FabFilter's newest plug-in, the Pro-R Reverb (available in the usual Mac and PC formats), is no exception, but it also covers new ground for the company, offering a flexible spatial processor. Along with everything from convincing, ambient spaces to longer, cavernous effects, it has some aces up its sleeve, especially if crafting a bespoke reverb treatment from scratch appeals to you.
The interface's main colour is midnight blue, though there are prominent orange and blue lines through the middle. In the left-hand corner, you can control Brightness (from Dark to Bright) and Character, which transitions smoothly between Clean, Lively (which introduces gentle echoes) and Chorus (for dreamy, thick treatments) settings. The Distance dial lets you choose a position between Close and Far, effectively moving the source sound between the front and back of the reverberant space you're designing. In the middle is the Space dial, which lets you choose the length of the reverb, from a time of 0.2 through to 10 seconds. Interspersed around the outside of this dial are small, orange symbols that give a sense of the dimensions of the space you're designing, with a cathedral-like icon being the most extreme setting. To the right of this dial are three more customisable options. The first offers a Decay Rate, which runs from 50% through to 100% and 200%, meaning that the 10-second maximum reverb time can actually be enhanced to 20 seconds with the Decay Rate turned up. The penultimate dial controls Stereo Width, with a Mono mode opening out to an ultra-wide Spacious stereo, if you want the reverb to become fully cinematic. Finally, there's a Mix dial and a Lock button, which, when activated, preserves the current Dry/Wet balance as you flick through presets.
With these dials alone, you can create a dizzying array of reverberant spaces with real individuality. The Chorus option within the Character dial thickens the reverb nicely, producing a thick, super-lush sound, while Darker reverbs, available via the Brightness dial, let you bury longer treatments under the tone of the source sound. This is perfect for making subtle reverbs that know when to stay out of the way. The real fun, however, lies below.
As with other FabFilter plug-ins, such as the Pro-Q 2 and Pro-MB, the main area of the display provides a frequency graph, where breakpoint envelopes can be added to shape your reverb's tone. Pro-R offers two envelopes: one in blue and another in orange. The latter allows you to shape the frequency balance of the reverb. To create a frequency node, simply double-click anywhere on the orange line and a new one will appear. To adjust its bandwidth, hold down the Command key and drag up or down. To change frequency, drag the point left or right, and to cut or boost levels, simply drag up and down without holding Command. You can create as many points as you need and assign a choice of bell, shelf or filter shapes to each. This means you can either notch out problem frequency bands when the reverb sounds too dominant or add extra gloss and weight to increase presence or depth.
The blue line controls the reverb's Decay Rate and is arguably Pro-R's most powerful feature. Imagine a thick synth sound in your track, which is rich in frequency content from bass to treble. You've dialed in an appropriate reverb length and you're happy with how the brighter, higher notes decay. But then the bass end of the sound, with its weight and body, feels like it's sticking around for too long. Thankfully, the Pro-R allows you to make this area of the reverb decay more quickly. That's what this collection of breakpoint envelopes control, letting you shape the Decay Rate from the lowest frequencies to the highest.
The combination of these two envelopes gives you immense control over your reverb's behaviour, whether you're looking to improve a regular effects treatment or create something truly unique. You can also use the envelopes in tandem, or with diametrically opposed settings, to great effect. Imagine you want a shorter reverb in the bass but you want to hear increased weight at the start of it. You could use the blue Decay Rate envelope to decrease the time assigned to Decay and the orange EQ envelope to raise the volume of the bass end of the reverb tail. Alternatively, suppose you want to create a ghostly, extended treatment to a specific group of frequencies in a lead vocal. Identify which ones you want to emphasise, then add Decay time to these with the blue envelope. If they sound too dominant or resonant, drop the volume of these frequencies using the EQ envelope. You can also select multiple points at once. Dragging up on one of them will proportionately drop the other, allowing you to make easy comparisons between settings.
At the bottom of the interface, you can use a MIDI Learn function if you'd like your keyboard controller's sliders to be mapped to specific parameters. There's also a Pre-Delay parameter with a range between zero and 500ms, which can also easily be switched to quantised values for readily syncing to the tempo of your project. As reverb is generated, the analysis part of Pro-R produces a visual cascade of frequencies that seem to wash down from the breakpoint envelopes. At the bottom of the display, you can decide whether these will represent "Pre And Post" or "Reverb And Post" treatments, or neither, if you prefer. Input and Output volume adjustments can also be set here. There's an extensive range of presets available to get you started, though once you've understood the difference in potential between the Decay Rate EQ and Post EQ envelopes, I suspect you'll ignore these, as designing your own spaces is very intuitive.
At present, the only notable drawback for those interested in Pro-R is that there's no support for multi-channel set-ups, so you're limited to Mono or Stereo operation for now. (Multi-channel support is promised in a free update in the future.) Otherwise, Pro-R is another hit for FabFilter. The interface is a joy to use, encouraging intuition and making some complex functions child's play to work with. Better still, the sound quality is gorgeous, from slap-back and ambience treatments to lush, multi-second special effect reverbs. I'd highly recommend downloading the free 30-day trial to try Pro-R for yourself.
Ease of use: 4.4