Convolution reverbs are reverb effects which use impulse responses (IRs) to simulate an acoustic space. These are the best freeware convolution reverb effects in VST plugin format for digital audio workstations on PC and Mac.
An impulse response captures the sound of an acoustic space or an artificially simulated space (when recorded from a hardware reverb unit, for example). Loading an impulse response in a convolution reverb effect will apply the reverb properties of the sampled acoustic space to the processed audio signal. This way, we can simulate recording an audio track in a natural environment (by using impulse responses of outdoor spaces) or mimic the sound of expensive hardware reverb effects.
1. Convology XT by Impulse Record
Convology XT is a free convolution reverb VST plugin developed by Impulse Record. It includes a collection of 70 reverb impulse responses captured from a variety of vintage hardware reverb units. Additional impulse responses are available for purchase on the developer’s website. More importantly, the plugin is capable of loading external impulse responses in WAV format.
In terms of its ability to modify the loaded impulse response file, Convology XT is the most advanced freeware convolution reverb VST plugin on this list. The user can adjust the attack and decay time, pre-delay, and the frequency response. It is also possible to time-stretch the IR file and to apply modulation in order to achieve a stereo widening effect. The plugin doesn’t introduce any latency, which is somewhat of a rarity among freeware convolution reverbs.
Convology XT can be downloaded completely free of charge from Impulse Record’s website. After installing and loading the plugin for the first time, enter the serial number provided at checkout to activate your license. The developers have also provided several tutorial videos to help new users get started with the plugin.
More info: Convology XT (32-bit & 64-bit VST/AU/AAX plugin format for Windows & MacOS)
+ Plenty of control over the active impulse response
+ Can load external IR files
– Official expansion packs are expensive
2. MConvolutionEZ Convolution by MeldaProduction
MConvolutionEZ comes with a wider range of impulse responses than Convology XT, but its feature set is less advanced. The user can adjust the stereo width of the active impulse response and shape its tone using a pair of filters. Unfortunately, the timing properties like attack and decay time can’t be customized. This is a serious drawback which makes MConvolutionEZ less of a professional mixing tool and more of a beginner option for users who are just getting started with using convolution reverb plugins. Still, its ease of use and intuitive user interface are part of the reason why we recommend giving it a try.
Much like Convology XT, MeldaProduction’s convolution reverb plugin can load external impulses responses in WAV and FLAC format. Due to the convenient file browser which is located at the very center of the user interface, MConvolutionEZ is a great tool for testing newly downloaded impulse response libraries. The included reverb impulses sound pretty good, too.
One thing we didn’t like, though, is the fact that MeldaProduction bundles all of their plugins into a single installer. This makes for longer download times and a somewhat annoying installation procedure. Also, the plugin will show a nag screen asking the user to upgrade to the paid version of the plugin which is called MConvolutionMB. The plugin’s functionality isn’t affected by the nag screen, though.
More info: MConvolutionEZ (32-bit & 64-bit VST/VST3/AU/AAX plugin format for Windows & MacOS)
+ Fast workflow
+ Loads external IR files in WAV and Flac format
– Lacks envelope controls
– Displays a nag screen
3. SIR1 by SIR Audio Tools
SIR1 is an old product (released in 2004.), but some users still swear by it. Its simple user interface and a rather capable feature set make it a useful tool even in this modern age of VST plugins. However, SIR1’s biggest drawback is the fact that it is only compatible with 32-bit VST plugin hosts on Windows. Mac owners and Windows users running 64-bit digital audio workstations are out of luck.
The user interface is well designed, with the file browser on the right, waveform display on the top, the control parameters on the left, and the spectrum display on the bottom. The user can adjust the pre-delay time and the envelope of the loaded impulse response. The IR can also be time-stretched, which is a great feature to have in a convolution plugin. SIR1 has a fixed latency of 8960 samples and is optimized for low CPU consumption.
More info: SIR1 (32-bit VST plugin format for Windows)
+ Time-stretching of the loaded IR file
+ Loads external IR files in WAV format
– Only supports 32-bit VST plugin hosts on Windows
– No longer updated
4. Reverberate LE by LiquidSonics
Reverberate LE is another older plugin on this list (released in 2006.) and it shares the same compatibility issues with SIR1. In other words, it will only work in 32-bit digital audio workstations on Windows-based machines. If you happen to fall into that particular category of users, Reverberate LE is well worth a shot.
The plugin includes only a small collection of impulse responses, so it’s mostly up to the user to provide their own IR samples (WAV, AIFF, and FLAC files are supported). Once loaded, the impulse responses can be customized using the Reverberate LE’s envelope shaping and time-stretching controls. The plugin also features a parametric equalizer which can completely alter the tone of the IR sample.
Reverberate LE can operate in zero latency mode, or in low latency mode when the graphics card is used for processing (an Nvidia chip is required for this). Stereo impulse responses are supported.
More info: Reverberate LE (32-bit VST plugin format for Windows)
+ Advanced envelope and time-stretching controls
+ Features a parametric EQ for shaping the tone
– Only supports 32-bit VST plugin hosts on Windows
– No longer updated
5. Halls Of Fame 3 Free by Best Service
Halls Of Fame 3 Free is a stripped-down version of the Halls of Fame 3 – Complete Edition (€169) convolution reverb effect by Best Service which comes with over 1,500 reverb presets. The free version only includes 27 reverb presets and doesn’t load external impulse responses. The reason why we’re including it on the list, though, is that the included reverb impulse responses sound exceptionally good.
The plugin features a selection of impulse responses captured from legendary hardware reverb units such as the EMT 240, AKG BX 20, Lexicon PCM96, and the Bricasti M7. The presets can be customized using detailed envelope and tone control parameters. The user can adjust the pre-delay time, attack/release times, and trim the loaded impulse response. The plugin also features a 3-band tone control and a damping control for shaping the tone of the reverb tails.
Unfortunately, the download and activation procedures are a bit more cumbersome than we’d like to see. First, you will need to complete the checkout process, then download two individual installers for the plugin and the sound content, and finally authorize your Halls Of Fame 3 Free installation.
More info: Halls Of Fame 3 Free (32-bit & 64-bit VST/AU/AAX plugin format for Windows & MacOS)
+ Great-sounding presets
+ Allows the user to customize the envelope and tone
– Doesn’t load external impulse responses
– Somewhat annoying plugin activation procedure
Once you’re happy with your convolution reverb plugin of choice, it’s time to obtain some high-quality reverb impulse responses. Here are some of our favorite places to download convolution reverb IR files for free:
- Bricasti M7 Impulse Response Library by Samplicity
- Signal To Noize Impulse Responses
- Impulse Responses by Fokke van Saane
- Impulse Responses by Dubbhism
- Impulse Responses by Voxengo
- Impulse Response Library by EchoThief
- Airwindows Impulses
- Percussive Echoes Bonus by Diego Stocco
Finally, here are a few recommended options for those looking for a paid convolution reverb VST plugin instead of a freeware one:
Due to its relatively affordable price and well-designed user interface, Fog Convolver is our recommended commercial convolution reverb VST plugin. It comes with a huge library of impulse responses and features a slick user interface with plenty of customization options.
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