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SKnote StageSpace - Lush Ambience and Reverberation for the Masses
Firstly, let's get your attention with the extremely affordable price point. $20 US dollars will get this incredibly lush-sounding and immersive ambience effect into your plugin folder. No dongles required. No call/response protection mechanisms. Within 12 hours of time-of-purchase, a direct download link is sent to your email inbox. Mr. Quinto Sardo makes it simple and easy without arduous licensing schemes or layers of bothersome piracy protection. The one caveat? No downloadable demo.
Many home recording enthusiasts and studio professionals anticipate spending much higher prices to facilitate their DAWs with deep, lush, pleasant-sounding reverbs. We read reviews and download demo plugins promising professional grade results with the foreknowledge that it will cost $150 - $250. There are the exceptions – ValhallaRoom excludes itself from that list. Yet, the quest for top-drawer, expensive-sounding ambience effects remains high on most self-starting producers' lists.
I'm very happy to introduce a product that will provide you with that elusive, rich sounding reverb – without requiring you to dine on Mr. Noodles for the next month in order to pay for it. Italian developer, Quinto Sardo, aka, SKnote, has recently unleashed such a component in the heavy weight class - enter StageSpace.
Over the past 12 months, I have greatly admired three very notable reverb plugins. 112dB's Redline Reverb, EaReakon's EAReverb, and 2CAudio's Aether. While opinions and preferences vary, most nearly all home recording people will nod in agreement that these three are certainly very respectable reverb plugins. I am embarrassed to confess, that when I was first introduced to StageSpace, I wasn't expecting to be 'wowed'. It didn't occur to me that perhaps this was a plugin that could competitively enter the same octagon cage as its much higher priced counterparts. I was wrong.
Now, please settle in with your favorite coffee mug and let's talk about what $20 will get you.. .
The SKnote GUI offers pleasant, eye-appealing charm at a moderate size of 620 pixels wide, 420 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.
Stereo Imaging and Depth Perception:
Wide. lush, deep and rich. Imagine having meticulously recorded Impulse responses of the finest halls and spaces. Create an algorithm that carefully emulates those same spaces, intact with organic, natural-sounding modulations and smooth, detailed reverb tails. What do you call it? StageSpace. Looking for extreme modulated ambience effects? It's there. Looking for an exceptionally affordable means of creating a "Lexicon-style" lightly modulated reverb decay? It's there. No, I'm not calling it a Lexicon clone, but StageSpace shares some similar qualities where modulating tails are concerned.
This plugin is at ease with intimate hall sounds and can easily create an aural canopy of immense, wide space. You've heard clichéd' catch phrases like "wraps itself around the sound source". StageSpace does just that. This reverb opens up your sound. It doesn't mush it up and blanket it with discordant, metallic ringing. I enjoy the vast degrees of stereo width that StageSpace can maintain. The width control is very manageable and can be configured to fit into many kinds of mix. The "Width" knob makes full use of the Mid/Side spectrum, and does it very, very well. SKnote does not list smiles as one of the many StageSpace features, but he should.
A common failing often observed in less expensive reverb plugins is a lack of perceived depth. Inexpensive reverb may sound as though it's 'swallowing' the sound source, or is simply 'riding on top' of it. StageSpace does neither. StageSpace sounds very natural and organic – even at more extreme settings. It is an amazing feat to create a plugin that tricks the listener's ear into believing that the source was recorded smack dab in the center of a wide, deep, acoustically correct, space. StageSpace comes very, very close to making you forget that you are listening to a reverb plugin.
Creative use of the "Early", "Body", and "Size" knobs will take you to the far concrete wall under the bleachers in an arena, if you want.. .
No nasty metallic after-effects here, folks. This is one smooth reverb. Even the longest multi-second tails remain clear, rich, and smooth. Dark or bright. Dampened or crisp. StageSpace delivers consistent quality and massages the listener's ears with smooth, spacious reverb.
Would I call this plugin a ultra realistic room/hall reverb DSP? No, not quite. However, when tweaked without its modulation effects engaged, this plugin will come very, very close. It doesn't offer actual diffusion settings, but it does provide you with a unique implementation of early reflection control.
Arguably, the best practice is to apply high and/or low pass filtering to the input stage of any reverb/delay send track. However, for those who would rather color or control the equalization within the reverb effect itself, StageSpace provides smooth-sounding low and high envelope configuration. These controls are essentially low and high pass filters that affect the signal at the input stage. Even-tempered damping and coloring controls give a great range of ambience tone shaping. Whether you're looking to create a dark, cavernous atmosphere or a crisp, bright room ambience, StageSpace will aptly provide.
This reverb can indeed sound very, very dense. However, the density of the reverb is easily reduced with the "Sparse" knob.
Create subtle, cool, modulated reverb tails using the "Detune" and "Mod" knobs. This does not actually create a chorusing effect, but rather, sends a periodically pitch shifted signal to the reverb. The modulation velocity is controlled with sinusoidal fades. Very Smooth. Smooth like an ounce of Bailey's poured over tinkling Christmas ice.
I would not describe this plugin as "CPU Hungry", but it does have a healthy appetite. On a modern i3, i5, i7 or equivalent AMD processor, you can easily run 3 or 4 simultaneous instances of this robust, high quality reverb with negligible CPU load. I use most reverb plugins on a send track, and very rarely as an insert effect. In a perfect world, we'd get this quality with no CPU load, but instead, we get a fantastic, unassuming reverb with slightly higher-than-average CPU consumption.
This plugin induces approximately 30ms of latency; fortunately, the latency is correctly reported to the DAW/host, and the latency is most nearly indiscernible during mixing and playback. Bearing this in mind, this plugin is not suitable for tracking purposes.
- High quality, natural space algorithmic reverb.
- Very smooth sounding.
- Exceptional stereo imagery and perceived depth.
- Attractive, functional user interface.
- Included high & low pass filters.
- Capable of both subtle and interesting modulated reverbs.
- Wide, lush sound stage.
- Very broad range of ambient space emulation.
- Very well suited for room or hall reverberation.
- Friendly, professional product support.
- No dongles, call/response challenges, nor invasive piracy protection overhead.
- 32 & 64 bit
- Slightly higher-than-average CPU load.
- No downloadable demo.
I will be reviewing SKnotes' VerbTone and Necklace reverb plugins in the very near future. Keep an eye out for those reviews as well.
Why 9 out of 10? - The slightly higher-than-average CPU load. Mind you, U-he Diva users remain faithful, even with Diva's well documented high CPU demands. ;)