iZotope acquired Exponential Audio, a small company that develops plug-ins for most DAWs to create reverbs and other effects. That company was founded by Michael Carnes, a classical musician and recording engineer, who also created many of the preset effects. It was quickly recognised as a trendsetter in the industry.
Mr Carnes designed the reverb plug-ins around his own experience as a musician with recording rooms and environments. Audio engineers use the many preset reverbs of the plug-ins to quickly and easily bring character to musical performances, fit dialogue into scenes, mix in immersive audio formats, and create unique sound effects.
Exponential Audio’s reverb plug-ins are divided in two groups: post-production and music effects. In the two groups you’ll find several plug-ins, each with their own strengths. For example, in the post-production group you’ll find four surround sound plug-ins — PhoenixVerb Surround, Symphony 3D, R2 Surround and Stratus 3D — and three stereo plug-ins – PhoenixVerb, Symphony and Excalibur. In the music group, you’ll find PhoenixVerb, Nimbus, R2, R4 and Excalibur.
The latter is more of a special effects plug-in that creates up to four voices with echo, flanger, etc and which you can use to create truly unique sound effects. I took three days to play with it and I still haven’t but scratched the surface of what you can do with it.
All other plug-ins are focused on reverb only. There are two plug-ins of which I’m not sure how they relate to each other: R2 and R4. It seems that R4 is an evolved R2 with more presets, but I could be wrong.
All plug-ins have an interface that is completely different of what iZotope’s look like. The Exponential Audio plug-ins come with a lot of knobs and buttons with – usually – a graphic representation of the effect’s frequency and loudness range. Some also come with a spectrogram that shows how your audio is altered by the settings in real-time.
Some pure reverb plug-ins like PhoenixVerb and Nimbus offer early and tail EQ modulation. These allow you to change the way the reverb sounds through over time, effectively changing the “space” characteristics your ears perceive. That makes it possible to create completely different reverb effects for audio that should sound as if it’s been recorded in a large hall of a mansion or a small church – something that’s not so easy to do with, for example, Apple’s own powerful Space Designer, unless you have samples from both environments.
The EQ filters in all of Exponential Audio’s plug-ins can be dynamically controlled to create an effect or to avoid saturating a mix. Whatever you do with these controls, they allow you to create the most natural-sounding reverbs available in post-production. Another benefit is that you don’t need to get everyone out of a large space such as a cathedral in order to record sound with that particular cathedral reverb.
However, the tail is not based on a track’s harmonic content as it can be with some other developers’ plug-ins, but, to me at least, it doesn’t come across as an unfulfilled need; the huge amount of presets lets you choose the right one for any job you’ll come across and if you are wary of saturating a mix, you can use your DAW’s automation features to dynamically alter the reverb – which, I do realise, isn’t the same as controlling the reverb tail.
To sum up for now, I’ve been trying out Exponential Audio’s plug-ins for a month and still haven’t used all their capabilities to the fullest, so my conclusion for this first impression is going to be quite superficial: if you want to create audio with a reverb that sounds like it’s been recorded in the real thing, then one of these plug-ins will fit the bill as none other can.
Selecting one among the many will probably be harder. R2 and R4 are, for example and in my opinion, very close to each other – so close that I’d go for R4 as it offers some more presets and controls. Whatever you do, you’ll first need to decide whether you want to go for maximum reality versus creativity, though. If the former is what you need, the post-production plug-ins will offer more surround sound options.
It’ll be interesting to see how these plug-ins evolve over the months and years to come, now that iZotope has them in their portfolio, but one thing is certain: the company now has a considerable edge over others where it concerns spatial sound effects.
The plug-ins are available each by themselves or in bundles. You should really visit iZotope’s Exponential Audio page to find out what works best for you.