Eventide has been creating studio-quality outboard processors since the mid ‘70s, and Eventide phasers, flangers, pitch-shifters, and reverbs have been used in creating many of the most famous pop and rock records, from AC/DC to Mariah Carey to Frank Zappa, and everything in between. Eventide recently released a plug-in re-creation of the early ‘80s SP2016 reverb unit. The Eventide SP2016 quickly became appreciated for its natural decay and as an ambient effect that just "fit into the mix" better than other reverbs at the time. Eventide had developed a proprietary "array-processor" – an effective, though prehistoric, DSP circuit – which gave the unit its high-quality and distinctive reverb character. The SP2016 became known for its Room, Stereo Room, and Hi-Density plate algorithms, plus users could even create their own "plug-in" algorithms for the unit.
Now Eventide has ported the original SP2016 algorithms right into a plug-in that runs on AAX, AU, and VST platforms while faithfully recreating the vintage Room, Stereo Room, and Hi-Density Plate algorithms. Eventide has also added updates to those classic algorithms that utilize higher sample rates in order to create more modern ambiences. The plug-in's GUI resembles the original three space rack unit faceplate – complete with ‘80s-style sliders, square push-buttons, and a vintage LED display. Additionally, the preset menu contains settings for different instruments and styles, along with useful artist presets from George Massenburg [Tape Op #54, #63], Dave Pensado [#111], Joe Chiccarelli [#14], Richard Devine, and more of your mix heroes.
The plug-in's GUI sports Input and Output level sliders with corresponding meters, as well as sliders for wet/dry Mix, Predelay, Decay time, Position, Diffusion, and Low and High shelving filters. The Vintage Plate programs do not allow access to all of the parameters, since those were not available on the original unit. Eventide thoughtfully recreated the button (which I wish other manufacturers would include in their effects plug-ins) labeled "Kill" that mutes the input or dry signal to audition the tail or wet sound only. In use, I found the parameters to effectively shape the character and feel of the ambiences, with the Position slider having great effect on the placement of the reverb around or behind the original source. I found the use of the sliders intuitive and logically labeled.
Modern pop and rock music production has returned to featuring reverb as a primary effect on vocals and drums, so I am always on the hunt for solid reverb choices. In my mixes I typically wind up layering two or three different plug-in reverbs to create a convincing ambience or interesting spatial effect. After using the SP2016 for a few minutes, I found that one instance of the Eventide plug-in provided convincing and creative reverbs for strings, vocals, and drums that fit well in to a variety of productions. The Vintage presets sound very natural and smooth, while the Modern presets create brighter, sparkly reverbs with seemingly longer tails. On lead vocals I found the Stereo Room presets to be excellent, and for strings and pads the Plates worked well. Most of the time I started from an artist preset and tweaked a few parameters from there. I noticed after a few pop mixes that I had completely substituted the SP2016 in place of my trusty EMT 140 and FabFilter Pro-R plug-ins for lead vocals and acoustic guitars. For a classical string quartet, the Stereo Room (Vintage version) created a nice lush but transparent hall, while on trap type snares and snaps the modern versions of the Room and Plate created clean and crispy tails. Many of the included presets, like "Magic Plate" and "Ice Tunnel", are great starting points for modern and lush ambiences that work well for synths and pads. A ‘90s-style R&B is coming back, and this is definitely the ‘verb for those Mick Guzauski style vocal reverbs – like on your favorite Mariah Carey and Toni Braxton records. I created a great drum reverb à la Talking Heads' "Burning Down the House" with the Stereo Room program. The Position slider is very effective at balancing the early reflections versus the reverb tail to create drier ambiences or lusher reverb tails.
The Eventide SP2016 could be your desert island reverb and lives up to its reputation as a studio powerhouse. I found the plug-in to run well as Native AAX in Pro Tools 10 and 12, plus I never noticed any excessive CPU load from multiple instances in use. We are finally entering the golden age of plug-in reverbs – albeit by re-creating the sound of vintage hardware processors!