Review by Darwin Grosse
Plate reverbs, since their invention, have always held a special place in the hearts of studio rats. The basic construction is the same in most cases: you have a sheet metal plate that gets ‘excited’ by a driver (which is basically a speaker element without a cone), and pickups that capture the sound emanating through the plate. Since the plate roughly simulates a room—it has reflecting boundaries, and the sound moves outward from the driver toward the pickups—it makes for an effective and interesting-sounding reverb system.
There are many factors that determine how a plate reverb sounds: the metal used and the thickness of the plate, the size and type of the driver, the pickups in use, and the electronics used to push the driver and amplify the pickups. As with many recording technologies, vintage can be better—and that is the vibe that is imbued in the UAD Pure Plate.
Pure Plate is part of Universal Audio’s ever-expanding lineup of UAD Powered Plug-ins that take advantage of the powerful DSP found in their Apollo interfaces and UAD-2 accelerator cards. The advantages of a DSP-based plug-in is that it makes few demands on the host computer, and will work consistently regardless of the complexity of your DAW project.
While many of Powered Plug-ins are emulations of specific gear, Pure Plate is a case where Universal chose an idealized device: a plate reverb that exhibits the characteristics from classic designs. It is built using the device modeling techniques that UA is famous for, but is unique in the way that it draws you into active use.
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The user control options are quite clear, with some simple frequency adjustments (low cut switching, low and high shelving EQ), stereo balancing, and an output mix. You control the reverb algorithm with two controls: a predelay slider and a reverb time control—which also animates a cool visual of a damper (the pad that is pressed against a physical plate to reduce its reverb time). Finally, there is a ‘Power’ switch that can bypass the device and a “Wet Solo” switch, which switches to full-on reverb—a useful option when tuning the plate’s response.
Other than working on the UAD DSP systems, what’s special about this reverb? For my money, it combines a great plate reverb sound with an engaging user interface—a combo that is deadly in the hands of a creative engineer. In high-end reverb plug-ins, the number of controls can be overwhelming, and can prove to be a disincentive to user edits. As a result, you tend to interact with those reverbs by clicking through their endless lists of presets. In the case of the Pure Plate, there are a few presets (developed by folks like Chuck Zwicky and Patrick Carney) provided to serve as an introduction, but it’s expected that you will grab your mouse and tweak the controls to best suit the mix.
In my own use, I found that this was a killer tool for drums, drum loops and drum machines—as you might expect from a plate reverb. But it was also effective on more aggressive sounds. Shredded guitars and screeching synths worked well; combining its vintage vibe with the ease of editing meant that you could quickly dial in a sound for most difficult-to- manage tonalities.
One interesting result of using the Pure Plate reverb is that I found myself using reverb times that were shorter than I typically use. I tend to like a lush, fat reverb—and often run to algorithmic reverbs as a result. But the Pure Plate sound hits a sweet spot of lushness without taking over a mix like a bigger algorithmic reverb might do. The results tended to be tighter, more focused mixes that still had the depth that I depend upon.
I also found that, if kept well-damped and EQed, Pure Plate was a great tool for beefing up spoken-word work. Nothing will spoil an interview faster than a big, dumb reverb wash, but a tightly controlled plate can work wonders for giving a speaker more presence. The trick is to apply only enough reverb to ‘feel’ the difference—without specifically hearing the reverb. I tried Pure Plate on a couple of different speakers, and the available controls (particularly the reverb time and predelay) provided just the right level of management for this work.
If you can’t already tell, I’m a fan of this plug-in. It is the right combination of tweakable and simple, and I found myself using it whenever a plate was right—and even at times when I didn’t think it could fit. It’s a versatile and beautiful-sounding reverb that is easy on the DSP and (as one of the least-expensive Powered Plug-Ins) easy on the wallet. Kind of hard to go wrong with that combo, right?
Delivery: Web download
Formats: UAD-2 Powered Plug-In
Copy Protection: Requires Universal Audio UAD account and UAD-2 or Apollo hardware
License: single user account, multiple computers with UAD-2 hardware
Documentation: PDF manual
More from: Universal Audio, www.uaudio.com