LiquidSonics Illusion - User review - Gearspace.com
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LiquidSonics Illusion
4.75 4.75 out of 5, based on 1 Review

A powerful, extremely flexible reverberation processor with superb audio quality

15th October 2021

LiquidSonics Illusion by Sound-Guy

  • Sound Quality 5 out of 5
  • Ease of use 4 out of 5
  • Features 5 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 5 out of 5
  • Overall: 4.75
LiquidSonics Illusion

Illusion 1.2 by LiquidSonics

I’ve used LiquidSonics Reverberate (versions 2 and 3) for years and have always been impressed with both of these convolution reverbs, and with LiquidSonics’ unique Fusion-IR technology, for the realism of effects and comprehensive control. I noticed that LiquidSonics just updated another product, Illusion, which is a reverb I hadn’t checked out before. This is also a convolution design, but very different from any other I’ve seen (or heard) and I saw the update adds some really excellent features.

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. . . . . Basic user panel with spectrum display.

The Basics
Illusion uses a different approach to modelling reverberation, termed Fusion-IR | Synthesis, a method that uses impulse responses that are rendered for playback using an array of advanced reverberation algorithms. What this means is that Illusion does not use files containing impulse response functions, but synthesizes them within the program itself.

Illusion’s early reflections are synthesized using a unique technique “superior to the usual diffused point-delay approach” which enables reflections with great clarity and realism, and minimises colouration particularly for small spaces while providing controls to create a vast range of aural environments.

The late/tail reverberation modelling uses “original, exclusive generation techniques” that can simulate almost any reverberant environment. And again, there are a range of controls available to help perfect the reverberation to enhance any musical or vocal audio source.

Upon first opening Illusion you see a functional front panel with a “bunch” of controls, both knobs and horizontal sliders, a preset selection area (categories and individual presets) and file management icon at the top. On the left are input/output level meters, and on the right reverb level meters with separate displays for early reflections, late reverb and enhanced low frequency. There are many Factory Presets provided (I counted 225), organised into Chambers, Churches, Halls, Plates, Rooms, Synthetic Spaces, and Vintage reverbs. And you can set up other categories for your own user presets.

Near the top-centre are three large knobs for Level, Reverb Time and Dry/Wet adjustment. On the left side are two sections with identical controls, one for Reflections and one for Late Reverb. Reflections refers to what is usually termed early reflections – the first echoes to bounce from walls and ceilings back to the listening position – these help our auditory system sense the space involved.

The Late Reverb is the longer stream of echoes that blend together into a smooth reverberant field rather than being heard as individual echoes. Note that either of these sections can simply be turned off which is helpful in designing environments and for setting up emulations of very small or very large spaces. Each section has five controls: Level, Size, Flux, Roll-off and Slope. Level is simply the volume level of the reflection or reverb while Size adjusts the effective dimensions of the space being modelled. Flux is a less familiar parameter – it adjusts the intensity of modulation within the reflections or late reverb, from none to levels high enough to produce audible chorusing. Roll-off and Slope control low pass filters for the early reflections and late reverberation.

On the right side are three groups of controls, Echoes, Structure and Character. Echoes enables creating up to three echoes of the late reverberation sound (not the dry input sound or early reflections) and panning them as desired. Structure provides Pre-delay which adds a delay from the onset of the input sound to the start of the late reverb, and Width which adjusts the stereo image from mono to full stereo – all mono-compatible.

The Character section includes two parameters you may have seen before, Density and Diffusion.
Density affects only the late reverb and adjusts the time it takes for density to build-up, with low values resulting in relatively sparse initial reflections that create a lighter reverberation while high values make the reverberation very dense for a fuller richer sound. Diffusion affects only early reflections with high levels smoothing them out while low levels enable hearing individual echoes.

The Low Boost is a unique separate low frequency reverberation generator that boosts low frequencies in the late reverb without overwhelming the overall effect with a lot of blurred rumble. This can really help deliver powerful bass reverberation while not overwhelming the overall reverberant field – really effective for EDM and other bass heavy styles.

Note you can double-click on a data window if you want to type in a specific value. Of course you can drag any knob or slider to quickly change a value.

Spectrum Anyone?
In the central graphic area you can select from three views: a traditional spectrum plot of level versus frequency (as seen above in the first screen shot), early reflection density over time (as seen below), or a spectrogram of late reverb decay time versus frequency (see example further down).

