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Eventide Blackhole Reverb
|Features Usability Sound Documentation & Product Support Price
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“Pigs… In… Space…” anyone that remembers that Muppet Show classic will no doubt enjoy Eventide’s Blackhole plugin. The Eventide legacy precedes everything they release, and that is no exception, with a trek into the outer reaches of the reverb universe!
This sumptuous sounding software will add a boutique spatial effect tool bag to your arsenal for years to come. Blackhole is not a traditional reverb plug-in (classic halls, plates etc.). Instead, it specializes in creating bizarre and far reaching spatial dimensions sure to peek imagination and creativity, as well as sound design.
Much of this has to do with the fact that Blackhole is based on presets from vintage Eventide hardware such as the DSP 4000 and the H8000, and if you’ve heard the Blackhole algorithm in the H9 or Space effect pedals, you’ll already have a clue as to the kinds of ethereal ambiance this plug-in will deliver. But this isn’t just a stompbox turned into a plug. It is a natural expansion of a great idea into something that is inspirational as much as it is captivating.
With a plethora of mind boggling presets, smart metering, easy programmability, and an intuitive user interface, Blackhole is a pleasure to work with. In fact, the design, sound, and functionality make this an indispensable tools for professionals in audio engineering, post production, and even the project studio.
So buckle up, pay no mind to the suspension wires dangling above our plastic space craft, and prepare for the journey of a life time. A launch into deep space awaits those who process their audio with the Eventide Blackhole.
Blackhole features classic reverbs in a sense, but not in the traditional way of understanding reverb. Specifically, hall, cathedral, plate and room style reverbs can be heard, just not as expected in a standard application or naming convention. For example, with Blackhole, you wouldn’t think, “I need a hall reverb here.” Instead, you would think in terms of what kind of cavernous environment you want to place your source in, and perhaps a hall may be the flavor of reverb that a particular preset utilizes. This has to do with the fact that the Blackhole is a plug-in version of the very popular preset from the Eventide DSP 4000 and the H8000 devices, not to mention a lust-worthy preset in Eventide’s Space guitar effects pedal. Accordingly, the features are more about modification of the Blackhole sound and algorithm rather than typical reverb choices. With that said, Blackhole boasts several helpful features:
Meters: graphic representation of levels before and after the reverb effect.
Overall the feature set is pretty straightforward, and numerous presets serve as a good starting point as you delve into the plug-in’s usability. The only possible downside to Blackhole is its limited usability. Not in terms of capabilities, but in terms of practicality. It generates incredible reverbs and is a great sound design tool. However, it’s not the kind of reverb you’d reach for on every session—unless you’re composing ambient, new age soundtracks, of course. This is no slam on what Blackhole is good at. It’s just more of a luxury item rather than an essential mix tool (like the recently reviewed Eventide H3000 Factory, for example).
We tested Eventide Blackhole in a Pro Tools 11 HD Native environment as a plug-in on our studio’s custom-built Windows PC (Intel Xeon 10-core 2.6 GHz). Installation was a no-brainer, as the plug-in used our iLok 2 for authorization.
The Blackhole plug-in performed exceptionally well, never caused a crash, and was very light on CPU usage. For audio professionals this is an obvious advantage but even for those with a modest amount of CPU power Blackhole isn’t the kind of plug in you would normally use on a ton of tracks anyway, so have no fear!
We found the workflow within Pro Tools to be straightforward, with easy access to presets, as well as to automation. This enabled us to dive in and get lost in the abyss of the Blackhole.
We appreciated that presets were logically divided into three groups: Divine, Inserts, and Sends.
The preset group’s functions coincide with their names for even easier operation. On top of that, new custom presets fall just beneath the stock presets, like the one we created and named “Circular Hall 2.”
When we started selecting presets, it was a breeze to quickly scroll through and discover many amazing sounds. The interface is extremely immediate in nature, with all the adjustments one could hope for laid out mirroring a simple analog interface.
The Ribbon feature was especially cool to use (that glowing, blue, vertical line in the plug-in’s interface). We could slide the ribbon indicator along its path or simply automate even the most random of adjustments.
The overall sound quality of Blackhole was impressive and very smooth. This plug-in does one thing extremely well: generate hug,e cavernous reverbs and spaces! For lack of better way to put it, you will never need another plug-in for huge spaces once you’ve tried this plug-in on your tracks.
The transitions from wet to dry as well as reverb trails are extremely transparent and unobtrusive. We found that even when used with extreme decay, a track didn’t get lost or overtaken. Blackhole sat well in the mix and added exactly what was needed when deep space exploration was needed.
At a first glance, you might think of Blackhole as merely being a plug-in version of the Eventide Space pedal, and to a certain extent, if that is what you desire, you won’t be disappointed. Still, if only thought of as guitar effect, a huge opportunity for sound design and creative effects will be missed.
For example, we purposely focused on vocals and just about anything but guitar in our testing phase just to see if it was applicable beyond that sphere. We love it! One shining example was our use of Blackhole on a mix featuring San Francisco Bay-area artist, Natalyn Daniels.
The track called “Grounded” was in dire need of something “different” for the ending, and without hesitation we used Blackhole to make the final statement. Check out the mixed, vocal-only ending to hear what Blackhole can do:
If you listen closely to the vocal-only segment, you can hear how we automated the high filter to come up as the reverb trail fades. It was a very subtle yet effective artistic device. Additionally, notice that the reverb did not overtake the full mix in spite of its extreme decay and wetness.
Demo of the Eventide Blackhole Reverb plug-in courtesy of Eventide.
Documentation and Product Support
Like the best companies, Eventide has extensive online documentation, an in-depth user manual, and links to useful videos.
Blackhole sells for $199, which is priced well for the project studio, is also half the cost of a Space pedal, but there are quite a few similar plug-ins priced much lower. For the working mix engineer, though, this is an Eventide tool that will be used sparingly, but joyously.
James Linton, owner of Soundwaves Productions and Soundwaves Recording Studio in Gilbert, Arizona, is a noted producer, mix engineer, and recording artist with many independent, national and international credits. Contact him via www.soundwavesrecordingstudio.com or www.facebook.com/soundwavesaz.
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