At the start of this week, I posted a review of the new(ish) 6144 EQ plugin for iOS from Christian Siedschlag’s DDMF. This is a AU-only format equaliser plugin whose inspiration was the highly regarded Neve 5033 hardware EQ processor. I’ve no idea how close 6144 – at a price of just UK£7.99/US$9.99 – gets to the (very!) expensive Neve but is sounds very good in its own right and, as an AU plugin (so you can use multiple instances of it in a suitable AU host), it is perhaps amongst the first ’boutique-style’ audio plugins we have seen in this format. Anyway, in terms of features and audio performance, 6144 comes highly recommended….
As I mentioned in the 6144 review, DDMF have been making desktop plugins for some time. They are a small development organisation but the products have been very well received and already gained some pretty high-profile recommendations. As I also mentioned, 6144 is not the only desktop plugin product they have ported over to iOS; we also have Envelope which, despite its choice of name, is actually an AU format reverb plugin. The desktop version was only launched a couple of months ago…. so seeing the iOS version so soon afterwards is impressive in itself…. and given just how good I thought 6144 was, I was both glad to give Envelope Reverb a spin and keeping my fingers crossed that other ports from the DDMF catalogue might make it across….
Open the envelope
Now, I do admit that I can get a touch on the wordy side at times with some of the app reviews here on the Music App Blog. More complex apps sometimes require that if you are going to do them justice…. but, with Envelope Reverb, I think I can keep things pretty concise. The reasons for that are twofold; first, the app is a doddle to use with a fairly compact – and very straightforward – control set.
Second, it sounds excellent and beyond saying that I think the balance set between easy of use, audio quality and CPU demands seems to have been judged extremely well for the iOS context, other than demonstrate to you that it also seems to work well from a technical side, there is not a huge amount of detail to go into….
Again, the app is universal, it’s a 50MB download, requires iOS9.3 or later (and a suitable AU host) and is priced at UK£7.99/US$9.99.
The control set can be seen from the various screenshots included here. This is generally pretty obvious stuff…. You get eight different general reverb types (I assume these are different algorithms within the app as I’m pretty sure Envelope is algorithmic rather than convolution based) that range from small spaces to large halls. However, the Size control allows you to refine that further.
The usual Pre-delay, dry/wet and high-cut and low-cut controls allow you to further fine-tune the amount and tonal quality of the reverb generated. I’m less sure I know what the Depth control actually does but, as a couple of the presets titles hint at a sort of ‘3D’ sound (which reverb helps you achieve anyway), then perhaps this is DDMF trying to enhance that three-dimensional effect in some way?
Anyway, as mentioned above, there is plenty of control over the nature of the reverb generated but you can grasp the app’s control set within a mater of minutes.
Plug in and space out
I gave Envelope Reverb a run through using both Cubasis and AUM as my AU hosts. The app worked flawlessly in my own testing and, as this is the AU format we are talking about, I had no problems installing multiple instances of the plugin within the same project.
While this might be something that you are a little less likely to do with reverb – it is generally ‘shared’ by several tracks by being used as a send effect anyway – it is still a big plus point to have this option…. and on my desktop system, I’ll often use dedicated reverbs for vocals, sometimes for drums and then a third reverb for everything else. I was able to do that with Envelope Reverb within Cubasis with only a fairly modest CPU hot for each instance on my iPad Pro.
While the size of the AU window will vary depending upon your AU host and the size of the iOS device you use the app on, the controls are chunky enough to make dialling in the required settings (and note that you also see numerical values as you rotate a knob making it easy to set precise values) even if you use jumbo sausages rather than fingers.
The app ships with a good collection of presets. Again, what capabilities you have to access and use these will depend upon your host but I was able to select them within both Cubasis and AUM, while the latter also allowed me to save my own presets. I’m sure all AU hosts will soon become fully-featured in this regard as the AU format becomes more wide-spread.
A sound comparison?
So much for the (straightforward) technical stuff; what about the sound? For me, this is where things got interesting. In trying Envelope Reverb on the usual suspects – vocals, guitars and drums, for example – I have to say that I was very impressed indeed. You could push the app into more ‘creative’ territory if you wished (big spaces) but where it really excelled was in the more conventional reverb treatments that would probably be 95% of most users needs. If you are looking for one classy sounding reverb that (a) will not break the bank and (b) will not send your iPad into a CPU fit, then Envelope Reverb might well be a serious contender.
While I use reverb on pretty much everything I record and mix, as an effect (and unless it is for special effect), my own preference is that ‘less is more’. I am, therefore, a bit of a fan of ‘ambience’ style reverb treatments. These ‘almost not there’ effects can, for example, give a vocal a sense of space but without drowning it in an effect or filling the mix with mud. And in terms of achieving that under iOS, outside AltiSpace (Igor Vasiliev’s convolution-based reverb) and the reverb plugins available in Auria Pro, Envelope Reverb gets me closer to that sound than anything else I can recall trying. Given the price, and that the app doesn’t seem too CPU hungry, the quality of the sound is very good indeed.
Lined up against the stock reverb supplied with Cubasis, Envelope wins hands-down in terms of both sound and flexibility. Doing some A/B testing against AltiSpace was perhaps a more interesting comparison though and, trying a few different types of ‘space’, there were occasions when I preferred one app or the other. The bottom line here is that Envelope Reverb certainly wasn’t out of its depth here in sonic terms…. although AlitSpace does, ultimately, give you much greater control over your sound if you need it.
If you are looking for a creative reverb app then there are perhaps some more obvious choices you could make than Envelope Reverb. However, if you are looking for a quality ‘conventional’ reverb effect, suitable for more routine treatments on vocals, guitars, drums and the like, then DDMF may have just the thing. Envelope Reverb is easy to use, easy on the pocket and sounds great.
It is, of course, ‘only’ available in an AU plugin format – no Audiobus or IAA support included – but, for me, that’s not really an issue as, most of the time, my own iOS music production currently revolves around Cubasis or AUM. Indeed, in the wider context of iOS’s development as a platform for music production, AU really ought to become the plugin (app connection) format of choice.
If Envelope Reverb (and 6144 EQ) are a sign of what’s to come under AU for iOS, then I think we have a lot to look forward to. They promise the convenience of the desktop workflow along with a pretty good stab at the performance of their desktop equivalents. DDMF have other desktop app in their catalogue…. based on the iOS ports so far, I really hope that others might follow. Envelope Reverb comes highly recommended.