Guest Contribution by Elizabeth McClanahan, Assistant Mixer at Heard City
EMT 140 Plate Reverb
The majority of today’s common reverb plugins contain plate reverb settings, the designs of which are primarily based upon the popular Elektromesstechnik (EMT) 140 model plate. Upon its introduction in 1957, the EMT 140 Reverberation Unit quickly garnered popularity, providing a smoother substitute to spring reverb systems, as well as proving more space conscious and malleable than reverb chambers. While the EMT 140 presented a more practical alternative to other reverbs of its era, the advent of digital units created similar convenience advantages in an even more accessible package.
The 1957 production of the EMT plate marked a significant change in recording history, simplifying the process of affecting recorded sound while providing the engineer with a more versatile and customizable interface. Much like today’s convolution reverbs simultaneously provide convenience and complex control to reverb manipulation, the original EMT 140 plate established a consequential alternative to both spring reverbs and chambers.
Despite its roughly 600 pound weight, the EMT 140 plate provided a smaller solution to large echo rooms. Additionally, a remote controlled damping pad system allowed the engineer to adjust the reverb time, offering substantially more control than possible with a traditional chamber. The sheet metal plate is suspended from its frame by springs, a transducer mounted at the center of the plate drives movement, and returns consist of pickups mounted on the plate. While the 140 was originally available only in mono, EMT released a stereo model in 1961.
Though more convenient than its predecessors, the EMT 140 plate still required substantial storage space, and EMT’s own foray into digital reverb, most successfully with the EMT 250 in 1976, illustrated growing demand for easily controlled and versatile multi-effects units. Such early digital systems, including the ubiquitous Lexicon 480L, contained plate programs loosely based upon the original EMT 140. However, the sonic qualities of the 140 plate have been more accurately reproduced with modern modeling and convolution reverb plugins.
Like with any emulator plugins, the selection of gear from which to gather measurements greatly affects the outcome, and ultimately success, of any digital recreation. Those familiar with the EMT 140 plates will undoubtedly form opinions based on the individual plates with which they are familiar. Like any other classic gear, including the popular 1176 and LA2A, age, maintenance, and modifications factor into the sonic character of an individual piece of equipment. For this reason, Universal Audio based its EMT 140 plugin on several different plates from The Plant Studios, and Audio Ease provides impulse responses from multiple EMT plates housed in renowned recording facilities.
For designers and engineers seeking to add the sound of the EMT 140 plate to their collection, the Altiverb plate 140 impulse responses and the UAD EMT 140 modeling plugin offer the convenience and versatility of modern signal processing with the sonic personality of EMT’s original 140 reverberation unit.
Elizabeth McClanahan, Assistant Mixer
Eargle, John. Handbook of Recording Engineering: Fourth Edition. Norwell: Kluwer
Academic Publishers, 2003. Print.
“EMT 140 Classic Plate Reverberator Plugin.” UA Reverbs. Universal Audio, n.d. Web.
2 Dec. 2012.
About Heard City:
Heard City is a boutique audio post-production company located in New York’s Flatiron district servicing the advertising, motion picture and television industries.
Douglas Murray says
Thanks Elizabeth. I’ve never used a plate, though we had a disused one at Ardmore Sound when I started working there in 1997. They had a disused chamber too. I regret that we never got those working. Too many higher priorities at the time.
I often think of using a plate algorithm for post sound when the sound is effecting a solid object. But that’s just my literal mind at work, no doubt. I wonder when people pick a plate over a room emulation. Any thoughts?
David Farmer says
I love this! And is it any wonder why verbs tend to be metallic in nature seeing how classic plates are literally suspended pieces of metal? I remember seeing one of these in person and touching a quarter to the plate….. the ring out was just a gorgeous thing.
I also wonder when people pick a plate over a room emulation. Any thoughts?
Palmer P says
Having used, at various times, a range of ‘real’ live chambers, EMT 140’s and most of the well-known digital emulations, my personal take is that it comes down to having another color on the pallet. A well-tuned 140st, in particular, gives a mix a nice gloss. The slight randomness between the two outputs helps put certain sounds — say, a great string section — into a wider, richer space. A touch added to a vocal can provide a tasty, silvery edge. Start with a good source, maybe add a little delay going in, sonic bliss comes out.
Palmer P says
…and I *did* mean to type ‘pallette’, as in the painter’s tool. A pallet is used to stack boxes of used digital reverbs to sell on e-bay. ;) Sorry for the typo.
I have ran entirely analog signal through an EMT 140, and I will say the sonic character and infinite detail of pure sound waves against physical metal makes this piece of hardware one of the best sounding artificial reverbs I’ve ever heard. It’s borderline artificial because of it’s functionality. From my experience, unfortunately digital signal with digital reverb cannot yet be matched. But I look forward to new technologies making this become a thing of the past!
Answer as to why people choose plates over another reverb option: They sound gorgeous!
If your point of reference is a ‘plate’ setting in a digital reverb, you’re missing the sound. AMS RMX15, for instance, was one of the early digital plate algorithms. Sounded garish and metallic, unlike a real EMT. My theory is that Yamaha and everyone else copied the algorithm from AMS rather than attempting to sound like a well-tuned plate!
EMT140 and 240 reverbs: sweet and seductive.
From: a user =)
The first couple of Van Halen Albums were drenched with Emt Plate. Actually the two brothers can’t stand it.