In this article
- Operational Overview
- Hitsville Reverb Chambers Controls
- Historical Background and Technical Development
Unlock the magic above Hitsville U.S.A.
Hitsville Reverb Chambers gives you the glorious sound of the attic reverb chambers that shaped the Motown Sound.
Available only from Universal Audio, Hitsville Reverb Chambers gives your recordings the soulful ambience of these hallowed spaces, as used by the producers of Marvin Gay, Stevie Wonder, and The Supremes.*
*Use of artist names does not constitute official endorsement of Hitsville Reverb Chambers software.
- Get instant “Motown Sound” from the attic reverb chambers above Hitsville Studios officially licensed by the legendary Hitsville U.S.A. studio
- Dial in rich-sounding ambience using two different custom-built chambers
- Add iconic reverb to vocals, drums, and more quickly with simple controls
- Reposition mics in realtime using UA’s Dynamic Room Modeling
Get the Sound of a Historic Reverb
The two reverb chambers built into Hitsville’s attics were essential to Motown’s exciting sound. By completely capturing their distinct character — with help from the original Motown engineers who built them — you can put yourself inside these legendary spaces.
Shape Ambience with Simple Controls
Quickly get jaw-dropping reverb effects using Hitsville Reverb Chambers easy-to-use controls, including distinct speaker and mic selections in each chamber, to make your vocals, handclaps, tambourines, and triangles soar.
Reposition Mics with Dynamic Room Modeling
Go far beyond retro and get genre-defying ambience by moving the chamber mics in realtime for presence and detail beyond the original hit-making positions.
- Exclusively licensed and authenticated by Hitsville U.S.A.
- End-to-end emulation of two of Hitsville’s historic reverb chambers, derived from Hitsville’s famous converted attics
- Customize your reverbs quickly with simple hi/lo crossover, width, depth, and mix controls
- Explore new sounds by repositioning Hitsville Reverb Chamber’s mics using UA’s Dynamic Room Modeling
- Design guidance from Hitsville’s engineering alumnus John Windt
- Artist presets from Grammy-Award winning artists and engineers
- Available for UAD-2 DSP and native UADx
Hitsville Reverb Chamber 1, attic at 2648 West Grand Boulevard
Hitsville Reverb Chamber 2, attic at 2644 West Grand Boulevard
Underlying concepts for Hitsville Reverb Chambers are presented in this section. For details about how to operate the specific controls, see Hitsville Reverb Chambers Controls later in this article.
Hitsville Reverb Chambers is neither a general impulse response (IR) convolution reverb nor a typical algorithmic reverb. Instead, Hitsville Reverb Chambers utilizes Universal Audio’s breakthrough hybrid technologies, combining expertly sampled impulse responses with advanced algorithmic DSP techniques. Hitsville Reverb Chambers is sonically superior in terms of overall model accuracy and dynamic customization. The Hitsville Reverb Chambers plug-in is used to add ambience to existing sources just as you would with other reverb processors and methodologies.
A reverb chamber was the first technique used for adding controlled ambience to a recording. The chamber is simply an ambient space, such as a reflective room, that contains loudspeakers and microphones. To add ambience to an audio signal, the audio engineer sends audio signals to the loudspeaker(s) in the room. The ambience of the room is captured with the microphone(s), then the mic’s wet signal is mixed with the original dry signal to create the final blended dry+wet sound.
The Hitsville Reverb Chambers plug-in contains two different chambers: Chamber 1 (2648) and Chamber 2 (2644). Each chamber’s construction, shape, volume, and speaker/microphone arrangements contribute to a unique sonic response.
The two chambers naturally provide a maximum reverberation time of approximately 3 to 4 seconds for full decay. Although not possible with the real physical chambers, UA’s digital “beyond physics” Decay control allows these naturally occurring decay times to be reduced as desired, down to a minimum of approximately a half second.
The original reverb chamber at 2648 West Grand Boulevard was considered an “echo” chamber by Hitsville staff due to its parallel surfaces and “flutter,” but with a rich reverberant presence and bright decay. Use Chamber 1 on vocals, solos and percussion to push the most important elements up front — always pure magic.
