Sononics Revival Rack Extension – Reviewed

Revival Front

Third degree encounter with a Leslie

It was almost 10 years ago when I entered Luis Ruvina’s Booth on Musicália (the Portuguese parallel to the Namm Show). Luís was at the time the Portuguese re-seller for Suzuki-Hammond, but above all a great organ player.  I remember the distinguishing sounds of a Hammond B3 accompanied by the languishing chords of Tuniko Goulart’s jazz guitar urging me to enter his booth.  Luís was playing a B3 through a HUGE Leslie (about the size of a medium fridge). I’ve never heard such a beast in person – you will never “feel” its true grit until you are at least 2 meters from one! The presentation lasted about 30 minutes but I remember it as if it was yesterday. 30 minutes of pure musical magic!

If bringing a bit of that magic to the Reason rack was Sononics objective with Revival… They’ve succeeded!  Read on for the full review of this new-generation organ Rack Extension.

Revival – Back from the future

Revival is a software synth inspired on the classical organs of the past. The synth encompasses a new approach for additive synthesis inspired on the organ register draw bars. But don’t let this fool you, Revival is capable of much more than organs (though a good organ sound is nothing hard to obtain). But that’s not all, on top of that you also have two modulation sections, filters, Envelope Controls, and an amazing effects section.

Revival Controls

Revival has four drawbar sections. Each one is responsible for a part of a note from the beginning to its end. What is special about this, is that in normal synths you have all generators/oscillators starting together, and working almost in unison.  Whereas in Revival, the elements of section one are responsible for the attack, the elements of section two and three are responsible for the sustain part (with a cross fade between 2 and 3) and section 4 is responsible for the release of the note. However the attack and release sections also have their own Envelope section, and in the end you can get a really complex sound.

Each Drawbar section is composed of:

  • Drawbars – Each one brings a new harmonic component. They are numbered as the pipes of a tube organ, like a B3 and the classic organs. Each drawbar when pulled increases the intensity of the harmonic.
  • Solo Switches – Allow you to solo a bar from a section.
  • Wave Sets – The sound generator type of each drawbar section. You can choose from 17 different sound types, from a simple sine wave, resonant components, sawtooth, square and triangle oscillators, and the ominous organ tone wheel.
  • 3 Harmonic Modifiers – Each modifier will alter each harmonic (controlled by the drawbars) separately. You can enable and disable mod 1, mod 2 and mod 3 for each drawbar. The behaviour of the modifier depends of the type. Available are 6 FM modifiers, 7 Filtering, and a simple gain modifier. There is an amount button to control the intensity of the modification, and a tone button. The Tone button works differently for each type of modification. For FM types it will control the frequency of the modulation operator. For Filter types it relates to the cutting frequency. You also have an animation modifier, with complex envelope forms, with 22 types of animations. You can control the rate and intensity of the animation. Additionally you have the note button, controlling the Keyboard Scaling of the modifier, and velocity button, which controls how sensitive the modifier is to velocity. Finally, each modifier has 8 enable switches, one for each bar.
  • Envelopes – Each drawbar section has it’s own envelope including a click button reminiscing from the mechanic noises of vintage organs.
  • Cross Fader – Controls the mixing and cross fading between section 2 and 3. These two sections are the main character from the sound, which is sustained until you raise your fingers from the keyboard. The cross fading can be controlled externally allowing creative mixing of the sound of the 2 sections.

Controlling the drawbar sections, you have the voicing section. The voicing sections controls the tuning of the harmonics the drawbars generate, click tones, overtones, etc. All these settings are modeled after vintage organs.

Finally, there is the effects section. The included effects are arranged in a routing strip so, with some tweaking you can achieve quite exquisite effects.

