Sparkverb by UVI
UVI developed the engine for MachFive sampler. Encouraged with that success, they decided to extract the reverb component and offer it as a stand-alone plug-in. Learn more about it here.
by A. Arsov, Nov. 2013
UVI is a well-known sound library and software developer. They prepared the engine for MOTU MachFive 3 and they have also created a good number of first class sound libraries. UVI is the sound, and the sound is UVI. Encouraged with the success of UVI Engine, they decided to extract one if its components, the reverb (the one used in MachFive 3), improving the sound, design and other coding magic, and released it stand-alone.
The main intention was to make a user-friendly reverb, with just a few essential controllers that should work in most situations, be it solo instruments or full orchestra … a Ford Model T, if you will … a reverb for everyone. Sparkverb has got a sound and it is made by UVI, so it would be unusual that it didn’t sound good. It also has a few (we could call them almost revolutionary) solutions, which I’m sure will be copied over the time by other developers. But, if I may say, they really aimed it for general use, for musicians that are not willing to care about technical things. So how is it that they did not add more specific instrument oriented effects, like guitar, solo string and the like? Also I spoke with the programmer and we didn’t share the same opinion regarding the absence of pre-delay controller. To me, pre-delay is a lifesaver in extra crowded arrangements, preserving snappiness and clearance while still adding an additional amount of air around instrument. The main developer told me that their intention was to make Sparkverb as a simple and user-friendly reverb, motivating them to avoid the implementation of the pre-delay.
I was not very enthusiastic regarding that issue, but Sparkverb sounded good enough that I decided to give it a second try. To tell the truth, it was not such a hard decision. Sparkverb brings a nice dash of a fresh air in a virtual reverb world, offering some attractive special features, and in most cases it sounds better than many of the other reverbs that I own or have tried. Yes, there were still a few occasions that I really missed pre-delay and I truly hope that they will add that little knob in some future update. But generally, in most cases it is not hard to find the right preset where drums sound snappier but still rounder at the same time. I’m not so sure how to describe this effect, but when I tried Sparkverb on drums and vocal, I discovered that it can make the sound to shine. OK, this is not that unusual, but at the same time it somehow tames the sounds, making them more equally present in a space. It is hard to describe, but with Sparkverb all my back vocals sounded a bit more defined in within the soundstage, somehow less jumpy, as if they were slightly compressed, or perhaps we should say equally dispersed. The same results happened with drums. They sounded slightly better mixed with Sparkverb. It also worked really well with many other instruments. I just couldn’t set it right for the solo violin in a wild Irish-like arrangement, at least without pre-delay. Since my aim was to make violin aggressive, proudly standing in the front line, I simply couldn’t achieve a wet, “attacky” sound without putting reverb slightly in the background. OK, I presume that you can’t have it all, and it is hard to complain as this is the only case where Sparkverb didn’t shine.
I was initially concerned about a scarcity of to-the-point presets, but the truth is that Sparkverb still offers very large number of presets: plate, hall, drums and vocal. So you will definitely not be swimming in a dry pool this time. You will easily find the right one in little time. The best thing with Sparkverb is that you can lock any parameter, preventing the value when you are browsing through the presets or when you press the dice picture, randomizing all other parameters. So, using it as an insert effect is a matter of second, lock the mix value at the desired amount and off you go.
The next innovative and fun-to-use feature is the Preset Voyager, something that you might see in sci-fi movies where everything is a matter of a click and space just opens. Preset Voyager is a window that you open by pressing the net picture in the upper row, a window sparkled with a colorful dots where every color presents a different category of reverb. So pressing empty space between dots creates new combinations and after a minute or two you can find your ideal preset for the instrument you are looking for. A tweak or two and the preset is ready to save. I found that some weird vocal combinations proved to be the best ones for my drums, so I’ll just leave you to be surprised finding the combinations that you would otherwise never think off.
Leaving the Preset Voyager window, you are back in the default one, in which you can see the real time spectrum display. I didn’t found this especially essential, but it is really beautiful and at least it shows you the general amount of the reverb and it can’t hurt if you see which frequencies are the most used in particular patch or preset. But what is far more important is that with a single click you can draw through the window, changing some parameters on the fly – very handy, original and almost essential. With one drag, you can change the shape of a main decay time or a low and high frequency decay. It depends where you dragging the mouse – change the position and you will change the cross-over between the aforementioned controllers. I have to admit, it couldn’t be simpler.
Another nice feature is that the Room Size parameter covers all sizes, from ultra-small to big hall. So you don’t need to change the general settings to get the whole size spectrum. There are also a few other capabilities that can turn the reverb in a creative monster, like freezing function which freezes the tail. And speaking of the tail, as you probably know this is the area where reverb can shine or fail. Sparkverb has a really nice musical tail – it never sounds artificial.
All in all, Sparkverb offers a nice selection of essential controllers, all presented in one window, so there is no need to dig deeper to achieve competent results. It sounds better than most of the other reverbs, (or at least as good as the best ones) and it is very CPU friendly. Containing, as it does, some almost revolutionary solutions and offering impressive numbers of one click solutions, paying a 199 USD for such a nice thing is not a bad decision. If they add that pre-delay controller in some future update, then only the sky would be the limit.
Visit UVI, watch the video, listen demo audio clips, download demo and have a good time.
By the way, you will not need an iLok key (as it is the case with most other UVI software) to use and abuse this little Sparky fellow. (you can chose between iLok or machine activation)
More about Sparkverb on a
FYI…. Uvi updated Sparkverb to version 1.1 and finally we got pre-delay. Now, only sky is the limit.
Thanks Uvi, you did a great job. As always. 🙂