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Foundations of Audio: Reverb
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Optimizing signal flow, effects loops, and CPU resources


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Foundations of Audio: Reverb

with Alex U. Case

Video: Optimizing signal flow, effects loops, and CPU resources

When using any type of effect like reverb, there are two ways to add the effect on to the track. You can insert a plug-in or outboard unit on each and every track that needs it, or you can setup an Effects Loop that makes that reverb accessible by any and all tracks in your project. When using reverb, the preferred choice is almost always the Effects Loop, for three reasons. One, similar reverb effects are often used on multiple tracks, that is you'll often want to put several tracks in a mix into the same sounding space.
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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

Optimizing signal flow, effects loops, and CPU resources

When using any type of effect like reverb, there are two ways to add the effect on to the track. You can insert a plug-in or outboard unit on each and every track that needs it, or you can setup an Effects Loop that makes that reverb accessible by any and all tracks in your project. When using reverb, the preferred choice is almost always the Effects Loop, for three reasons. One, similar reverb effects are often used on multiple tracks, that is you'll often want to put several tracks in a mix into the same sounding space.

This can help glue your mix together making it more cohesive. Second, reverb effects can eat up a lot of computer processing resources, so utilizing one reverb effect for multiple tracks instead of dedicating one to each track is much less taxing on your computer. Third, effects loops help with workflow efficiency when mixing, you can be more creative and more productive when you have several reverb choices ready at your fingertips. Now let's setup a reverb effects loop on a vocal track, so you can see how this works.

The vocal track is routed to the main Outputs this is called the Dry or Unaffected Signal. There's no reverb on this track. Here's what the dry vocal sounds like. (music playing) Then we create a Send on the vocal track. This Send taps into the vocal track makes a copy of it and routes the copy with adjustable level to another track.

In this case, the signal is routed to an AUX input that has a reverb effect on it. This is often called the Effects Return, because it returns the output of the reverb back into the mix in parallel with the original dry track. The effected signal is said to be wet. Here's what the completely wet track sounds like it's the source track totally awash in reverb. (music playing) With the unprocessed track on one fader and the reverb return on another, we can mix the dry and wet signals together to taste.

Turn up the return to add more effect to the mix, turn it down for less. (music playing) reverb affects devices and plug-ins almost always give you control over the amount of dry signal and the amount of wet signal at their output. Using either a single Wet/Dry Mix control or two individual faders, one controlling the dry level, the other the wet level.

The Wet/Dry Mix describes the relative level of effects, versus unprocessed sound where 100% means it's all reverb with no dry signal. While 0% means it's all dry source signal with no reverb at all. The standard practice is to set the internal Wet/Dry Mix parameter to 100% wet, when using reverb on an AUX input in an effects loop. That is the signal will be 100% wet when it comes out of the reverb processor, that's what we heard in the previous audio example on the wet track.

Keeping the dry and wet signals separate makes the mixing easier. At the dry fader you control the clarity of the track in the mix. With the wet fader you independently control the amount of reverb added to the mix. With this effects loop setup, we can use an effect Send to add the same reverb to any and all tracks in our mix. For example, maybe the snare drum would sound great with the same reverb that's on the vocal track just create a Send on the snare track, route it to the same reverb Return, adjust the Send level of the snare track, and you're good to go.

It's an elegant setup, but one that can take some time to get your head around. In fact, if you're just learning about this topic, and you like to see detailed instructions on how to setup an effects loop in your particular DAW, check out the Essential Training Course for your DAW in the lynda library. Here's an example in Pro Tools where I've got three reverb return tracks. One with a whole reverb, one with a plate reverb, and one with a convolution reverb. All tracks have Sends setup so that I can route any of the dry signals to any of the reverb effects, simply by turning up the Send level.

Here's that same setup in Logic Pro. Setting these reverb effects loop up before you start a mix, means that the most important moments of your mix session, those moments when you need to solve a tricky problem or create a whole new sound, those moments can happen without distraction. The DAW will let you hook up a reverb anyway you want using a Send/Return Effects Loop or an Insert. So I just want to emphasize that while an Insert is quick and easy and seems fine at first, it's really not the right way to add reverb effects.

Using an Insert instead of an effects loop, robs you of the chance to share a reverb among multiple tracks, which in turn slows you down when you really get into your mix and perhaps most importantly, it wastes precious computing power that will limit you elsewhere in your mix. The Send/Return Effects Loop is the smarter way to go. You and I, making multitrack recordings have so many choices and so much control over reverb, we can take our mix to any space in the world. We have the creative freedom to use acoustic, mechanical, or digital reverbs.

We get to view it as an added instrument, we can compose it into the recording, there're mainly opportunities and few limits. For instance, the drums could live in a medium room, while the vocal could sound as if it's in an empty oil tanker. We don't make one reverb decision, we make many dozens of reverb decisions, all for a single tune. To make sense of it, we need to break the vague concept of reverb into some knowable, measurable qualities. Throughout the next chapter, we'll dig into the essential properties and parameters of reverb that we can manipulate in order to tailor reverb to our production.

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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