Early examples of modulated reverbs

I have been trying to track down good sonic examples of a modulated reverb in action. Here’s a few that come to mind:

Vangelis, “Creation du Monde,” 1973. This is an interesting example of a home-brewed modulated reverb. Vangelis used 3 Roland Space Echos in series, processing a Hammond organ and Clavinet, to get the huge spacey sounds in this track. The old Space Echos (and other tape echos) tended to have a fair amount of wow and flutter, due to imperfections in the tape, slipping and sticking of the capstan, and so on. By applying feedback in a single tape echo, the result is a modulated echo sound, where the amount of modulation increases with each passthrough of the system. Run three of these in series, and the result is a LOT of pitch modulation.


Harold Budd and Brian Eno. “First Light,” 1980. The modulation of the EMT250 can be clearly heard on this track from “The Plateaux of Mirror.”


Jeff Buckley, “Hallelujah,” 1994. Buckley’s guitar is being run through an Alesis Quadraverb, which has several really nice modulated reverb options available (and a lot of noise, at least on my Quadraverb). The vocals sound like a modulated reverb, but I am unsure of which unit – a high end Lexicon seems likely.

I know that there are a lot more, but I am kind of forgetful today. Any suggestions welcome.

About the author:

Sean Costello is the "algorithmic reverb plugin wizard" [citation needed] at Valhalla DSP.

Comments (6)

  1. About the Vangelis track, it’s something that has intrigued me for years. I’ve been curious about his effects since they tend to be superb. Surely some of the effect you describe comes from half speed playback, I have no doubt most if not all of the track has been slowed down to half speed.

    The date on the album’s release was 1973 though the soundtrack itself seems to be earlier, though Vangelis does tend to re-record his soundtracks for album release. He definitely had an Echorec 2 since the 60s, but even though I was a co-author of the Vangelis web article you cite, I’m still looking for proof of exactly what gear he was using and when. I’m sure Sergio Koval wrote that part and should probably quiz him myself.

    The 1973 date does seem a tad early for obtaining 3 Space Echos, they’d have to be RE-100s or RE-200s. By his 1974 Olympia concert he had at 3 RE-201s and 3 Echorecs which I presume were his own units for recording since I see multiple units in later studio photos.

    Anyway, gear spotting debates aside I really enjoy your blog.

    1. Thanks for the added details about the Vangelis track! I can see where the track was played back at half-speed, as that would slow the Hammond vibrato and tape echo wow and flutter down to where they were more dramatic. Very similar effect to Boards of Canada, whom I believe also play around a fair amount with tape warble.

  2. Very intriguing…two of my favorite ambient works there under consideration.

    Which of the Valhalla algorithms would be closest for achieving these sorts of dense modulated reverbs?

    1. I’d say the Dirty Hall algorithm from VintageVerb is a good starting point for the last two examples. As far as the early Vangelis stuff, I don’t really have anything at the moment that duplicates multiple tape echoes feeding each other. The tape delay presets in ÜberMod could be used as the building blocks, if you wanted to have 3 of these in series with different delay times.

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