Eventide SP2016 Reverb
By Phil O'Keefe |
Eventide SP2016 Reverb
The first effects processor with plug-ins... now available as a plug-in
by Phil O'Keefe
When it comes to high-end digital processors for music, few companies have a history as long and as enviable as Eventide. One of their most-loved hardware units is the vintage (circa 1982) SP2016. While it was Eventide's first reverb unit, it was capable of much more than just 'verb. It has been used by legendary engineers such as Mick Guzauski, Alan Sides, George Massenburg and Jack Douglas on numerous hit records over the years, and despite its age, it is still quite popular. It has been previously re-released in a few different forms, including as a fairly accurate Princeton Digital plug-in, as a hardware processor with modern converters (the Eventide Reverb 2016 Stereo Reverb Processor, which sells for $1,995 "street") and it was also released as the Eventide 2016 Stereo Room Reverb Plug-in ($199 "street"), which replicated one, but not all of its three main algorithms.
Ever wonder where the idea for "plug-ins" began? It was with the original hardware SP2016, which used EPROM chips that could be plugged in to the unit to change what it did. The SP2016 was the first programmable digital effects processor, and each EPROM (the SP2016 had slots for eleven EPROM chips) held between one and five different program algorithms, depending on their complexity; each gave the SP2016 different "instructions" and could be used to create different types of effects - things like Stereo Synthesis, Sync'd Repeats, Long Delay, Dual Digiplex, Psycho Panner, Chorus, Flanger, etc. - and not just reverb. According to the folks at Eventide, this created a fair amount of confusion with users at the time; in retrospect, they think it might have been wiser to have just stuck with the SP2016's bread and butter reverb type effects, which have proven to be the most popular effects the unit created - and that's basically what they've done with the new plug-in version of this veritable classic.
What You Need To Know
- The SP2016 is a modern recreation of Eventide's hardware SP2016. It was produced by the same people at the same company that made the original hardware, using the same effects algorithms.
- The SP2016 Reverb plug-in is compatible with computers running Mac (OS 10.7 or higher) and Windows (7 SP1 or higher) operating systems.
- The Eventide SP2016 is compatible with VST2, AU and AAX native plugin formats (32 and 64 bit versions are both supported), and most major DAW programs - Cubase (7+), Pro Tools (10.3.6+), Nuendo, Wavelab, Logic (8+). SONAR, Studio One, Digital Performer, Reaper, Garage Band, etc.
- Once installed, mono, mono to stereo and full stereo versions of the plug-in will appear as options in your DAW's plug-in menu.
- Copy protection is handled via iLok. You can put the authorization on your computer if you prefer - an iLok dongle is not required, but you will need a free iLok account for authorization of the plug-in. Installation was super easy for me, and I tested the SP2016 Reverb plug-in using Pro Tools on both Mac and PC computers.
- The CPU hit is very modest - on my 3.5 GHz quad core i7 PC, the CPU use meter in Pro Tools only went up by about 1% to 2% with each added instance I put into a session.
- The algorithms used are not just "based on" the original SP2016 hardware's algorithms, the vintage versions of the Room, Stereo Room and High Density Plate algorithms used in the SP2016 Reverb plug-in are exactly the same as on the original hardware unit. The same bit depth and sample rates are used in the vintage models - any subtle sonic differences that golden-eared folks might notice come down to the difference in the vintage converters used in the hardware box compared to the modern ones in your DAW.
- Speaking of modernity, you also get three "modern" versions of those three classic reverb algorithms. These are "brighter, more diffuse, and use a higher bit depth" according to Eventide, and that was borne out in my listening tests as well.
- The six available algorithms can be selected with a large red Program button, which is to the right side of the simulated alphanumeric LED display on the plug-in.
- The Bypass button on the opposite side completely mutes both the input and output to the plug-in. A regular plug-in Bypass button is also included.
- The SP2016 comes with a good sized collection of presets, including several "instrument-specific" presets. Some of these can work very well on other instruments besides the ones that are suggested, so don't be afraid to experiment!
- Several presets based on room or "space" size are also included.
- Many of the included presets have been programmed by such notable engineers and producers as Joe Chiccarelli, George Massenburg, Dave Pensado , Richard Devine, and Buda & Grandz.
- Don't like presets, or prefer to use them as a starting point for your own edits? Then you will appreciate just how well laid out and easy the SP2016 Reverb plug-in's interface is to use… it's very similar to the vintage hardware in both look and operation. The controls on the SP2016 Reverb plug-in are straightforward, easy to understand, and most importantly, effective.
- In addition to the simulated LED display and the Program and Bypass buttons I've already mentioned, the remainder of the interface consists primarily of virtual sliders that allow you to adjust various parameters for the selected algorithm.
- The sliders that are displayed will vary, depending on which algorithm is selected. The vintage version of the High Density Plate has some of the sliders "greyed out" and inactive.
- The modern version of the High Density Plate gives you access to all controls, including the ones that are disabled in the vintage version.
- In the Levels section you'll find Input and Output level control sliders, as well as level and peak metering that can be switched to monitor either input or output levels. A Kill switch is also included so you can remove the input signal and dry mix temporarily - this is handy when listening and making adjustments to your reverb tail length.
