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Foundations of Audio: Reverb
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Mastering reverb time, predelay, and wet/dry mix parameters


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Foundations of Audio: Reverb

with Alex U. Case

Video: Mastering reverb time, predelay, and wet/dry mix parameters

There's a long list of essential parameters that you'll find on most reverbs. Reverb Time, Pre-Delay, Wet/Dry Mix, these are universal. Most reverbs then offer some form of frequency-based adjustability to the reverb, and there are a handful of other parameters found only on certain mix and models of reverb, such as density, diffusion, and room size. These parameters must be understood before we can take on the high-level musical and technical challenge of making reverbs an asset in our mix.
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  1. 9m 41s
    1. Welcome
      1m 58s
    2. What you need to know before watching this course
      2m 18s
    3. Songs you should listen to while watching this course
      2m 46s
    4. Using the exercise files
      55s
    5. Using the Get in the Mix session files
      1m 44s
  2. 6m 44s
    1. What is reverb?
      2m 35s
    2. Why do we use reverb?
      4m 9s
  3. 24m 33s
    1. Capturing reverb acoustically through room tracks
      5m 33s
    2. Creating reverb acoustically through a reverb chamber
      2m 51s
    3. Creating reverb mechanically using springs and plates
      5m 8s
    4. Creating reverb digitally via algorithms and convolution
      4m 51s
    5. Optimizing signal flow, effects loops, and CPU resources
      6m 10s
  4. 39m 10s
    1. The anatomy of reverberation
      3m 8s
    2. Mastering reverb time, predelay, and wet/dry mix parameters
      5m 36s
    3. Understanding the frequency dependence of reverberation
      4m 56s
    4. Tapping into advanced parameters such as diffusion, density, and more
      4m 37s
    5. Reference values from the best orchestra halls
      5m 40s
    6. Hearing beyond the basic parameters
      5m 31s
    7. Touring the interfaces for six reverb plugins
      9m 42s
  5. 1h 32m
    1. Choosing the right reverb for each of your tracks
      2m 17s
    2. Simulating space with reverb
      5m 42s
    3. Hearing space in the mix
      6m 33s
    4. Timbre and texture
      3m 36s
    5. Shaping tone and timbre with reverb
      5m 49s
    6. Creating contrasting sounds for your tracks
      4m 43s
    7. Using nonlinear reverb to help a track cut through
      4m 25s
    8. Emphasizing the reverb using predelay
      3m 24s
    9. Strategically blurring and obscuring tracks
      1m 46s
    10. Get in the Mix: Changing the scene by changing reverb
      7m 37s
    11. Get in the Mix: Gating reverb to emphasize any track in your production
      5m 52s
    12. Reversing reverb to highlight musical moments
      9m 36s
    13. Synthesizing new sounds through reverb
      6m 42s
    14. Get in the Mix: Supporting a track with regenerative reverb
      6m 31s
    15. Getting the most out of room tracks
      17m 39s
  6. 11m 32s
    1. Setting up your own reverb chamber: The architecture
      2m 2s
    2. Setting up your own reverb chamber: The audio
      4m 8s
    3. Using convolution correctly
      2m 32s
    4. Getting great impluse response
      2m 50s
  7. 1m 29s
    1. Next steps
      1m 29s

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Foundations of Audio: Reverb
3h 5m Appropriate for all Dec 14, 2012 Updated Jan 24, 2014

Viewers: in countries Watching now:

This installment of Foundations of Audio explains one of the most essential ingredients in audio mixing, reverb—the time it takes for sound to bounce, echo, and decay during a live performance or recording. Reverb gives a natural richness to your recordings, which is possible to reproduce. Producer and audio engineer Alex U. Case covers the acoustic, mechanical, and digital means for creating reverb, and charts the parameters (room size, density, etc.) you'll need to know to take advantage of the original recording space and enhance it in post. He then shows how to simulate reverb digitally with effects, adding timbre, texture, and contrast, and improve the sound of your mixes with a sense of space and depth.

These techniques can be practiced with the free Get in the Mix sessions, currently available for Pro Tools and Logic Pro.

