We've all become accustomed to the phrase "This is the best processor, mic, etc. for under x thousand dollars." We have also come to realize what that phrase means: The item doesn't sound quite as good as the multi-thousand dollar version-it only emulates it. There are many useful and cool sounding inexpensive effects processors, but cheap reverbs usually fall short. Expensive reverbs sound like real ambience with a sense of space and depth, while inexpensive reverbs and plug- ins, while they do a fine job of pre-delay type effects, usually sound metallic, boingy and artificial. That said, I use plenty of inexpensive effects processors in all my mixes. My usual "main" reverb has a five-figure price tag and comes from Lexicon, Sony, TC Electronic, Eventide, or AMS-or is a vintage EMT plate. TC has done an incredible job of stripping down their very expensive flagship System 6000 to a stereo reverb unit (with some very special features of its own) for just under $3,000. This box ain't cheap, but it is less than half the price of its real competition.

The Reverb 4000 occupies a single rackspace, sports the familiar TC front panel, and includes XLR balanced analog I/O as well as digital I/O with XLR (AES/EBU), phono (S/PDIF), and optical (ADAT and Tos-link) connections. The unit also locks to word clock. A PCMCIA card slot allows for patch storage, and a USB port allows for control and librarian functions via TC Electronic's ICON software (currently Windows only, MacOS X version due by Jan 2004). The sampling rate is adjustable up to 96 kHz with no loss of functionality at any rate. The front panel sports three parameter knobs that allow the user to easily tweak the main reverb parameters (usually decay time, pre-delay and HF roll-off) without leaving the main page. To further tweak the patch, a pair of buttons allows the user to page through the other edit parameters in groups of three.

The Reverb 4000 produces reverb. No delays, no choruses or flangers, not even a stereo enhancer. Among the 134 preset patches, the 4000 contains presets from the System 6000, M5000, and M3000 units. Additionally, TC Electronic spent lots of time and money modeling some of our favorite reverbs and included them in the 4000. The emulations include the EMT 250 and the AMS RMX reverb; rumored to be released soon is an emulation of the Eventide 2016. TC has thoughtfully included their "wizard" feature, which lets you set search criteria for your reverb and then dial up only the presets that match your criteria.

I had the box on loan from TC Electronic for a few weeks, and I cannot say enough about how good these reverbs sound. The Reverb 4000 easily matches my favorite main reverbs in quality and versatility. My favorite starting presets are Vocal Plate for vocals and general ambience, Film Lounge and Med Hall for 4 or 5-second reverbs on orchestral music and surround mixes, and Conga Lounge and Small Studio for the AMS NonLin style small ambiences. The AMS emulations are excellent and alone make the box worth the price. Every studio needs a few top-notch pieces of gear, and the Reverb 4000 certainly fills the space of the top notch reverb.

Tape Op is a bi-monthly magazine devoted to the art of record making.

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