And the best reverb is…

Posted: 29th January 2012 by Mezzanine Floor Studios in Mixing Techniques

… often the one you build yourself.

There are a lot of excellent reverb plugins out there- anything from re-creations of vintage hardware to manifestations of pure digital bliss, but in many cases I find that the best reverb for the sound I’m looking for doesn’t exist in any one reverb plugin.

The first step towards being happy with reverb is recognizing when to keep it simple, using a single reverb and settings that you’re used to. For me simplicity is usually found on acoustic guitars, snares, and strings. I know what I usually like and try not to go crazy. The drum buss can be this way, too.

Reverb can be added on individual tracks or on busses with individual instruments sent to the desired reverb buss as needed (usually on the track OR a buss and not both.) When choosing whether to add reverb to the individual track or on a buss, I ask myself two questions:

1. Am I running out of CPU power? Reverb plugins are often heavyweights in terms of their demand on CPU, so adding a few reverb plugins to busses can help save CPU compared to running a reverb plugin individually on multiple tracks.

2. Am I intending this instrument to be placed hard left, hard right, or centered in the mix? If placing the instruments hard left or hard right I will add reverb directly on each track individually (if needed at all.) If centered, I ask a second question. Do I want this instrument to be in the center only, or do I want it to be “big.” Vocals and snare are two good examples. Using reverb directly on them with a mono track holds them tightly to the center, making room for other instruments on the left and right of the mix. Using reverb directly on a stereo output track or sending to a stereo buss leads to a wider, bigger sound.

When setting up reverb busses, I tend to set up 3 busses, each with a reverb:

  • A short, bright reverb for use with clean vocals when that is desired, acoustic guitars, etc.
  • A medium reverb for electric guitars, drums- anything that needs to fit in a space with other instruments, and isn’t meant to be dry, out front, or distant and orchestral
  • A long reverb for strings, pads, etc. that are meant to sound distant, orchestral, etc

With spacious vocals, piano, and solo acoustic instruments I tend to like a little more movement and variety. This is where getting creative can be helpful. For this I will tend to add two more busses:

  • One buss with a delay for adding pre-delay to an existing reverb plugin when desired. The output of this buss is then sent to the input of the buss where the desired reverb has been added. In this way I could send guitars and vocals to the same reverb, but have the guitars sent directly with a shorter predelay set on the reverb plugin (say 20-40 ms) and send the vocals to the pre-delay buss first, for a combined predelay between 80 and 200 ms depending on the desired affect
  • One buss with a stereo delay that has different settings on the left and right, with the output of this buss sent to the longer reverb. Sending a source to this delay would then be similar to sending it directly to the long reverb, but with a little more “dancing” in the stereo field as the sound decays

One last word on pre-delay. This setting is very important when you want to preserve clarity from a source, yet add a significant amount of reverb. Sound that arrives within 20 ms of direct sound can mix with the direct sound can tend to “muddy” the sound. Try setting predelay between 20 ms and 50 ms for clarity, 50 ms to 100 ms for a subtle affect, and more than 100 ms if you like old school reverb sounds.

  1. [...] And the best reverb is… « Mezzanine Floor Studios | BLOGJan 29, 2012 … often the one you build yourself. There are a lot of excellent reverb plugins out there- anything from re-creations of vintage hardware to … [...]

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