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Using reverb properly

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Using reverb properly

Postby moo the magic cow » Sun Jun 08, 2008 2:16 pm

I keep reading about folks using 3 or 4 reverbs in one mix. I've only had any joy using one reverb and feeding different levels into it from certain instruments (quite a bit from vocals, not as much from guitar or snare).

Any tips on how best to use reverb? I really feel my mixes are missing a depth I can only attribute to lack of proper reverb or delay use.

What happens when you're using room mics? I'm just a tad confused as I see reverb as giving a basic room sound, and using two or three reverbs (or a room mic) would give us that many different rooms in the mix, which is perplexing to me.
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Re: Using reverb properly

Postby Tui » Sun Jun 08, 2008 4:37 pm

There are several reasons for using more than one reverb. The most important is that digital reverbs don't cope very well with creating artificial space for more than one or two instruments at a time. When you listen to reverb in isolation, you'll find that, the more instruments you feed into it, the more blurry the sound-stage becomes.

Another reason is that using different early reflections and decay times for different types of instruments allows you to separate the voices in your compositions better. Try using long reverb tails on drums or bass, for example, and you will realise that this simply doesn't work. Basically, the more percussive a sound is, the shorter the reverb settings need to be. Of course, choosing reverb settings is part of the creative process, so there are no hard and fast rules. Whatever sounds right, is right.

Depending on the kind of music you produce, the aim for the final mix is not necessarily to create natural sounding spaces. For a start, most natural spaces don't sound so good! The idea is to create a sound-stage that is appealing to the listener, whether artificial sounding or not. You can, of course, also aim for a very dry sound, with very little reverb of any kind. Again, that's one of the creative choices you have to make - it will have a major influence on the final sound of your recordings.
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Re: Using reverb properly

Postby Joe_caithness » Sun Jun 08, 2008 4:38 pm

small point but there is no "correct way to use reverb"

I often use one single reverb on all the instruments, using a very careful balance to create dimension

it's completely down to production style

do you wanna change coz what you know is "wrong" or because it could sound better?
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Re: Using reverb properly

Postby Peter Conz Connelly » Sun Jun 08, 2008 5:04 pm

I am pretty much a "one reverb for all" guy, but this doesn't mean I won't use more if I feel I have to. I spend hours and hours and hours fiddling with a particular reverb algorithm, in order to get it spot on (or to the best of MY ability)... then I find I change it and start all over again.

But as others have pointed out, there's no right or wrong way to use a reverb... any processor in fact. If it sounds good, it generally is.

The reverb unit you're using could make all the difference. I swear by my Lexicon, I just don't feel comfortable without this being at the forefront of my effects.

Cheers,
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Re: Using reverb properly

Postby Steve Hill » Sun Jun 08, 2008 5:30 pm

No rules, but typically I use short (0.5 sec or something) on percussion (if anything at all - sometimes maybe just the snare), typically called something like "wooden drum room" or something.

Then maybe a 1.4-2.5 sec guitar reverb, maybe a spring reverb, or maybe another room reverb.

A big hall reverb might go on vocals, and strings, and organ, and piano.... not necessarily always in big amounts. I've sometimes left a vocal completely dry for "in your face" presence/intimacy. Or maybe used a delay instead (or additionally).

I usually leave bass well alone though.
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Re: Using reverb properly

Postby EvibeProductions » Sun Jun 08, 2008 6:40 pm

Big question...one important thing is that more reverb it doesn't mean depth in the mix...use the amount of reverb with caution, otherwise your song will drown in the reverb, confusing the whole mix. Good habit is check the reverb amount in the mix the next day, with fresh ears...What kind of reverb you need to use depend by a lot of thing, such as music style and by what kind of ambient do you want apply to your mix...I usually use 3 o 4 different reverb with different room size and decay, and then I try to process the different instruments until I get what I have in mind, but sometimes I can also use only one reverb, so it depends...there is not law...it's just about our taste...
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Re: Using reverb properly

Postby moo the magic cow » Sun Jun 08, 2008 8:15 pm

Joe_caithness wrote:
do you wanna change coz what you know is "wrong" or because it could sound better?


