SKnote VerbTone Review
Looking for "expensive" sounding plate reverb without it costing as much as a typical week's worth of groceries? I have some GREAT news for you! Spending only $20 US dollars will get it done. No dongles required. No call/response protection mechanisms. Within 24 hours of time-of-purchase, a direct download link is sent to your email inbox. Mr. Quinto Sardo concentrates on creating VHQ plugins without spending precious programming efforts on arduous licensing schemes or layers of bothersome piracy protection. The one caveat? No downloadable demo. The plus? SKnote's VerbTone is an excellent, well-modelled Plate reverb plugin.
Many professional recording engineers will tell you that plate reverb continues to be the "Go To" reverb type for great sounding vocals and snare tracks. Quality plate reverb used to cost a lot of electricity, a considerable area of space, and could weigh up to 600lbs. This very well modelled plugin only requires about 2MB of space on your hard drive.
For those whom are not exactly sure what a "Plate" reverb is, here is a wonderful definition that I've borrowed from bsidebeats.com:
"It's a matter of sending an audio signal to some type of transducer (in this case a speaker) which vibrates a piece of sheet metal (the plate). The vibrations travel though the plate as waves – like ripples from a pebble dropped in a pond – from the speaker at the centre to the edges where they're picked up by another transducer (in this case 2 piezo buzzers). These convert the wave – it's shape now altered by the plate – back into an electrical signal and returns it as reverb to be blended with the original sound."
Again, I tell you: SKnote's VerbTone is an excellently modelled Plate reverb plugin.
In order to get the "what's the catch" question answered right away, I'll start with the one quirk that I wish wasn't inherent in this very high quality product.
In a word, latency.
"Oh NOOO!" "We doesn't like nasty orks's latency, does we, precious?"
How much latency? I'd guesstimate it to be around 4ms - 5ms. Does it impose a difficulty that can't be well-managed? For the most part, No. If, like me, you maintain the industry-accepted "Best Practice" of putting reverb plugins on a send track (sometimes called an Aux bus), the latency is correctly reported to your DAW/host. Your DAW compensates the latency automatically, and the latency becomes undetectable. Using VerbTone as insert effect still permits the latency to be correctly reported to your DAW/host.
However, there is one plugin/latency quirk that I have experienced while using a multi-out VSTi, such as EZ Drummer. When I add VerbTone as an insert effect on a "child" track (of a multi-out VSTi channel), the latency does not get reported to the DAW/host. It throws the timing of the child track off by 4ms-/+
I use Acoustica's Mixcraft 6 exclusively. Perhaps I should reinstall Reaper so I can better test this little quirk. I haven't any other DAW installed on my system. I like this reverb plugin very much, and thus I simply "bounce" or "Mixdown" the snare track to a new audio file. This allows me to use VerbTone as my insert reverb effect of choice on snare tracks. I repeat the process for toms, when necessary. This is a few extra steps, and does negate some of the ease of using a convenient "multi-out" VSTi, such as EZ Drummer. However, the sound quality of this Plate reverb plugin makes it very worthwhile.
The SKnote GUI offers pleasant, eye-appealing charm at a moderate size of approximately 600 pixels wide, 400 pixels high. The silver/grey background and shadowed 3D"ish" appearance of the buttons lend themselves to a polished look that gives the visual impression of a truly professional product. The text is easily legible, albeit a little bit small. The buttons are smoothly controlled with your mouse. The button movements result in smooth, graduated changes to the signal processing.
The upper portion of the interface resembles a shiny metallic plate complete with electric transducers and wires. With your mouse, you can "TAP" on the plate to hear its sound while configuring a new reverb and changing parameters.
Stereo Imaging and Depth Perception:
Your ears will delight in the magnitude of perceived stereo width and depth that this little reverberation plugin is capable of. This well-modelled plate reverb is certainly diverse in its configurability. You can modulate the reverb tails, by varying degrees, if you are looking for the famous "Lexicon ish" effect. The "Width" knob will facilitate tightly focused effects when set to minimum, or envelop your aural senses with incredibly wide, surround-like resonance when fully engaged.
The initial transients of the reverberated source remain intact. They are not "swallowed up" in messy, invasive reverberation. When applied to a vocal track, ear-pleasing depth and "space" is perceived without unwanted 'ringing' or ehcoey mush. The reverb is very rich and can be set to sound very deep, wide, and dense, but it does not sound as though it is simply "riding on top" of the vocal track or thickly blanketing it. VerbTone is rich and deep - not obnoxious.
I am particularly impressed with Quinto's attention to detail in regard to the variance of the plate's "dimensions" (thickness and weight). The "Sound" and "Tune" buttons alter the effect of the Plate's "thickness" and "weight", respectively. If you want a bright, crisp sounding (thin, shiny sheet of metal) plate reverb, you keep the knobs set at their minimum values. To get a fuller, more dense sounding plate (heavy, thick sheet of metal), simply turn the "Sound" and "Tune" knobs clockwise. From bright and "airy" all the way down to thunderous and dark - VerbTone delivers!
Like SKnote's other fine quality reverb plugins, you won't hear any metallic after-effects. Even when the reverb's length is set to its maximum of 5 seconds, the tails remain clear, rich, and smooth. What you will hear, however, is a very believable-sounding plate reverb effect. Your ears will hardly trust your noggin, that they aren't "really" hearing the lofty warble of an actual, shiny sheet of electrically charged sheet metal.
Arguably, the best practice is to apply high and/or low pass to the input stage of any reverb/delay send track. However, for those who would rather color or control the equalization of the reverb effect itself, VerbTone provides effective, smooth-sounding low and high pass filters.
Configuring VerbTone's effect level and density is somewhat unusual. In most cases, a user expects the ratio of dry/wet sound to be controlled with a "mix" or "blend" knob; or perhaps with independent dry/wet knobs. VerbTone departs from this convention in that it provides control of the reverb level by means of the "Gain" knob. When the "mix" knob is set to "dry", you have the maximum level of dry signal, but the signal will still have plenty of reverb in it, unless you turn the "Gain" knob to 0. Turning the "mix" knob fully clockwise to "wet", removes all of the dry signal and only the processed signal is heard. It is the "Gain" knob that controls the level (or volume) of the reverb effect. The "mix" knob simply determines how much of the "dry" signal you retain.
I personally own the Lexicon LPX Bundle. For only $20, you will be amazed at how well this plate reverb plugin can fill the void for anyone looking for "LEXICON ish" sound. I'm serious here, folks. Buy it and try it for yourself. SKnote offers a "NO QUESTIONS ASKED, REFUND" on all their products. I'm pretty sure that Lexicon doesn't offer this . . . .
I would describe this plugin as "Moderately CPU Friendly". On a modern i3, i5 or equivalent AMD processor, you can easily run 6 or 7 instances of this robust, high quality reverb at a time with negligible CPU load. Obviously, this number increases on a higher end quad core (or greater) system.
I will be reviewing SKnotes' Necklace reverb plugin in the very near future. Have you read my review of SKnote's StageSpace reverb?. Keep an eye out for those reviews as well.
Why 4.5 out of 5? - The 10ms-/+ of latency. Mind you, as long as you are using this fantastic plugin on a "Send" track or Aux bus, you won't notice the latency.
Brother Charles is a freelance writer, Gospel music artist and minister. Charles had been a professional touring musician during the nineties; working primarily as a lead guitarist in the Canadian country music industry. Brother Charles is also involved with music production and quality home recording.
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