NUGEN Audio Paragon, the reverb plugin that blows all others out of the water

Paragon is a true convolution reverb with some algorithmic reverb control thrown in the mix. It offers the best of both worlds: the sound of real spaces and adjustments beyond your wildest imagination. Paragon offers full control of the decay, room size and brightness of the reverbs modelled on 3D recordings of real spaces, driven by re-synthesis. Paragon is conceived to do all that without time-stretching or artefacts, and support for Dolby Atmos as well as stereo tracks.

A convolution reverb processor uses convolution and impulse response files to virtually recreate the ambience of a physical space. Convolution reverbs can sound incredibly realistic when using impulse responses of actual physical spaces. Why Paragon is as good as it is, is in great part due to the work of a scientist, Jez Wells who is now a Senior DSP Researcher at Creative Technology. Before that he was a Senior Lecturer in Music and Sound Recording at the University of York (See his website here).

Convolution reverb processors are often used to recreate large spaces such as rooms and halls, as well as emulate small spaces. Convolution reverbs rely on an instant Impulse Response “snapshot”, which usually means you need an IR for every configuration of every space you want to create reverb for. That’s not the case with Paragon, thanks to it re-synthesis functionality.

When you listen to a Paragon preset of a space that is commonly on the list of reverb plugins — a big hall or a cathedral, for example — it will strike you that Paragon’s rendition comes very close to what used to be the gold standard of reverbs, the PhoenixVerb plugin by iZotope Exponential Audio (PhoenixVerb the only one of the plugins that doesn’t crash Logic Pro X’s plugin manager).

Unfortunately for the latter, they are quite convoluted — pun intended — in the way you can adapt them to your needs.

Convolution for audio, by the way, is a mathematical process that takes one signal and modifies it using another. It is equivalent to a multiplication of two signals in the frequency domain. It allows you to use one waveform to “model” the sound of another.

So, why do I think Paragon is superior to other reverb plugins? There are two reasons:

  • Paragon is less complicated to fine tune to the exact results you expect from the space — room, hall, church, whatever — you selected than, for example, Exponential Audio
  • The results are incredibly close to the real thing.

For the latter I took an example that is fairly simple to repeat. It involved a recording in a Gothic cathedral and one in a treated room where there is absolutely no reverb. For the former I used a Deity S-Mic connected to an Apogee Duet iPad with a Sommer EMC-QUAD-EGB1 (reviewed here), for the latter my sE Electronics V7 Black connected to the Apogee Element 24 using Sommer Cable’s SC-Carbokab 225 to rule out any sort of interference as that cable is built like a tank. Then I ran the treated room recording through Apple Space Designer and Exponential Audio’s PhoenixVerb, each side-by-side with Paragon. I fine tuned the results of each until the recording inside the treated room resembled the one inside the Cathedral as closely as possible.

The thing about sound in a space like a cathedral is that it differs from one church to the next due to the architecture of the building, the height of the ceilings, the placement of pillars, etc. Often, listening to a sound recording inside such a building reveals that the echoes are far less extreme than we imagine them to be.

Paragon was closest to reproducing that sound, by starting with the Large Church preset and then moving the mic backward in the space. PhoenixVerb came very close, with the sound somewhat brighter than the real thing. Space Designer was far too bright, assuming echoes and delays that simply weren’t there in reality.

Here you can hear what it sounds like, with the same dry recording processed as follows:

  1. Dry recording
  2. Space Designer
  3. PhoenixVerb