Because it could sound better, and because I'm not sure if I'm doing it right . I use SIR with the free impulses from voxengo.
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Re: Using reverb properly

Postby Joe_caithness » Sun Jun 08, 2008 10:00 pm

moo the magic cow wrote:
Joe_caithness wrote:
do you wanna change coz what you know is "wrong" or because it could sound better?

Because it could sound better, and because I'm not sure if I'm doing it right . I use SIR with the free impulses from voxengo.

you kinda just went back on your own statement there.

I'm not trolling, I just want people to use their ears more and their books less
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Re: Using reverb properly

Postby TurboD » Mon Jun 09, 2008 12:17 am

Reverb's an interesting one, in that there are many ways to set it and each of them can sound good. I like to find one reverb that suits the track, then add in extras for effect, just as a short percussion verb for extra presence, a plate for vocals (often with a pre-delay to maintain intimacy) and delays to add more space. Reverbs can smooth out a sound, such as spikey hi-hats, and warm up a bass using a small amount of room verb. EQing reverbs can also help, and setting the RT60 decay time to coincide with the track BPM is also a neat touch.

One nice tip for setting reverb levels is to stick the mix in mono and add it til it sounds right there. Stereo reverbs often give a good spacial sound by adding phase decorrelation between loudspeakers, so folding it to mono will give a true representation. Once that's set, back it off maybe 1-2dB and stick it back in stereo - voila, great reverb level.

I try to use far more expensive algorithms for a main reverb such as Lexicons or TC M2000 as these are better designed and have a lot more flexibility. There are some great impulse responses listed here , my favourite being Lexicon PCM90. All in all though, experimentation is the key...
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Re: Using reverb properly

Postby Tui » Mon Jun 09, 2008 6:48 am

TurboD wrote:
One nice tip for setting reverb levels is to stick the mix in mono and add it til it sounds right there. Stereo reverbs often give a good spacial sound by adding phase decorrelation between loudspeakers, so folding it to mono will give a true representation.

Mixing in mono is extremely useful for judging levels in general, not just reverb. If a mix sounds good in mono, it will sound brilliant in stereo.
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Re: Using reverb properly

Postby The Elf » Mon Jun 09, 2008 8:03 am

I tend not to share reverbs – I spent a lot of years with one reverb device and my mixes always sounded like I was listening to them down a tunnel!

These days I pretty much allocate a new reverb for each requirement. It works for me.

I suppose at the end of a typical rock mix I may have six reverbs and four or five delays. I’ll admit I sometimes cringe when I see the amount of processing (and EQ profiles – eek!) I have ended up with, but if it sounds good I trust it.
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Re: Using reverb properly

Postby James Perrett » Mon Jun 09, 2008 10:28 am

In the old studio I was lucky enough to have something like 8 reverb boxes available - some good and some not so good. I very soon found that too many different reverbs on a track made it sound like mush. I tended to stick with one reverb that defined the acoustic space I wanted to create on the track and maybe another, shorter, reverb for more percussive instruments. I would also use delays rather than reverb for certain things that wanted to sound like they had more space around them.

Cheers

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Re: Using reverb properly

Postby Guy Johnson » Tue Jun 10, 2008 3:25 pm

+ 1, James!
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Re: Using reverb properly

Postby EnlightenedHand » Wed Jun 11, 2008 12:51 am

I tend to use three or four different instances of reverb and two different units depending on the track. I usually don't see a reason to go much further than that. There are no rules but it is useful to pay close attention to whether or not things are getting too muddy. For me it's one for the drum overheads. One for the voices and one for the guitars. Sometimes there will be other instruments involved that need their own reverb but not often. Usually a blend with some elements of the mix having reverb and some not makes for a good mix.

I also am not a big fan of predelay. I only use it when I'm trying to deliberately push something back in a mix for effect. Usually people like an up front sound and predelay can very quickly work against that. I also am a big proponent of short decay times but it all depends. Every now and then, on specific parts only I'll use a 2 or 3 second decay but that's rare. For the most part I keep my decays to 1.5 seconds and below. I also like to keep reverbs that are on dense parts fairly light on the diffusion. It tends to make everything mushy to me when it's done the opposite way. Furthermore, I like to mix "through" the reverbs. I didn't use to do this but I've found that I like to hear the sound of the instruments in the space that I expect them to be in while I'm balancing frequencies and levels and doing pans, so I set up my reverbs early in the mix process and tweak as I go if needed.

