Very few pieces of music production gear can claim to have reigned supreme as the industry standard for close to 60 years. Elektro-Mess-Technik’s model plate reverb might just be the closest thing we have to a holy grail of reverberation. Launched in 1957, this humongous beast is the first port of call for countless high-budget studios. For the rest of us who can’t afford the real thing, the 140 is still a watchword for top quality plate reverb in emulated software form.
Invented by EMT founder Wilhelm Franz, the 140 is the archetypal plate reverb. Plate reverbs, as the name suggests, are based around a large metal plate suspended on springs. A transducer attached to the plate plays back the audio signal from the input, causing it to vibrate in sympathy. Pickups on the side of the plate convert the movement back into audio signals. The result is a surprisingly realistic approximation of natural reverberation. Later EMT models even added stereo outputs (still with a mono input) for increased realism.
The 140 was a revolutionary design in the late 1950s, but the fact that it’s still so useable to this day is testament to the quality of the design. It’s a no-brainer for vocals, snares and claps. An original 140 isn’t prohibitively expensive, but given the size and the weight of the plate enclosure – not to mention its susceptibility to vibration – it’s not a particularly practical option unless you have a large enough studio to do it justice. Start instead with Universal Audio’s officially licensed emulation.
An honourable mention must also go to the 240, one of EMT’s later models. Released in the early 1970s, the 240 is a much smaller unit which uses a gold foil in place of the EMT 140’s steel plate.