Upon first glance at the new Brainworx bx_rooMS plug-in I thought to myself: “Just what we need, yet another reverb plug-in.” However, being a curious person who is always looking for new creative tools, I decided to give it a try, and now bx_rooMS just might be my go-to reverb.
Plugin Alliance and Brainworx released bx_rooMS near the end of 2016, and it available in all major formats—AAX, Native, AU, VST2, and VST3. As the “MS” suffix implies, this plug-in incorporates built in mid/side processing features that are highly unusual for this kind of tool, and take this reverb to a different dimension.
Plugin Alliance and Brainworx characterize bx_rooMS as being “a simulation of acoustic spaces and mechanical plates,” and claim that it is “a first for reverb plug-ins, [giving] you Mid/Side parametric filtering, panning and width control of the reverb’s stereo field. No other reverb can do that!”
While conducting my tests, all mixing was done in my personal studio using a quad Intel DAW with 8GB of RAM, running Windows 7 64-bit. I used both Pro Tools 12.3.1 and SONAR Producer X3—both 64-bit, using native processing—through an outboard M-Audio Delta 1010 A/D converter, and monitored using AKG K-240 headphones.
I composed some new session loops and alternately used some existing session tracks that had drums, bass, guitar, keyboards, synthesizers and vocals available for comparison. Each time, I dropped the bx_rooMS plug-in into a single mono track or a stereo sub-mix for testing. Aside from a few minor difference in operation, working with the plug-in in both Pro Tools and SONAR Producer provided similar results.
Features and Use
The installation process of bx_rooMS was easy. Both the VST and the AAX versions of the software installed automatically and in the correct locations on the very first try.
The layout of the plug-in is logical and easy to use. First and foremost it is a reverb: There are simulations of rooms, halls, churches, plates and other various ambient spaces—but it goes beyond that.
Starting at the top of the plug-in, you’ll find five selectable reverb types and three room sizes available through a set of easily identifiable buttons. The Hall, Church, Plate, Room and Ambience options provide the character of the emulation, while the Small, Medium and Large options of course decide the starting point for the length of the reverb time. This makes it easy to switch between algorithms while listening.
On the top right, there is an Output section with pots for Mix, Gain In and Gain Out, along with selectors for Fix Mix, and Wet Solo. “Fix Mix” is an especially useful feature that allows preset surfing without changing the Wet/Dry balance of the effect.
Beneath the Output section, you’ll find two sets of stereo LED-style meters: One for Input, the other for Output.
Starting from the left, the Reverb section features faders for control over the Time, Size and Shape. The “Time” fader position determines the length of the reverb effect (not unlike the release of an ADSR unit). Included next to these controls is a Damping section, offering pots for high and low frequency EQ tuning, featuring Gain and Frequency pots for each.
Next to the right is the Pre-Delay section, offering two additional faders for Pre-Delay time, and Source Distance. This is then followed by an FX section with controls for Directivity, Modulation and Quantize features.
Moving further to the right is the M/S section, which features controls for Stereo Width (offering 12dB/octave filters), and a Pan pot for “Mid,” along with two separate controls for Gain M+S. At the bottom of this section is a “Mono Maker” control that collapses bass content in the wet signal to mono below an adjustable corner frequency, anchoring the reverb’s center and increasing clarity at its edges.
Finally, farthest to the right is the Equalizer section, featuring separate shelving filters for low and high frequencies as well as parametric EQs featuring Mode, Gain, Q and Center Frequency controls. EQ-1 is adjustable from 20Hz to 40kHz, and there is real time feedback via the label below. Similarly, EQ-2 is adjustable over the same range with real time display of the selected frequency.
In addition, there is a set of selectors that offer retrievable settings (A, B, C, D) in a small row across the very top of the plug-in. You can toggle between A, B, C and D settings, which allow you to create four modified versions of any one preset. Be aware that you can not load A, B, C, D with different factory presets for each. Whenever you select a new preset, all settings reset to the default. I found this to be confusing at first, as many of my other plug-ins allow A/B comparison of different presets. With this setup, you can instead make four different sets of changes to a single preset and compare them rapidly by clicking A, B, C or D.
bx_rooMS’s developers say that the plug-in works differently from conventional reverb algorithms that spawn a fixed number of algorithms to represent spaces of different sizes. Rather, they use a technology they call “True Space” (a bit of novel marketing here), to deliver a continuous range of algorithms for the size of the space you select. Since I like the sounds generated by this plug-in, as far as I am concerned, who cares how it functions?
The plug-in offers nearly 200 presets that cover a wide range of nuances of the combinations of reverb sounds offered. I didn’t try them all, but I liked what I did try, gravitating mostly toward the plate simulations.
To Be Critical
The operation of this plug-in for both the AAX and VST versions were totally consistent. The audio sound quality was spot-on in both specifications and host programs. No complaints here!
There were, however, some other differences that I noticed, rooted in the preset display. In the AAX version in Pro Tools there is a pop-up section for all the selectable presets. This did not operate the same in the VST version. The presets are still selectable, but you must open a directory listing that is more cumbersome and not as well-organized. No sub-groupings are available and it was tiresome searching through the mass of presets.
The AAX version features the ability to select automation parameters from the plug-in that the VST does not. In AAX version, you can easily step through the presets using “+” and “-“ buttons that are not found in the VST version. The manufacturer cites these as operational differences caused by the host program, but plug-ins by other manufacturers (Waves, Eventide, Blue Cat, and more) do provide exactly the same preset display in both host programs. There is also no “automation safe” button found in the VST version.
Additionally, there is no visual feedback from the “Quick Select” buttons when using the presets. When I selected a medium size plate preset, I expected the Reverb Type buttons to light up for Plate and Medium. They did not, thus causing me to be uncertain about what was going on in that moment. It appears to me that this is a missed opportunity on the company’s part that could have reduced the learning curve and added further clarity and ease of use to the operation of this plug-in. It was less than optimal, but not a deal-breaker by any stretch.