Organized Effects


Included are:

  • Preamp – Responsible for great part of the grit an grain of the sound, the Preamp not only adds color but also distortion.
  • Phaser – A Stereo phaser unit, with Rate, Depth, and Feedback Control.
  • Mod Filter – A Multi mode Filter with various types, with controls for sweep frequency, resonance, rate, lfo, wave, and sync type.
  • Speaker – Most known as the Leslie, the speaker effect section has a balance control for the bass and horn volume, rotor speed, pan and Air emulating the amount of ambiance picked by the rotor microphones.
  • Reverb – The Reverb is self explanatory, but it’s a nice sounding reverb with 8 reverb types (Plate, Warm Plate, Studio, Room Warm Room, Dark Room, Hall, Warm Hall and Dark Hall), with pre-delay, depth, reverb time (the maximum time depends on the reverb type) and l/r positioning of the instrument and microphones in the room. Plate reverbs are not affected by this setting.
  • Delay – Revival also features a Delay section, with 7 types including 3 stereo delays, and 3 PingPong Delays.
  • Limiter – A brick wall limiter to tame any rogue volume spikes.  Note that activating this does add 1.5ms of latency to Revival.

Finally its possible to use this effects chain with other Reason devices. To do this, you just disable all drawbars from Revival and pass a different source into Revival’s back audio input. This is a very important feature since the amount of control you have on the effects section is tremendous. The fact you have them routed and you can enable and disable each one of them, will allow you to create interesting effects for other Reason devices or even recorded audio tracks.

Revival Back Panel

Revival Back Panel
Revival’s back panel has 4 sections:

  • Control Routing – Allowing to route performance controls Revival parameters, it will allow you to play Revival more expressively.  This is nearly a mod-matrix on it’s own!
  • Default Mapping – Allows to enable and disable Sustain and Pitch bend wheel normal modes. Mind in the Control Routing section you can map sustain to the drawbars of the secondary drawbars.
  • Audio Inputs/Outputs – There are stereo inputs routed directly into the effects section. The sound in the effects section will be routed to the stereo output. You also have a Tone Bank audio out that allows to route the synth section to any reason device. You can then re insert this processed audio into audio in and add Revival’s own effects.
  • Rotor Controls – Additionally to the Speaker controls in the front there are also controls for the behavior of the cabinet’s bass and horn.

Notable Patches and Workflow

Patch selection is as straight forward as any other instrument. There are some gems in there, but the most notable is the realistic Blues House patch. This grungy organ, with the secondary section and rotary speed controlled by the sustain pedal, is great for funky performances. It can be a bit strong for some songs (the sound is quite full).

The Jazz Organs, more mellow and soft are great for more conservative arrangements, where the organ does not take such an important position. Another fun organ is the Hockey Organ a pure show-off of the capabilities of Revival’s Reverb effect. The patchbank is also full of other interesting sounds, like bass and lead, and it also has a section for electronic pianos, with some FM examples. However the DX7 inspired patches are not much more than mockups compared to PX7‘s fidelity.

If the stock sounds are not enough for you, designing your own is simple, and fun. Interesting enough is the way that you jump from an additive mindset with the drawbars, up to a FM mindset with the modifiers. The fact that Revival has a very complete effects section keeps your mind focused in this device.  Most times you can achieve your sound design goals without other devices.


Good For:

– Big, strong and very realistic organ sounds.

– Great versatility of on-board effects.

– Very expressive instrument, with performance routing.

– Best of both worlds with additive synthesis and FM.

Not So Good For:

– Leads and Electronic Basses.

– Sound designers might find awkward working with the drawbars.

– Though FM capable, it is not a replacement for PX7 and will not load DX7 patches.
Sononics Revival represents a great value with it's innovative take on additive/FM synthesis, as well as an excellent effects section.
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Miguel Catalão

Miguel Catalão is a Musician and Composer from Portugal. Using Reason since V 2.5, he also plays Piano/Keys, Flutes and Bagpipes, and percussion. A fan of Jazz-Fusion, World, Progressive and Electronic New Age, collaborated with folk groups from Portugal as keyboard, wind player and producer, since 1996.
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