Sponsored by NUGEN Audio

Shaping The Space: Introducing NUGEN Audio Paragon ST-main.png

First envisioned by NUGEN Audio as a reverb plug-in oriented for multichannel post-production workflows, Paragon is now offered in a version that is optimized for simpler stereo applications. Although recent times have seen a meaningful uptick in immersive and surround sound format productions such as Dolby Atmos, Ambisonic and others, stereo largely remains the most popular configuration for professional and consumers alike - the classic two speaker left-and-right configuration is what the majority of people are using, both in the production and reproduction stages. This is where Paragon ST slots in, providing those engineers mixing music and other stereo-based material with a flexible - and extremely realistic reverb option. In this article, we’ll explore how Paragon ST can be a great asset for producers and engineers on all sorts of tasks that require high-quality reverb without sacrificing control, for day-to-day operation with different programme material.

Tame the impulse

Before we venture further, let’s look at the most important common aspect between both the multichannel and this new stereo Paragon: reverb models.

Convolution reverbs are nothing new for music producers or mixing engineers these days, and many of us have a collection of impulse responses buried in a dusty folder somewhere on their hard drive at this point, filled with “IR” wav files that are more often than not left untouched or barely used - a “once in a while” thing for a handful of select applications.

The upsides and downsides of convolution are well-known. On one hand, they offer an easy path to obtaining certain sounds, they’re inexpensive to make, and not that hard to capture given the proper gear and software: from bringing a dusty old effect unit back to life digitally to capturing the reverb tails generated by an an empty warehouse, convolution is a handy technique that everyone should be aware of and try to make use of at some stage.

On the other hand, impulse responses are often dismissed due to the fact that they are a bit too static and hard to edit, unless you don’t mind the adverse side effects and artifacts that will inevitably result from time-stretching or re-pitching them. It’s too often a “get it right” or “get something else'' situation, leading to a tedious process where you either don’t quite get the sound you’re after and end up browsing through dozens (or perhaps hundreds) of files and presets until you find a good one, with the risk of sub-par results and frustration to hand otherwise.

Paragon ST solves this age-old dilemma by approaching impulse responses in a new way, and NUGEN’s latest breakthroughs allow for precise, artifact-free alterations of the IRs offered with the plug-in. This involves not only a demanding but capable convolution engine, but, more importantly, it involves capturing high-fidelity impulse responses that are appropriate for the jobs we get today: to this end, NUGEN Audio commissioned a very special set of recordings which accurately sample the characteristics of an acoustic space with an unprecedented level of depth, capturing every nuance and detail.

Modeling space

Unlike most of our collated IR folders, which are in many cases filled with hundreds or thousands of files we’ve amassed over the years, the impulse response bundle included with Paragon contains a sane, manageable number of IRs. NUGEN combines high quality without compromising versatility and range of applications. As hinted on Paragon ST’s IR tab, they are “Reverb Models” rather than fixed impulse responses meant to be used in static fashion or with very little editing like in other convolution-based reverbs. Paragon’s Reverb Models are extremely adaptable, allowing the user to extensively change the reverb response, overall tonal character and most importantly, the decay times - these can be transformed across the frequency spectrum. With that in mind, let’s have a look at the Reverb Modes list, which can be organized as follows:
  • Small spaces (6): Bathroom, Car, Packing Room, Hotel Room, Office, Little Bathroom
  • Medium spaces (6): Glass Diner, Hotel Corridor, Small Theatre, Chamber, Stone Chamber
  • Large spaces (5): Big Concrete Room, Church, Hotel Lobby, Large Theatre, Stairwell
  • Outdoors (3): Cave Mouth, Summer Forest, Snow Forest
With a total of 20 reverb models, Paragon has a diverse range of options to choose from and it manages to do so without being overwhelming - users can rapidly test all the impulse responses to pick the perfect one for the job in hand.

Taking shape

Paragon ST has a robust yet remarkably concise feature set for a reverb, offering the user the ability to quickly adjust the reverb itself and shape the resulting sound effortlessly in very little time thanks to its uncluttered interface and parameters that are intuitive enough to grasp without being overwhelmed. The interface is organized across three main tabs:
  • The Main tab houses the core sound controls and basic reverb controls, including Mix (Dry/Wet balance); Level Trim (from -70 to +20 dB); L-R Reverb Nodes (Mute or Solo for each); High Pass and Low Pass Filters for the output stage; Pre-Delay; Decay; Stereo Width; Mic Distance; Modulation with Tempo/BPM Sync Lock, Depth, Rate and Mix controls; Reverb Size; Brightness and Crosstalk (L-R blending). A key parameter here is Mic Distance, which can be used to control the depth and adjust the early-late reflections balance, thus increasing or decreasing the spatial sensation/”awareness” of the reverb.

