Sound Reverb Guide – What is Reverb?

2infamouz Sound Reverb Guide – What is Reverb?

“Bouncing Off The Walls”

Guide to Sound Reverb Part 1:

Before you start throwing crazy reverbs on all your tracks, it’ll help to understand what reverb is. Reverberation (reverb) is basically hundreds of variations of the same sound reflecting back off of surfaces in a room. If you’ve ever yelled in a large room like an auditorium then you’ve already experienced natural reverberation.

When a sound is emitted from any source in a room it travels at 700+ miles an hour and bounces off all the surfaces of the room (walls, cieling, counters, floor, doors, etc) and returns back at different delayed times causing the effect we call “reverb”. Reverb units in a recording studio emulate natural reverb in a way that you can control all the parameters and allow you to create your own virtual room for sound to bounce around in.

Don’t over do it

Because reverb turns one sound source into hundreds of sounds it can take up a lot of room in your mix. When you add too much reverb you can create the problem of “masking”. Typically a little bit goes a long way and adding subtle reverb is much more effective than creating a virtual grand canyon between your speakers and losing all the sounds in your mix. Another way to avoid masking issues is to mainly use higher frequency reverbs since lower frequency sounds take up more space in a mix than high frequencies.

Guide to Reverb Part 2:

classik reverb plugin image

(Ever wonder what those knobs really do?)

Digital Reverb Parameters:

Below you’ll find a list of common parameters you can change on a reverb unit and what they do. Most of the changes you make within a reverb unit are audibly noticeable, so anyone that’s played around with reverb has some idea of what the various knobs do. The goal of this guide is to help you have a complete understanding so you can apply reverb more effectively to your mixes and not have to guess and check until it sounds right.

Reverb Time (or just “time”) :

- This one’s pretty self explanatory: The duration that the reverb lasts. A higher reverb time equals a longer reverb, a lower reverb time equals a shorter reverb.

- Typically the faster the tempo of your song the shorter you want your reverb to last and vice versa. Try playing with the time to make it sit better in your mix and line up with the rest of the song so it doesn’t sound too out of place.

Room Type (or just “Room”) :

- This allows you to choose what type of room your are trying to emulate your sound bouncing around in. Different rooms create different reverb effects. Think of how a noise sounds when it echos in a long hallway as opposed to a small bathroom. Try switching between different room types to see what one stands out better in your mix.

Reverb Diffusion :

- Diffusion effects the “density” of reverb echoes. The more diffusion of the echoes the harder it is to make out what the echo is, while lower diffusion makes the echo more comprehensible.

- Basically a higher diffusion means more echoes at the same time. If you’ve ever heard 10 people try to talk at the same time, you probably know how hard it is to make out anything they are saying. On the other hand typically you can understand one person speaking unless they speak a different language or suffer from severe autism.

ex: Low diffusion – Hello Hello Hello…

ex: High diffusion – Hlll Hlloo hlo…

Reverb Predelay Time (or just “Delay”) :

- When a sound is generated in a real room it doesn’t instantly bounce back off of the surfaces of the room. The sound has to travel to the surface then travel back. The predelay on a digital reverb unit/plugin emulates the time it takes for the sound to travel and sets the duration of silence between the original sound and the reverb.

- Changing the delay is basically like making the room bigger or smaller, since it will take sound a longer time to travel back and forth in a large room than a small room. If your delay time is too short the reverb will blend in with the dry sound and really just sound like it got stretched out instead of sounding like a natural reverb sound. Anything less then 1ms can cause phase cancellation and should be avoided.

- When you’re setting longer delays you want to make sure and line the timing up with the rest of your song so it doesn’t sound way out of place.


Additional Notes :

If you plan on using real rooms to create a reverb effect you should look into other guides since you can’t turn a knob in real life and adjust a rooms size or the density of it’s surfaces.You can utilize a “ms” delay chart to determine which delay setting will fit with the tempo of a song or project. When you have gotten down the basics of implementing reverb in your mix you should also look into applying EQ to your reverb and different methods of implementing equalization to reverb and the dry signal before it passes through a reverberation unit.


Some Other Common Reverb Questions:

What is sound reverberation? Sound reverb is the effect of sound waves bouncing off surfaces in a room. It can be emulated with numerous different devices and is much more affordable for home studio owners with the release of digital reverb units.

What is a sound reverb plugin? A plugin that emulates sound reverberation is basically a software version of a digital reverb unit. It can typically be used in your DAW in one of several formats which commonly include VST and AU, and several others as well.

Is an echo really just sound reverb? A reverb with a long delay and low diffusion would essentially emulate an “echo” type of effect. Time based effects like a simple “delay” unit would make it easier to create an echo effect, but in some ways, yes, an echo is reverberation.

How was reverb used in studios before digital reverb units and reverb plugins? Back in the day reverb was created by hooking up a metal spring between a pickup and a transducer, which then would pick up the vibrations of the spring, creating a reverb effect. You can still find spring / plate type of reverb units in some studios, and the price of some of these units was in the thousands.


January 19, 2013 Mixing and Effects 1 Comment

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