Rarefied Recording, a San Diego Recording Studio

A Real Plate for Rarefied!

Reverb comes in many shapes and sizes, but one type you won’t typically find is an actual plate reverb because they are very big (and very heavy). Well, Rarefied is happy to announce that we now have an honest to god, real plate! We stuck it along the back wall of the live room so it’s pretty well out of the way and easy to patch in via existing mic tie lines at the back of the room.

What is a plate reverb, you ask? It’s literally a reverb created by vibrating a large sheet (plate) of metal. Much like a speaker vibrates a cone made of paper or other material to produce sound, a plate reverb uses similar technology to vibrate a metal sheet suspended by tensioning clips. As you can imagine, once you excite this big piece of suspended metal it tends to continue to vibrate for awhile. By placing a pair of contact pickups on the plate, these decaying vibrations can be captured and converted to an electrical signal for recording. The sound of a plate decaying is a very warm reverb that you’ve heard on many recordings (either an actual plate or a simulation of one).

Now the classic plate is the good old EMT 140, but we decided to do things a little different here and sourced a new plate from a company called Pluto Plate. After some research it appears to be the only new plate you can purchase at this time. It’s very similar to the EMT 140 in terms of size, but it uses a passive design. This means you must use an external amplifier to drive it and you must bring the returns back through mic preamps. It also has no internal equalization so you need to use an external eq on the send to shape the sound of the plate (which tends to be a bit bass heavy on its own). The choice of driving amplifier and return preamps will also affect the sound so it’s going to be interesting to see what type of tones can be coaxed from this sheet of metal.

The other super cool thing about the Pluto Plate is that it has a remote dampening system. On one side of the plate there is a large dampener that is hinged on one end. The other end can be pushed in or out with an internal motor that is controlled via a computer application. So depending on how you set the dampener the reverb time of the plate will change. With the dampener pushed tight against the plate, the reverb time will be short (around 0.5 seconds). With it pulled all the way out from the plate, not touching it all, the reverb time will be long (around 5 seconds). The motor allows 100 different positions of the dampener giving a great number of decay time options. Plus, you can save a preset for later recall.

How does it sounds, though? In short, unbelievably rich, dense, and warm. Plug-ins come close, but there is something about the real thing that is hard to describe. I invite you to book some time at Rarefied to hear it for yourself!