Review – MTurboReverb from MeldaProduction
MeldaProduction has never shied away from innovation, and their latest effect, an algorithmic reverb, exhibits ground-breaking ingenuity throughout.
by David Baer, July 2017
Vojtech Meluzin, the man behind MeldaProduction, is one of the most prolific and inventive fellows in his line of work. MeldaProduction has an ever-growing catalog of plug-ins that covers the entire range of things you can use to make audio sound better, more unique and/or more interesting. With MTurboReverb, Mr. Meluzin has perhaps outdone himself. This algorithmic reverb is notable for several reasons, one of them being that, for the first time, two versions of a MeldaProduction effect have been released: the so-called LE (limited edition) version and a full version. Although LE is hardly what anyone would call truly “limited”, it does successfully hide the daunting complexity of the full edition. The full edition sports a couple of features that I think can be legitimately called revolutionary. These are features that few owners of MTurboReverb will use directly but from which all owners will benefit.
The “Turbo” designation is not new to Melda. Prior to the release of MTurboReverb we had MTurboComp and MTurboEQ. The “Turbo” denotes (or at least so far has denoted) the ability of the effect to assume multiple identities. MTurboComp is not just a compressor that can be programmed to handle a particular mixing challenge, but a compressor that can be configured to take on the performance characteristics (the personality, if you will) of a whole range of compressors, real or imagined. We will begin with an examination of the LE version and then show what’s under the covers by exploring the full version.
First, some basics need mention. Both versions are compatible with any mainstream DAW, PC or Mac, 32-bit or 64-bit. Both VST 2.4 and VST 3 are available. Authorization requires neither dongle nor an Internet connection. Updates are free for life. The list price of MTurboReverb LE is 149 EUR and the full edition list price is 299 EUR. MeldaProduction products can almost always be had for 50% off during an occasional sale, so patience has always been rewarded with significant savings. These plug-ins are available as part of several bundles – check the MeldaProduction web site (URL at end of review) for details. Also, an upgrade discount is available to owners of MTurboReverb LE who decide that they want to upgrade to the full version. Again, check the web site for details.
In order to fully appreciate how we got to the point where both an LE and full version of a MeldaProduction plug-in makes sense, we really should start with …
A Brief History of Multiparameters
MeldaProduction software has always been subject to the observation, if not criticism, that the editing capabilities were so extensive that the plug-ins were challenging to use. Depending on your personal reading on the Geekometer, you may love this or find it less than desirable. Multiparameters (hereafter MPs for brevity) were MeldaProduction’s solution to address this issue. They have always been present (or at least have been so as long as I have been following MeldaProduction developments).
Although MPs are deep and powerful under the hood, from an interface perspective they are extremely straightforward. MeldaProduction plug-ins are outfitted with at least a small number of MPs wherever appropriate. These can be assigned duties as proxy controls for one, several or even many lower-level controls. A plug-in with MPs would then have two modes of appearance: “easy” mode and “edit” mode. In the latter we see all the many details. In the former, we see just a small set of controls relevant to the job at hand. In the images just below, we see easy mode on the left and edit mode on the right for the MSpectralDynamicsMini plug-in (click to see images full size).
MeldaProduction plug-ins of non-trivial complexity come with two types of presets. Normal presets are used in edit mode and active presets intended to be used in the easy mode. Users can flip into full edit mode when working with an active preset, but that’s never required if the controls in easy mode are all that are needed to get the job at hand done.
The above image doesn’t show the bank of MPs and it certainly doesn’t show the window in which MPs are created and configured. That is a thoroughly non-trivial subject that is way beyond the scope of this review. But the main point is that you can hopefully see just how much MPs can turn a complex effect into a straightforward, easily-accessable one.
With the appearance of MeldaProductions’ uber-effect MXXX, the number of supplied MPs reached a new high of twenty. While this probably seemed like a sufficient number at the time, it soon became clear that twenty wasn’t nearly enough for something as extensive and powerful as MXXX. Today MXXX has 128 MPs.
But just increased numbers of MPs was only a part of the story. MPs grew in sophistication over time, particularly as regards the appearance possibilities. There was an XY-grid option added for manipulation of two MP values within one control. There were a number of organizational options added that permitted the MPs to be grouped in sub-tabs in easy mode, and the user could collapse/expose those subtabs with mouse clicks. Colors could be specified that further allowed for an effective user experience. There’s more still, but the full story is, again, beyond scope for present objectives. The main takeaway here is that we have gotten to a place a full-function and quite sophisticated UI could be presented to the end-user using nothing but MPs while running the plug-in in easy mode.
