Blackhole takes a creative approach to reverb. We find out what this unique plugin has to offer dance music producers.

As manufacturers of the legendary Hamonizer effect units, Eventide were instrumental in the development of digital effect hardware from the late 1970s onwards. The new native Blackhole plugin is based on an algorithm first found in the DSP4000 multi-effect launched in 1999 and resurrected in last year’s excellent Space reverb pedal.

Out of this world

Let’s make it clear from the start that Blackhole isn’t a typical reverb plugin. If you’re looking for subtle echo effects and realistic emulations of acoustic spaces, this probably isn’t the product for you. Instead, Blackhole is all about creative applications of reverb, focusing on “huge spaces and out-of-this-world soundscapes”.

The plugin is available in Mac or PC VST, AU and AAX formats and, after a trouble-free installation, the sound options are easy to get the hang of. Some of the controls may be unusual, but you’ll have no problem picking them up within five minutes, even without resorting to the manual. Rather than the traditional decay setting, Blackhole offers a Gravity parameter. Turning anti-clockwise past the 12 o’clock setting, negative Gravity values can be dialed in, creating reverse reverb. Even the Size parameter can be set to negative values. It’s not clear exactly how it works but it can create some great sounds.

Overall, the sound is every bit as rich, detailed and expensive-sounding as Eventide’s reputation would suggest. Compared side by side with similar patches on the £400 Space pedal, Blackhole sounds practically identical. There’s no doubt that this is a top quality algorithm from one of the most highly revered manufacturers of DSP hardware.

Further options

With your basic setting dialled in, two EQ controls and a simple LFO modulation option allow the sound to be tweaked a little further. The pre-delay setting can be synced to the host DAW’s tempo – which is great news for setting up delays which match beats perfectly – while the freeze switch and infinite feedback setting allow the feedback loop to be locked, creating long, morphing textures.

The presets alone provide a range of distinctive options, but the most interesting effects come from the ribbon controller and the hotswitch (which is similar to that found on the Space pedal). The hotswitch probably makes more sense on the Space than it does in virtual form in a plugin, but the function does make automation of multiple parameters slightly easier, allowing you to switch instantly from one patch to another.

The slightly more useful feature for creating unique effects is the ribbon controller, which allows any selection of parameters to be swept smothly and simultaneously from one setting to another. Click and drag with the mouse or assign a hardware MIDI controller to the parameter and things get seriously flexible as you morph in real time between two settings. The ribbon would be perfectly suited to live performance but also works well simply for discovering new sounds and experimenting with settings. Unlike most reverb effects, Blackhole responds very well to real-time parameter adjustments.

Conclusion

Blackhole probably isn’t likely to replace your current reverb plugin. It’s not an all-rounder, but should be considered by anyone looking for a reverb effect which excels at big echo effects. The most obvious application would be for sparse production styles. The huge reverb would lend itself perfectly to cavernous echoes on dubstep snares, for example. More subtle settings sound exceptional on soft pad sounds, classic deep house Rhodes chords and even on percussion parts.

At £79, Blackhole is fairly expensive for a slightly specialist reverb, but the sound quality is exceptional so we think it’s just about justified. Our only significant complaint is that we’re simply not big fans of iLok authentication (you’ll need the newer iLok 2 in this case). It’s fiddly, ties up a USB port and you have to pay the best part of £40 for the privilege. That minor caveat aside, we have no hesitation recommending Blackhole.

 

The Verdict

Price: £79

Purchase: Eventide Blackhole

Versatility
Value
Ease of Use
Overall

The Final Word

A top quality reverb plugin with a distinctive character.

Author Greg Scarth
20th August, 2012

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