Review – Blackhole Reverb from Eventide
Blackhole – for a reverb with such an evocative name, you should expect no less than otherworldly tails. For your perusal: an extremely powerful tool for sound design and more.
by Vincenzo Bellanova, Jan. 2018
The well-known Eventide strikes again with its Anthology XI bundle which contains 23 plugins: reverbs, equalizers, harmonizers and many more. You may remember the H910 Harmonizer, a piece of hardware, released in 1975, that contributed to establishing the brand name. The H910 was used by some incredible artists, such as in the production of some tracks from David Bowie, AC/DC, Eddie Van Halen, and many more.
But today we are going to leave the “hardware side of the moon” and we will focus on one of their bundle’s plugin instead, the extraterrestrial reverb Blackhole. With such an evocative name, expect no less than otherworldly tails and an extremely powerful tool for sound design, and more.
Blackhole has a clear and ordered interface, a collection of knobs, between which we can find some esoteric names, a ribbon (we will talk about that soon) and three switches.
Basically, the algorithm of this digital reverb was born as a preset in the DSP4000 and then later in the H8000, as the manual promptly suggests. But it was brought further and a dedicated plugin like Blackhole was born. As previously mentioned, the algorithm was already tested in some hardware devices and guitar pedals, and it is capable of epic tails, spacey-spaces, endless reverberation, reverse-like tails, all making Blackhole a unique tool which can be a true need in doing sound design.
Its structure is fairly simple. We have everything in a single page. There are some controls over the main algorithm, like the input and output level, with two sliders respectively on the left and on the right side of the UI. Then there’s Predelay, Mix and Size, a Low and High control to shape the equalization of our reverb, Modulation Depth and Rate, Feedback and Resonance.
The lower part of the interface is where we have an interesting section, like the Ribbon. This control has an electric beam as slider, which can morph between two different settings of several parameters. You hold and drag the little dot appearing on the tip of every knob to draw a blue arc across the parameter, and when doing it, a blue shade will appear in one of the corners of the horizontal ribbon panel. You can further adjust the modulation index by dragging the higher or lower point of the arc, and, obviously do it for all the parameters you want. The ribbon will crossfade those parameters, moving the knobs.
Then we have three switches: Kill, which will “mute” the input signal and allow us to hear just the reverbed tail, a Freeze switch, and a Hotswitch button, acting like an A/B state for two different presets. Hold down the Hotswitch until it begins to flash, set the desired parameters and then click on it again to create a switch between two different settings.
There are a few parameters that are really interesting. Let’s begin with the Gravity control. As evocative as the plugin’s name, the Gravity can be thought as a Decay Time, but with some differences: the right course of the knob is used to achieve a very long and dense tail, while on the left hand the behavior changes, and the reverb begins to act in a reverse-like fashion. We tried this control on vocals, and, despite the metallic feeling at the end of the tail, its effect is very clear: the negative values on the control (left side of the knob) introduce the tail with a bit of delay that becomes more evident the more we approach to -100. However, it sounds beautiful and really unusual. The parameters do not have an option to directly input numerical values nor do they have a fine adjustment option. But the knobs being very large, it is easy to set the value we have in mind.
The Low and High knobs are very gentle and pleasant, useful to shape the sound without damaging it. The Mix knob is a usual Dry/Wet control, and the Size can go from negative values, which result in a super short delay causing some phase coloration to the sound, to higher values. When pushing it back to the positive side, even at 1, the Size knob results in a strong and audible effect. A negative size produces interesting results if we increase the Predelay Time: from subtle choruses to (longer) delays.
The Predelay setting can be adjusted in conjunction with the Tempo Switch, which can be set in three different modes: OFF modes displays Predelay values in milliseconds; Tempo SYNC in rhythmic division according to the tempo of our DAW; Tempo MAN let us change the tempo manually by dragging over the BPM value over the switch or to enter the number with the keyboard after a double click.
Another interesting parameter is the Feedback control, which is capable of creating even larger sounds and longer tails. The knob, turned to its maximum value, displays “infinite”, for an endless tail, while the input signal is still running into the reverb, and, turning the knob even further, we will see a “freeze” option engaged, only working with the both the Modulation knobs set to zero. Freeze results in an infinite tail, but the input signal won’t be injected into the reverb anymore.
The Freeze state can also be achieved by enabling the switch in the lower section of the plugin. This function is extremely useful when creating atmospheres, and allows a lot of experimentation and creativity. We could have anything going through the reverb, set the Freeze on, record the infinite tail and then just play with the pitch of the new recorded sample to instantly morph our source into an evocative soundscape.
Blackhole is more than a reverb, it is a truly unique creative effect perfect for morphing anything into an extraterrestrial sound, with huge, dense, lush tails, from pads to atmospheres, vocals, guitars, or even cinematic impacts. Despite the fact that it has a Gravity control instead of the more customary Decay Time (as we said, Gravity is more than a Time control), very long tails and sizes and some EQ capabilities make it unlike trying to control it like a “classic” reverb. If you need something different, Blackhole is just one of the five reverb plugins available in the Anthology XI Bundle. The Freeze function is a great addition, especially for sound design, and the Feedback control as well, allowing for a lot of flexibility. The interface is clear with no other panels or hidden options, making it very easy to use. The Ribbon section is definitely the most interesting part of the plugin; extensive modulation in a reverb opens the door to a lot of experimentation, another point scored for sound design pursuits. Blackhole is an inspiring tool that can transform your sources into other-worldly sounds.
Blackhole is compatible with all major DAWs on both Window and Mac platforms, 32-bit and 64-bit. The list price is $199, but the occasional sale with very significant discounts has been known to happen. For more information or to purchase go here:
Eventide products are also carried by numerous retailers who cater to the electronic music production market.