When it was introduced in 1986, the Lexicon 480L was the perfect reverb: it not only sounded superb in absolute terms, but it surpassed all its contemporaries by a hefty margin, giving music producers and engineers an unprecedented level of realism and flexibility. For those who could afford its hefty price or had the opportunity to work in a studio that had one, it was the ultimate reverb.

Although many plug-in versions of the 480L have been made over the past years, a complete and definitive edition of Lexicon’s most famed reverb was yet to be found. Danish software developer Relab was among the first to recreate with utmost fidelity that coveted yet elusive sound, and now they are proud to present the definitive 480L with the LX480 Complete Version 4, introducing meaningful new features on top of the original hardware to equip the 480L for the future.

Reconstructing the past

Many of the reverb algorithms found in the 480L can be dated back to Lexicon’s other famous units of that time, notably the 224 Digital Reverb, which was first released in 1978, later to be upgraded on the 224X and 224XL versions in 1982 and 1985 respectively. The 224 also marks the debut of the iconic, red LED, white fadered LARC remote - Lexicon’s Advanced Remote Controller, which was seen on countless consoles in the 80’s and was later used on for 480L as well. Lexicon also released a few delay units during that period and the company also debuted a lower-cost line of products under the PCM banner, and some of those algorithms were later ported to the 480L as well. The digital-to-analog converters were also greatly improved during that time, with less noise and distortion, which further added to the sound quality. In this sense, the 480L was a culmination of a decade of work. The many developments made during that period allowed it to do much more than its predecessors. The computational improvements of the time gave the algorithm designers at Lexicon more room to experiment and more ways to express their idea but what mattered most was their creativity, and this is why this reverb model is so coveted.

However, in an unfortunate turn of events, the original source code for some of Lexicon’s reverbs including the 480L were lost, so Relab embarked on a long journey to rebuild these algorithms down to each and every detail, capturing all its nuances. This daunting task was done with the assistance of Relab’s proprietary machine learning technology. The result is a painstaking faithful emulation that goes down to each and every detail: if we take the digital output from the hardware, the plug-in is a sample accurate recreation of it, something that was never achieved before.

Building for the present

The LX480 Complete features all the algorithms present in the original Lexicon unit including most updates it received over the years, plus Relab’s exclusive high-definition version of the famed Random Hall, which is based on the original algorithm but greatly improves upon it.

These are the algorithms available:
  • Hall: Recreates acoustic spaces such as concert halls, this style of algorithm first appeared in the 224 Digital Reverb and in many ways is the sound that put Lexicon on the map - it is the sound of many records from the 1980s. Since it was one of the very first algorithms developed by the company, it has a more heavy handed sound and is not as realistic as the later Random Hall version, but a highly iconic reverb nevertheless.
  • Plate/Room: A flexible algorithm that can deliver both the metallic resonant sound of classic plate reverbs but also deliver realistic-sounding rooms. It features a high initial density with a quick build-up.
  • Random Hall: One of Lexicon’s most praised algorithms, it’s initially close to the original Hall but this one features random variations over time to avoid build-up, with a characteristic modulated sound in the reverb tail that does not rely on chorusing or pitch-shifting to counter metallic artefacts, and instead introduces random modulation to better simulate the subtle changes over time. If Hall was the one to put Lexicon on the map, Random Hall was the one that established the “Lexicon Sound”!
  • Random Hall HD: Relab’s ultra-modern take of the original Random Hall made with their proprietary technology - more on this later.
  • Ambience: Like Random Hall, this algorithm was first introduced on the 480L V4 update in the early 1990s, it is also known as “Random Ambience”. This algorithm is made with early reflections in mind, designed to be used on close-mic’d sources such as dialog and singers to give a sense of belonging to a space. In that sense, it’s very useful for lead vocals and post-production of film or game audio.
  • Twin Delays: A flexible delay with an unique cross-feedback design that can do nearly anything thanks to the LX480’s flexible routing, including long deep echoes, ping-pong and also dubling or double-tracking.
  • Panorama: A stereo enhancer that works by eliminating cross-talk between channels. Not only useful to expand the stereo field of reverbs, but useful as an effect on itself or for injecting some width to mono recordings.
Although the algorithms are the core of the 480L’s sound, simply recreating them is not quite enough: the engine running them also has to be recreated. Two engines in fact, as the original unit featured two engines or algorithm slots - each able to run its own algorithm, so for instance we can blend Hall with Ambience or anything that comes to mind, which gave the 480L a great deal of flexibility. Relab took good care of that, and the LX480 Complete is the only plug-in that offers the two effects engines in all its glory, including all four different routing options from the hardware. These routing options are also key to fully recreating the original sound, and the options available are the following:
  • Single Engine: the default mode with a single engine that receives the incoming signal and passes through it. This mode allows users to toggle between engine A or B for quickly comparing settings.
  • Dual Engine Cascade: in this mode the signal is processed on engine A and then it passes through engine B for a second round of processing. Highly useful when applying the Panorama or Twin-Delays algorithms before or after a reverb, and also great to create highly dense reverbs by using two reverbs in succession.
  • Dual Engine Mono Split: This routing mode is “mono in/stereo out”, where the left and right input channels are treated independently, as each channel will go through an individual engine and will be summed at the stereo output.
  • Dual Engine Stereo Split: on this routing mode the both left and right channels pass through both engines and are then summed at the stereo output, allowing for an extremely rich-sound reverb.
As hinted before, the ADDA converters on the 480L also played a significant role, so Relab emulated the original 18-bit converters so that the vintage sound is captured. They also recreated the sound coming from all three outputs (Main, AUX and Digital) present in the hardware, allowing users the option to choose which one they would like to use. It’s important to highlight that the LX480 offers an option to switch off the 18-bit sound and the saturation modelling, which allows users to discard the coloration coming from the converters, and that is very useful for modern reverb sound - which takes us to our next chapter.

