As a renowned manufacturer of high-quality audio effects pedals, Strymon has earned a reputation for producing innovative and top-notch guitar and studio effects. One of their most popular offerings is the BigSky reverb pedal, which has been widely praised for its stunning reverb sounds and versatility. Now, Strymon has taken their BigSky pedal to the digital realm with the release of the BigSky plugin. In this review, we will delve into the features and sound of the BigSky plugin, compare it to the hardware version, and evaluate its performance in a professional music production environment.
The Strymon BigSky plugin is available in VST3, AU, and AAX format which makes it compatible with any major DAW. The plugin is licensed and activated via your iLok account. and The plugin comes with the same 12 reverb algorithms as the original hardware version, as well as 100 pre-designed factory presets to get you started.
These are the 12 reverb algorithms that the BigSky plugin has to offer:
INTERFACE & FEATURES
The BigSky VST plugin boasts an impressive array of features that make it a powerful tool for creating lush and immersive reverb effects. It offers 12 different reverb algorithms, ranging from classic hall and plate reverbs to more unique and experimental ones like shimmer, cloud, and bloom. Each algorithm has its own set of parameters that allow for in-depth customization, giving users full control over the sound of their reverbs. The plugin also provides additional controls such as pre-delay, decay time, mix, tone, and modulation, allowing for further sound sculpting.
The user interface of the BigSky VST plugin is elegant and intuitive, with a sleek design that closely resembles the hardware version. The plugin window displays a graphical representation of the selected reverb algorithm, complete with visual feedback on the parameter values and modulation settings. The controls are laid out in a logical and organized manner, making it easy to navigate and tweak the settings to achieve the desired sound. Additionally, the plugin comes with a built-in preset manager that allows users to save and recall their own custom presets, as well as load factory presets for quick inspiration.
INFINITE & FREEZE
The Strymon BigSky plugin offers two powerful functions: Infinite and Freeze. The “Infinite” function allows you to sustain and hold a reverb tail indefinitely. Every new note played contributes to the existing reverb signal, creating a continuously evolving sound. When engaged, the reverb decay continues endlessly, creating a lush and ambient atmosphere that can be particularly useful for creating expansive soundscapes or adding a dreamy touch to your music.
On the other hand, the “Freeze” function captures and holds the current reverb sound as well, but with the added advantage of allowing you to play new unprocessed notes on top of the sustained signal, without affecting or adding to the reverb. This feature enables you to layer additional musical elements on the sustained sound while preserving the original reverb texture. Both functions provide unique creative possibilities and enhance the versatility of the Strymon BigSky plugin, adding depth and character to your compositions.
One of the key aspects of any reverb effect is its sound quality, and the BigSky plugin does not disappoint in this regard. The plugin delivers the same high-quality reverb sounds that have made the hardware version so popular among musicians and producers. The reverbs are lush, rich, and highly detailed, with a wide sense of space that can range from subtle and natural to expansive and otherworldly. A good deal of the algorithmic models are meticulously crafted to emulate the characteristics of real-world reverberant spaces or reverberation hardware, and the level of realism and authenticity is truly impressive.
The BigSky plugin also excels in its ability to create unique and experimental reverb effects. The shimmer algorithm, for example, adds ethereal and bell-like tones to the reverb, perfect for creating dreamy and otherworldly soundscapes. The cloud algorithm, on the other hand, generates evolving and textural reverbs that can add depth and complexity to ambient and experimental music. The bloom algorithm creates a lush and evolving reverb with a soft attack, perfect for adding a touch of magic to vocals or acoustic instruments. The versatility of the reverb algorithms makes the plugin suitable for a wide range of musical genres and styles, from rock and pop to ambient and electronic. Of course, it is also perfectly suited for adding both realistic reverb tails to orchestral instruments and lush, larger-than-life spaces to cinematic synth sounds.
HARDWARE VS. SOFTWARE
One of the inevitable questions when comparing a software plugin to its hardware counterpart is whether the software can truly replicate the sound and experience of the hardware. In the case of the BigSky plugin, it comes very close to emulating the sound of the hardware version. The algorithmic models used in the plugin are based on the same algorithms as the hardware version and the quality of the reverbs is nearly identical. However, there are some differences in the user experience and workflow between the hardware and software versions.
One of the main advantages of the software version is its convenience and flexibility. Being a VST plugin, it can be easily used in any project and digital audio workstation, allowing for seamless integration into a modern production workflow. The software version of the BigSky also offers instant recall and automation of parameters within the DAW.
Another big plus of the plugin version is that it allows for multiple instances to be used simultaneously, giving users the ability to create complex and layered reverb effects with ease. The software version also eliminates the need for additional hardware and cabling, making it a more cost-effective option for musicians and producers. Just for comparison, the plugin version is less than half the current price of a new BigSky hardware pedal ($199 vs. $479).
On the other hand, the hardware version of the BigSky offers a tactile and hands-on experience that some musicians and producers prefer. The physical knobs and switches on the hardware pedal allow for real-time manipulation of parameters, providing a more intuitive and immediate approach to sound tweaking. The hardware version also offers the advantage of being a standalone unit, making it ideal for live performances or situations where a computer may not be readily available.
In terms of sound quality, while the BigSky VST plugin comes very close to emulating the sound of the hardware version, some purists may argue that the hardware version still has a slight edge in terms of analog warmth and character. The hardware version also offers additional connectivity options, such as MIDI control and expression pedal inputs, which are a bit more tricky to realize in the software version.
The BigSky plugin by Strymon is a remarkable digital reverb effect that delivers practically the same high-quality reverbs and versatility as its hardware counterpart. With its array of algorithms, intuitive user interface, and stunning sound quality, the plugin offers a powerful and convenient solution for musicians and producers looking to add lush and immersive reverbs to their music. While there may be some differences in the user experience and workflow between the hardware and software versions, the plugin offers a cost-effective and flexible option for modern music production. However, for those who prefer a tactile and hands-on approach, the hardware version may still hold an advantage.
Ultimately, the choice between the hardware and software versions of the BigSky will depend on individual preferences, needs, and budget, but regardless of the option chosen, with the BigSky plugin, users can expect top-notch reverb effects that will elevate their music to new heights.
The BigSky plugin is available for $199 through the Strymon online shop.