Here in the UK, there is a saying about waiting for a bus (or any form of public transport)… “I waited around for ages and then two came together….’. Well now this also applies to reverb effect apps on iOS as, hot on the heels of AUFX:Space that I reviewed a couple of weeks ago comes the AudioReverb music app – another dedicated reverb effect app – produced by VirSyn, the developers behind the excellent iSyn Poly, Harmony Voice, Addictive Synth and iVoxel. AudioReverb is priced at UK£6.99 from the iTunes App Store and is available as a universal app for both iPad and iPhone.
AudioReverb key features
Before getting into the specifics of the interface, a few other details are worth noting. First, VirSyn described AudioReverb as a ‘studio quality reverb’ and, while UK£6.99 is more expensive than AUFX:Space, this must still be considered a pretty modest price for a reverb unit of any real quality.
Second, the app can be used to process audio from your iTunes library. I guess I can see why this has been included as a feature but being able to add my own choice of reverb to my latest Rihanna download wouldn’t necessarily be a great incentive to me to purchase this type of app. You mileage may vary of course :-)
Third, and perhaps of greater interest, is the ability to use the app on a live input (for example, you could use it on a live vocal in a performance context if you wished) and, in testing this with a few different sound sources, the audio latency seemed very short to me; certainly nothing that would interfere with my performance needs. This suggests that the processing engine is pretty efficient.
Finally, the app includes full Audiobus support in any of the three Audiobus slots – Input, Effect and Output (there is a record option to capture the processed signal). For those interested in iOS-based recording, this is clearly a big plus.
In terms of the processing, VirSyn’s description of the app suggests that this is part convolution reverb and part algorithmic, although there are no specific details as to how this combination of approaches is used. However, the 100+ presets are split into different types of virtual space – halls, ambience, rooms, chambers, for example – so I suspect these basic spaces are modelled using convolution as their basis and the algorithmic element being applied over this as you fine-tune the characteristics of each space using the app’s key controls.
When you first open the app, you are presented with the preset selection screen. The presets are organised into categories accessed via the buttons in the lower half of the display, with each of the eight categories (the buttons left and centre) offering a number of different individual presets (the scrollable list on the right).
The upper portion of the display is dominated by the spectrum display that shows the output of the processed sound. A volume control allows you to adjust the output volume while, on the right, the wet/dry control allows you to adjust just how much reverb is applied to your signal; all very nicely laid out and intuitive to use.
The top edge contains a few key controls and access to the other main screens. The mic icon allows you to switch on the ‘live’ input, although this could, of course, be any input; mic, guitar, or anything else hooked up to your docking port (it worked fine with my Line 6 Sonic Port, for example) or headphone/mic socket.
No prizes for guessing what the Help and Rec buttons do but the musical note icon opens an audio player in the bottom half of the screen. From here, you can load any audio that is currently in your iDevice’s iTunes library for playback. You could use this as a means of adding reverb to your own pre-recorded audio if you wished and you can record the end result (using that Rec button) within AudioReverb itself. Tapping the central patch name within this top strip will return you to the main preset selection screen if you have navigated away from it.
The other page is, of course, accessed via the ‘settings’ icon (the cog-wheel) and, if you like to tweak your reverb to taste rather than just relying on presets, then you may spend a lot of time here. Given this is an iOS app rather than a desktop equivalent or a dedicated hardware reverb unit, the degree of control offered here is very impressive. The controls are organised into three blocks – early reflections, tail equalizer (essentially a 4-band EQ) and room parameter – allowing you to customise the way the reverb balances the early reflections and the more extended tail as the reverb fades. Given the combination of controls provided, it is very easy to customise one of the presets in quite a precise fashion to get just what you want in terms of reverb character.
A tour of the rooms (and chambers and plates and halls, etc.)
The comprehensive control set certainly suggests that AudioReverb is a serious processor and, thankfully, the sound of the processing doesn’t disappoint. As good as a top-notch convolution reverb on a desktop computer? Well, perhaps not, but it really is very impressive – you can get a real sense of the ‘space’ the sound is sitting in – and punches considerably above the pocket money price tag VirSyn are asking for the app. This is a lot of reverb for not a lot of money.
There are some excellent presets amongst all the categories but I particularly liked some of the ambience, room and plate presets when used with vocals or guitar. I tend to like my recordings quite ‘dry’ (some reverb but not so I can drown in it) but, if you do want to sound like you are performing in a bottomless canyon, then you can easily dial something suitable in via AudioReverb. You can, of course, also create your own presets and save those for later recall.
