Settle back and strap in for a ride because we’re reviewing Tai Chi by Reverb Foundry today. This reverb plugin will definitely make your tracks sound massive and bring them to life if you know how to dial it in. That’s why this guide will help you understand its functions, knobs, settings, and everything you need to take your sound to the next level.
If you happen to have a Dolby Atmos 7.1.2 sound system, then you’ll be able to take full advantage of this beast of a plugin. The full output support can be found in the User Manual. According to Reverb Foundry’s website, Tai Chi specializes in “luscious chorused reverbs that are perfect for synth, guitar, electric piano, and vocals”. And they were not lying.
Once you start diving into it, you’ll find an infinity of options to choose from to alter your sound and achieve a great reverb effect. And if you don’t want to be swarming with options, you can always go for the Lite version of Tai Chi, which includes the basic reverb but none of the extras. And as a bonus, if you purchased the Lite version and feel the need to handle the full power of the completely customizable reverb, you can buy the Lite-to-Standard upgrade on their website.
The GUI is simply beautiful. It’s not flashy, filled with colors or lights. It achieves its purpose of letting you use this plugin properly. And it does so in an elegant way. It’s easy to read, and you won’t get lost if you know what you’re looking to find. The knobs have the right sensitivity, and the text is extremely understandable and intuitive.
This plugin is fully loaded with anything you could need for a reverb, from the basic controls, compression, equalization, feedback loop modification, to room simulation, and other extra bonuses that we’ll dive into later. Feature-wise, it’s top of the line. The downside of this amazing number of features is its toll on your CPU performance. Simulating so many things takes a huge hit on your computer, so keep that in mind when using it.
The sound is simply beautiful and incredibly well accomplished. Every knob you tweak will drastically change the response, and you’ll notice it, meaning you’ll have a very vast amount of different reverb settings at your disposal. And if we consider the room simulations, you’ll be entertained for hours with Tai Chi.
Value for the Price
Considering the versatility and the number of features this plugin packs, if you’re looking for a reverb, there’s no going wrong with Tai Chi. It’s fully worth the price, both the Standard and Lite versions.
First Impressions and GUI
Here you have five different tabs, an output mix, and what looks like an EQ at the bottom, which happens to be one of the most interesting features of this plugin, and is also not an EQ; and some controls on the right side. At first glance, it’s a lot to take in.
As with everything complicated at first, we’ll take it step by step, starting with the output meters. Click over the “Out dB” text. You’ll find a couple of monitoring options, including Input and Output, Reflections, and Reverb, which measure their respective output parameters.
You’ll notice the LEFT and RIGHT output channels, which means it supports stereo mode for mono channels. For the testing, I recorded a mono guitar track, selected stereo output for it, and Tai Chi automatically switched its output to stereo. No extra adjustments are needed.
Next up is the Presets section. At the top center, we can find the preset’s name, and to the left, we’ll see “A|B”. That A-B button allows you to switch quickly between two presets that you have previously snapshotted, so you can have them at hand if you use them a lot.
Here you can see I’ve “quick-saved” the default presets “Golden Room” and a modified version of mine. You can do that with any preset, both factory and custom ones.
Next up, if you head to the top right corner, you’ll see a gear icon, press it, and it’ll display two options, Interface and Preset. Interface lets you choose the size of the plugin window. But Preset shows you a couple of options.
First, Reflection Chorus allows you to choose which parameter the early reverb reflections will follow.
Next, Reflection Timing, where you can turn on/off the inclusion of the Pre-Delay into the reflections of the reverb.
Lastly, Reverb Processing can allow you to choose between True-Stereo and Mono-to-Stereo settings. This setting changes how the pan tracking of the reverb works. -The user manual states that the mono-to-stereo mode reduces CPU usage to approximately a quarter of the CPU usage in the True Stereo mode, something important to keep in mind.-
Another quite useful feature is parameter locking. It allows you to lock the value of a knob or a slider in place to avoid modifying it when you switch between different presets. If you like the Reverb Time and Width you obtained but want to try another sound, lock them in place with the padlock icon next to each of them, and you’ll be able to change presets without those values getting altered.
Here’s where it gets interesting, we’ll analyze the five main tabs of the plugin. Each of them sports several functions, some quite familiar, and some of them not so much, but don’t worry. We’ll make sure you understand them all by the time you’ve finished this analysis.
Before we begin, if you’re looking to buy the Lite version, you get a different set of options, including the following tabs: Master, Decay Tone (these tabs contain the Treble Contouring and Bass Contouring knobs), Advanced, and Equaliser. The options inside those sub-sections are the exact same as in the Standard version. The controls you won’t get in the Lite mode are the Dynamics and Fidelity tabs and the Multiband Reverb Time Multipliers.