. . . . .
. . . . . Early Reflection Pattern view with the Interactive Assistance turned on showing the use of this mode.

These different views are accessed by the tiny graphics in the upper left and right of the plot area, and the early reflection density and the spectrogram displays also open new controls. For the early reflection mode you can choose from a set of 15 patterns, adjust Reflectivity (which controls the decay rate of the reflection pattern) and Proximity (provides control over the rate and nature of the reverb attack, which sounds like moving further or closer to the source). This provides a wide range of environment modelling effects when combined with the Level, Size, and Flux controls previously described.

For the late reverb spectrogram you can reduce or increase low frequency and high frequency times relative to the main decay time. This enables modelling spaces with a wide range of reflection and absorption properties.

When viewing the normal spectrum plot you can right-click to access a small menu to choose showing the output only, the output and input, or early reflections, late reverb and low frequency reverb components as shown in the first screen shot at the top of this article.

If that were all, Illusion would be a fine reverberation unit, but we’ve just started. Clicking the little down arrow at the bottom of the main screen opens a lower panel with four sections: a Master Reverb EQ, Early Reflections EQ, Late Reverb EQ, and, new in version 1.2, a Dynamics and Fidelity section. Oh, and there is actually a fifth section available using an advanced choice in Settings, the Reverb Decay Flutter Design section!

The three EQ sections are pretty much what they say, an overall final EQ, EQ for only the early reflections and EQ for only the late reverberation, which is pretty cool and very useful. Each EQ includes five bands with flexible EQ types (shelf or peaking with additional HP and LP on first and last bands) and has both slider controls at the bottom and mouse control of frequency and boost/cut with Q adjustment possible using the mouse wheel, which I always find helpful.

The new Dynamics section provides valuable ducking and compression functions with the ability to dynamically control either input (compression only), early reflections, late reverb, reverb and very low frequencies, or all the above. Ducking enables clearing dense reverberation while the source plays, very effective on vocals to clear masking effects. And the ability to duck only the late reverb, or late reverb with very low frequencies, is a very powerful feature. Well-designed reflections enhance the spatialisation and realism in a crucial way, so ducking these along with the reverb tail is a bad approach since it can lose the benefits of the reflections entirely. Reflections rarely compromise intelligibility, so it is good to retain them at their full level while the reverbertion is subject to dynamics processing. You can’t accomplish this with a separate compressor and side-chain since it will duck the entire reverb (which you can do with Illusion by choosing to duck “All” – I tried this with a number of mixes and it doesn’t sound right!). I have some other reverbs with ducking capability, but none have this flexibility. Illusion’s ducking mode is certainly the best I’ve seen (and heard) in a reverb.

. . . . .
. . . . . Expanded panel showing the three EQs, the Dynamics & Fidelity and the advanced Late Reverb Decay Flutter control access
. . . . . tabs with Dynamics & Fidelity selected. Note the central display is showing a spectrogram of the relative reverb decay
. . . . . time versus frequency.

The new Fidelity section is a fun addition that allows you to change the word size to reduce resolution for Input, Reflections, Reverb-pre, Reverb-post and final Output. You can turn the word size down to as low as 6 bits, which is very gritty! There is a fascinating issue with this control – since it is a clever mathematical model, and not really changing word size, you can set fractional bits like 12.35 or 16.37. In fact you cannot actually set 18 bits (it will jump to “Full” resolution), so use 17.99 if you want to emulate 18 bit resolution (which is what some classic hardware, like the Lexicon 480L used).

Early digital reverbs used 16 bit or even 12 bit resolution and the results were a somewhat grainy sound, especially at the end of a reverb tail. To demonstrate this to myself I listened to a number of long reverb settings using REAPER to slowly boost the sound (by as much as 72 dB) as the tail dropped in level so that I could still hear details when the reverb level was down below -110 dBFS. Without reducing resolution the tails were perfectly clear down to extinction. But even using 16 bit resolution I could hear digital “fuzz” as the reverb tail level dropped below -65 dBFS, and using 12 bits it started to sound “frizzy” at about -40 dBFS! This section also has a Brick Wall Low Pass filter with adjustable frequency. If you want to replicate what many famous reverbs sounded like in the 80’s, you can use a lower resolution and limit the bandwidth, such as 16 bit resolution with a 10 kHz bandwidth like the famous Roland SRV-2000 which was considered excellent in 1984 and sold new for £1375.

