Spring, plate, digital, convolution—whatever flavor you choose, reverb is reverb, right? Well, not if German developers Zynaptiq have anything to say about it. Their latest audio effect plug-in, ADAPTIVERB, has completely rewritten the book on reverb processing by intelligently synthesizing the reverb tail from a network of hundreds of oscillators. So, did Zynaptiq really reinvent the “reverbial wheel”—and if so, is it essential?
Under The Hood
No reflections, no room modelling—no reverb, right? Not the case with ADAPTIVERB. Their proprietary “Bionic Sustain Resynthesizer” uses machine learning to generate lush tonal residue that adapts to the source material fed into it, taking that source material and rebuilding a tail from a network of non-linear “knowledge node” oscillators. All of which sounds very sci-fi and cool, but how does the resulting reverb sound?
The short answer is: great, but a bit quiet. Configured as an insert or as a send, I still had to crank ADAPTIVERB’s Wet Gain control up near the maximum of +24 dB to coax useable signal from it. Once adequately boosted, however, there’s no denying the sumptuous resonances that emanate from ADAPTIVERB’s unique signal processing.
Pre-Delay, Low Cut, and a high frequency synthesizer referred to as Input Air define the input signal. In the Main editing mode that greets users by default, three primary sections alter the sound: the Richness of the Resynthesizer and the positive or negative filtration amount of the Harmonic Contour filter, both represented by spherical “trackball” sliders, and, in the center, an X/Y pad to quickly control the Sustain and Reverb Mix.
In Fine-Tune mode, the Resynth provides a Simplify control to reduce or increase the number of oscillators used to generate the reverb, significantly altering the tonality, while a Richness slider adds additional harmonics. The interval can be set to perfect fifths or octaves, either above or below the input signal, while Pitch Randomization and Diffusion sliders add further texture to the result.
Along the bottom you’ll find the Reverb section, where you can switch between the default Allpass algorithm and a CPU-intensive, higher-latency Ray Tracing algorithm. Borrowing a term from 3D rendering, the Ray Tracing mode uses an “AI implementation” to model some 16,000 non-linear pathways from the speakers to surfaces determined by the other parameters without actually calculating all of them individually. If you have the patience for even more latency, you can try the HD Ray Tracing model for supposedly higher fidelity with a more expansive feel—though in my case it caused my CPU to sputter.
Reverb Source blends between the sustain resynthesis engine’s output and that of the optional freeze circuit; at minimum values the resynthesis engine is bypassed. Reverb Size and Dampening controls adjust the engine’s decay time and high-frequency removal, respectively.
Along with the resynthesis engine, another notable area where ADAPTIVERB excels is the Harmonic Contour Filter. Not unlike a spectral filter with additional controls, this is the section that ensures the reverb output retains optimal harmonic compatibility with its input.
In Main mode, the HCF Amount is a bipolar dial that suppresses tones unlike the input at positive values for more harmonically resonant results, while negative values reduce tones that are harmonically similar for more dissonant dispersions. In Fine-Tune mode, a Breathiness slider adds residual noise from the HCF circuit to deliver more “natural” sounding reverbs with random high-frequency content. The HCF Weighting slider determines whether higher or lower frequency signals are favored and passed through, while the Tracking mode provides three options: continuously Follow the signal and update harmonic settings accordingly, Hold the current state, or stay Linked to the Freeze control.
The default Track mode for the Harmonic Contour is automatically based on the input signal characteristics, but the Keyboard mode is where things get really interesting. A simple, single octave keyboard lets you select specific notes for the tone of the reverb tail, with five automatable snapshots available to switch between different chords. The RES mode uses steep bandpass filters to boost the desired harmonics, while the QNT mode strictly quantizes harmonics to the desired keys rather than filtering out the unwanted keys, delivering a somehow thicker yet cleaner tone. While in Keyboard mode, the Harmonic Filtering amount fades between the filtered or quantized and otherwise unprocessed signals, allowing for some incredibly rich spatial harmonics.
There’s no denying ADAPTIVERB delivers a unique and delicious reverb unlike anything I’ve heard. However, it’s so CPU intensive and can introduce such prohibitive latency that it’s unlikely a safe bet for much other than offline sound design processes. At its relatively high price point, that may prove a deal-breaker to some, but for professional studios looking to add remarkably luxurious—and harmonically intelligent—reverb to their arsenal, ADAPTIVERB is worth serious consideration.
Price: $249 USD; $149 USD on sale through September 30th, 2016.
Pros: Incredibly lush and clean reverb with plenty of unique features for advanced sound design, hands-on customer support to help users get the most out of Adaptiverb.
Cons: Extremely CPU intensive, somewhat low output volume, relatively costly.