Softube TSAR-1 Review

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



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TSAR-1’s overall sound is bright, clear, uncluttered and nuanced. That said, you can certainly create dark-sounding spaces by plunging the tone and high-cut controls. To get you started, the plug-in offers more than three-dozen presets, many of which sound excellent. Fashioning my own presets was easy as pie due to the relatively lean control set.

TSAR-1 sounded awesome on trap drums. I crafted explosive plate reverbs by using high amounts of diffusion, lowering the relative level of early reflections, dialing in a bright reverb tone and setting the density control between medium and high values.

Cranking the Early Reflections Mix control to the max completely eliminated the reverb tail and created outstanding ADT (automatic double-tracking) effects on lead vocals. Additionally, I could craft convincing concert hall settings by adjusting controls for low density, high diffusion, “large” early reflections, and relatively long pre-delay and decay times. The resulting sound bestowed very clear, airy and expansive acoustics on vocals and violins. Small room reverbs lent plausible ambience to close-miked electric guitars and could be produced by choosing a few milliseconds of pre-delay, short reverb time, high density, and a neutral or dark tone.

On the downside, the few “gated reverb” presets that were offered sounded like discrete early reflections and were thoroughly unconvincing. I wished I could lock the output volume control so it didn’t change when cycling through presets for inspiration. And while you can automate the TSAR-1’s control settings, doing so can cause the reverb to mute its output or introduce unpleasant artifacts, and parameter adjustments are often erratic on playback in Digital Performer.

I also wish that the pre-delay control adjusted how soon early reflections voice after dry signal (instead of setting the delay time between early reflections and the start of the reverb tail). There is currently no way to adjust the onset of early reflections to match a song’s tempo. In fact, because the start time for early reflections is not accounted for in TSAR-1’s pre-delay readout, tweaking the reverb tail’s onset to match a song’s tempo must be done completely by ear. There is no sync-to-host function that would allow automatically setting the pre-delay for either the early reflections or reverb tail to note values for the song.

TSAR-1 sacrifices deep programmability for breezy ease of use. For most users, it’s a good trade-off. True reverb aficionados will want control of more parameters in some situations. And while I wish there were more algorithms included, the one that’s provided is a beauty. TSAR-1 gets great reverb sounds at jackrabbit speed.

Mix contributing editor Michael Cooper is the owner of Michael Cooper Recording in Sisters, Ore.

Click on the Product Summary box above to view the TSAR-1 product page.

Click on the Product Summary box above to view the TSAR-1 product page.

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