Processing a live audio input – guitar or vocal – produced some very good results. I could easily imagine a vocalist hooking this up at a rehearsal or small gig and using their iPhone or iPad to control their own reverb settings. The only other point worth noting here is that, while you can adjust the wet/dry balance while processing a signal, there is the occasional bit of ‘zipper’ noise if you adjust some of the other settings. This is hardly surprising given that you are essentially adjusting the processing algorithm on the fly, but clearly, best avoided at a gig :-)
Given my particular interest for iOS recording, I was also keen to explore how the app would perform with Audiobus. The short answer is very well indeed. I did most of my testing using either Mobile POD or VocaLive in the Audiobus Input slot, had AudioReverb in the Effects slot and then a DAW app (in my case, Cubasis) in the Output slot. As might be expected, the dedicated AudioReverb outperformed – and offered considerably more control – than the reverb effects built in to apps such as Mobile POD or VocaLive.
Cycling through a few tests with the app (loading and unloading it and using different reverb types), AudioReverb semed to add about a 20% CPU load to my 3rd gen iPad when running within Audiobus. Given just how important reverb can be in providing a recording with a coherent sense of space, this is a CPU load I could live with – or workaround – because the audio results are well worth it.
I also tried using AudioReverb as a sort of ‘send’ effect with Cubasis by applying the same trick I employed with AUFX:Space when reviewing that app. I ran Cubasis in both the Input and Output slots of Audiobus and, providing I was happy to just solo the single track I wished to process, I could play back that track in Cubasis, pass it through AudioReverb and then capture the processed version onto a different track within Cubasis. I could then either just use this new version of the track within my mix or, if I wanted to further tweak the amount of reverb, play back both the dry and processed tracks and simply balance their respective levels. This whole workaround is a touch on the clunky side – not as convenient as having a reverb plug-in on my desktop DAW – but until we get a generic plug-in format for iOS that all developers can work with, this route via Audiobus does at least work.
In AudioReverb, VirSyn have given iOS musicians yet another very tempting tool to add to their wish-lists. I’ve said it before but it bears repeating; at UK£6.99, AudioReverb is a staggeringly good reverb unit and performs considerably better than the price tag might suggest it has any right to do.
Given that they have hit the market so close together, a few words of comparison between AUFX:Space and AudioReverb are worth making. AUFX:Space is less than half the price of AudioReverb but, unless you really are still dependent upon your pocket money to fund your iOS music app addiction, both are so cheap and the difference in price of a few £/$/€ so small, that it would seen trivial to make a case for one over the other on the basis of price.
Both also sound very good. Again, not top-end Lexicon but amazingly good given the costs involved. If anything, perhaps the key difference to justify the pricing is in the slightly slicker interface in AudioReverb and the very impressive collection of presets that can serve as a ‘named’ virtual space from which to start tweaking.
Perhaps two bits of perspective will be the most helpful observations I can make by way of conclusion? First, when I began dabbling with home recording as a spotty youth (back when dinosaurs still roamed), I would have traded members of my family to have access to a reverb unit (it would have been hardware in those days) that came anywhere close to doing what either AUFX:Space or AudioReverb can achieve. Indeed, when audio recording was first added to MIDI sequencing in desktop recording systems (in the 1990s), software reverbs capable of this kind of quality would have set you back a tidy sum of money. In that context, these two apps are ridiculously cheap.
Second, as any experienced recording engineer or mixer will tell you, having access to multiple reverbs within a single mix is often a very useful thing. You might use something different on your drums to your guitar… and perhaps save your ‘best’ reverb (most expensive/highest CPU load, etc.) for your vocals so you can fine-tune its settings to suit that key element of any mix.
While we don’t (yet) have a plug-in protocol for iOS that allows you to do this with the same efficiency as VST or AU plug-ins do on the desktop, the point here is that having access to multiple reverb units is a good thing so, if you are still wondering which of these two new iOS reverb apps – AUFX:Space or AudioReverb – to buy, then stop wondering; just buy both.
VirSyn, who have a strong pedigree in the desktop music software world, have produced some very cool iOS music apps. AudioReverb is another excellent addition to their catalogue. While AudioReverb would be great for singers who fancy having their reverb at their fingertips in a live performance context, if you are serious about your iOS recording, at this price, it is a total no-brainier.