- Master Tab
Inside the Reverb section, you’ll see the Reverb Time, which might be a little confusing because it’s not the time it takes for the reverb to decay completely. It’s actually the time it takes for the reverb to drop 60dB below its maximum level. It’s set up that way because it’s based on the standard RT60 (reverberation time 60). It’s important to mention because after the configured reverb time has passed, you’ll have a certain amount of sound still decaying in your mix.
The Pre-Delay parameter is a bit more intuitive. It’s the delay inserted between the start of an input sound and the moment the reverb kicks in. It also has a tempo-lock to sync with your DAW, and that would be the little metronome icon to the left of “Pre-Delay”.
The Width knob adjusts the “fullness” of the mid frequencies of the reverb. The Full stereo value corresponds to 7.5. You can change between Mono, all the way to Full Stereo, and beyond that, you can adjust to 150%. (For comparison purposes, I’ll be using the same recorded track every time I showcase a parameter so that you can focus only on the sound difference and not the musical difference).
Let me show you a comparison between Mono and 150% to showcase the difference:
For the Reflections section, you’ll be able to choose between five standard patterns: Room, Hall, Church, Garage, and Stadium. Experiment a little with them because they drastically change the default reverberation time and pattern according to the size of the selected room. Not the value, but the time of reflection itself, the bigger the space, the more delay is added to the reverb, and as the acoustic properties of the room change, the reflection patterns also change.
For the Pattern knob, we’ll quote the user manual: “Greater letters represent greater reflectivity, higher numbers for positions further away”. This means you can configure that “room space” we mentioned previously, to a limited extent, of course.
The Roll-Off is a low pass filter that filters the harmonic content of the reverberations. Spacing is just the space between reflections, meaning that higher Spacing values create a bigger sounding space. You have at your disposal the decay characteristic of this filter, ranging from -6dB/octave to -24dB/octave, and the frequency cutoff for that filter is configured by turning the knob.
- Advanced Tab
On the top, you’ll see a couple of options. Thicken Chorus is an on/off switch and increases the proportion of modulators for the chorus. Next, you can choose between Enrich, Drift, and Detune. Enrich tends to flatten the audio source. Drift De-Syncs the reverb loop choruses to allow the input audio to go sharp and flat around the reverb loop. Lastly, the Detune causes rapid detuning between the loops, giving that well-known chorus sound.
The Density knob specifically configures the smoothness and sharpness of the simulated space. The user manual recommends that a drum have a smoother reverb rather than a sharp one, whereas the sharper reverb is better suited for strings and synths. The higher the Density value, the higher the smoothness, and it helps simulate a larger space.
Diffusers are algorithmic feedback loops combined with feedforward loops designed in DSP (Digital Signal Processing) software that allows you to manipulate the properties of digital timing effects, a reverb in this case. If you’re wondering what diffusers are, keep reading this paragraph. Otherwise, you can skip to the next one.
The bigger the feedback loop, the longer it takes for the signal to run through it so that the reverb will be more “delayed”, and the bigger the gain of that loop, the smoother the reverb will be. Diffusion works together with Diffusion Size, where Diffusion controls the amount of feedback added, and Diffusion Size configures the size of the diffusers used.
The little “decaying” icon between these last two knobs switches the setting for the diffusers between the reflections and the late reverb. Mod Rate controls the rate for the global modulator. The Chorus knob is pretty self-explanatory. The bigger the values for this knob, the deeper the chorusing will be. Wander controls the amount of random deviation a reverb tap can have. Bigger time settings for this control will bring more character to the reverb but also make it less smooth.
- Dynamics Tab
This section contains an interesting control, which is the Duck compression. The Dynamics tab is basically a compressor, but the great utility comes into place when you are allowed to choose between compressing just the input signal, leaving the reverberations untouched, and compressing the whole signal. The knobs work exactly the same as those in a compressor, so let’s skip to the interesting part.
The first selector allows us to choose between not processing any signal (off), processing only the reverb signal (Reverb), and processing the reverb signal plus the reverberations (Wet).
We’ll explain shortly how a compressor works for the next two options. If you already know the signal processing characteristics, please skip to the next paragraph. A compressor simply reads the input signal using a peak detector. As you decrease the Threshold knob, you can see only the peaks of the input signal affected, not the RMS value. This is exactly because the peaks of a signal mainly cause signal clipping. That’s why compressors are so important in audio processing.