Topics include:
  • What is reverb?
  • Understanding how acoustic reverb works in rooms
  • Working with the signal flow, effects loops, and available CPU resources
  • Understanding core parameters, like reverb time and pre-delay
  • Simulating space
  • Creating nonlinear reverb
  • Building pre-delay effects
  • Using reverse reverb
  • Using convolution correctly
Subjects:
Audio + Music DAWs Mixing Music Production Audio Plug-Ins Audio Foundations Mastering
Software:
Logic Pro Pro Tools
Author:
Alex U. Case

Mastering reverb time, predelay, and wet/dry mix parameters

There's a long list of essential parameters that you'll find on most reverbs. Reverb Time, Pre-Delay, Wet/Dry Mix, these are universal. Most reverbs then offer some form of frequency-based adjustability to the reverb, and there are a handful of other parameters found only on certain mix and models of reverb, such as density, diffusion, and room size. These parameters must be understood before we can take on the high-level musical and technical challenge of making reverbs an asset in our mix.

Top of the list is reverb Time. Reverb Time describes the duration of the wash of reverberant energy. The industry standard is to use something called RT60. RT60 measures the amount of time it takes for the reverb to decay by 60 dB. Let's compare a couple of Reverb Time settings using this snare drum sound. (music playing) First, let's hear a long Reverb Time like 2.5 seconds.

(music playing) With the Reverb Time of 2.5 seconds, it takes about 2.5 seconds for the snare sound to decay to silence. Now we will shorten the Reverb Time from 2.5 to one second. (music playing) Clearly the reverb doesn't last as long, the Reverb Time is shorter. This is one of the most fundamental, defining characteristics that you'll have to specify when you use reverb. To my ear, the first example seems to have too much reverb for most music that I can think of.

But was that short reverb enough? We will forever be trying to balance too much reverb versus too little reverb, and it's not easy to solve. If you want more reverb, do you lengthen the Reverb Time or do you simply raise the faders and make the reverb louder? If you want less reverb, do you achieve that by shortening the Reverb Time or turning down the faders? It seems so simple at first, but you will find even this simple question, how much reverb, is tricky to get right. Expect at first to navigate a steep learning curve, allow yourself to make some mistakes with too much reverb here, not enough reverb there.

We learn from these mistakes when we listen carefully to our mix the next day, undistracted by the DAW. Eventually I assure you, you'll get it all under control. Moving on to the next parameter, we have Pre-Delay. Pre-Delay is that gap in time between the direct sound and the onset of the reverb tail. You can specify a Pre-Delay as short as zero milliseconds, which will effectively make the reverb tail happen as soon as the sound begins, or you can stretch it out to 10, 20, or 30 milliseconds, which is more typical of a real space like a concert hall.

Or you can lengthen it further still up to 50, 100, or 200 milliseconds or more to create an unusual dramatic reverberation effect. See if you can hear the effect as I take the Pre-Delay on the reverb of this snare from 0, to 20, to 120 milliseconds. (music playing) It's important to note, we haven't changed the Reverb Time at all in this example, only the Pre-Delay, only that brief window in time between when the music happens and the reverb begins.

The sound quality that results is complicated to sort through. In later movies in this course we will do exactly that. We'll learn how reverb adjusted through Pre-Delay can be used to fine-tune the timbre of the snare, to create a more realistic spatial quality around the snare, or to lead to a more theatrical embellishment of the snare. I should make quick mention of the important parameter known as Wet/Dry Mix. We talked a little bit about this earlier in the course. The Wet/Dry Mix is essentially the relative level of the reverb or an output of your processor that's the wet part compared to the direct sound itself, the dry part.

Wet/Dry Mix parameters are provided on reverbs, because sometimes the recording engineer puts the reverb on an insert on an individual track and needs to establish the relative level of reverb versus dry signal in the reverb processor itself, but most of the time we get reverb into our mix using the far more efficient Send/Return Effects Loop. In this case we set the Wet/Dry Mix to 100% wet. We actually mixed the wet reverb with the dry tracks in the mixer, not in the plug-in or processor.

We have faders controlling the dry tracks, and we've separate faders controlling the level of the reverb returning to our mix. As you'll see in the rest of this course, we almost always use Send/Return Effects Loops, so almost always leave the Wet/Dry Mix at 100% wet. reverb Time, Pre-Delay, and Wet/Dry Mix are three essential parameters. We also shape reverb in the frequency domain, we cover that next.

Find answers to the most frequently asked questions about Foundations of Audio: Reverb.


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Q: This course was updated on 4/16/2013. What changed
A: We added a bonus chapter, "Advanced Reverb Techniques," with new movies on setting up your own reverb chamber, using convolution to simulate a space, and getting great impulse responses.
Q: This course was updated on 01/24/2014. What changed?
 A: The Get in the Mix videos have been updated to the most recent version of Pro Tools. Also, the course now includes free Get in the Mix sessions for two more DAWs: Logic Pro X and Pro Tools 11.
 
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