I've also found that I don't like to use too much convolution reverb on one track. Somehow to me it's too much of the same feel if all of the reverbs are convolution. I generally reserve that for the drums alone and the rest of the track uses more traditional reverbs.

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Re: Using reverb properly

Postby valjean24601 » Fri Jun 13, 2008 2:26 pm

I also am not a big fan of predelay. I only use it when I'm trying to deliberately push something back in a mix for effect. Usually people like an up front sound and predelay can very quickly work against that.

I think you've got a bit confused here: Pre delay is your friend when you're trying to give a source a reverberant ambience but still have it up front.
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Re: Using reverb properly

Postby EnlightenedHand » Fri Jun 13, 2008 6:35 pm

No sir. Predelay is the time that it takes for the sound to arrive from the source before the reverberant field hits. If you increase the predelay then you make the sound "farther" away in the sound field.

If you want something up front then you don't want a lot of predelay. In fact you would have little to no predelay and a moderate decay time if you wanted something to be reverberant and yet still "up front". Try it and you'll see.

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Re: Using reverb properly

Postby Mike Craig » Fri Jun 13, 2008 6:49 pm

In my experience, using a bigger pre-delay gives the impression that the source of the sound is further away.
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Re: Using reverb properly

Postby EnlightenedHand » Fri Jun 13, 2008 8:15 pm

Yes that's what I said.

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Re: Using reverb properly

Postby Tui » Sat Jun 14, 2008 12:05 am

valjean24601 wrote:Pre delay is your friend when you're trying to give a source a reverberant ambience but still have it up front.


This is correct, and the entire purpose of pre-delay.

"Another common parameter in reverb units is Pre-delay Time, which allows you to specify the amount of time between the start of the direct sound and the start of the first sonic reflection. Decreasing this time moves the sound source closer to the boundaries of your simulated room, but also moves it further from the listener — if you use reverb on an 'in-your-face' pop vocal you should not use too short a Pre-delay Time."

http://www.soundonsound.com/sos/may00/a ... reverb.htm

"A reverb with predelay adds simulated depth to a close-miked recording because it imitates the delayed reflections of a larger space. A definitive separation between the dry sound and the simulated reflections of a reverb helps to maintain clarity even with an extreme effect."

http://emusician.com/mag/emusic_ambience_clinic/

"Use of pre-delay - Why would I want to delay the reverb a bit to hear the instrument dry for a couple of milliseconds? Clarity is the key word. I can use the pre-delay to help move the sound in the stereo spectrum and to help the mix sound clearer and punchier. For example you can get a tighter mix and also help the text be much clearer using a long pre-delay on a small voice. This can give it a bigger sound."

http://www.recordingproject.com/articles/article-printable.php?article=3
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Re: Using reverb properly

Postby EnlightenedHand » Sat Jun 14, 2008 12:23 am

It is a balancing act and so there are no rules as to how one gets their sound. But I have found in my years of professional mixing quite simply that if you extend the length of the predelay you will NOT get an "up front" sound. What you will get is a far away sound. I whole heartedly disagree with you Tui and apparently Mike Senior,(I don't know why he wrote what you quoted buy it certainly doesn't ring true in my experience or the experience of the rest of the engineers that I work with at Universal), and I am willing to post mixes to demonstrate my use of predelay and reverb as evidence to support my claim.

As far as quoting sources goes have a look at The Mixing Engineers Handbook Chapter 6 pg 42.

"Long delays,reverb predelays, or reverb decay push a sound farther away if the level of the effect is loud enough." Bobby Owsinski.