The optional Reverb Decay Flutter Design section gets you down to the nitty-gritty and allows the reverb tail’s energy density to be modulated periodically or randomly, even controlling the effect along a timeline with graphic control of the flutter envelope. This is definitely advanced territory!

There are other features like Early Structure Control and a number of optional settings you can choose using the menu access. And of course you can use DAW automation for every control – I found over 150 parameters can be controlled with automation and using my PreSonus FaderPort 16 all the parameters and their current settings are automatically displayed in its electronic scribble strip displays in ten banks of 16 parameters each!

Tech Data
Illusion is available in 64 bit VST2, VST3, AU and AAX formats for Windows (Windows 7 or above) and Mac OS X 10.9 or above. Illusion uses the iLok/Pace activation system and operates with iLok 2 or 3 USB dongles, iLok Machine activation or iLok Cloud. Since the iLok system is often updated, be sure to check iLok.com and download the newest version (iLok License Manager v5.4 and up) before trying to use Illusion. And be sure to be online when you first open it in a DAW because you will get an activation screen that needs to connect to iLok. Enter your activation code and then go to your iLok account to select the activation mode you want. Both Cloud and Machine activation are free, but Cloud requires being actively online whenever you first start using an instance of Illusion in a project.

In my test system (PC Audio Labs Rok Box PC with Windows 7, 64 Bit, 4-Core Intel i7-4770K, 3.5 GHz, and 16 GB RAM) Illusion used from 0.25% to about 1% CPU resources depending on the latency setting: Zero Latency produced the highest CPU load, just under 1%. With 2,048 samples of latency the CPU load dropped to the 0.3% to 0.5% range and at the highest latency setting of 8,192 samples it was in the 0.25% to 0.35% range. For my money I’m fine with 1% CPU load since I rarely use more than a couple reverb units in a project (usually in a sends configuration). The program when installed and running uses only about 300 MB of RAM and there are no associated large folders of impulse response functions needed.

A very powerful, extremely flexible reverberation processor that enables comprehensive control over about any aspect of reverb you’ve ever heard of (and some you hadn’t) that delivers pristine effects or, if you desire, grungy effects using reduced resolution and reduced bandwidth.

Excellent “3D“ sound quality as expected from LiquidSonics, providing sonically believable environments, although very “frizzy” digital distortion is available by reducing bit depth!

Extremely flexible reverb processor with the ability to emulate a wide range of environments and reverb types.

The Low Boost control is unique, creating a separate low frequency reverberation effect that decays faster than the Late Reverb envelope to eliminate LF rumbling that can mask overall reverberation.

Separate EQ bands for the Master Output, Early Reflections, and Late Reverb.

Excellent Compression and Ducking functions with control of either early reflections, late reverb, reverb and very low frequencies, or all the above.

Unique Fidelity control to emulate those “crappy” 80’s reverb sounds.

Flexible graphic displays for Early Reflections and Late Reverb spectrums, and unique sprectrogram of late reverb decay time versus frequency, each with functional control of spacial parameters.

A great selection of factory presets (225 of them), and of course the ability to create and save your own.

Extensive real-time control available using MIDI automation.

Can check it out for 14 days free.

While not really a con for me, Illusion is an advanced processor and may not be suitable for young children and newbies who don't yet know the difference between an early reflection and a reverberant field.

Illusion does not include the LiquidSonics Bricasti M7 reverbs – in fact, since it generates its impulse responses internally, it cannot use any external IR files. If you want Bricasti (and who doesn’t!) Reverberate 3 has a very good set of M7 emulations available and can use any other IR files you have. And LiquidSonics has Seventh Heaven and Seventh Heaven Pro available for even more faithful M7 effects.

Illusion is not a cheap reverb and some people may find the cost higher than they would like, but I feel the same way about the cost of petrol – and a litre of petrol, even a full tank, can’t produce the excellent reverberation effects that Illusion can! The price is certainly not out of line with other high end audio software tools.



Attached Thumbnails
LiquidSonics Illusion-illusion-1.jpg   LiquidSonics Illusion-illusion-2.jpg   LiquidSonics Illusion-illusion-3.jpg  
Last edited by Sound-Guy; 18th October 2021 at 06:01 PM..