Space Exploration

Sonar Tips & Tecniques

Published in SOS August 2013
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Technique : Sonar Notes

Create new and unusual effects with Sonar X2's Breverb Plug-in.

Craig Anderton

The Sonar X2 update added the Breverb algorithmic reverb, which offers a more open, airy sound than the venerable Sonitus:fx Reverb, and also complements the Perfect Space convolution-based reverb. While featuring the same basic control complement as other algorithmic reverbs, Breverb can be combined with other plug-ins and techniques to produce some truly novel effects. What's more, while the techniques outlined here are optimised for Sonar X2 and Breverb, many of them are based on principles that can easily be adapted to other reverbs, and even other DAWs.

Wider Breverb

This can produce dramatic stereo imaging with mono sources panned to centre, such as vocals or snare drum:

  • With Breverb in a send bus, insert the Channel Tools plug-in after Breverb.
  • Enable the Channel Tools Pre or Post button for Delay, make sure Link is not enabled.
  • Increase the delay for one of the channels. Choose a value between 20ms and 60ms, so there's sufficient delay to differentiate the channels, but not so much that you hear a discrete echo.

1. Following the Breverb with Channel Tools, with one of its channels delayed, gives a wider reverb that can add a super-stereo effect to mono signals.1. Following the Breverb with Channel Tools, with one of its channels delayed, gives a wider reverb that can add a super-stereo effect to mono signals.The longer the delay, the greater the apparent width, which will be much wider than usual. With mono signal sources panned to centre, this technique keeps the reverb out of the centre so that it provides ambience without stepping on the vocal. However, it can still be very useful with stereo sounds when you want to emphasise the stereo spread.

Big Drum Reverb

This technique, which transposes a copy of the reverb and pans the tracks in opposition, works best with unpitched sounds like percussion. Insert Breverb on its own Send bus. You'll need to bounce the reverb sound without any dry signal so that the reverb is on its own track; there are several ways to do this. Probably the simplest way is as follows:

  • Solo the track to which you want to add reverb.
  • Choose Tracks / Bounce to Track(s).
  • Select Buses for the Source Category.
  • Highlight only the bus with the Breverb plug-in in the Source Buses/Tracks box.
  • Click OK. You now have a new track with only the reverb sound for the soloed track.
  • Copy the reverb track by selecting it and then choosing Tracks / Clone Track(s).
  • Select the cloned reverb track and then choose Process / Transpose.
  • Select -1 semitone for the Amount, making sure Transpose Audio is ticked.
  • Click OK.
  • Pan the two reverb tracks oppositely (don't forget to disable the send to the Breverb from the audio track), and enjoy a big, wide reverb sound.

Note that it's possible to use this idea with some melodic parts if you transpose by -7 semitones to produce a reverb clip that's a fifth below the other reverb clip.

De-Percussivator

This effect creates a very smooth, even, liquid reverb that flattens percussive peaks. The secret is to place the Sonitus:fx Reverb before the Breverb; as with the previous examples, this uses a separate Send bus. Try it with guitar: 2. Placing the Sonitus:fx Reverb and Breverb in series produces some highly unusual and very smooth reverb effects.2. Placing the Sonitus:fx Reverb and Breverb in series produces some highly unusual and very smooth reverb effects.

    • From the Breverb Plate bank, load the Acoustic Guitar Room preset.
    • Adjust the Sonitus settings as shown in screenshot 2.
    • Mix in the reverb sound only, not the dry or early reflections sound. This basically 'flattens' the reverb's percussive nature, giving an indistinct, distant wash of sound that can be extremely effective when the part is playing in isolation.

Resonator Reverb

It's possible to combine resonance with reverb, and you can even achieve some interesting spring reverb-type sounds with sufficient tweaking. This technique works best with percussive parts (including ones with melodies), but be adventurous and see what else you can conjure up. 3. By adjusting the Predelay time, you can set the 'pitch' of the reverb's resonator. A calculator definitely comes in handy!3. By adjusting the Predelay time, you can set the 'pitch' of the reverb's resonator. A calculator definitely comes in handy!