Chamber 1 structural outline
The second reverb chamber at 2644 West Grand Boulevard is a near textbook-perfect reverb chamber, providing a smooth, full-range decay. Its long pentagonal shape with a wide 90º feature at the north end enhances the stereo field image and adds movement. Use Chamber 2 on strings, horns, piano, and drums for beautifully enhanced width and depth.
Chamber 2 structural outline
In addition to each chamber’s acoustic design and speakers, the microphones and placements used to capture the ambient signals are a significant contributor to the frequency and spatial attributes of the chamber.
Hitsville Reverb Chambers contains four different microphone pairs for stereo ambience capture. The microphone selections and default positions represent specially curated setups replicated with help from Hitsville staff and UA. Each pair can be used in either chamber.
The available microphones are described in the table below.
Shure Unidyne 545
The Shure Unidyne 545 dynamic cardioid microphone is a predecessor to the ubiquitous Shure SM57, with an instantly familiar response. Along with the Bozak 800 driver, this microphone became the most frequently used setup in Chamber 1.
With a low-mid range complexity and subdued high frequencies, the RCA 44-BX figure 8 bipolar ribbon microphone was the first used in Hitsville’s chambers. Features a useful two-sided reach for the corners and open space.
With a controlled, band-limited frequency response and tight reach, the Electro-Voice 631 omnidirectional dynamic microphone is the chrome cousin of the famously rugged EV 635, a common mic around Hitsville.
Multi-pattern small diaphragm condenser
Prized for its crisp realism and versatility, the Neumann KM86 multi-pattern condenser became the sole mic used by Motown for a time. In Chamber 2, these mics are placed in a figure 8 Blumlein setup when used with the Altec 605s, and an omni pattern with the Bose 901s. In Chamber 1, these mics are set to cardioid.
The position of the microphones relative to the source speakers can be dynamically adjusted with the Distance control, or by clicking and dragging the microphones. As when recording with microphones in the physical realm, the mic position can have a significant impact on the sound that is captured.
The best way to explore the sonic possibilities of the Distance control is by listening to the plug-in when it is applied on an individual source and MIX is set to 100% wet (or when SOLO is active).
As the mics are moved closer to the speakers, the room will sound tighter and the source will sound more present. Conversely, the room gets more diffused when the mics are farther away from the speakers. The Hitsville Reverb Chambers modeling includes the proximity gain and bass buildup that occurs in the physical realm; the signal may be louder as microphones are positioned closer to the speaker.
The separation between a stereo microphone pair varies depending on the selected microphone pair and its Distance setting.
In addition to each chamber’s acoustic design and microphones, the speakers that send signals into the chamber are a significant contributor to the frequency and spatial attributes of the chamber. The physical size of the speakers and the space they take within the chamber is also a contributor to the chamber’s sound and decay time.
Each chamber has two dedicated speaker setups. The speaker positions are fixed, and represent historically accurate setups described by Hitsville staff. As with Hitsville’s original patch routing configuration, each chamber’s dedicated speakers are fed a mono summed input.
The speakers used in each chamber are described in the table below.
Bozak 800 and EV T35B tweeters with Bozak crossover
Bozak 800 8” aluminum cone midrange drivers are paired with a series-parallel array of four Electro Voice T35B tweeters per side. The Bozak three-way crossover’s low band is left empty, effectively providing a 500Hz 6 dB/octave high pass filter. 2648’s longest-running speaker configuration.
JBL 2482 and EV T35B tweeters with Bozak crossover
The JBL 2482 compression driver with the massive Altec 803B multicell dispersion horn replaced the Bozak 800 in 1968, after too many blown speakers. This very narrow band midrange “foghorn” driver handles massive signal levels. Setup retains the same Bozak crossover and Electro Voice T35B tweeter array.
Altec 605A Duplex with Altec N-1500A crossover
The full-range, high-fidelity Altec 605A coaxial “Duplex” consists of a 15” woofer and integrated high frequency multicell horn driver. Housed in a ported Altec 612A speaker cabinet, with an onboard crossover. The Altec 605A was repurposed from the Hitsville control room.
Bose 901 with active equalizer
Prized for a full and even frequency response, wide imaging, and impressive efficiency, the full range Bose 901 Series 1 home stereo speakers replaced the Altec 605As in the late ‘60s with an even more expansive sound. Setup has speakers facing “backwards” (Bose intended the drivers to face the wall). The active equalizer provides user-adjustable pre-emphasis filtering.