It doesn't even make sense that Predelay would make something more "up front". It is supposed to represent the direct sound of the instrument in the acoustic space before the reverberation of that space,(the delayed sound), hits the listener, hence the term "PRE-delay". If the direct sound takes a longer time to get to the listener then the listener will perceive it as farther away. However, if you are applying the reverb effect in parallel then the dry portion of the sound will stand out more if you use a longer predelay and turn the level of the wet sound down till it's beneath the dry. I think this might be what Mike and the others that you're referencing are talking about. That's not the same as saying that "predelay gives an up front sound". What it seems they're referring to is a certain way to manipulate a reverb effect in parallel using longer predelay. Two different things. Not a consistent line of argument there Tui.

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Re: Using reverb properly

Postby Tui » Sat Jun 14, 2008 7:30 am

I quoted those sources to give you a chance to read up on what pre-delay is supposed to achieve.

Pre-delay separates the dry signal from the reverb, a process that has no equivalent in nature - there are no natural spaces that feature pre-delay. This is an important point, since pre-delay tricks the ear (or rather the brain) into hearing two mutually exclusive processes: On one hand, there is the dry signal, suggesting a near sound source, and on the other there is reverb, suggesting a distant source. The idea is to get the best of both worlds, i.e. dryness for a punchy, up-close sound, and reverb for spaciousness and blending with other voices and instruments.

Mike Senior explained it perfectly in his article, let me quote him again: "Decreasing this (Pre-delay) time moves the sound source closer to the boundaries of your simulated room, but also moves it further from the listener".

I have used pre-delay many times for the above reasons - just like about a million other producers.
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Re: Using reverb properly

Postby Tui » Sat Jun 14, 2008 7:37 am

EnlightenedHand wrote:If the direct sound takes a longer time to get to the listener then the listener will perceive it as farther away.


I think I spotted where you are going wrong: The direct, dry signal is not delayed, it stays perfectly in time. However, the signal that gets processed by the reverb is delayed, creating the effect of separating the original sound from the reverb.
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Re: Using reverb properly

Postby narcoman » Sat Jun 14, 2008 8:06 am

Indeed . A pre-delay gives the initial sound it's own space before the reverb kicks in - it allows you to have the same ambient effect BUT with the dry source sound punching through clearly. Great for vocals in a dense mix.
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Re: Using reverb properly

Postby EnlightenedHand » Sat Jun 14, 2008 11:46 am

The two of you apparently aren't reading my entire posts. I read what Mike Senior said and I don't think that he explains himself perfectly I think that you Tui are further confusing the issue by not acknowledging what I said in my reply to you:

EnlightenedHand wrote:It doesn't even make sense that Predelay would make something more "up front". It is supposed to represent the direct sound of the instrument in the acoustic space before the reverberation of that space,(the delayed sound), hits the listener, hence the term "PRE-delay". If the direct sound takes a longer time to get to the listener then the listener will perceive it as farther away. However, if you are applying the reverb effect in parallel then the dry portion of the sound will stand out more if you use a longer predelay and turn the level of the wet sound down till it's beneath the dry. I think this might be what Mike and the others that you're referencing are talking about. That's not the same as saying that "predelay gives an up front sound". What it seems they're referring to is a certain way to manipulate a reverb effect in parallel using longer predelay. Two different things.

You seem to think that when I use the term "direct sound" that I'm referring to the dry sound. I'm not. In parallel,(which most reverb instances are typically rendered in indeed), there is a dry and a wet. But lets for the moment examine a completely wet signal. If that were the case then increasing the length of the predelay would push that signal further away from the listener's perspective and that's what I'm arguing. What Mike Senior and you seem to be describing is virtually using less of the wet and more of the dry and then pushing the wet further away with predelay, thus allowing the dry to stand in the face of the listener. That's a different technique and should be noted as such IMO instead of simplistically saying "predelay is your friend and it gives a more up front sound". Because, in fact in that example that you use it's not the predelay at all giving the up front sound it's the DRY sound all by itself. I happen to use a different reverb technique.

My initial point and experience proven method is that I don't make such a separation in the dry versus the wet sound. I allow the wet and dry to be very close together in volume so that I'm virtually only working with the wet when tweaking the reverb,(to be honest it is a bit lower than the dry in volume and that is by intention). I do this because it makes the vocal appear "louder" and in one's face. I then turn down the predelay to 0 and I give a moderate to very short decay,(sometimes longer depending on the track). That produces the ambiance. Here's a mix of my technique used.

