Reverb Explained

What is reverb? Why should I use it? Whats the best reverb software or hardware to use?

These are the questions we all ask. The answers we get back from magazine articles, company information, other producers, artists, etc… all seem to differ in one way or another and do NOT give straight answers on how to apply the process. Well we are going to try to help explain what and how to use reverb in your productions as easy and quickly as possible.

Reverb by definition is the multiple reflections of a sound nothing more and nothing less. If a sound is made in an environment (room, hall, church, etc.) the sound will reflect off all the surfaces in that environment that can be seen by the object producing the sound (sound basically travels in a straight line.) The sound generated will keep reflecting off the walls until it diminishes to 60 dB less than when it was originally produced/generated. In other words until you can’t hear the original reflected sound.

Below is the basic equation by Sabine to calculate the reverb time of a room if you ever need it.

T60= 0.161 x (V/Sa) metric T60=0.49 x (V/Sa) imperial

T60 = The reverb time

0.161 (0.49) = This is a constant that refers to the speed of sound.

V = The volume of the room.

S = This is a constant number derived with the Sabine value for the material of the surface which can be down loaded for free from hundreds of places on the net.

a = The total surface area of the room.

Right thats the science what the hell is it??

Its the sound that allows you to recognise a room or space. A church, garage, kitchen, bathroom, hospital, school, outdoors, etc. Reverb allows you to place a sound in your music to sound as if its been recorded or played in any room, hall, concert hall in the world or even sound as if its in a railway tunnel, cave or canyon.

Why should I use Reverb?

You should use it because it allows you to give more character, depth and placement within your mix. It also gives more contrast and clarity when used well. Lastly, it gives you more width within your sound making it bigger.

Ok thats sounds great so how can I get those sounds and do I need top name expensive reverbs?

Yes and no is the answer. We all want to get the best if we can afford it and the software available is vast but having used different reverb software and hardware for over 30 years in recording/production I have found that you can get good results from most of them if you know what your doing.

I normally set two sounds. A large reverb and a short reverb and the best way to achieve this is to create and use two aux channels so that you can send an audio feed to them from all active channels. On each aux channel you can place a separate reverb setting. This is done using just one reverb software program as you can open the same program and use it with different settings on each aux channel. For aux 1 use a short reverb from small room to chamber reverb. Aux 2 set to large reverb from small hall to large hall. Once this is done any audio track you have can send an aux feed to the aux channels and using the small and large reverbs together you can create most of the reverb sounds you need for your audio by feeding what ever amount of the original sound in to each reverb setting. The above applies to software and hardware. (Remember that most of the software we use is visually based to mimic studio analogue desks, units, etc, in a recording studio.)

Hopefully the above has helped you in the quest to understand and apply reverb. So now you’re asking. “What reverbs do I use and recommend?”

I use predominately the Lexicon 244 (software) by UAD. It does need the a separate processing unit not the computer to operate which is the solo or due unit by UAD, but this is a plus because it doesn’t affect the computer and cause overloading of its CPU and should run in real time with no latency. But you do not need to have this software or hardware to get the desired result its just a preference. I have used the standard Dverb that comes with protools for years a lot and its ok. Using the technique described above you can get perfect results without having to buy more software/hardware. Download free programs like Reverb SOLO by Acon Digital and just experiment.

Lexicon Reverb Mastering

Final note. Try to think of the reverb sound you want before you apply any, this gives you a goal in your head to achieve rather than applying the reverb and then trying to find the desired sound. Reverb doesn’t need to be heard as an effect it just has to enhance the sound and place it in the mix. Most people go wrong by assuming they have to hear the reverb effect and apply too much. Less is more. Make the reverb process easy by not over thinking it, if you want it to sound like a small room then stick to that.

The very last thing. You hear the name Lexicon a lot when talking about reverb and I have stated that I use a UAD unit with lexicon 244 software. I also have 4 lexicon analogue modules too and have gone through many other modules and makes as well. Lexicon to me and most of the world have the best sounding reverbs this is due to the fact that the algorithms designed to calculate the decay and diffusion sound is patented by lexicon and has been from, So all other companies have to design around there algorithms thus being not as accurate with the sound.

Please feel free to contact me (Luke) at Vega Mastering if you have any questions. I’d be happy to try to answer them for you.