When the Chamber, Speakers, Microphones, Distance, Lo, Hi, or Decay controls are adjusted (and when presets are loaded), algorithmic recalculations are performed by the plug-in. These recalculations cause a time lag before the new control values are heard. Additionally, sonic artifacts can occur while these recalculations are performed if audio is currently being processed by the plug-in.
Because there are extensive interdependencies within the plug-in, the specific time to complete the algorithmic recalculations depend on the control(s) being modified.
Tip: Algorithmic recalculations are faster with the UADx version of the plug-in.
During algorithmic recalculations, visual indicators are active. These indicators signify that audio is not stable until the model recalculations are complete. The visual recalculation indicators are displayed when you select a different Chamber, Speakers, or Microphones, and when you change the Distance or Decay setting.
Note: When the Chamber, Speakers, Distance, Microphones, Lo, Hi, or Decay controls are adjusted, the new values are not completely heard until the Recalculation Indicators are inactive.
Chamber, Speakers, Distance, Microphones, Lo, Hi, Decay – When any of these controls are adjusted, the line under the Chamber name flashes.
Lines flash during algorithmic recalculation
Speakers, Distance, Microphones – When these controls are adjusted, the line under the chamber name flashes, and the door within the chamber view is open, alluding to an engineer entering the chamber to change or reposition the mics.
Door opens to indicate algorithm recalculation
Toggle the info button to enable tooltips for the chambers, speakers, and microphones. When enabled (solid), you can hover your mouse over an element to see the description.
Click info button to toggle tooltips
DAW Automation Limitations
Load time and/or sonic artifacts during algorithmic recalculations may be an impediment if the specific controls listed in the table below are modified with DAW automation during mixdown. To avoid these impediments, adjusting specific Hitsville Reverb Chambers controls with DAW automation during mixdown is generally not recommended.
If DAW automation must be used on these controls, it is recommended that only static snapshot automation (instead of continuous automation) be used. Additionally, static snapshot automation should be used only when the signal being processed is not audible. For example, automate only between musical phrases.
Tip: It’s best to automate Hitsville Reverb Chambers parameters during quiet or silent passages. To automate parameters with the least sonic artifacts during mixdown, use the UADx plug-in.
Parameter automation recommendations for UAD-2 are described in the table below.
Hi (except Bose)
Time lag may cause sonic artifacts with UAD-2
Static snapshot automation between audio passages only (may cause sonic artifacts)
(all other parameters)
Continuous and static snapshot automation OK
Note that due to its unique design requirements, Hitsville Reverb Chambers is subject to increased latency versus other UAD plug-ins. The increased latency may be objectionable when tracking through the plug-in when it is on individual channel inserts. This latency is not an issue when used in a typical effect send/return configuration, nor during mixdown when latency is not a concern.
Accessing UA Artist Presets
Hitsville Reverb Chambers includes presets tuned by prominent Universal Audio artists. Artist presets for UAD-2 plug-ins are accessed through the host DAW’s preset menu, the Settings menu in the UAD toolbar, or Apollo’s Console/LUNA preset browser. Artist presets for UADx plug-ins are accessed from the preset browser included with the UADx plug-ins, or from the LUNA preset browser.
Eric J Dubowsky
UA artists that have provided presets for Hitsville Reverb Chambers
Hitsville Reverb Chambers Controls
The active chamber is selected by clicking either Chamber 1 / 2648 or Chamber 2 / 2644 at the top of the Chamber View. The line under the active selection is thicker, and the interior of the chamber is displayed.
Chamber Select with Hitsville Chamber 2 selected
The image in the plug-in window displays the currently active chamber with the selected speakers and microphones, and the current microphones position.
Choose the speakers used in the chamber with these selectors. Hover your mouse over the Speakers selector to show speaker icons, and click to select. The bar above the active selection is thicker.
Speakers for each chamber with tooltips off
Choose the microphone pair used in the chamber with these selectors. Hover your mouse over the Microphones selector to show microphone icons, and click to select. The bar above the active selection is thicker.
Microphones with Tooltips off
The Distance control varies the distance between the microphones and the speaker, as well as the distance between the two mics.