Keeping this in mind, we’ll explain the difference between the Duck and Compress controls. Duck control allows the peak detector of this compressor to be fed only by the dry input signal, and Compress feeds the whole processed signal to the peak detector. If you can imagine the two signals and their differences, you’ll understand why this option can change so much the output signal.
In the Duck case, you separate the dry signal from the reverb signal and apply compression only to the dry signal. This will get you more clarity and avoid blurriness in the output because it leaves the reflections untouched and controls the input signal’s dynamics. Picture it as if you recorded your instrument with two mics, a close-up, and a room mic. The close-up mic will be fed through a compressor, whereas the room mic won’t.
That is basically this Duck style of compression. The Compression mode can add blurriness if the reverb is too predominant in the mix. I’ll add two examples with a heavy reverb so that you can hear the difference.
You can clearly hear how you start having trouble understanding what’s being played on the first example midway through the execution. In contrast, in the second one, you can hear almost every note being played all the way to the end.
- Fidelity Tab
This whole tab is a way to transform the high-quality reverb to Lo-Fi by using process limiting. First is the Bandwidth control, which sets a frequency limit for the reverb. It ranges from 4KHz to full; that would be 20KHz.
The bit crusher section limits the bit bandwidth for the specified processes. You can select a range from 6 bits to full; that would be 18 bits. Limiting the available processing bits and creating distortion due to lack of bandwidth available introduces a grit similar to white noise.
I’ll add a demonstration in which I’m limiting the bit processing to 7 bits for the reverb only, the output and reflections will have 18 bits for processing, note that the input signal and the reflections remain unaffected, and the reverb will gain noise:
Next, Recirculation, where we have controls for Depth and Resolution. Depth controls the late-stage modulation of the reverb path. If you set bigger values, it’ll bring life to the track. Resolution is simply the bit resolution for that reverb loop. So lowering the Resolution value will introduce grit to the reverb, similarly to the previous controls.
- Equaliser Tab
In this tab, you’ll find very familiar controls. You’ve got two cut filters (Low Cut and Roll-off) and two shelves (Low and High). Their functions are very well known.
Multiband Reverb Time Multipliers
This is a very interesting feature of the Tai Chi plugin. It basically allows you to control three or four different frequency bands, in which you can configure the multipliers for the reverb time. That means you can select longer reverb for the desired portion and a shorter one for another.
You can also turn it off if you don’t need to use it. If you wish to leave a band untouched, simply configure its multiplier to 1X, and it’ll follow the global reverb time. If you don’t use this feature, I recommend turning it off because it’s quite CPU intensive for the four-band option.
These crossover frequencies are configured straight into the reverb loop, so the multipliers act directly over it. The bandwidth of each frequency section can be set with the Crossover Band Definition sliders and the multiplier for each band, with the respective Band multiplier sliders.
Next, you’ll find audio samples for all bands at 1X, then for a three-band crossover, with the first band being from 0 to 300Hz, the second from 300 to 2000Hz, and the last one from 2KHz to 20KHz. Let’s call them Band 1, Band 2, and Band 3 for simplicity, being the 1 the lowest and 3 the highest.
All bands at 1X (reverb time unaffected):
Band 1 at 5X, Bands 2 and 3 at 1X:
Band 2 at 5X, Bands 1 and 3 at 1X:
Band 3 at 5X, Bands 1 and 2 at 1X:
The time multiplier can make the reverb kick in, as you can hear from the previous audios. Same as if you want a bit less reverb in any determined frequency band, you can decrease the multiplier to a minimum of 0.2X of the global reverb time. I find this feature very helpful because it can really emphasize the sound of what you need to bring forward.
Lastly, for this section, it should be noted that to configure the crossover points of the time multiplier or the multiplier value, you can also click and drag horizontally for the crossover frequencies setting and vertically for the multiplier values.
Also, the manual states that to prevent instability in the reverb due to overlapping sections of the frequency spectrum, the crossover frequencies are handled as points before constructing the actual ranges. Multiplication with the higher values would lead to a maximum multiplier of 5X * 5X = 25X in a determined overlapped section. What this prevention of instability means is that if you input:
Split A: 8000Hz
Split B: 300Hz
Split C: 1000Hz
It will be treated the same way as if you have entered:
Split A: 300Hz
Split B: 1000Hz
Split C: 8000Hz
Reverb Contouring (Treble and Bass)
Contouring was introduced to emulate further the behavior of high and low frequencies in the real world.
For example, high frequencies tend to attenuate easier when there is a crowd or over the air. Low frequencies have it much easier to propagate over long distances because of their bigger wavelength, which allows them to change the atmosphere’s pressure much easier over bigger distances. That’s why the maximum value for the Treble multiplier is 1X, and in the case of the Bass frequencies, it’s 2.5X.