MTurboReverb was one of the most complicated plug-ins MeldaProduction had ever released. The numbers of controls in full edit mode was vast (as you’ll see shortly). If ever there was a good candidate for use of MPs and an easy mode, this was it. Having cranked the number of MPs up to 100, thus was born MTurboReverb LE.
MTurboReverb LE has the limitation that it cannot go into edit mode. It comes with a healthy number of diverse active presets, each of which has much programmability. But that’s all you can do. The complexity the non-LE version and full editing capability is off limits. For the vast majority of users, this should be considered a blessing. Even with the limited editing options of easy mode, LE has offers more user control than a lot of other full-blown reverb offerings.
MTurboReverb LE Up Close
Each of the active presets in LE has much programmability. The screenshot seen just above shows a hall preset selected. All of the subpanels are exposed, so you can see the full extent of what control is accessible in easy mode (the only mode available in LE). I am not going to go into any detail about reverb programming options here. If the reader does not know, for example, what early reflections are versus reverb tails, then I suggest you first acquire a good book about audio mixing and read the chapter on reverb.
By the way, if you are familiar with any plug-ins in the MeldaProduction catalog, you might be thinking that the UI above looks different from that to which you are accustomed. MeldaProduction released a new “look” around the time MTurboReverb was released. While such things are subject to individual tastes, for my money, this time they got it exactly right. I love the new look and hope it stays that way from this point on.
Back to the presets; these are organized into seven categories and total just over 100 in all. All the usual reverb types are well-represented. The Creative category holds some special surprises – some absolutely charming delights. One downside of owning only LE will be that finding out how some of the magic was accomplished under the covers will not be possible.
One common feature of many presets is a band of named choices (“Aichi”, “Mori”, etc. in the example above). These establish individual sub-presets, each having a unique character among its siblings. So, for the Concert Hall preset example, we actually have nine variations of just that preset alone. The names, although sometimes meaningful, are often just arbitrary identifiers, some most amusing. To find what’s best for your situation, just set to taste and otherwise don’t sweat it. A significant point here is that although I just said there are just over 100 total presets, with the sub-preset permutations, there are actually a very impressive number of options on board.
The user, of course, may tweak any of the presets to achieve “just that” sound. Having done so, presets can be named and saved for later use. There is no “limited” here when it comes to user maintenance of a personal preset collection. LE allows full preset saving and recall as would be expected of any high-function FX plug-in.
MTurboReverb in Full Glory
Once you get beyond the non-threatening façade of easy mode, you are faced with the rather intimidating full edit mode with its multiple tabs and prodigious number of controls. The basic signal flow works as follows.
We start with early reflection (ER) engines, of which there are four identical units, each of which can be individually enabled/disabled. These run in parallel and the outputs are mixed and go straight to the final mixer; i.e., ERs do not feed into the late reflection (reverb tail) engines.
An ER engine, although simple compared to a late reflection engine, has a lot going on, little of which we have time to dwell on here. Suffice it to say that there’s enough to keep a dedicated reverb programmer busy for a very long time. Notable among its capabilities is the ability to extract ER characteristics via analysis of an impulse response file.
Then there are six late reflection (LR) engines. These can be individually enabled/disabled. Their place in the signal flow is a bit complicated. They can be run in parallel to each other or in series. They can also, in some cases, be configured in a hybrid fashion that allows them to process a mix of dry input and output from another LR engine. We’ll return to LR engines in a moment.
There is a dynamics processor section that consists of a gate and a compressor (tab not pictured). This can be inserted into the signal chain either at the beginning (operating on the dry input to the reverb) or on the mixed output of the ER engines and the LR engine complex. The side-chain dynamics activator signal can come from an external source.
Finally there are two EQs, one of them operates in mid/side mode and the other conventionally (tabs not pictured). Like the dynamics, these have a configurable location with choices that include several spots in the reverb signal chain or affecting the mixed dry/wet overall output.
The Secret Sauce
Let’s now look at the heart of MTurboReverb and that which makes it unlike anything you will ever have seen before. Above is one of the six LR edit tabs. There are some controls there that will be familiar to many of you. Where we get to “we’re not in Kansas anymore” territory is the lower subpanel labelled Designer. In particular, note the first parameter labelled Algorithm.