My usage of no predelay yet the vocal is up front

This is how I was taught and what I have seen done by most of the engineers that I work with and I do this everyday professionally. I AM aware that there are no rules and so people will get their sound their own way which is why I said initially that "there are no rules..."

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Re: Using reverb properly

Postby Tui » Sat Jun 14, 2008 12:54 pm

EnlightenedHand wrote:I don't make such a separation in the dry versus the wet sound.


It explains why you are having difficulties with understanding pre-delay.
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Re: Using reverb properly

Postby EnlightenedHand » Sat Jun 14, 2008 1:14 pm

Now you're being a smart a$$.

I understand predelay. I apparently use it differently than Mike Senior. You don't appear from my perspective to understand what I'm talking about, nor have you demonstrated any knowledge outside of quoting a Sound on Sound contributor,(which is facilitating my current distrust in your argument that seems based on limited credibility). The problem that I see here is that you seem to be describing the use of predelay to simulate early reflections in a reverberant space. I'm suggesting that artificial reverbs aren't that good at reproducing early reflection so I circumvent that issue all together by working with the reverb differently. I've been thorough IMO in explaining my position and I think that you could at least afford everyone the respect of allowing for others to use a feature or tool differently than you do, as I have done for you. Especially when those others have taken the time to explain how and why. I don't see your participation as it is currently in this matter at all helpful or informative. Instead I see it as condescending and mocking in tone. I work at this professionally with record companies,(primarily Universal Records), and with independents. If you intend to be a wise guy then don't hide behind Mike Senior just show yourself and stand on your own mixes.

Furthermore, when working with reverb I choose to apply the effect as a send. So there is the totally unaffected signal, the true "dry" and then there is the effected signal which is a mixture of dry and wet depending upon how one decides to tweak it. Predelay stands only to affect the wet signal. If you are dealing with a completely wet signal for example, then using longer predelay will push the sound further back in the sound space. That is and has been my argument from the beginning. You have yet to address it. You especially don't address it when you choose to reply with prejudiced remarks about me "having trouble understanding predelay".

At any rate the point is to have clear, foward vocals with a reverberant character which I achieve with no problems using the method that I use. It is a fallacy to assume that I have trouble understanding predelay because I use it,(and may very well understand it), differently from your sources. I say stop being insulting and start paying attention to the points in the arguments.

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Re: Using reverb properly

Postby Mike Craig » Sat Jun 14, 2008 1:58 pm

Quote from "The Mixing Engineer's Handbook (Second Edition), by Bobby Owsinski".

"Predelays longer than 100ms (although 250 is where it really kick in) are distinctly heard and begin to push the sound away from the listener.............. When the delay is long and loud, the track sounds far away".
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Re: Using reverb properly

Postby Tui » Sat Jun 14, 2008 1:59 pm

EnlightenedHand, you are one arrogant piece of work. How many times more are you going to refer to your "professional" experience? Do you think this is going to help your argument? Why don't you ask Mike Senior what he meant in his article? You might learn something.

I have given you half a dozen opportunities to study what pre-delay is all about, including giving you references for reading. Instead, you come back every time and repeat your incoherent ramblings about reverb, something you obviously have a hard time understanding. Now, any of that wouldn't matter, if it wasn't so tedious and annoying, having to deal with a poster who continues to disseminate false information. The original poster asked about how to use "reverb properly", and he deserves accurate answers. Do us all a favour and stop pretending you are some kind of second coming of Quincy Jones, which patently you are not. I don't care for your little MP3s, play them to your adoring clients. I care for what anybody with a modicum of sense in the industry says and does.

Besides, what do you think this forum is, a pissing contest? My last commission work was music for radio. Those tunes are being listened to by an estimated 5-10 million people, every week.
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Re: Using reverb properly

Postby EnlightenedHand » Sat Jun 14, 2008 2:01 pm

Tui you're acting like a child projecting your ego insecurities on me and using your radio work as some kind of credible evidence. Let's hear your mix work huh?

Stop crying

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Re: Using reverb properly

Postby Mike Craig » Sat Jun 14, 2008 2:04 pm

PLease children... let's agree to disagree.
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