AMS RMX16 Digital Reverb Plugin for Universal Audio UAD-2 and Apollo
By Phil O'Keefe |
Is this plugin faithful to the legendary studio hardware reverb?
Founded in 1976, Advanced Music Systems (AMS) was one of the early pioneers in the area of digital audio and effects. In 1981 AMS released one of their most successful and enduring products - the microprocessor-controlled AMS RMX16 digital reverb. In an era when large plate reverbs were still one of the primary sources for artificial reverberation in major recording studios the AMS RMX 16 represented a significant advancement in technology, requiring neither the physical space or isolation needed by a plate. With its groundbreaking full-bandwidth performance the RMX16 gained acceptance with musicians and engineers rather quickly and has became one of the most popular effects processors of all time; it has been used on countless hit recordings and it is rare to walk into a major studio and not see one in the effects rack. Even today, many engineers find the RMX16 to be an indispensable tool, and it is still used frequently on modern productions.
AMS founder, Cambridge University alumni, former aerospace engineer, designer of the original RMX16 and current head of AMS Neve Mark Crabtree was directly involved with the development of Universal Audio's new plugin version of the AMS RMX16 reverb. In fact he says he spent almost as much time on the recreation as he did on the original. How did it turn out?
What You Need To Know
- Outside of the original hardware units, the AMS RMX16 is only available as a powered plugin designed to run on Universal Audio's DSP equipped UAD-2 processors and Apollo interfaces, including the new Universal Audio Apollo Twin.
- The UAD-2 plugin version of the RMX16 is fully authorized and approved by AMS Neve.
- Computer system requirements are listed on UA's website and both Mac (OS X 10.8 / 10.9) and Windows 7 (64 bit) computers are supported on systems with UAD-2 processors (Satellite, Apollo, and PCIe cards) running UAD v.7.10 or later software.
- The Universal Audio plugin version of the AMS Neve RMX16 uses the exact same reverb, delay and effects algorithms as the legendary hardware unit. All nine of the original factory program algorithms are here, including the much loved Ambience and NonLinear algorithms, as well as the Room, Halls, and Plate reverbs, and the Echo, Chorus and Reverse effects.
- The front panel controls of the plugin will look very familiar to anyone who has ever used the hardware AMS RMX16. As with the original, a large display shows you what's going on with all parameters. Input and output level controls are provided and you can adjust pre-delay and decay time, with the maximum decay and pre-delay times depending on which algorithm is selected. You can also adjust the low and high decay filters for many programs. These controls let you roll off the low and high frequencies in the same way as on the original hardware unit.
- A virtual pot that replicates the actions of the Pot control on the hardware unit allows you to adjust the Decay time, Pre-Delay and Dry/Wet key parameters - just select the button for the parameter you want to change, then rotate the pot to select the value you wish. The UAD-2 plugin features Nudge Up / Down controls which are also just like those on the hardware unit, and allow you to increase or decrease the program number or select parameters.
- A numeric keypad is located on the right of the plugin. This is used to enter values for the various parameters. For example, to change the pre-delay, hit the pre-delay button, which will illuminate. Then use the keypad to type in how many milliseconds of pre-delay you want, then hit the enter (#) key. You can also use the nudge keys to increase the pre-delay by program dependent amounts. Unlike the hardware, the plugin also offers direct "click and type" editing of the GUI's "front panel" controls, making it even easier to use.
- Do you like presets? The RMX16 comes with a large number of excellent presets courtesy of some of the most successful audio engineers in the world, including Steve Levine, Kevin Killen, Chuck Zwicky and Ross Hogarth.
- The noise floor of the original hardware processor could occasionally be an issue on quiet material. While some purists might miss the noise, I'm happy that such is not the case with the Universal Audio plugin version, which is quite a bit quieter than the original - both electronically as well as acoustically since the plugin lacks the fan of the rack mount processor. How can that be since the same algorithms are used for both? Well, the original hardware's A/D and D/A converters are replaced by those in your modern computer system's audio interface - and those tend to be much more capable and lower in noise than the circuits used in the original hardware, which was developed over 30 years ago.
- Other differences between the hardware and plugin versions include Dry/Wet mix ratio and Wet Solo controls, which take the place of the hardware's Store Control Save and Recall buttons on the plugin's virtual front panel. Saving and recalling presets is handled via the usual computer plugin software menus, while the new controls are a nod to convenience for DAW users.
- It's a bit of a resource hog. According to Universal Audio's ever-helpful Instance Count Chart, you can run no more than two instances of this plugin at 44.1kHz on a UAD-2 Solo. Up to eight instances of it are possible with their Quad processors, which I confirmed with the Universal Audio UAD-2 Satellite Quad core FireWire unit that I used for the review . To be fair, odds are that you won't need more than a few instances, even on a large and complex mix. Remember too that with the hardware unit you only get one instance! The other good news is that these figures hold true for both mono and stereo, so using the RMX16 plugin in stereo doesn't cut the number of instances in half as you might suspect.
- "Extra" programs are not included - you're limited to the nine that originally came with the AMS RMX16 hardware.
- When changing between programs, the AMS RMX16 mutes for a moment. According to the manual, this is so that memory flush-out is not audible at the output.
- The noise of the original is mostly absent from the plugin version. While some might consider this a limitation, many engineers probably won't miss it a bit. Still, it might have been nice if users had the option to add it back if they wanted to.
It's not often you get a chance to get this kind of performance at this kind of price. The aging hardware processors are still in such demand that they often go for nearly ten times what this plugin costs. And this is no look-alike/sounds different plugin - it is an incredibly accurate software representation of the classic AMS RMX16 digital reverb that has been a major recording studio staple for over three decades. The algorithms are identical, the same person responsible for the development of the hardware unit was behind the plugin, and it's endorsed by AMS Neve. You can't get more authentic than that! Don't take my word for it - just listen to the demos below.
If you don't already have a Universal Audio UAD-2 or Apollo, I feel sorry for you - this is the kind of outstanding software that helps makes those products so desirable, and you can only use it on computers equipped with UA's UAD-2 processors. This reverb will sound instantly familiar to you, and the way it effortlessly sits into a mix is very unique. The Ambience and Room programs are personal favorites of mine, the Halls and Plate are dense and rich, and the NonLinear program has been used on more drum recordings than I can count. If there are any significant differences to point out between the hardware and plugin, I'd have to say that they are the number of instances you can use simultaneously and the decreased noise level of the plugin. Because of that, I'd actually rather use the software plugin than the original hardware unit - and how many times can you say that about modern emulations? The Universal Audio AMS RMX16 is quite simply one of the finest "character" reverb plugins available today at any price, and another triumph for both AMS Neve and Universal Audio.
Universal Audio AMS RMX16 digital reverb plugin for UAD-2 and Apollo ($349 "street", available direct from Universal Audio)
RMX16 introduction video
Five-minute UAD Tips - AMS Neve RMX16 Digital Reverb Plugin