Back in the 50s and 60s, there were no digital reverbs in pro studios, because there was no such thing as digital. Back then, if you wanted to add reverb to your tracks, you had to use a reverberation room to record the sound of your track played back through a loudspeaker in an intentionally echoic room, then blend that into your mix. An alternative was the plate reverb, which added a tinny, uncanny valley-like reverb for studios that couldn’t afford reverb rooms. Many classic recordings were done with plate reverbs, so it makes perfect sense that Black Rooster Audio would choose the iconic Elektromesstechnik EMT 140 Plate Reverb to emulate in their newest offering, the RO-140 Vintage Plate Reverb. Today we’re going to check out the new plugin and decide if it’s a good value for your home studio. Check out the video here, or scroll down to read more details:
Black Rooster Audio’s RO-140 has a tarnished, well-worn brushed-nickel motif with orange and yellow lights and knobs with an anodized gold tone appearance. Flanking on either side are the main input and output gains with nifty orange lights that show the levels. The vintage-look Damper control has two buttons for adjustment, and there are a total of seven knobs and two switches for cutting and boosting EQ, setting pre-delay, plate size, and dry/wet, as well as choosing one of the plate materials and stereo modes. Everything is logically laid out, easy to find, and easy on the eyes.
Let’s dive into the controls in more detail:
Besides an input gain, the input section of RO-140 has a 9-step Damper control for controlling the reverb tail and a bass cut from 10Hz to 1kHz. But wait, why would the Damper be in the input section? True to form, Black Rooster’s emulation takes into account the design of the original plate reverb, which required a physical damper plate be applied to the reverb plate to change the reverb tail length. I really liked the damper set to 4-5.
EQ, Plate Material, and Stereo
In addition to the three-band parametric EQ with 16dB of boost or cut, the RO-140 comes with a plate material switch that lets you choose between six different metals: titanium, gold, silver, bronze, aluminum, and steel. The metals that really stand out are the bronze, aluminum, and steel, but each has its own flavor. The Stereo switch allows you to run the plugin in mono, stereo, or mono-to-stereo conversion.
The output section is where all the more modern features are found in RO-140. The pre-delay, plate size, and overall dry/wet are common in modern reverbs, but obviously not something you could control in the original hardware. Rounding out the right-to-left signal layout is an output gain with the same orange glow as the input.
I played with RO-140 for hours and couldn’t find a single fault with it, and also couldn’t find a source I didn’t enjoy it on. Drums, vocals, guitars, bass, synths, and mix busses all benefited from its warmth and plate-y vibe. This was made even better by the ability to choose from six different metal emulations for the plate. Each material imparted a unique resonance and timbre to the sound, and when finely tuned with the EQ and damper made for a formidable breadth of control. I was absolutely blown away by the bronze, aluminum, and steel settings, but could easily find a use for all six. Since this plugin dropped a few days ago I have already stuck it on multiple mixes where I was using other reverbs before, and I imagine it will keep making appearances in the future.
Hear it in Action
Here’s a full mix sample (2 guitars, bass, drums) with RO-140 on the reverb buss of a rock track. This is using the Steel material setting, a slight cut in lows, and a slight boost in highs:
Here’s the exact same mix without RO-140 for comparison:
Black Rooster Audio RO-140 Review – The Bottom Line
When Black Rooster announced this plugin, I was curious how they would price it. After all, it’s not the only EMT 140 emulation on the market, so it has to stay competitive. Coming in at the exact same price point as the competition, RO-140 blows them away with an enormous feature set that makes it infinitely more useful. In a side-by-side, I’d take the Black Rooster Audio emulation all day every day.
Only time will tell how this plugin is received by the audio engineering world at large, but for my purposes, it’s a winner. Black Rooster Audio has an absolute banger on their hands with RO-140. It sounds great, looks great, has great features, tons of use cases, and is comparably priced to other plate reverb emulations while packing in far more features. This plugin was a no-brainer 5 out of 5 stars for me across the board, and I know for sure it will be on many of my recordings in the future. RO-140 has my full recommendation for musicians in numerous genres. Try it out, you won’t be disappointed.