You must use the Hall algorithm for this effect, as it's the only one with dual Regeneration parameters. A good starting point is the 80s-90s preset bank, from which you can load the 'HiT Snare' preset. Click on the Pre tab and set the Regen L and Regen R controls to 100 percent. If the reverb is on an aux bus, set Dry level to zero.

Set Predelay for the desired pitch; if you assign keystrokes to the plug-in when it has the focus (click the little keyboard in the Breverb's upper right), you can type in values until you obtain the right pitch (for example, 7.65ms for C). If you're not afraid of maths, use the formula 1/[frequency in Hz] = [period in seconds]. For example, the period of A = 440Hz is (1/440) = 0.00227 seconds, or 2.27ms. As that's a fairly high frequency, you might prefer an octave lower (2 x 2.27 = 4.54ms) or two octaves lower (4 x 2.27 = 9.08 ms).

Gourmet Gated Reverb

I particularly like this technique with sparse hip-hop parts, or applied to individual drum hits (snare, for example). But, as usual, there are plenty of other options. I've even used it on some background vocals and rhythm guitar parts: 4. Note the two sends from the drum track; one feeds the Breverb bus, while the other terminates in the Sonitus:fx Gate's side-chain input.4. Note the two sends from the drum track; one feeds the Breverb bus, while the other terminates in the Sonitus:fx Gate's side-chain input.

      • Create a reverb bus.
      • Insert Breverb, then Sonitus:fx Gate.
      • Create two pre (not post) sends from the track to which you want to apply the gated reverb. One should go directly to the reverb Send bus, and the other to the Gate's side-chain input. When the track has audio, it opens the gate and lets through the reverb.

For best results, you want a smooth-sounding reverb with a long tail. From the Hall bank, call up the 'Ball Room' patch, click on the Main tab, and then increase the Time parameter to around 10 seconds. Set size to 50 percent or so. (The 'De-Percussivator' technique of placing a Sonitus reverb in front of the Breverb works well for this application, as it gives a very smooth tail.)

The Gate parameters have a huge influence on the sound. For a traditional gated sound, set the Hold to around 200ms and Decay to about 40ms. The shorter the Decay, the more abrupt the gating will be. A tiny bit of Attack (around 4-5ms) can avoid stepping on a percussive sound's attack.

Adjust the Threshold for reliable triggering, and Depth to how much you want the reverb attenuated when the Gate is closed. Adjust the amount of dry signal with the original audio track's Volume slider, and the wet signal at the Breverb or with the Send bus's Volume.

We still have one more trick up our sleeves: delaying the gated reverb with the Breverb Predelay control. For best results, the Gate's hold time needs to be more than the amount of Predelay. To sync the timing to tempo, use the formula (60,000/[tempo in BPM]) = [duration of a quarter note in ms]. This technique works well for short delays, such as 16th or 8th notes.

For longer delays, insert the Tempo Delay — set for delayed sound only — after the Gate in the reverb bus. Adding feedback to the delay can also create some really cool effects, especially if you take advantage of the Tempo Delay's filtering in the delay's feedback path (choose the filter type with the EQ Mode control, and vary the filtering characteristics with the Low, Mid and High controls).

Against The Grain

Inverse reverb algorithms often suffer from a kind of grainy quality, but it's possible to fake a much smoother sound using this special gated reverb technique.

Use the same setup as above, but adjust the gate Attack and Hold times so that they have the same value. The Attack gives the 'inverse' effect (don't overlook the potential of short values, such as around 50 to 60 ms, although longer times, such as 200 to 500 ms, provide a more traditional effect). Note that the Threshold setting is critical; it has to be high enough so that triggering doesn't occur all the time. Otherwise, there's no silent space that allows the attack to re-trigger on the next transient. This technique works best with individual drum hits, sparse drum parts, and choppy rhythm guitar.    .


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