Future-proofing a classic

Overall, Relab’s approach first to achieve total fidelity when recreating the original Lexicon algorithms, and then to build up from there further expanding the 480L’s capabilities. The Random Hall HD algorithm is a prime example of this, as it unshackles the 480L sound from the computing power restraints of the original hardware - it is a modern take on the original Lexicon algorithm with extra density, created to ensure that the LX480 can go beyond the vintage sound and compete with today’s reverbs, which are designed with modern computers in mind.

Another example of this approach is the early reflection delay taps, which were sacrificed in some of the original algorithms due to hardware limitations but are offered in the LX480 V4 with the inclusion of six delay taps. Additionally, Relab has included a chorus effect option for the Hall and Plate/Room algorithms, which further extends to the plug-in’s flexibility and adds further effect-designing options, and a tempo-sync option is available for the relevant settings such as reverb time, pre-delay and delay, which is particularly useful when using the Twin Delays algorithm.

To suit DAW’s, the LX480 offers extensive interface customizations. Different GUI sizes are available in accordance to the size of your screen, the colour of the interface can be freely changed, parameters can be assigned to the quick access page to speed up workflow by immediately accessing key controls.

Other key aspects of the LX480 Complete Version 4 are the Hardware Mode, hundreds of new presets and the Learning Center. Here’s a quick breakdown of these new features:

Hardware mode: A new “hardware mode” can be accessed from a switch in the front panel, and this effectively turns the plug-in into a 1:1 version of the hardware without all the extra features, interface improvements or any visual aid, which is a nice treat for the old-school crowd. It’s worth noticing that the sliders on the LX480 have a greater resolution than those on the classic LARC hardware, allowing for fine-tuning of each setting down to the tiniest of increments, and that remains the case in the hardware mode.

Presets: Relab has also done an extensive job on presets, and the LX480 V4 now features presets with the two reverb engines, something that was not available on previous versions. The number of presets has also been greatly expanded to over four hundred, including most banks from the original unit, exclusive dual-engine and signature presets, and also presets from other Lexicon units such as the PCM91.

Learning Center: The 480L is a deep machine that offers a lot in terms of sound shaping, but creating reverbs can be quite a difficult task and in order to help its user base Relab has put together a website called Learning Center with extensive documentation on the plug-in and on the 480L as well. It also offers many tips on how to create certain sounds from scratch, a sort of “reverb cookbook” with recipes to make the most out of the LX480.

The Relab LX480 Complete Version 4 is now available for Mac (both ARM/M1 and Intel) and Windows computers with a VST/VST3, AU or AAX host. A free trial is available. Regular price for the LX480 Complete is $349 and an intro offer with a discounted price available for a limited time, so act fast!

Feeling like the Complete Version is a bit too much? Make sure to check out the LX480 Essentials, which brings the core sound of the legendary hardware on a streamlined control set at a very friendly price.

For more information and to purchase, please visit the Relab website.