    Shaping The Space: Introducing NUGEN Audio Paragon ST-ir.png
  • The IR tab enables access to the reverb model itself, and this is where the user will choose the impulse response that powers the sound engine. Here we’ll find two display options: a spectrogram mode and the Modifier, which opens up a world of possibilities by allowing the user to shape the amplitude and decay with a parametric-style EQ that increases or decreases these parameters. Up to five control points are available, with three shapes each (bell, low shelf and high shelf) with bandwidth (Q) and value (from 0.2x to 5x) adjustments. “Value” determines the divider or multiplier for the control point, and this is used to make the reverb longer or shorter over that frequency area. This is a core aspect of Paragon ST, and perhaps the most important and powerful control in this plug-in. Lastly, this tab offers a ‘complexity’ control that determines the overall density and detail level of the reverb. A handy “test sound” palette is also available, enabling musical and foley sounds such as vocals or footstep to be triggered on the fly for test purposes. This greatly speeds up the process of adjusting the reverb models, as the available sounds are diverse and perfect to stimulate the reverberator over distinct situations and get a comprehensive response from it, greatly helping to understand how that reverb model is behaving and sounding.

    Shaping The Space: Introducing NUGEN Audio Paragon ST-io.png
  • The IO tab allows the user to trim the input and output levels, mute the reverb (wet) sound, adjust the High Pass/Low Pass Filters at the output stage, and also to fine-tune parameters such as pre-delay, decay and crosstalk for the input and output. All controls are offered in true stereo with individual adjustments for the left and right channels.
Lastly, the Cogwheel on the top right side of the interface opens the settings tab, where you can determine solo/mute behaviour for the reverb nodes (left and right channels) and also allow for cosmetic adjustments for the GUI such as choosing the color of the controls, level meters and reverb display. Paragon ST’s interface size can also be adjusted to be made smaller or larger without sacrificing display quality, which enables it to be easily readable in any screen size or resolution.

Applications and workflow

As a stereo plug-in, Paragon ST fits like a glove for music production, where it can be used to achieve both realistic and synthetic reverb sounds with ease in mixing sessions of virtually any genre. Due to its high-quality impulse responses, emulating real-world acoustic spaces is the most obvious way to use it, but it can also inspire otherworldly spaces as well - the limit is only your imagination.

In use, two starting points are available: presets or reverb models. Pick one and take it from there, adjusting the amplitude and decay from the IR tab to best suit the programme material in hand. For instance, the Office and Large Theatre can be easily tailored to achieve the classic room and hall sounds respectively, whereas Chamber and Stone Chamber are superb picks if simulations of such spaces are required. Drums, brass, pianos and orchestral instruments can benefit greatly from those reverb models given how natural they can sound, even when they were heavily modified.

For vocals, the Big Concrete Room and Chamber models can provide an excellent lush, long reverb alternative, or alternatively the Office and Hotel Room are both wise starting points for a closer, more intimate sound, which is perfect for situations where the reverb has to be more discreet so it doesn't clutter the mix.

Synthesizers are another prime target for Paragon ST’s prowess as a surrealistic, larger than life reverb creator. Church, Cave Mouth, Hotel Corridor or Summer Forest are all valuable starters for spicing up a modulated synth pad, arpeggio or stab. Electronic drum sounds or loops are also interesting prospects given Paragon’s versatile reverb models.

Although not quite as common a use, sometimes a reverb is required on the final mastering stage when more depth and atmosphere needs to be artificially injected into a dry track, and Paragon ST can also shine in such situations due to its quality and adaptability. This also applies to the recent Spatial Audio technology that is available on streaming services such as Apple Music or Tidal: Paragon ST is a great way to add reverbs that will work wonders in binaural mixes.

Besides music, sound design is another application where Paragon ST can perform with excellence, and it can also be used for mixing for film or games if they only require a stereo version, providing realistic acoustic simulations to better blend in dialogue and sound effects.

Differences between Paragon and Paragon ST - which one should I get?

Besides the multichannel operation, which is reflected on the different interfaces to display their respective channel counts, the key difference from Paragon when compared to the ST version is the Stereo Width parameter that is present on the latter. Other than that, they’re identical plug-ins, with the exact same parameters, sound engine and bundled set of impulse responses/reverb models, so pick the one that matches your output needs.

Pricing and availability

Paragon ST is available right now as 64-bit AAX, Audio Unit (AU), VST and VST3 plug-ins for Mac (Apple M1 chip and MacOS Big Sur are supported) or Windows (7 or newer) and is compatible with all major digital audio workstations, including AVID Pro Tools, Steinberg Cubase/Nuendo, Apple Logic Pro, Ableton Live and PreSonus Studio One.

Price for the Paragon ST (stereo version) is $299. Until 6th December 2021, an intro offer is available for $149.

For more information on the Paragon ST reverb plug-in, visit: https://nugenaudio.com/