Review: UAD-2 Lexicon 224 Plug-In, by Chris Zane

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TRIBECA: Reverb seems to be one of the most distinguishing sonic attributes for not only setting the mood of a song, but also identifying the era in which it was recorded. And few reverbs have left quite as big a footprint as the Lexicon 224.

The original Lexicon 224 hardware unit

Whilst at its core it is a utility that is used to present audio and the perception of space, to me, reverb has come become much more than that. It’s become very stylistic.

People in the recording industry seem to have really strong opinions – especially when it comes to gear. When I see people write or talk about a new or even classic piece of gear, I always think to myself, Whoa. That seems pretty extreme…So when it comes time for me to say something about how I feel about a piece of equipment or software, I’m always walking on eggshells. I mean, I’m no expert. I don’t consider myself an expert.

I think that on some level, making records really just boils down to closing your eyes, using your ears, and trusting your gut. This is how I judge music, and it’s how I judge gear.

OK, now that I’ve got that out of the way, let me tell you, I LOVE THE UAD LEXICON 224 plug-in. Love it. I think it sounds awesome.

Now, here is a great example of what I’m talking about in this war of words regarding equipment: I’m not an expert on vintage digital reverbs. In fact, how about this: I haven’t really spent much time with a real Lexicon 224. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t know what it sounds like, or what it should sound like.

I was excited to see that UAD was going to release the 224 as I was eager to explore some if its grainy, iconic plates, and incorporate it into some of my mixes using it for some gated reverbs.

Like a lot of people, I find myself lusting after those cold reverbs from the 80s, those classic long plate algorithms from Blade Runner or Talking Heads’ records, and I’ll tell you, the UAD Lexicon 224 is getting me there.

Also worth mentioning, is that I’m fairly new to the UAD platform. I only incorporated it into my workflow about 4 or 5 months ago. Needless to say, I’m over the moon about the sound of these plug-ins, and feel lucky to have jumped in at a time when the collection is expanding with super accurate, absolutely great-sounding plug-ins like the Studer A800 and the Lexicon 224.

THE INTERFACE

I was going to spare you the obligatory fader talk, but there are only six, so let’s take a look and go through them quick!

UAD Lexicon 224 GUI

Bass Reverb Time/ Mid Reverb Time: The first two faders control the ‘main’ reverb time/length, but unlike a traditional reverb that would just one control for this, the Lexicon is broken up into Bass and Mids.

Crossover: Selects the frequency at which the two previous faders split.

Treble Decay: Determines the amount of high frequency information in the tail, leaving the decay of said information to the ‘Mid Reverb Time’

Depth: A lot of times seen as a “distance” control, this fader effects the apparent closeness or farness to and from the source.

Pre Delay: Controls the delay between the input and the beginning of the reverb.

This is the heart of the box. Just six faders. There are plenty more buttons for you to explore, but a vast majority of colors can be achieved strictly from these six faders.

IN USE: DRUMS

So the first thing I did, which I imagine a lot of people do, is pop an instance on an aux track and send a snare to it. I’m not as much of a fan of big reverbs on snares – never been able to make it sound as nice as I’d like, but when I threw some into the Lex 224 I was, like, “Oh. Right. There it is.” Even with very little tweaking.  Program #1, (Sm Hall B) #3 (Lg Hall B), and #5 (Perc Plate) are very familiar sounds. Small little tweaks like shortening the ‘Treble Decay’ and ‘Bass Reverb Time’ yielded instant results.

After using this plug on about 2-3 records lately, I can say with confidence, that whether it be a real snare, or a drum machine (I was using my Oberheim DX), drop a heavy dose of the Lex 224 plug, and a gate, and you are pretty firmly in the ballpark of a quite huge 80s sound, or lush early 90s drum ambience.

Also, don’t over look the ‘Pre Delay’ fader for some proper 80s size!

VOCALS

I’ve never been one to go subtle on vocal reverb. I’m of the thinking that if it’s going to be there, let it be there. If I just need some space, I’ll use delay. But I don’t mind a big swimmy reverb.

On the UAD Lexicon 224, I love both the Halls and Plate programs out-of-the-box for a vocal. Something I can really appreciate about this piece of gear, and how UAD has adapted it to a plug-in, is how quick and easy it is to get it sounding good. I find that this is an awesome plug-in for slapping across an insert on a voice and messing with the mix around 40%-60% wet, as opposed to strictly using it on an aux send.  A couple swipes of a fader, a tweak of the pre delay, the ability to go from all wet, to a blend… it’s just really flexible for dealing with a voice, which I think can sometimes be a little more taxing. Again, fast and easy.

It goes without saying, but one of the fringe benefits to have the Lex 224 in plug-in form is the ability to make subtly different reverbs for different vocal parts. I find myself pretty often making separate reverbs for the verse, chorus, and bridge of a song, and I noticed that I was working off a lot of the same starting point with this reverb, and just changing the decay time, and crossover a little depending on how ‘light’ or ‘heavy’ I wanted the voice to sound at that particular part.

Bonus note: Just like the original, UAD has included a Lexicon’s version of the “all buttons in” trick, wherein there is a kind of ‘hidden’ 9th program (which can be selected by shift clicking any of the additional programs whilst one is already selected – i.e. 7 + 8 = 9) which gives you what I find to be one of the most pleasing choruses for lead vocals, or background vocals. A lot of times choruses can sound tinny and metallic on a voice, but this is actually quite warm and rich.

I recently did a mix where I basically used the preset from Program 9 on an aux for the lead vocal, and then another instance with a longer pre delay inserted across a background vocal buss. The sound retained its pleasant tone and didn’t ‘stack up’ at all.

IN SUM

I have used this reverb a hundred different ways on drums in the last few months, on bass, made percussion ‘rooms,’ lush piano halls, the list goes on and on.

From long to short, bright and tinny, to dark – and I like them all. It’s also great for inserting directly on a tambourine track (a deceptively tricky task from time to time). It handled all of these things easily, and quickly (seeing a trend here?)

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