Normally, when you touch reverb controls, you get weird clicks and ranges that make no sense… Aaltoverb is different. It’s a performance-friendly reverb effect, now as a Windows and Mac plug-in.

Madrona Labs are a boutique instrument builder in Seattle. How boutique? Well, their “about” page just has a nice picture of a tree. It’s basically three people – owner Randy Jones, plus Brian Willoughby (hardware guru) and Philip Kobernik (Web guru). But they’ve made some breakthrough creations. The Soundplane is a beautiful wooden controller that looks like it might be an exotic folk instrument, and helped establish MPE (MIDI Polyphonic Expression). And they’ve been innovators in modular software, including the Aalto modular plug-in, inspired by Buchla and West Coast synthesis methods.

As the name implies, Aaltoverb is a spinoff of Aalto – because some Aalto users were already so enamored by the reverb in the modular, they started using it on its own. But while Aalto means wrapping your head around another modular interface, pretty much anyone should be able to pick up Aalto and play around immediately.

And play around is exactly what you’ll be able to do, because Aaltoverb is a reverb you can play like an instrument.

Change the size parameter without hearing any clicks – for morphing reverb effects, or a ‘verb you can dial around onstage. (In place of clicks, you’ll get pitch shifting – closer to the sound of a tape delay than what you’d expect from most reverbs.)

There’s also an infinite decay time, which sits right at the top of the decay dial – so you can flick a controller and get a wash of sound, without requiring a more limited ‘freeze’ control.

And there’s the tone dial, too – a combination of low and high shelf EQs are overlapped so you get consistent sound shaping across the range without phase problems. Madrona Labs comprare it to the isolator on a DJ mixer.

All of this is US$35, with both the Mac and Windows license. (That suits me – Randy sent me one license, and I can use it on both my Mac and Windows laptops, which I tend to swap between sort … at random. Maybe that’s you, too.)

It’s 2019, so this is 64-bit AU and VST3 only. But for $35, no complaints. There’s also a nice manual.

I’ve only just started playing with it, but I find it really elegant. I’m sure there are some other reverbs around that do this, but I can’t think of any with an interface this clear and musical.