Review – bx_rooMS by Brainworx
Brainworx has released its first reverb in a crowded playing field. We check it out to see how it holds up to the competition.
by Rob Mitchell, Nov. 2016
Brainworx is a music software company that has been around since 2006. Since then, they have created bx_console (a Neve console emulation), many high quality software EQs, amp simulators and effects, and other music-production utilities. Brainworx has just recently teamed up with Fiedler Audio ( http://fiedler-audio.com/ ) and has released a brand new product called bx-rooMS. This latest creation is a powerful algorithmic reverb with nearly 200 presets. I will go over the various features of the reverb in this review.
It is available in AAX Native, AU, VST2 and VST3 (32 and 64 bit). On the PC, you’ll need Windows 7 or a higher operating system. On the Mac, you’ll need OS X 10.8 or higher operating system. There is one installer for the Mac, and for the PC there are separate 32-bit and 64-bit versions to choose from. I used the 64-bit version for the installation on my computer. When you start the install, it gives you the choice of which version (AAX, VST2 or VST3) that you’d like to install.
You’ll need to set up a free account on the Plugin Alliance website. After you load bx-rooMS into your DAW, it must be activated before you can begin to actually use it. You just use the same email and password you used for the account that you setup on their website. This is an online activation, but they have a method for offline activation as well.
With that process out of the way, you’re free to check out all of its features. In the upper left is where you can load and save presets. There is a dropdown menu to select the presets by name, and you can skim through the presets one at a time using the left/right arrows. Around 30% of the presets are named in way that you can probably guess what they are, for example: “Ambience Large Bright”, but some of the others are more mysterious: “Craty”? I think it would be better if it had a slightly improved browser with categories by type, and maybe a Favorites functionality, and then it would be much more organized. One handy feature is the A/B/C/D settings in the toolbar along the top. This gives you the ability to have different versions of a preset within each bank (named A-D), and they can be switched from one to the other automatically in your DAW. Multiple undo/redo is also included, and there are up to 32 steps of history for your settings.
Below the preset menus are the “Quick Select” buttons that let you set up your sound in no time at all. These are used for selecting the room types, which include Ambience, Room, Plate, Hall, and Church. To the right of those are the room size settings: Small, Medium, and Large. These give you great starting points to craft your own presets. In the “Output” section you can control the Dry/Wet mix level and Gain in/out levels. A useful feature is the “Fix Mix”, which freezes the mix level setting as you check out other presets. A quick note: The mix level won’t change when switching between the Quick Select buttons, only when you switch between the presets. “Wet Solo” lets you listen to the wet/affected part of the signal by itself. Besides checking the levels, the Input and Output meters also have controls to enable/disable the audio for reverb input (Input Bypass) and the wet signal (Output Bypass).
In the Reverb section are some of the main settings for the overall reverb sound. The sliders control the levels of Room Time, Size, and Shape. The “Time” setting changes the amount of reflectivity that the walls of the room have. Lower values have a damping effect, while higher values allow reflections to more easily occur in the room. The “Size” setting does just what it says, and adjusts the room size. It works by changing the first reflection pattern so it can seem very small, huge, cavernous, or anywhere in-between. This one works along with the Time setting to get the results that you’re after. The “Shape” control is for changing the overall shape of the room, and it doesn’t affect the reflection setting of the Size control. To the right of these sliders are controls to adjust the damping. Also included are a high and low shelf with gain and frequency controls, and there are on/off buttons for each.
In the next section are the controls to adjust the Pre-Delay and the FX/Modulation settings. The Pre-Delay is a standard feature in nearly any reverb, but the “Source Distance” slider lets you move the source of the audio closer towards the middle of the room, or anywhere in-between. When you use this, you will probably want to adjust the Room Size control to get the exact sound that you need. The FX/Modulation controls include some interesting and useful features. The first one we’ll look at is “Directivity”, which lets you adjust the input of the left and/or right signal to the reverb’s two channels. I say two channels as bx_rooMS actually has two separate mono reverbs. This lets you add more ambience to part of the stereo field that may be lacking some reverb. The modulation controls adds what sounds like a sine wave LFO pitch modulation to the reverb. Its speed can be adjusted from 0.1 Hz to 10 Hz, and the “Amount” knob dials in how much of it affects the audio. The “Quantize” buttons can give your reverb tail a retro flavor, as they let you select bit depths of 8-bit and 12-bit, or you can choose from the more modern sounding 16-bit and 24-bit settings.
In the M/S (Mid/Side) section you’ll find various controls having to do with stereo width, in one form or another. The “Stereo Width” can be adjusted to go from a totally monophonic reverb on up to full stereo. If you turn it up past the 100% setting, you’ll get more of the side signal into the mix. “Pan Mid” adjusts the M (Mid) pan setting of the stereo panorama. The “Mono Maker” lets you trim down the stereo signal below a certain frequency.
The “Equalizer” section has low and high pass EQs which can be set to 6 dB or 12 dB settings, or they can just be disabled if they’re not needed. Each of these EQs also has a frequency control which ranges from 20 Hz to 30 kHz. Below those controls are the two sets of EQ controls for the M/S part of bx_rooMS. The mode setting lets you switch between equalizing Mid, Side, or Mid and Side, or it can just be disabled. To adjust the EQ itself you have Q, Frequency (20 Hz to 40 kHz), and Gain controls at your disposal. Last but not least is a button which enables or disables the process of the Mono Maker and EQ on the dry signal.
In conclusion, this reverb has an excellent sound to it. I have many reverbs, and the reverb’s tail on this is really one of the best I have heard. Besides my minor issue with the browser, I really can’t think of anything negative to say about this product. It is very easy to use, the GUI is just about perfect, and it has a sufficient controls to allow you to sculpt your sound the way you’d like. The CPU usage was low, and that is always a welcome feature. If you want to use it on multiple tracks, there is no issue here. Even though this is Brainworx’s first try at producing a reverb, they really knocked it out of the park.
bx_rooMS retails for $199 USD, but at the time of writing this review it was at an intro price of $99 USD on the Plugin Alliance website. I wanted to mention a great benefit that Plugin Alliance has: If you buy more than one of their eligible plugins, they will give you a discount depending on how many you order. Just to see what would happen, I put two licenses of bx-rooMS in the cart, and they gave it a 20% discount. The total for both was $158.40 USD. They also have a 14-day demo version which is fully functional.
You can read more about bx_rooMS and download the demo version from their website here: