Coloring Your Sound With Reverb: Part 1 – Convolution Reverb

Coloring Your Sound With Reverb

With so many different reverb options available, it can sometimes be hard to know where to begin. This series will focus on helping you make your reverb decisions more efficiently by identifying the function of every component, one at a time.

Sounds | Controls | Tips & Tricks

The Sounds

In convolution reverb, microphones capture the sound of an environment’s response to a full spectrum of frequencies, known as an Impulse Response (IR). Then, the resulting .wav file is introduced back into a convolution plugin – in this case ReMatrix Solo. The plugin plays the incoming audio, say your drum track, “through” the IR. This type of reverb is great for adding realistic ambience to dry sounding tracks.

Depending on the shape and material of the walls, ceiling, floor, and furniture in the sampled environment, different frequencies may be absorbed or reflected faster or slower than others. This is what gives any reverb its own characteristic sound. For example, a concert hall with hard, dense walls and plastic seats will have a much longer decay in high-frequency content than a living room with relatively soft wooden walls and a cushioned couch.

ReMatrix Solo recognizes 5 different categories of IRs: Hall, Room, Plate, Early, and Special. Let’s take a look at the characteristics of each of these.

Hall

Hall Reverb ExampleThe first thing you’re likely to notice about Hall reverbs is that they’re usually longer than other types–about 2 seconds or more. This is because halls are rather large spaces with lots of room for sound to bounce around. Like great prose or a fine wine, reverb has a beginning, middle, and end. For reverb, we’ll refer to these as “Early Reflections,” “Body,” and “Decay (or Tail).” Common Hall reverb characteristics include an audible array of early reflections (more on this later), a dense, sustained body, and a smooth, often dark decay.

Here are some sonic examples of applications of Hall Reverb:

  • If you listen carefully, you’ll notice the snare’s attack is quite present in the reverb itself.
  • The guitar in this example loses some presence due to the heavy wash of conflicting frequencies.
  • In the vocals, most of the consonants are lost to the diffusion, resulting in a reverb body consisting mostly of vowel sounds.

Room

Room Reverb ExampleRoom reverb times are much shorter than halls, due mostly to their smaller size. These will normally range between about a half-a-second to a few seconds. Rooms are often a bit “darker” sounding than most halls, since the size and materials are prone to more high-frequency absorption. However, any variations in size and material are going to have a large impact on the resulting reverberations, so you can expect much variation from one Room sound to the next. One may have almost no early reflections, a smooth body and quick decay, while another might have a booming attack, and thick body that slowly fades away.

Here are the same tracks as above, but with some Room reverb applied:

  • The snare sound gains a presence boost from the stronger midrange information of this reverb.
  • The guitar fits nicely with this reverb due to the dense and diffuse body.
  • Notice how the vocal reverb now sounds like each word smears together, rather than just the vowel sounds in the hall example.

Plate

Plate Reverb ExampleA plate reverb is a mechanical device that vibrates in response to an audio signal being passed through it. It has transducers that send and receive the signal, and a damping pad to adjust the length of the reverb. These reverbs are often a half-second to a few seconds in length, and have almost no early reflections, but a substantial body and gentle decay. Because of this, it’s not uncommon to see large amounts of predelay added to this reverb type.

Once again, the same tracks as above, but with Plate reverb applied:

  • This reverb is quite bright. The snare gains a lush high end that otherwise is rather lacking
  • You’ll notice that the guitar sounds a bit harsh running through this particular plate sound.
  • The vocals have a bit of an “airy lift” to them, but sibilant sounds (S’s and T’s, for example) might need to be carved out with an EQ to avoid a similar harshness to the guitars.

Early

Early Reflections Reverb ExampleThis one is sort of unique to ReMatrix. Nearly every type of reverb has early reflections, but this particular category isolates them as their own entity. Early reflections, as shown in the diagram below, are the sounds that you hear most immediately after the direct signal, usually within the first 60-80ms. For that reason, they have an almost imperceptible body and decay. Don’t let the short time fool you, though; these reverbs can introduce very unique and desirable sonic characters to any sound.

Reverb Early Reflections

Here are some examples of early reflections applied to our drum, guitar, and vocal tracks:

Short and sweet, Early Reflections are fantastic for bringing a sound to the forefront while still maintaining a sense of depth and “live-ness.”

Special

Special Reverb ExampleThis is where all the outliers are found. These IRs include reverse reverbs, modulated sounds, and more. The modulated sounds are typically .wav files that have been modified in some way with another effect like an automated filter, a delay, some kind of pan effect, or just about anything else. Since there are no real rules to this IR type, there’s not much explaining to do here, so let’s jump right into some examples.

  • The snare, high in transient information, also yields an interesting result with the panning echoes.
  • The busy guitar covers up much of the effect, and you’re just as well reaching for a more suitable reverb program
  • The vocals play quite nicely through it, sounding like a high-feedback slapback delay with some sort of weird FM filtering.
  • This type of reverb may not fit so well in every mix you do, and the effect may not always be apparent, but it can bring a bit of spice to an otherwise dull part.

The Controls

Time

Reverb TimeThis is the length of the reverb. Whenever you see a time control on a reverb, it is measured in RT60, or amount of time it takes for the reverb to be 60dB lower than its original level. Note that when you load a preset or IR in ReMatrix Solo, this setting adjusts to the IR’s original intended RT60 time. Be careful when making adjustments to this as it can sometimes make the reverb sound “chopped” or produce undesired artifacts.Reverb Time RT60

Delay

Reverb Pre-Delay This is the Pre-Delay, or amount of time before the reverb signal is produced. For example, if your song is 120bpm and you want an eighth note’s worth of time between the dry snare hit and the wet reverb signal, you would set this value to 250ms. This is useful for when your original signal starts to sound oversaturated by the reverb. Providing a bit of time between the original signal and the reverb signal gives a sense of distance and depth.

Helpful Hint: 1 ms of pre-delay is equal to about 1 foot of distance from the source. 

Reverb Pre-Delay

Stereo

Reverb Stereo Width ControlThis knob controls the stereo width of the reverb. A value of 0% will be “mostly” mono. A value of 100% provides an extremely wide stereo image, and dipping into negative values results in an extremely collapsed reverb sound. Try a variety of settings–this parameter has an incredible ability to create a very realistic and controlled sense of space for your reverb.

EQ Gain

Reverb EQ Gain ControlThis is, quite simply, the amount of gain applied at the EQ Freq setting. This applies only to the reverb return signal itself, so adding a high shelf to the snare reverb does not add the high shelf to the snare, just the snare’s reverb.

EQ Freq

Reverb EQ Frequency ControlIf you would like to apply a band of EQ to your reverb signal, this is the place to do it. This setting will determine the center frequency of your EQ adjustment. This is useful when you want to modify the coloration of the reverb, or to help it fit more neatly into your mix.

EQ Q

Reverb EQ Q ControlAs with any Q setting, this is the width of the EQ band you’re applying to your EQ signal.
Hi-Shelf affects frequencies at and above the EQ Freq setting
LPF (Low-Pass Filter) cuts all frequencies below the EQ Freq setting
– Numbers indicate a Band Pass filter — your standard bell-curve EQ. A smaller number creates a wider bell curve, and a larger number creates a very narrow curve.

Dry/Wet

Reverb Dry Wet MixerThis is the blend of original, unprocessed signal and “wet,” processed reverb signal. A common workflow would be to create a send on the track to which you wish to apply reverb. Set up the send to go to an aux track, and add the ReMatrix ProChannel module to the Aux Track. Set the Dry/Wet slider to 100% wet. Now, your original track is still totally dry, and the aux track is only the reverb signal. To blend, simply adjust the send level from the original track. More send level = more reverb.


Tips & Tricks:

  • Play around with settings and presets to get the most out of your reverb plugins! The sound examples demonstrated one of many different configurations for each reverb type.
  • Be conservative — too much reverb can leave your mix sounding distant and oversaturated.
  • Be judicious – in most cases, it’s not a good idea to apply reverb to every track.
  • Send, not Insert. 9 times out of 10, you’ll have a better experience with separate source and reverb tracks. See the Dry/Wet section for more info.
  • Use “just enough” reverb: Solo your source and reverb tracks, and bring up the send level until the reverb is audible. Then, bring it back down 1 dB or so and move on.
  • Use your EQ. The built-in EQ on ReMatrix is great for adding color or carving out some space, but don’t be afraid to add another EQ to your reverb track to tailor it further to fit your mix.
  • Play with dynamics. Applying Compression, Gating, and Side-Chaining to reverb tracks can result in some really useful and interesting effects.
  • Pan your return. A guitar panned left with its reverb panned right can increase the apparent space the instrument occupies
  • Not all reverbs will work for your track. It’s well worth the time investment to find the one that best suits your production.
  • Don’t write off the harsher sounds. You may notice some IRs sound “better” than others, but the ones that sound “bad” when soloed tend to stand out better in a dense mix.
  • It doesn’t need to be realistic for it to be pleasant. It’s okay to have your vocals in a hall, your snare in a dark room, your toms running through a plate, and your kazoo in a bright room.
  • Automate the send. Reverb doesn’t have to be on all the time. Automate the send to apply reverb only to certain words, licks, or sections to add motion and excitement to your mix.

You can try REmatrix Solo for yourself in SONAR Professional and SONAR Platinum.

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Below the video, you’ll also find a helpful updated list of key features, a downloadable chart, and links to learn more about the compressors that do not come standard with SONAR Platinum. If you’re not familiar many compressor plugins, I recommend starting here.

It’s worth noting that this video demonstrates a limited scope of each compressor’s capabilities. Since the compressor is being used to level out a vocal performance, each one has been set up optimally for the application, usually with a low ratio and fairly fast attack and release wherever applicable.

Every possible measure was taken to keep the responses and output levels of each compressor as uniform as possible so that the shootout makes for a consistent apples-to-apples comparison. In the future, keep an eye out for more of these shootouts, as the same tools might have totally different effects on a snare drum, acoustic guitar, electric bass, or saxophone.

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Looking for some advanced, interesting, or downright weird ways to use the new Patch Points feature? Here you go:

Signal Splitter

Suppose you want to split one track to several outputs, for example to do multiband processing. Here’s how:

SONAR Patch Points Splitter

The Dry track output goes to Patch Point 1 instead of the master bus. Five tracks, each of which filters a different band of frequencies, have their inputs set to Patch Point 1. The Dry track now feeds all five channels simultaneously. Placing all these tracks inside a track folder makes it easy to fold them up when you want a tidier setup.
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With the advent of digital audio, some feel a certain quality associated with the analog signal path has been lost. While that may have been true at one point, analog emulations have come a long way since first introduced. Let’s find out how to add that “analog sound” using some of SONAR’s plugins. (Note: Many of the following examples use features are exclusive to SONAR Platinum, so if you don’t already have this version, you can try a free demo by clicking here.)

#5 – ProChannel Tape Emulation

Tape Emulator Gif

Tape does some pretty magical things to audio, so SONAR Platinum includes tape emulation as a ProChannel module. Best  of all,  you can use it as much as you like without having to clean the heads!

Here’s how tape emulation enhances the sound:

  • Emulates the “head bump” of analog tape to enrich the low end, adding subtle warmth
  • Smooths response by slightly rolling off lowest lows and highest highs
  • Increases sustain by smoothing peaks
  • Saturates the signal in a non-linear, analog manner
  • Optionally introduces high-frequency hiss

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Using Cakewalk Drum Replacer: The “Right” Way and The “Other” Way

The “Right” Way:

There’s more than one way to use Drum Replacer to trigger your drum sounds. Which of these you choose will depend on the material, as well as your preferred outcome and workflow. First, let’s take a look at some of the intended, more traditional uses of Drum Replacer.

A mixed drum track or loop

A fairly standard Drum Replacer use is to augment or altogether change the drum sounds on an already-mixed drum track. The examples below play an unprocessed SONAR drum loop, followed by the same loop reinforced by Drum Replacer.

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Making The New York Impulse Pack for the SONAR “Braintree” Release

by Dan Gonzalez

Impulse responses (IRs) are small bursts of audio data that represent the frequency response of a real life space. By using convolution reverbs we can use them creatively in our productions to increase depth and ambience.

 

The concept

To accurately represent a real life space, you need to excite it with a frequency sweep or a loud sound rich in complex frequencies like a starter pistol or snare drum hit. For my IR samples in the New York Impulse Pack I used a sine sweep. The sine sweep is the easiest way to make sure you get an accurate representation of a space.

Once you capture that space, you must process it with a utility that shortens the
frequency sweep into a state that convolution reverbs can use. Typically this audio data is no more than a split second long.

