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REVIEW: Waves H-Reverb Plug-In

By Bill Evans / October 15, 2015

By Rev. Bill

“Hi, my name is Rev. Bill and I am a reverb freak.”

I remember maybe 7 or 8 years ago when I was introduced to the Album “Just a Little Lovin’ “ by Shelby Lynn. You may know the story. After a decade toiling in obscurity, Shelby became an “overnight sensation” and Grammy winner in ’99 and had some hits on follow ups. But, legend has it that her record company wanted her to do the usual Nashville team songwriting thing after an album in 2005 that was critically well received but not a huge commercial hit. Shelby told the record company to pound sand and said she was going with Phil Ramone to record a bunch of Dusty Springfield songs.

I remember listening to that record, (Hell, I’m doing it again right now…) And just being in wonder that reverbs could be that incredibly lush and everything still crystal clear. And now, after literally decades of trying, with H-Reverb, I have reverbs that good for use live.

H-Reverb takes a novel approach, combining a sort of “best-of” mashup of algorithms and analog modeling. FIR tech is not new. (Finite Impulse Response and if you really wanna geek out on it you can do so HERE  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Finite_impulse_response). However, Waves is using it in a novel way to achieve reverb tails with a smoothness previously only available in very high end analog processors. On the analog side, the modeling allows them to include a Drive control which engineers who really know their poop can use to overdrive a hardware unit JUST ENOUGH to make it sound uber-cool but without any audible distortion.

The big WOW moment when I finally got it all installed and working (I’ll do a whole separate piece on that. ATT: Mix system makers who straddle the MI/Pro line… Adding plug-ins should never be this hard.) was the presets. There is a ton of stuff based on classic hardware units if you wanna go for that. But the real treasure is the large collection of engineer presets. Even if you don’t use them, listening to the differences in how engineers as diverse as Kevin Madigan (CSN), Jim Ebdon (Maroon 5) and Ken “Pooch” Van Druten (Linkin Park) approach a lead vocal reverb and the way they tailor it to the style of music they are mixing is worth the price of H-Reverb just as an educational tool. And the controls are so deep that you can explore the physics of reverb response and maybe even write settings better than those. Hey, it could happen.

I used the plug over the course of several days and about 15 hours of playing at a recent gig with my own band. It is a five-night run in Mesquite, NV at the Casablanca Resort that I have written about before because it is a great place to review gear, The crew is cooperative and being in one place for several days makes life a lot easier, especially if things do not go as well as one would like initially.

And that was very much the case here. I have been using and am a big booster of the Presonus SL32AI console-less mixing system. It is easy to use, sounds really good, is affordable and very flexible But, as I wrote in the original review, NEED LINK HERE if it has a weakness it is in the really limited selection of effects and the lack of a simple way to insert plug-ins. Part of this is undoubtedly a manifestation of the dreaded NMH Syndrome (Not Made Here). Presonus does include some very decent reverbs and delays in the SL system. But adding anything from outside… I spent literally three weeks doing back and forth with both Waves and Presonus trying to figure out how to make this work. Presonus wanted me to use their very good Studio One DAW and add the Waves plug there and have the RM32AI feed Studio One and then return those channels to the Universal Surface software that runs the whole shebang. But the process for doing so is NOT transparent. In their defense, i hear they are doing a new video explaining how to do it but it was not available when I was setting this up.

And, truth be told, I saw no reason to add that much to the “mix” I just needed a plug-in and saw no reason to go through an entire DAW and it’s processing and channel strip on top of what I had setup in Universal Surface. But I could not figure out a way to get Waves MultiRack to talk to the RM32AI and vice versa. Huge kudos to both Stephen Bailey at Waves and Justin Spence at Presonus for putting their heads together and figuring this out. I will be doing a video in the coming weeks showing how to do this for anyone else struggling like I did.

Enough of my bitching. We got it all working and the process is simple once you know what it is.

One of the things I love about reviewing gear at this venue is that—unlike on a bar gig where I am playing and singing and mixing both FOH and MON—here I only have to play and sing and mix MON. And I get to use in-ears so I can REALLY hear what’s going on.

And what is going on is a thing of utter beauty. As he has been quoted elsewhere, Pooch has said that the weakness in other reverb plugs has always been the the tails are just not as good as the hardware stuff they are supposed to replace. But I have heard and used a bunch of hardware reverbs out there and this sounds as good or better than anything I have ever used. And while it is not cheap, what does a Bricasti cost? Answer: About TEN TIMES what H-Reverb will run you.

TEN TIMES. And that is two channels. I used two different instances of H-Reverb on vocals and snare and my horns. I think I had the MacBook Pro in overdrive, but it all worked. But i don’t think I could have added much more. For the record, it is a 2012 with 16GB of RAM and an SSD.  And it was running Multirack with the H-reverb as well as Universal Surface to control the RM32AI. Next time around I plan to add the Waves Tracks for recording.

SO, bottom line for me? The best sounding reverb I have ever used. I loved it, the band loved it and the singer will likely cry when the license runs out. I know I will…

 

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Bill Evans

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