EastWest is a mystery to many. An early adopter of the subscription/rental model for their excellent ‘Composer Cloud’ they have, however, been making cue-friendly virtual instruments for as long as any of us can remember. They also make a very particular plugin. One that we’ve been wanting to look at for a
while. Funnily enough, when the conversation came up composer and designer, Nick Phoenix was ready to release version two of the universally lauded ‘Spaces’ convolution reverb. Spaces I was a handsome beast with a sexy, brushed Fauxluminum front panel and a pretty well-stocked library.
“Spaces I was a handsome beast with a sexy, brushed Fauxluminum front panel and a pretty well-stocked library.”
What is an IR?
Above: Scroll through the excellent IR’s
Spaces enjoys a prime position in a market where only a couple of other devs can be found. Convolution reverbs are notoriously difficult to create and tune in and, as Phoenix himself has mentioned, the recording of the impulses themselves is absolutely integral to the quality and usability of the end product. An Impulse Response (IR) is a recorded sample (wav file) created by exciting an actual space with a sine wave or a transient burst of sound. This recorded impulse is then processed by the ‘Convolution’ engine in the plugin which is able to process the mathematical variables to give you handles on the sound – like pre-delay or decay time.
Using the reverb
It should be duly noted that Spaces II has a very attractive and functional GUI. Everything you need is right there and my only pet peeve was that the interface is non-resizable and I feel could be slightly higher definition. In terms of look and feel though, it’s bang on. Also of note is the simple but useful ‘SETTINGS’ menu where you can check the option to make Spaces II a Send effect by default. Nice.
“It should be duly noted that Spaces II has a very attractive and functional GUI.”
It’s nice also, that there are a couple of different ways to get the same thing achieved, like accessing the preset menu, for instance. A great many convolution plugins are bizarrely over-extended when it comes to fussy and confusing interfaces but EastWest have got it so right with Spaces II. You instantiate the plug and you get immediately stuck-in which allows you to make meaningful and creative decisions without derailing
the workflow. One thing that I’m particularly fond of is the menu to the left of the central screen, which creates an easily navigable repository of secondary, but still very useful functions. It’s logically ordered and reminds you of the things you might want to address after picking an appropriate IR from the very well-stocked library. The most used items in this menu are undoubtedly the DECAY and FILTER pages.
“It’s very logically ordered and reminds you of things you might want to address after picking an appropriate IR from the very well-stocked library.”
Here is a perfect example of why I fell in love with Spaces II so quickly. The sheer simplicity of the decay time adjustment (which shortens the decay time of the actual impulse) just reeks of design and engineering confidence –
and I’m talking about the confidence of knowing that the Impulse Responses used in Spaces II are not just pristine but correctly recorded and prepared.
The filter section is slightly different. It seems that EW decided that the cleanest way to remove unwanted frequency content from the wet signal would be to filter the unprocessed audio on input.
It seems like a satisfying conclusion and the filter itself sounds great – in so far as it doesn’t sound much like anything. Transparency is the name of this game.
Using the reverb
A quick tip on how to achieve some very complex and sophisticated sounding reverbs with very little effort. Insert Spaces II on a Return track with the dry control at 0% and the wet at 100%. Feed through enough of your instrument or vocal via a Send (try around 50-65%) so you can really hear the affect that Spaces II is having on that performance. From here there are just a couple of very simple options. Firstly load a shorter impulse, then click on the FILTER button and high pass to brighten the signal slightly or low pass to darken. Cleverly if you do both, Spaces II allows you to slide around what is essentially now a gentle, band pass filter, revealing a drier bottom end as you slide to the right and vice versa as you creep left. Doing the latter enables you to pull a lead vocal a smidgen forward in the mix. Once you’re done then back off your send level to taste and Voila! Spaces II is sitting perfectly in your mix. If you’re stuck for other ways to make it work this is a great little
weapon to have in reserve. To my ears it also sounds more sophisticated than balancing out the dry signal using the dedicated DRY knob. Of course, separation can be more commonly achieved using the PRE-DELAY dial in the bottom left of the plugin. The second path to Reverb Nirvana is much more simple. Pick a longer response (like the 3.8second long default preset) and simply back off the DECAY – which imparts a beautiful, silvery fade and lessens the intensity of the overall effect. Either way, you’re in the game.
