Test Drive: Pristine Space and Voxformer from Voxengo

The screen shot shows the user interface for Pristine Space, and aside from some global settings, everything is confined to this single screen (the Light version looks the same, except that the eight channel business in the bottom half is not present). The Preset button provides a selection of default channel configurations that cover some common situations that Pristine Space might be used in. These include as a two-channel insert effect, two-channel send effect and a ‘true’ stereo reverb send (using four channels). These presets enable the appropriate number of input/output channels (shown in the bottom half of the display), but you still have to load the appropriate mono or stereo WAV impulse file into each channel’s Slot. You can also configure the channels manually if you wish. The Quality button for each slot toggles between maximum and low quality modes — as convolution reverbs are processor-hungry, I found I used low-quality mode while tracking and then switched to maximum quality for mixdown.

Pristine Space won’t work at all until you load an impulse response file into it. Over 200 impulse files are available from Voxengo’s web site, along with links to other free IR collections available on the web. Pristine Space can use nearly any IR file so long as it’s a mono or stereo WAV file, and you can find a boatload of them for free or little money... just do a Google search on “impulse response” and you’ll find ‘em. Voxengo’s own IR file names give a pretty good idea of how they’ll sound, and range from intimate spaces to vast halls or cathedrals. Some examples include Acoustic Space, Ambient Hall, Big Empty Club, Bright Theatre, In The Silo, Parking Garage, Scala Milan Opera Hall, Small Clear Room, and Wide Space.

The Slot buttons along the center specify which of the eight convolution channels is currently selected, and the envelope display and File display change to reflect the currently selected slot and the IR file that’s currently loaded into it. Once an impulse file is loaded into a particular slot, you can perform some non-destructive editing on it. The Length knob allows the length of the reverb tail to be cut, while the Env Enable buttons can be used to turn on and off individual envelopes for volume, stereo width, stereo pan, low- and high-pass filters, and EQ, which are applied to the impulse. If several impulse slots are being used, the envelopes for each slot are independent of each other.

To edit the envelopes themselves, the buttons above the impulse display are used to select the required function (‘V’ is volume, ‘S’ is stereo width, and so on). Double-clicking on an envelope adds a new edit point, and you can move envelope edit points to suit your taste. Convolution channels can also be linked via the button marked Link To. Editing is straightforward for the most part, and while there’s not the same degree of control that is available in a plug like Waves IR-1, the ability to edit reverb length and tonal characteristics will probably be enough for you — it was for me.

Pristine Space was stable through my entire evaluation, and setting it up within Sound Forge using the plug-in chainer was simple. When used as a stereo send/return effect, it’s no different from any other VST plug-in, although there are a number of ways to configure Pristine Space itself when operating in this way. Things are a little more complex if you want to use the plug-in in a surround sound project, but suffice it to say it’ll do proper surround if you should ever need it.

Like other convolution-based reverbs, Pristine Space is pretty demanding on the old CPU, but if you’re just doing stereo it’s manageable. On my 2.4GHz laptop system at the MAX quality setting, the CPU hit hovered around 16 percent with a stereo audio track. The LOW quality setting reduced this down to about 7 percent, and was more than adequate for tracking. Again, I only used the MAX quality setting at mixdown, which worked out nicely. However, I wouldn’t recommend trying to run it on less than a 1GHz machine, and preferably on a Pentium 4 or equivalent. I ran it on Win 2000, but Voxengo claims it works on anything from Win 98 forward.

So how does Pristine Space sound? My experience is that most convolution reverbs sound similar when fed with the same impulse files. It would seem that obtaining the best impulse files is key to getting the best out of Pristine Space. And Voxengo have done a good job with their DSP convolution algorithms — this plug-in can produce some seriously good results. With VO in isolation, the sense of being in a ‘real’ space is quite noticeable.

I like this one a lot. It gives you much more control than some other convolution reverbs (including Altiverb and the one in Sound Forge). It’s an absolute steal at the price, particularly for the stereo-only Light version. Get the demo version and check it out — after all, you can never have too many reverbs.

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