Note: Mic positions are saved with each chamber.
To change the mic position, click anywhere on the slider line, drag the control slider handle, or drag within the chamber view area. Click the MIN or MAX text labels to quickly set those values. Click the DISTANCE text label to return the value to the original recorded position.
Original Microphone Distances
The microphones for each chamber were captured in specific locations, and other values for the microphone locations are adjusted algorithmically. When you first load each chamber, the microphones are in the original capture location.
The aural effect of a mic position change is most obvious while listening to the chamber when MIX is set to 100% (or when SOLO is active).
Chamber 1 – When Distance is set to MIN, the microphones are in the original position as captured within the chamber.
Chamber 2 – When Distance is set to 5.0, the microphones are in the original position as captured within the chamber.
When the plug-in is used in a stereo-out configuration, the MONO switch provides immediate summed mono signal output, overriding the Width knob.
When the plug-in is inserted in a mono-in/mono-out configuration, this switch is locked in the Mono (up) position, and provides a true mono capture of the chamber, using only the left speaker and left side microphone.
Tip: Click the MONO text label to toggle Mono.
Width narrows the stereo ambience imaging. The range is continuously variable from 0% to 100%. At a value of zero, Hitsville Reverb Chambers returns summed monophonic reverb. At 100%, the stereo signal has the natural spatial effect as captured at Hitsville Studios.
Tip: Click the 0, 50%, or 100 text labels to quickly set those values.
Note: When used in a mono-out configuration, this control cannot be adjusted.
The time between the dry signal and the onset of reverb is controlled with this continuous knob. The range is 0 to 250 milliseconds.
This control uses a logarithmic scale to provide increased resolution when selecting lower values.
- Higher Predelay values can be useful for tracks where the clarity of the source should stand out before the reverb starts.
- Click the 0, 50 ms, or 250 text labels to quickly set those values.
LO and HI Level adjust the gain for the low and high frequency components of the crossover network for Bozak, JBL, and Altec speakers, and the low and high frequency filter gain for the Bose drivers.
Each speaker has -36 dB to +6 dB of continuously variable gain for the LO control, and ±6 dB of continuously variable gain for the HI control.
With Bose speakers, the pre-emphasis EQ filters are faithfully modeled as part of the design, but are converted from stepped to continuous controls. When using the LO control with Bose speakers below -6 dB, the cutoff frequency shifts into a more useful range.
Tip: Click the -36, 0, or +6 text labels to quickly set those values.
Decay adjusts the reverberation time “beyond reality”. Rotate the knob counter-clockwise to decrease the chamber’s reverb time.
When set to MAX, the decay time is the natural room decay as captured within the chambers at Hitsville. Values below MAX are adjusted algorithmically.
Tip: Click the MIN, MID, or MAX text labels to quickly set those values.
Mix continuously sets the blend between the original dry signal and the wet reverberated signal. The available range is from 0% (no wet signal) to 100% (no dry signal).
Tip: Click the 0, 15%, or 100 text labels to quickly set these values.
This control uses a logarithmic scale to provide increased resolution when selecting lower values. When Mix is in the 12 o’clock position, the value is 15%.
When set to any value except 100% (or when Solo is enabled), the dry portion of the signal is unprocessed.
Note: If Solo is active, adjusting Mix will have no effect.
Solo puts the plug-in into 100% wet mode. When enabled, the dry unprocessed signal is muted and the Mix control has no effect.
Solo is typically used when the plug-in is inserted on an auxiliary effect return bus that is configured for use with channel aux sends, for 100% wet send/return processing. When the plug-in is inserted on a track, Solo is typically disabled so the dry/wet mix control can be heard.
Solo is a global (per plug-in instance) control. The switch state is saved within host DAW project/session files, but it doesn’t change when a preset is loaded; the current state always overrides the preset state.
This global feature allows presets to be properly auditioned without changing the Solo setting. If Solo is disabled when a preset is loaded, the dry/wet mix value in the preset is loaded (and heard) and Solo remains disabled. If Solo is enabled when a preset is loaded, the dry/wet mix value in the preset is loaded (but not heard) and Solo remains active.
