In the world of reverb plugin emulations of classic hardware, it’s always refreshing to find one with superb sound quality that separates itself from the fray. Softube’s TSAR-1 is a modern take on classic algorithmic reverbs capable of producing everything from vintage plates to Lexicon 224-type halls. Its True Stereo Algorithm is what sets the TSAR-1 apart enabling it to be useful in mixing and creative situations.
True Stereo Algorithm and Presets
The architecture of the TSAR-1’s True Stereo Algorithm is such that it can process a stereo input as two discrete channels. This feature enables you to control early reflections and the main reverb tail separately. Softube describes the TSAR-1 as “alive and vibrant, gentle and dreamy and natural and believable”. This is because it’s able to add a distinct character to various audio sources. Using the DENSITY slider in the center of the interface allows you to mimic the sound of a variety of vintage reverbs such as EMT plates and halls, Sony Digital Snare and of course the Lexicon 224 among others.
To my ears, the presets sound great on their own and you might find yourself using them without a lot of tweaking, if any at all. They are divided into two sections, modern and vintage. The modern presets are application specific while the vintage presets mimic the sound of vintage reverb units. Names like (Scoring Stage, Vocal Whisper, 224 Room, EMT Plate, etc.) offer you a fantastic starting point from which to dial in your desired sound.
The TSAR-1 isn’t modelled after any particular reverb. It merely offers you the ability to mimic a variety of classic units. This distinction is important in the event that you are expecting this to be an emulation because it most certainly is not. Its powerful modern reverb algorithm heavily contributes to its signature sound and overall sophisticated quality. It truly surrounds itself around the source material creating the illusion of actually being in that particular stereo space.
Softube designed the TSAR-1 with ease of use in mind. Included with the package is the TSAR-1R plugin (more on this later) which has an even smaller set of intuitive controls.
As the screenshot above shows, the TSAR-1 has only five sliders (Pre-delay, Time, Density, Tone and High Cut), and 3 knobs (Output Volume, Reverb/Early Reflections and Reverb Mix). There are also a couple switched parameters for Diffusion and Modulation. The display in the center of the interface shows the current settings for the various parameters. Clicking on any of them will toggle from the current setting to the most recent setting. Parameters in the display illuminate briefly when either selecting a new preset, moving a slider or knob, or clicking on one of them. This is helpful because you are able to see at a glance, which parameter you are affecting.
You have up to 1 second of Pre-delay and a reverb time range of 150ms – 15 seconds. By default, each preset is loaded with the Reverb Mix knob set to 100%. Take any sound, instantiate an instance of TSAR-1 and set the Time slider to about 10 seconds, play with the Density and Tone sliders, then bounce that to audio and get an instant unique ambient sample. The High Cut slider limits the frequencies of both the early reflections and the reverb tail, although it sounds to me as if it affects the reverb tail a bit more. Also worth noting is that although both the TSAR-1 and TSAR-1R plugins support automation, parts of the reverb get muted when parameters change in order to limit noise artifacts. Softube suggests in their pdf manual “Do not use automation to modulate or gradually change parameters.
A constantly moving parameter can lead to the reverb being muted.”
As mentioned earlier, TSAR-1 comes bundled with the TSAR-1R which is has an even more streamlined interface. It uses the same algorithm as its big brother, but has only 3 reverb parameters and focuses mainly on natural reverberation types. Pre-delay is limited to 200ms and the Time parameter adjusts an internal pre-delay, the early reflections, diffusion, density and delay time simultaneously.
Tsar-1 Rack Extension for Reason
There’s special version ported to the Rack Extension format. For my eyes it looks much better a rack-mounted device and it is has same great sound and presets and ability to modulate some of its parameters with CV-inputs.
This is a very lush sounding and flexible reverb. I would have liked to have seen a low cut filter as it’s often necessary to cut the low frequencies of reverb to some degree. It would also be nice to be able to automate parameters without worrying if the processed sound if going to be muted. But all in all, both the TSAR-1 and TSAR-1R are sophisticated units holding true to the standard of high quality products Softube is known for.