings, especially vocal recordings, and Shimmer did not disappoint. Any fan of big cathedrals, halls or arenas will love the detail and breadth of this reverb tool. All of the parameters can be adjusted in real time without weird artifacts or other bothersome nuances. The sound quality is buttery, rich and deep; like landing on a soft pillow. It’s wonderful to have a reverb tool that is specifically tailored to big, lush sounds. In my experience, it’s been tough with other reverbs to find that sweet spot. This is a sound you can get lost in and would be interesting on any instrument. Shimmer also has the ability to pitch shift the feedback signal and there are five different modes for that. In the product description, Costello explains how to use Shimmer and the pitch-shifting algorithm to obtain the classic Eno/Lanois ‘shimmer’ sound.
Flute through Valhalla Vintage:
Valhalla Vintage is sweet sounding reverb inspired by classic hardware digital reverbs of '70s and '80s. The way Costello recreated the '70s and '80s version of the Vintage is fascinating. In the '70s hardware version, there was a 10 kHz maximum output frequency, and the sound was down sampled internally. He reproduced this sound with custom algorithms so that the modulation is dark and noisy and artifacts are intentionally produced to give the impression of running at a lower sampling rate. The '80s version has a brighter sound in comparison and runs at full bandwidth and sample rate, although the modulation is still dark and noisy. A ‘NOW ‘ setting is also included with clean and colorless modulation. The reverb algorithms include some standard Halls, Plate and Rooms but also interesting setting like ‘Nonlin,’ which combine gated, reverse and nonlinear into one and sound otherworldly. Many of the algorithms in Vintage emulate '80s style hardware reverbs as well giving this plug-in a unique vintage quality all its own.
Detailed descriptions of all four reverbs can be found on the website as well as extensive sound examples. Each plug-in is priced at a very reasonable $50 and I would not hesitate to add one or all of these to your effects arsenal. Plus, you support the talents and efforts of an individual developer who is making some of the best reverbs available anywhere. Everybody wins!
Price: $50 each
Pros: Pristine sound quality, modeled from classic reverbs with next level capabilities
Cons: Parameter reset button would be nice but so minor compared to the quality of all plugs