The global feature means preset settings are always loaded appropriately, whether the plug-in is loaded in a track insert (where Solo is typically disabled and the mix control used instead), or in an aux return (where wet solo is typically enabled, defeating the mix control for 100% wet send/return processing).
Note (Pro Tools only): The Solo setting is saved and loaded in presets when using the Pro Tools preset manager. To audition presets without changing the Solo state, use the Load Preset function within the UAD-2 plug-in, the preset manager in the UADx plug-in, the LUNA preset manager, or the Load Preset function in Console.
Tip: Click the SOLO text label to toggle Solo.
The power switch enables/disables the plug-in. When enabled, the chamber light is on and processing is active. When disabled, the chamber light is off, the mics are removed, and plug-in processing is disabled.
Tip: Click the POWER text label to toggle Power.
Historical Background and Technical Development
Detroit's Motown Museum has graciously given Universal Audio permission to create emulations of classic equipment and spaces employed at the legendary hit-making studio, Hitsville U.S.A. The story of how the emulations came to be, and how we recreated them, is full of twists and turns.
The unique spatial effects from the original Hitsville echo and reverb chambers had a massive sonic influence on Motown’s studio recordings. Universal Audio’s journey to develop Hitsville Reverb Chambers started with a Motown Museum tour and their demo of the 2644 chamber (volunteers can sing directly up into the chamber through the open access panel). The “instant Motown sound” of the chambers was incredible, and our one-of-a-kind partnership with the Motown Museum began soon after.
Hitsville U.S.A. History
Converted from a pair of houses at 2644 and 2648 West Grand Boulevard in Detroit, Michigan, Berry Gordy's Hitsville U.S.A. recording studio was home to Motown's hit-making assembly team and the recording stars they produced. Soon after Hitsville staff converted the 2648 attic into an improvised acoustic chamber, they realized the space was a huge contributor to the "Motown Sound." They then converted the 2644 attic into a second chamber. Throughout Hitsville’s tenure on West Grand Boulevard, both chambers were in constant demand with a nearly 24-hour production schedule. As the studio business expanded, Hitsville U.S.A. eventually became a monumental eight-house production complex, covering all aspects of Motown’s record-making business.
Ultimately, Hitsville’s Studio A fell out of favor as more modern facilities were built elsewhere in Detroit, and eventually Motown studios were relocated to Los Angeles. Hitsville closed its doors to music production in 1972. Today, Hitsville has been the Motown Museum for much longer than it served as the home of Motown. Incredibly, the two chambers at 2648 and 2644 are still perfectly intact and have sat unused for fifty years.
Construction and Tuning of Chamber 1
Built by Berry Gordy Jr. ’s father “Pop” Gordy, the attic at 2648 was the first of three chambers on West Grand Boulevard. As Motown technical engineer John Windt remembers, "the 2648 chamber was one accident after another… that ended up magical." At the age of 19, John’s first job at Hitsville was to clear out the attic before Pop Gordy’s crew began construction. The chamber was fashioned without technical knowledge, with construction built to fit the attic space, for 1555 cubic foot volume. The overall shape is reminiscent of an old-fashioned canvas tent, built as a room within a room, structured with 2” x 2" pine and hung with ¼” cement board on a 1” cement floor. The interior walls are troweled, adding surface texture and smoothing out hard ceiling transitions, all finished in heavy shellac.
Mr. Windt tried many speaker and microphone arrangements to capture the right sound from the 2648 chamber. Through such experimentation, John finally arrived at the unusual arrangement featured on countless classic records, with drivers on the floor firing into the corners and the mics placed behind, pointed down at the same corners. This configuration brought out a balance of the chamber’s distinctive reverb and parallel wall artifacts, providing enough signature echo in the low midrange to add some slap and movement. The 2648 chamber was converted to a stereo configuration in the late ‘60s.
Construction and Tuning of Chamber 2
The chamber at 2644 was designed by Motown chief technical engineer Mike McLean. “We built a much more sophisticated (reverb) chamber with non-parallel surfaces, thicker, harder walls, and beautifully polished and varnished plaster.” It has an ideal 2754 cubic foot volume for a near-textbook perfect reverb.