- In the Parameters section there are five sliders. Mix controls the amount of reverb vs. dry mix that is sent to the outputs, with the mix being 100% wet when the slider is all the way up. A Mix Lock button can be used to keep that ratio you select in place as you audition the various different presets.
- Predelay gives you a bit of delay before the onset of the reverberation. This has a wide adjustment range and can be set for up to 999 milliseconds of predelay, so it's suitable for use in creating basic delay effects too.
- Decay controls the reverb's RT60 or reverb decay time. Very long reverb decays can be created with the SP2016, depending on the algorithm selected and the setting of this slider.
- Probably my favorite control of all is the Position slider. This allows you to change the virtual location of the listener within the room and relative to the sound source. Unlike the Mix control, it doesn't just vary the wet / dry ratio, but the actual sound and character of the early reflections and reverb itself. This control is exceptionally useful in helping you "sit" processed instruments and vocals just where you want them in the mix, giving you easy control of the "front to back" aspect or "depth" of your mix elements.
- The Diffusion slider lets you control the character of the reverb, giving you low diffusion with harder, less dense echoes at low settings and smother, more highly diffused reverberation at higher settings, making the reverberation sound denser and thicker the higher up you move the slider.
- There is also a rudimentary EQ for adjusting the bandwidth of the reverberated signal. This consists of four sliders, with two assigned to the Low Frequencies, and two for the High Frequencies. Both have one knob for frequency selection, and a second to control the amount of gain.
- The low frequency slider can be set from 50Hz - 500 Hz, while the high frequency slider has a range from 1 kHz to 8 kHz, with a 0 to -8 dB gain adjustment range for the highs and a -8 dB to +4 dB range for the low frequencies.
- Unlike the original hardware unit, there's no way to add additional algorithms to the SP2016 plug-in; as of this time, no alternative algorithms are available from Eventide to expand the number and types of effects available. This would be a cool capability to add in a future software upgrade, so hopefully Eventide is listening… but considering the fact that they struggled with people not "getting" that aspect of the original SP2016, it's somewhat understandable why they stuck with the three classic cherished reverbs (and modern day updates of them) and left it at that.
- There is no DSP compatible versions available at this time - it works with native (host CPU) processors only; no UAD-2 or TDM / HDX compatible versions of this version of the SP2016 are available. This isn't a considerable limitation, especially given the low native CPU use of the plug-in.
Chances are better than good that you've heard this sound many times before. The SP2016 is one of those legendary processors that has been used by multiple A-list engineers and has contributed to the sound of countless hit records. Will it make your record a hit? Not on its own; but it will very accurately give you those classic SP2016 Room, Stereo Room and Plate reverb sounds in both vintage and modern form.
While the original Eventide SP2016 was the recording industry's first programmable processor, the plugin version under review here does not have quite the same modification capability - there are no third party or optional Eventide plug-ins available for expansion of your effects palette, and as far as I know, no plans to add that capability to the plug-in. Still, what you get is impressive - an accurate recreation of the original hardware unit's legendary sound, coming in at a price that's much, much less than what the vintage hardware units currently sell for - if you could find a serviceable one for sale.
I was really excited to hear that they were releasing a new plug-in version of the SP2016. While the SP2016 hardware unit has been recreated a few times in the past (including the hardware Eventide Reverb 2016 and the previous Princeton Digital and Eventide SP2016 Stereo Room plug-ins), this is the most accurate and complete reproduction in plug-in form yet. The Eventide SP2016 Stereo Room Reverb plug-in is very nice, and I have used it frequently, but the new Eventide plug-in goes even further by providing users with the Room and Plate algorithms that it lacks, as well as the updated, more modern versions that help bring the SP2016's sound into the 21st century.
I have been a big fan of Eventide's processors for a long time. I had high hopes and expectations for the SP2016, and they didn't let me down. It sounds gorgeous and sits in the mix effortlessly. Missing add-on EPROM "plug-ins" aside, this is a excellent software representation of the first programmable studio effects processor, and one that still remains cool sounding and useful for modern productions today, some thirty-seven years after it was first introduced. Yeah, you're going to want this one… so what are you waiting for? Click one of the links below to get your own copy, or if you're still not convinced, download the free 30 day demo / trial version from Eventide's website and listen for yourself. If you're like me, you'll quickly find it to be an indispensable mixing tool. -HC-
Want to discuss the Eventide SP2016 Reverb plug-in or have questions or comments about this review? Then head over to this thread in the Studio Trenches forum right here on Harmony Central and join the discussion!
Eventide SP2016 Reverb plug-in ($249.00 "street")
Eventide's product web page
Eventide's Vintage SP2016 page, with lots of historical information about the original hardware unit
Eventide SP2016 Reverb Plug-in User Guide (PDF file)
You can purchase the Eventide SP2016 Reverb plug-in from:
Eventide SP2016 Reverb Plug-In Videos
Front to rear Position control adjustment demo
Mixing Hip Hop
Phil O'Keefe is a multi-instrumentalist, recording engineer / producer and the Senior Editor of Harmony Central. He has engineered, produced and performed on countless recording sessions in a diverse range of styles, with artists such as Alien Ant Farm, Jules Day, Voodoo Glow Skulls, John McGill, Michael Knott and Alexa's Wish. He is a former featured monthly columnist for EQ magazine, and his articles and product reviews have also appeared in Keyboard, Electronic Musician and Guitar Player magazines.