In both contouring control sections, the RT multiply sets a value relative to the global reverb time that the selected frequency with the Frequency knob will act on. This means that when we ignore this section, the reverb time will only consider the highest peak in the entire frequency spectrum to set the time to which the reverb level will have decayed to -60dB.
If we now introduce this section, and for example, set a reverb time of 1 second, now we can configure for a specific frequency value, let’s say 6KHz as in the image above, the time in which the reverb level will decay.
So, if we set 1 second for the global reverb, then it will take 0.5 seconds for the reverb level at 6KHz to drop below -60dB specifically now considering the highest point at that 6KHz, not the entire spectrum. This is very useful because we might have a higher point at another frequency, and without Contouring, the value for 6KHz might get overlooked.
For the Bass, Contouring is the exact same. The only controls left in this section are Roll-off, which is a decay configurable low pass filter, and Dampen, which is just a low shelf filter with a Q of 0.71 that is used to exaggerate reverb at low frequencies.
This one is a pretty simple section. You’ll see a Dry/Wet mix knob and a Gain knob. What’s interesting is that you can control the mix between reverb and reflection, bringing forward one or the other.
As we mentioned several times during this review, the sound of this plugin is mind-blowing. There are so many parameters to work with, settings you can change, simulations, and very useful extras, such as specific design variables modifiers, for example, the Diffuser settings, the bit resolution simulator, the Contouring.
A simple change in a button of the compressor can greatly change the output sound, and a decrease in the low frequencies band of the multiplier can bring a lot of clarity to your sound. You can get lost in so many controls, yet the visual organization was so well managed you’ll clearly understand what you’re tweaking.
As for advice, I suggest you start with low values in the Main and Advanced settings and work your way up until you find a sound that you like for each knob. In Dynamics, Fidelity, and Equaliser, you should probably leave the knobs at the default settings, and once you are done dialing in the first two tabs, start tweaking the last three to improve your overall clarity, punch, and tone.
For the Multiband Multiplier, in my case, low differences in multiplier values were the ones that shaped my sound the best. The biggest (5X) or smaller (0.2X) values could either be too much reverb for a determined frequency band and end up making it muddy or make your tone lose clarity, punch and feel.
Reverb Foundry’s Tai Chi prices are $199 for the Standard version, $99 for the Lite version, and $100 for the Lite-to-Standard version upgrade. If you are unsure if you want to buy it, you can download the full plugin and activate a 14-day demo license. You can also use a 7-day extension if you need more time, but after those 21 days, you’ll need to either uninstall it or purchase it. Note that you’ll require iLok to activate it for the Standard, Lite, and demo versions.
With the purchase of the plugin, you are granted two activations per account, and you’ll need an iLok USB 2/3 dongle, iLok cloud, or iLok machine activation.
To acquire Tai Chi, go to https://www.reverbfoundry.com/tai-chi
Lastly, if you need sound demonstrations, go to Tai Chi’s website and scroll down to the bottom of the page. You’ll find several audio samples for different instruments.
Final Thoughts and Verdict
Reverb Foundry has found a very efficient way to mix a ton of useful settings into one plugin that is relatively easy to use, incredibly versatile, and very powerful. But with that power comes a power requirement. The website specifies 64-bit DAWs and recommends using ZEN 3 or higher AMD CPUs or 10th Generation or higher Intel CPUs for a good overall performance, with six cores minimum.
Reverb Foundry mentions that modern CPU vector extensions are necessary, and a good Single-Core performance is mandatory, especially for smaller buffer sizes. They say that the main focus of this plugin is Sound Quality over Performance, which is a must if you want the best possible sound. So if you have an older system, you might struggle with some functionalities of Tai Chi, especially if you use small buffer sizes, several instances of the plugin, and real-time playback.
Despite the requirements, you should try out the demo version if you’re interested in this plugin.
There are workarounds to the high-performance requirements, such as disabling it for real-time playback or recording and re-enabling it once the track has been recorded. You can also set up the plugin as you desire for a specific recorded track, and once you’ve found the sound you were looking for, render the track as an audio file. Then you can re-import it into your project, which will release a lot of CPU usage because the plugin won’t have to be enabled anymore.
If you can go by these workarounds or have a powerful PC, you’ll have a blast with Tai Chi. It’s a complete software with versatility and usability in many audio applications. At Integraudio, we highly recommend you give it a shot.
Check out Reverb Foundry’s presentation video of Tai Chi:
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Ignacio Ponce is a session musician, audio and electronics engineer, with a passion for rock, metal, electronics design, and video games. He specializes in instrumental thrash/groove metal songwriting.