In the early years of the recording studio, engineers had to rely on microphone placement and echo chambers to get the reverb that they desired for certain tracks. This all would change when the German company EMT built the first artificial reverb unit in 1957. Dubbed the EMT 140, this plate reverb would go onto become one of the most revered and often copied sounds in audio history.
What exactly is the EMT 140 Plate Reverb? While the unit itself is pretty massive, the concept of how it works is pretty simple. A steel frame holds a large thin piece of sheet metal via springs attached to each corner of the outer structure. At the center of the piece of sheet metal, there is a transducer, which gets a signal from the studio's control room. The transducer vibrates the sheet metal and two pickups mounted to the plate pick up the resulting vibrations. The EMT 140 also features a dampener that allows you to dial in decay time.
Just as the EMT 140 helped pacify the need for a reverb chamber, plug-ins and emulations have also given the engineers of today access to plate reverb sounds with less heavy lifting required. While we will always love the sounds of an actual EMT 140 (and never let ours go), brands like Universal Audio, Waves Audio, and Lexicon, have done incredible work to emulate the giant 600-pound steel unit.
Watch below to hear a shootout of the 45 Factory's vintage EMT 140 Plate Reverb and the Universal Audio Pure Plate Reverb, Universal Audio EMT® 140 Classic Plate Reverberator, Waves Audio Abbey Road Reverb Plates and Lexicon 300 (on Rich Plate mode). The video features each plate reverb used on vocals from Madelyn Grant, electric and acoustic guitar from Dustin McLaughlin, and drums from Bryan Reilly.
If you're interested in any of the reverb emulations mentioned in this blog or want help finding an original EMT 140, contact a Vintage King Audio Consultant via email or by phone at 866.644.0160.