The Philosophy of ValhallaSupermassive

I started working on reverb algorithm design back in 1998. For the first decade of working on reverbs, I focused on learning various ways of putting together delays, in configurations that fit in the umbrella category of “feedback delay networks.” These algorithms would run digital delay lines in series and/or parallel, in such a way that the echo density would build with time (as found in a real acoustic space). By 2008, I had a huge repertoire of basic reverb topologies.

The next decade (2009-2019) was spent making these topologies sound GOOD. For the most part, “good” was partly shaped by the goals of the product I was working on. The reverb algorithms for ValhallaRoom needed to sound like rooms; the algorithms in ValhallaVintageVerb needed to sound like vintage digital hardware; ValhallaPlate needed to sound like physical plate reverberators. This involved a lot of research into eliminating stray resonances, getting rid of unrealistic high frequencies, shaping the overall frequency response and behavior, and generally “taming” the algorithms into something that sounded natural and would easily fit into a mix.

However, not all of the algorithms that I stumbled across wanted to be tamed. There were some delay configurations that were never going to sound “realistic” or “natural.” I really liked those algorithms, but I had to put them aside, as they weren’t moving towards the goals I was working on at the time. They weren’t behaving.

ValhallaSupermassive is a celebration of those untamed delay algorithms. The ValhallaSupermassive algorithms can be grainy, or overly bright, or metallic, or have weird zapping laser gun resonances, or are just too darned huge to sound like anything natural. They haven’t been polished to sound like the “real world.” They are unrepentantly digital, and unrepentantly un-natural. The Supermassive algorithms just want to be themselves.

Since the ValhallaSupermassive algorithms don’t correspond to “real world” reverb spaces like halls or rooms, they have been given the names of celestial objects. The original goal was to name each algorithm after a supermassive black hole, but most of these are named a word plus a long number. So the Supermassive algorithms are named after constellations, galaxies, that sort of thing.

ValhallaSupermassive also allows these algorithms to move outside the realm of reverberation. The WARP parameter gives the user direct control over the lengths of individual delays in the algorithms. This allows for all sorts of natural and unnatural echoes, sounds that rotate around your head, strange cascading harmonic delays, clusters of reflections, and reverbs that fade in over time, hang in space for an uncomfortably long time, and decay in a strange and unnatural way.

Many of the Valhalla reverbs have a fixed, “natural” echo density that builds with time. ValhallaSupermassive features the DENSITY control, which allows for very sparse decaying echoes, as well as “pointillistic” reverbs that get less dense as they decay away,. These are the sorts of artifacts I have avoided in the past, but ValhallaSupermassive embraces these artifacts as weird and wonderful. Want a smooth reverb? Just turn up DENSITY.

Once I took the pressure off of the algorithms to behave like “normal” or natural reverbs, ValhallaSupermassive came together quickly. The initial prototypes were created as Max4Live patches in late February 2020. I started the “proper” plugin (i.e. C++ code, Juce GUI) in mid-March 2020, and it was essentially done by the end of April 2020.

As always, ValhallaSupermassive was a joint project. Kristin came up with the plugin GUI colors, much of the philosophy behind the plugin, and created the amazing logo, animation, and banner ad for Supermassive. Don Gunn takes credit for the plugin name, voicing decisions, presets, and helped sculpt the overall plugin design. The three of us collaborated on the names of the “celestial objects” used for the algorithm names. We hope you enjoy ValhallaSupermassive. Stay safe, and make some music!

Comments (22)

  • zbb

    What a great summary.

    Thank you Sean (and Kristin, Don and all) for always being absolutely one of the very best, in all regards, in a ever growing sea.

    All best wishes and regards!

    Reply
  • imstre

    You creare awesome reverb-dilay!
    amazing job! Thanks

    Reply
  • Jono Brown

    Thank You Sean! I look forward to trying your new reverb. I use Valhalla Delay constantly!

    Reply
  • Daragh

    Thank you for this inspiring tool, and for giving us some history behind it too. I appreciate it.

    Reply
  • I’m blown away by your decades-long dedication to imagining and designing reverbs and delays. Thank you for packaging up some of your thinking into SuperMassive – I’ve been having a blast with it over the past few days. I use VintageVerb as my go-to reverb and am always interested in what you’re working on.

    Reply
  • Glenson

    I Like the story behind it 🙂

    And sometimes the huge sound can come in very handy.