This is where the internal topology of the reverb algorithm is defined, and it’s not for the technically faint-of-heart. Algorithmic reverbs accomplish their goals using a variety of (mostly) basic components like multi-tap delays, comb filters, all-pass filters, other various types of filters, stereo cross-overs, and more. Now for the first time, the topology of these components is exposed to the reverb end-user (or more likely the super-end-user) who can actually construct a low-level reverb algorithm of individual design.
The documentation of the “programming language” (and it really is a kind of programming language even if the “program” is all contained in one “statement” on a single line) takes many pages to explain in the documentation. Here’s a really trivial example of a program: “p[4c];2a”. This says: give me four parallel comb filter modules, the combined output of these goes into two all-pass filter modules in series. Many of the modules have an associated probability that can be explicitly stated or left to default. For example “b” is bypass with a probably of 50% that the bypass will be honored. “b(0.1)” is bypass with a probability of 1 in 10 that the bypass will be honored.
Many of the algorithms have a notation like “#a”. This says to replace the “#” an integer value. If that value is 3, for example, then the notation would cause three serial all-pass filters to be included. Quite a few of the user presets show a UI control called “Complexity”. This is the control that becomes the current value of “#”. Higher values mean both higher audio density and higher CPU consumption.
This brief overview hardly begins to scratch the surface of what can be programmed. My intent was to just give you a general notion of how MTurboReverb can be used to implement an almost limitless number of both reverb algorithms and any number of reverb-like special effects. Just to whet your appetite, here are three LR programs taken at random from the presets:
OK, so the reverb program using a custom language is thoroughly revolutionary. But wait … there’s more!
There’s a second revolutionary capability present. Many of the modules depend on a random, arbitrary control value. This will be extracted from a “seed”, which is a honking-big random number that gets generated when clicking the “Seed” button in the designer panel. Now, you could sit there all day clicking the Seed button until you hear something you like (or listening fatigue sets in so you can no longer tell what’s good and what’s not), or you could use the Smart Seed Generator.
To use this, you define the importance of a number of factors prioritizing what aspects to minimize when searching for a seed that’s a good fit for that what you are hoping to achieve. For example, badly designed reverbs are often accused of having a “metallic” quality. This is said to be attributable to resonance. So, having the Smart Seed Generator find seed values that minimize resonance should help to avoid this problem.
Are you scared off yet? Well, don’t be. This design goodness is there for a few very committed (and maybe slightly insane) individuals who relish designing sound processing at this level. But because these tools are so advanced, sophisticated and powerful, everyone who uses MTurboReverb will benefit. Even if you want more control over your reverb settings than LE will give you, you really don’t need to go anywhere near the designer panel for your minutia control.
On the other hand, if your aim is not believable reverb ambience but sonic mayhem, I could easily see where a rainy afternoon spent fiddling with the designer could be a load of fun. But you will need to read the documentation with considerable diligence before you’d want to attempt that kind of “messing around”.
Is MTurboReverb for You?
Reverb quality seems to be somewhat dependent upon individual taste. What floats someone else’s boat may not float yours in this area. I would say that anyone should audition a reverb before buying it and not just take the word of reviewers or a consensus of forum denizens. That said, I am more than a little impressed with how good MTurboReverb sounds. Do not use previous experience with MeldaProductions earlier and much simpler MReverb as a guideline. MTurboReverb is superior in many ways, not least of which is how it sounds. A fourteen-day fully functioning demo version can be downloaded (URL below) which should provide more than adequate time to evaluate either plug-in.
Just how good is it? I can honestly say that MTurboReverb LE could easily be my desert island algorithmic reverb. I already have a number of good ones on my DAW computer, but I’d have no problem using only MTurboReverb for general reverb solutions going forward. That’s not to say that I’d be happy giving up Fab Filter Pro-R, VahallaPlate, D16 Group Toraverb or a few others that excel at specific applications. But for general reverb finishing, MTurboReverb could easily be my go-to solution.
I am not a reverb control-freak by nature. I basically never feel compelled to minutely adjust early reflection modulation parameters or anything of that sort. For me, MTurboReverb LE offers more than enough control for my purposes. But for any of you who are mad scientists at heart, it should be clear that you shouldn’t just settle for LE. You will quite possibly revel in the laboratory to which the full edition gives you access.
To learn more, to download the manual, to download a demo or to purchase, go here: