Gear Reviews

NUGEN Paragon ST: A True Convolution Reverb

NUGEN has been creating some very interesting products over the last few years and Paragon – a true convolution reverb using the actual impulse responses from real spaces – is definitely their most ambitious to date…

The idea of convolution reverbs is nothing new, and there are several available, however where Paragon differs from others is in the way it resynthesizes the impulse response (IR) and generates a new IR based on the parameters set by the user. In effect what you have is an algorithmic style of control and manipulation of actual 3D spaces in real-time with no time stretching. In fact, Paragon has created quite a buzz in the world of film and post production because of its amazing sound, usability and its support for multi-channel formats up to 7.1.12, as well as Dolby Atmos and other immersive technologies.

This resynthesis technology was developed by Dr. Jez Wells at the University of York, England and is based around a modeller and an interactor. The complex modelling which is at the heart of Paragon was done in-house by a team of NUGEN engineers and forms the basis of the preset library. The reverb models are not the IRs but a blueprint for construction, and generate key components of the IR as they are selected. The interactor allows smaller sections of the IR to be regenerated depending on the parameters set by the user in real-time and with no artifacts.

Late last year, NUGEN released an update to Paragon which reflected suggestions and ideas from users and the design team alike. One of which resulted in the release of a version called Paragon ST, which as the name implies is a stereo rather than a surround sound plugin aimed squarely at music production. My initial look and click through told me this is no ordinary reverb, and while the reverbs themselves are absolutely lush and bold, it is the unbelievable level of control and manipulation of the reverbs in real-time that make this such a unique and interesting product.

Placing in the Space

One of the immediate things that sprung to mind as I was familiarising myself with this comprehensive reverb, is if I had two or three instances of the same space but set the microphone at a varying distance from the source, I could in effect place my instruments on a three-dimensional sound stage. Modern music, with the ability to place a different reverb plugin on every channel, doesn’t always sound like it’s played by a group of musicians, rather a collection of sounds and hooks designed to grab your attention. But what grabbed my attention first and foremost was the quality of the small spaces. I’ve often struggled to find authentic small space reverbs that give you the front row experience, or the in-the-studio-with-the-band illusion. This reminds me of the ‘80s when major studios might have had two or three top quality reverbs at most. I think what I’m trying to say is, you can’t replace quality with quantity!

Back to the small spaces, because this is where convolution reverbs – and particularly Paragon – win out over plate, springs, digital synthesis and other emulations. With all of the aforementioned, there’s the perception that you’re adding an effect to a sound and thereby changing the original sound in some way. With a convolution reverb the original sound is still present, only now you’re hearing it in a given space or environment. I’ll use an example: my wife and daughters all have a habit of singing while they’re in the bathroom. It’s a small bathroom with very reflective close tiled walls and a lot of standing waves, depending on which way you turn your head, but it really gives them angelic voices. Try as I might, I’ve never come anywhere close to recreating that tight, tiled room sound and I’ve often thought I should place a speaker somewhere in the bathroom along with a number of mics to create my own reverb. Well now I don’t have to; Paragon has a couple of very good tiled room IRs ready for use, both of which can be altered to taste!

The preset library features some truly diverse spaces, from a van interior to a forest, passing through a church, club, halls, chambers and a cave on the way. Of course, you’re thinking the focus of these is cinematic, and of course the full surround sound version was clearly conceived with film and TV sound design in mind, but there are a whole host of other music-related drum, studio and vocal specific presets which are superb. Having said that, I found many of the cinematic presets just as usable and utterly believable in music creation. NUGEN actually bills Paragon as the first 3D convolution reverb with outdoor environments. Just like being there.

If you’re relatively new to producing your own music and are struggling with the paradox that is reverb, then Paragon is a game changer.

If you’re relatively new to producing your own music and are struggling with the paradox that is reverb, then Paragon is a game-changer. I assumed that from the quality of the sound and the unbelievable level of parameter editing available, this was going to be a pricey addition to my collection of plugins. How wrong I was. While the full surround sound version is available for approximately £500, you can actually pick up Paragon ST for a little over £200 – not at all expensive when compared to the competition, and even more impressive for such an innovative product.

Space Editing

With NUGEN interfaces, you almost instinctively know what a control is going to afford you before you even move it; they’re so logical. I was immediately drawn to the center section of Paragon where we see a Stereo Width control, a Mic Distance control, and a Modulation control. It’s the combination of one or more of these three controls that allow you to actually place the source in a different position within the space – something which really helps to bring a performance by a collective group of musicians to life, and something I believe sets this reverb apart from the competition.

To the left is a combined High and Low Pass slider for narrowing the frequency range of the reverb. Below that is a slider to adjust the Pre-Delay length and to its left a very handy Tempo button which syncs your Pre-Delay to your track tempo with a range of 1/4 to 1/32 of a beat. Next to this is a Decay slider for tail length adjustment. On the right of the interface is a Crosstalk slider which is very useful for combining the left and right signal feeds of, say, a wide-panned string quartet, giving a better unified same space sound. Also on the right are the size and brightness sliders; altering the size or length of a convolution reverb is normally a step too far, as it involves time stretching. With Paragon ST – the space simply gets bigger, in real-time, with no artifacts.

The all important center section starts with a Stereo Width slider that I have to say reminds me very much of the Stereoizer Elements plugin I reviewed back in May of last year – simple, effective, and perfectly phase coherent. It’s perceived as a widening of the source signal which in turn opens out the space in the reverb as well, especially with a low crosstalk feed. The Mic Distance control is also extremely good and it allows you to move your perception of where the source mic (original signal) is in relation to the listener. Another brave addition is the Modulation control, which can be blended in by percentage but also gives a basic control of the frequency and rate, as well as the handy Tempo button for syncing modulation rate. I was able to recreate a very good, slightly out of tune saloon bar-style upright out of a stock piano using Paragon.

The Modifier window, meanwhile, gives you yet another level of editing, and a handy set of test recordings so you can check how your tweaks affect the overall reverb. Especially useful is the ability to saturate a particular frequency; you could take a standard Hall IR and with a little knowledge create the presence of the Barbican or the low-mids of the Royal Festival Hall. As well as altering the amplitude of particular frequencies, you can also adjust the decay rates in a particular frequency range, increasing or decreasing them.


This is an intelligently laid out convolution reverb which has taken an algorithmic style of control and created an unbelievable level of manipulation while maintaining consistent musicality. No more spending hours trying to programme the perfect reverb on an algorithmic reverb. No more weird artifacts when you try to edit a convolution reverb. I didn’t need the full 15 days free trial to decide if this one was a keeper – more like 15 minutes! Paragon ST is available in all the usual formats for all major DAWs and for both Mac and Windows. Head over to NUGEN’s website and try it out for yourself.