Softube TSAR-1 Review

Jul 1, 2011 9:00 AM, By Michael Cooper



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The Softube TSAR-1 is designed to get great reverb sounds quickly.

The Softube TSAR-1 is designed to get great reverb sounds quickly.

TSAR is shorthand for True Stereo Algorithmic Reverb, but it might as well stand for “Tweak Simply And Relax.” The plug-in’s minimalist control set (only 11 controls) is so fast and easy to use that you won’t break a sweat getting terrific reverb sounds.

TSAR-1 (Mac/Win) uses four audio engines that crossfeed stereo input signals between its left and right channels in a way that’s similar to how natural reverberation in an acoustic space propagates; mono and mono-to-stereo modes of operation are also supported. The plug-in supports AU, RTAS and VST formats, and sampling rates from 44.1 to 192 kHz. It requires an iLok. (A first-generation iLok will do.)

A “lite” version of the plug-in, TSAR-1R, is bundled with TSAR-1 and focuses on producing only natural-sounding reverbs. I reviewed the TSAR-1 (Version 1.0.2) in Digital Performer V. 7.21 on an 8-core Mac Pro running OS 10.5.8.

TSAR-1 uses only one algorithm and relies on your parameter-control adjustments to mimic plates, chambers, rooms and halls. Use the three-step Early Reflections control to choose very short echo patterns based on a small, medium or large space. The reverb tail (late reflections) can be fashioned to taste using separate controls for diffusion, density, modulation and decay time. A “random” modulation setting emulates the chaotic progression of natural reverbs over time. Two periodic modulation settings are also provided for very subtle chorus effects. Reverb decay times range from 0.15 to 15 seconds.

The Reverb Tone slider is deceptively named: It doesn’t adjust static filter settings but is actually a damping control for the reverb tail. A Bright setting applies damping to bass frequencies; that is, the high frequencies decay more slowly. The darker settings damp the highs. Although you can’t adjust crossover frequencies with such a simple design, it makes for lickety-split timbral adjustments. You can also apply a high-cut filter to both the reverb tail and early reflections; and adjust the corner frequency from 200 Hz to 20 kHz.

The pre-delay control adjusts the amount of time between the early reflections (not the onset of dry signal) and the start of the reverb tail; it ranges from 0 to 1,000 ms. Adjust the blend between early reflections and the reverb tail using the Early Reflections Mix control. Output level and wet/dry mix knobs complete the control set. Stereo I/O meters are provided.

A display area in the middle of the GUI shows current parameter values and is the gateway to the TSAR-1’s innovative Undo/Redo protocol. Clicking on a parameter value’s readout alternately toggles its associated control between its previous and current settings. This design gives you one step of independent Undo/Redo for each of 10 reverb parameters (all controls except output level) at any point during your tweaks.

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