If there’s one area of freeware VST plugins that has long been very lacking compared to commercial offerings, it’s reverbs. Finding a really good reverb is nigh on impossible without parting with at least some money. Seems freeware is cathing up though.
Freeverb3 is an open source package of reverbs available in different plugin formats that I’ve been keeping an eye on for several years now. It started out as an enhanced version of the classic Freeverb, but a number of new algos have been added over the years and the most recent ones — called ProG and Hibiki — are really damn good. Hibiki, a true stereo modulating hall reverb, is in fact excellent for orchestral stuff. Check this out.
First example. ValhallaRoom, Large Chamber algo, two busses (front and back). This is my standard “orchestral hall” setup.
Second example. Hibiki Reverb, two busses (front and back). Settings roughly matched to those of VRoom.
Pretty cool huh? Admittedly this was a quick example so the levels aren’t really matched — Hibiki is markedly louder than VRoom — but still, this is by far the best free reverb I’ve heard for this kind of music. Just like VRoom it adds a feeling of space and depth and doesn’t just sound like a big smeary mush, which is otherwise typical of free reverbs.
So am I going to retire ValhallaRoom and move to Freeverb3? No. Hibiki may sound great but it still doesn’t hold a candle to VRoom in terms of flexibility, ease of use and documentation. Frankly the Freeverb3 plugins are a mess in that regard. Enigmatic parameters, no real manual, terrible UI. Not to mention the confusing distribution model with different packages for different uses and processor architectures.
Still, Hibiki and the rest of the Freeverb3 family are definitely worth a look if you’re on a tight budget. Just be prepared to spend some time experimenting with the plugins and figuring out what different parameters do, as this might be far from obvious if you’re not a reverb geek.