At first, in an attempt to replicate the sound of 2648, the engineers equipped 2644 with multiple microphone and speaker options. 2644 was in a constant state of change, until the staff finally settled on a simple setup that emphasized the natural reverb of the chamber. 2644 was subsequently converted to stereo and partially painted, minimally reducing the decay time.
The development of the Hitsville Reverb Chambers plug-in began as a monumental research task. The original equipment was no longer present, and no photos of the chambers’ recording setups are known to exist. To capture the historic sound of those old Motown recordings, we first had to figure out how to configure the chambers. We acquired a rough understanding of the original chamber configurations through internet research and interviews with Hitsville audio engineers Bob Olhsson, Ken Sands, and Russ Terrana. Other interviews were conducted with museum supporters and fans, including Motown catalog producer Harry Weinger, Motown author and historian Adam White, and Motown historian Andrew Flory.
Our research led us to Mike Mclean, Hitsville’s chief technical engineer, who generously shared his recollections and stories from the studio with us. In the course of this research, another name that kept popping up was of Mike’s technical engineer, John Windt.
From the first interview, it was clear that John would be an invaluable source of information for the chambers and all things Hitsville (as documented in the history section of its manual, John was also crucial to the success of the Hitsville EQ Collection). John set up and maintained Hitsville’s chambers, and his influence and experimentation was instrumental in developing their sound.
Outfitting the Chambers
Our first step was recreating the highly prized 2648 Bozak/545 setup. The Bozak speaker and crossover were left over from a short-lived control room monitoring system. As John described it, “the best sound we ever got was with a Bozak midrange driver and four EV tweeters wired in series-parallel, all pointed into a corner. This setup used the Bozak crossover as well. We left the low band empty, creating a high pass filter. We used the Shure  mic to pick it up from the control room.”
After we had the information for the speaker and mic setups, the next phase was to acquire and build out the equipment for both chambers, with four era-spanning speaker and microphone configurations. The gear required was not easy to find, and it took us over a year to collect and service it all. The ultra-rare Bozak 800 midrange drivers pulled from three-way vintage home speakers, highly collectible (and expensive) Altec speakers and cabinets, indestructible JBL “foghorn” drivers with their massive horn lenses, dozens of ‘50s era Electro Voice tweeters, late ‘60s Bose home speakers, and all the vintage mics, were obtained. All equipment was verified as historically correct, then tested and serviced for full functionality. In some cases, we re-created equipment, such as reproductions of the custom Bozak speaker boxes and Bozak crossovers built in an old LA-610 chassis.
Preparation and the Capture Process
In preparation for our trip to Hitsville, we set up and tested the equipment at UA headquarters. Technical details were verified, setups were refined, and we created a recording plan. We flew John out for our last recording rehearsal to verify any final considerations or fixes. The vintage equipment and recording gear was packed up for shipment to Hitsville.
Meanwhile, the Motown Museum was expanding. During construction, we had a short four days and nights for capture. Before we arrived, the Motown Museum repaired the doors in 2648, and outfitted 2644’s ceiling access panel with doors.
In the Studio
We spent our first studio day setting up our makeshift control room, running snakes to both chambers from one position. The vintage gear was staged and test recordings were made. The din of the city began to subside around 10 PM, after which most of our recordings were made.
With UA’s plug-in design team and technical guidance from John Windt, the chambers were meticulously reconstructed, component-by-component. During the design process we leveraged all of our technical expertise and decades of historical knowledge to create an incredibly accurate, richly detailed plug-in. With four unique era-spanning setups, Hitsville Reverb Chambers gives you that unmistakable sound heard from Motown's first wave of artistic legends.
Chamber reverb send and return section from original Hitsville desk
Adam White, Andrew Flory, Harry Weinger, Allen Sides, Ernie Woody, Wes Dooley/AEA, Bill Hanuschak/Great Plains Audio, Vintage King, Hitsville Alumni John Windt, Mike McLean, Bob Olhsson, Ken Sands, Russ Terrana, Motown Museum staff Allen Rawls, Nicholas Mancuso, David Ellis, and Steve Thomas. Very special thanks to Robin Terry and Berry Gordy. In fond memory of Mike McLean and Ken Sands.
Product names used herein are trademarks of their respective owners, which are in no way affiliated with Universal Audio Inc. These name(s) are used solely to identify products studied in the creation of the sound models found in the plug-in.