    Thank you!
    Glenson

    Reply
  • Frederick Audoli

    Thank you very much !!!

    Reply
  • jmays5150

    Absolutely love this stuff, guys. This is super fun to play with, and understanding philosophy and thinking behind your creations really helps me use it in my music. And then you give it away for free? A big THANK you, always look forward to everything you do.

    Reply
  • Charlie Adamopoulos

    This is just a dream. You’re just making us all floating in audio paradise. I’m using your plugins A LOT in all my productions and that is a HUGE chance to have your plugs in my toolbox. Thanks a lot and keep up the amazingly good work !!!

    Reply
  • Davidio

    Thanks so much Sean. Have two of your reverbs and love them. Fit in the mix perfectly.

    Reply
  • 3

    So where’s the Tshirts with the swell new logo?

    Keep up the great work please.

    Reply
  • VoxVinc3nt

    I’m using Supermassive on tracks for my upcoming album. What’s really useful for me about it right off, is the Synth Wider preset, in the way it splashes-out ambient synth elements to make them even more ambient, and get them out of the way of the track’s basic elements, but *keep them happening* if you will. No doubt there’ll be deeper applications for this plugin, but that’s my immediate update.
    http://www.voxvinc3nt.com

    Reply
  • Erik Wagler

    Hands down Valhalla are my favorite plugins. Icing on the cake that I get to support such a small + passionate team. I’m a software guy myself and have (very) slightly gotten my feet wet in the DSP / VST world so its really amazing to read this meta stuff.

    Thank you for your work and for providing this for free!

    Reply
  • Mark Otten

    Very nice to read the back story 🙂 Thanks for this and your other awesome plugins!

    Reply
  • BendoubleM

    Such a great way to start the day! I just saw your email notification this mornning.. and red what you wrote about it (nice philosphy!) of course, as usual..I felt the need to watch some of the review on YT first… but didn’t take more than 5minutes to be totaly convinced!.. In one word.. WooW!! OMG… this beast is not only a super MASSIVE reverb, but also a magic box! there’s so much things that can be done with it! I’m downloading it RIGHT NOW! and do some experiments; I can’t wait to hear the cool stuff I can do on our V.O’s. Thanks a LOT to the team for making this beast alive, it’s an a-ma-zing present! I’m really grateful! imo this could even be a donation ware btw! Anyway, I’m already a Valhalla customer, so far I only have Vintage Reverb which I’m using everyday single day for my job (radio production) but I’m considering to purchase Shimmer and maybe Delay .. next month…yeah.. as you know, finances are quite low these days, but I’m sure things will get back to normal very soon, think positive!.. OK..now, step: installation then step 2: feeding this SuperMassive beast, which I’m pretty sure is hungry as hell!

    once agaain, Thanks a lot!, merci beaucoup!! Stay safe.
    Ben

    Reply
  • Thank you Mr Costello! Great to hear the story. Love the unnatural wild beasts from the Valhalla jungle…

    Reply
  • You guys (and gal) are amazing! Your work is inspiring. As if I don’t use enough of EVERY single plugin you make on EVERY single mix, now I have this baby to play with?!?!?!

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!

    Reply
  • Simply the finest reverb/delay people in modern music. I’ve tried a lot of the the big brands but always go back to Valhalla. The expertise and love for the craft is transparent and evident. Thank you for realising this free plugin during a difficult time for a lot of musicians (no gigs this summer or for who knows how long where I am based in the UK).

    Congratulations on a successful project and I wish you all the best as you continue to create class-leading plugins at a reasonable price point.

    Reply
  • This is now essentially my go to effects plugin, and what a mighty plugin it is too. Thank you so much for this, it is truly amazing

    Reply
  • Ambjörn Hugardt

    Fantastic
    Sounds really great and it seems as it needs plenty of time to experiment with all the modes and parameters – and that is exactly what I have now

    Thanks so very much

    Ambjörn Hugardt

    Reply
  • SuperMassive is pure oxygen for sequenced synth tracks with evolving tones and harmonies. The unnatural delays and reverbs are a natural for massive soundscapes and aggressive or otherworldly passages. Also really useful for horror movies soundtracks and sound design.
    Many thanks. As they say, first ones free, but… Now I need all your other plugins like a drug.
    -B

    Reply
  • All the love and gratitude! You guys are geniuses and all your products are pieces of art!
    The finest in the universe!
    Thank you!

    Reply

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