“Cleverly if you do both, Spaces II allows you to slide what is essentially now a gentle, band pass filter around.”
Spaces two has over 1,000 presets which seems like an awful lot. However, they’re very well organized using a four panel system that reads from left to right with the overall categories being intelligently named. It’s very easy to find your way to the folder you need and once there you can choose from multiple versions of that space.
“It’s very easy to find your way to the (IR) folder you need.”
Before using Spaces II in anger it’s worth taking the time to learn about the naming conventions of the presets themselves. (FR) denotes Front and (RR) microphone positioning when the space was sampled. The rear mics position will usually sound less bright so is a good way to tuck a sound away more. These abbreviations describe the position of the microphones in either the front (FR) or the rear
Below: Intelligent Organistaion of IR’s
(RR) of the space being sampled Rear impulses also tend to be a little longer. Stereo is denoted as (M-S) and True Stereo as (S-S) which stands for stereo in, stereo out. What is True Stereo? It’s basically the summed signal of both stereo impulses of a sampled space – one left and one right. These create a four channel file of that space. You can quickly see what type of reverb is being used by glancing at the MODE indicators on the main interface when a preset is already loaded.
“Before using Spaces II in anger it’s worth taking the time to learn about the naming conventions of the presets themselves.”
What does it sound like?
I’ll start with my favorite. The AMS RMX16 presets found under Digital/Gated Room Reverb. Ridiculously delicate washes of 80’s vibe that scream competence and dress your signal up like it’s going on a permanent vacation to Studio 54. I can’t describe how essential this folder is.
Also in my top five were the Lexicon presets found under Digital/Classic Digital. I was tending to pick longer IR’s from this folder before adjusting them to taste with the DECAY control. These impulses are nuanced and delicate, almost seeming to defy gravity as they drift into the ether-sphere. They seem slightly more dense than the AMS ones, but that can be useful in many situations.
“These impulses are nuanced and delicate, almost seeming to defy gravity as they drift into the ether-sphere.”
A major deal for many composers (with whom the original ‘Spaces’ is very popular) is a feature called Instrument Specific Reverb. It’s a fair bit more in depth than it sounds but it offers, essentially, spatial presets for specific instruments in specific venues. This was achieved by using ATC speaker arrays to ape the audio projection unique to different instruments or entire orchestral sections from where they’d be on stage – basically creating a fearsomely legit ambience that is also, technically correct. With 7 times as many ISR’s in Spaces II this is a slam dunk for anyone one doing serious orchestral mockups in their DAW.
With some 1.7GB of included, 24bit content which translates to 1020 different impulses included 372 that are instrument specific. It’s very, very easy to look through and find something that fits exactly the mental remit you have in your head for the sound you want – or simply browse, with a mind to breaking the mold by choosing something whimsical and inappropriate like a ghostly, Bavarian forest or a, ahem… Planetary system! The accompanying pictures that populate the central screen of the plugin really help to put you in a position to make the right creative decisions before you misfire and pollute your head with an inappropriate sound or feel. Spaces II has really turned out to be one of my most unexpected
pleasures so far in 2018. Of course, it was highly unlikely to be anything but good – it’s just the quality of the impulses themselves are so exceptional and the way the plugin has been fashioned for creative workflow makes it a music producer’s dream. Yes, I’m sure any engineer would love to put this thing through it’s paces but, from a purely selfish perspective I feel it’s been dialed in, just for me. The work flow, the incredibly effective yet simple handles that exist everywhere in this plugin can only be created by someone who lives and breathes music. This is a bad@$$ reverb plugin and it could literally live at the end of every Send in your DAW, collectively elevating your tracks to way more than the sum of their parts.
“…the way the plugin has been fashioned for creative workflow makes it a music producer’s dream.”
Price and Availability
EastWest Spaces II weighs in at an eye watering $399 USD and is available to demo and buy directly from here.
A simple upgrade from Spaces I is $149 USD but that will rise to $199 USD shortly
However, SPACES II is also available as part of the ComposerCloud subscription, which starts at $24.99/month
NB: Spaces I presets are NOT compatible with Spaces II
- Addictive Workflow
- Amazing presets
- Simple but effective handles
- Non-resizable GUI
- HDD Footprint