I used this workflow to produce the Impulse Responses you’ll receive in our content for users that are a part of the Braintree Release for SONAR Platinum and SONAR Professional.

The equipment you’ll need, and what I used

- Speaker, Studio Monitor, or Full Range Flat Response Speaker. I used a Cerwin Vega P1000.

The P1000X is a two-way, bi-amped, full-range bass-reflex speaker. It employs a 10-inch woofer and a high-frequency compression driver, powered by a custom Class-D amplifier. With a power rating of 1000 watts, the P1000X is one of the most powerful PA product in its class. A proprietary hemi-conical horn provides premium sound clarity over an even and wide coverage area. A built-in mixer with convenient I/O connections allows for simple and fast setup, while Enhanced EQ, VEGA BASS boost and High-Pass Filters enable exact tuning and exceptional performance for any application. The P1000X is a versatile product that can be used as a single speaker for small venues, set in pairs or installed with threaded hang points, and combined with the P1800SX Sub for a larger venue needing more coverage and SPL. Its compact size makes it ideal to operate as a floor monitor as well.”

- Pair of microphones, the flatter response the better. I had the benefit of borrowing a pair of Earthworks QTC40s.

- The ability to create a sine sweep. I used this free utility and then bought the license for $40.

- An audio interface to simultaneously play the sine sweep and capture sound of the excited space. My RME UFX worked out wonderfully because it has very clean preamps and multiple inputs and outputs.

- Of course, SONAR Platinum

The Microphones

The Microphones I used are pretty high-end reference microphones that have a frequency range from 20Hz-40kHz. These are great because they represent the sound of the room without any color. Since we’re in the business of capturing the sound of room – they make a perfect companion for this type of project.

Setting up the spaces

I setup the microphones in a few initial spots to get an idea of how the space sounded. On my first try it was clear that the space was going to sound good no matter where I placed the microphones and the source speaker. Both spaces are not highly reverberant, they just have quality sounding early reflections – which makes them great for getting initial sounds of drums and vocals.

The goal was to capture the room in various positions. I setup the microphones in close stereo pairs, distant stereo pairs, and subsequently moved the source speaker around them to bounce the sine sweep off different walls. During the processing stage, I then split these stereo IRs out into mono signals so that users could have a choice between stereo or mono processing. For example, here’s a rough diagram of how I setup the microphones in the center with various speaker locations for one set of IRs.

 

 

 

 

The IRs themselves

To excite the space I created a sine sweep with Voxengo Deconvolver.

BE CAREFUL WHEN PLAYING THESE, THEY ARE LOUD

Once the signal played through the room it sounds like this:

Large Room IR Example

Not very exciting on first listen, but when you process the tracks and apply some instruments you start to understand their sound. Here is a drum passage without the impulse response:

Now, here’s the same drum passage with the ambience of one of the “Big Room” IRs that I captured. You can hear how it doesn’t necessarily add reverb, but more an ambience.

Lastly, here’s just the ambience:

Small Room IR Example

Here’s a synth passage without any IRs applied:

Here’s the same patch with one of the SmallRoom IRs applied:

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by Dan Gonzalez

Mix Recall takes your mixing to another level by offering SONAR Artist, Professional, and Platinum users the ability to save different mix scenes of the same mix within a single project. Mix Recall saves track parameters, bus parameters, and even instrument presets. A great way to use this feature is to audition different drumkits using the included Addictive Drums 2.

 

Instruments these days are full of all kinds of choices, especially ones that are as expansive as Addictive Drums 2. When working on a track I like to take the same pattern and switch between the custom kits that I’ve made. Addictive Drums 2 and Addictive Drums 1 both let the user take pieces of all the different kits that it comes with to make your own. Mix Recall let’s you take this workflow a step further.

Original drum passage

Here we have a simple Indie Kit from Addictive Drums:

 

Saving the first mix scene

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by Dan Gonzalez
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How to use Reverb to create depth

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Thanks for reading!

 

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Multi-track Drum Editing – Crossfading and Critical Listening

by Dan Gonzalez

In the past 3 articles we have looked at basic tools for drum editing as well as identifying, splitting, cropping, and aligning clips. All of these techniques can be followed pretty accurately by reading along and performing the functions as I’ve written them. This portion of the blog series will require that you listen intently to what you’re doing as we work through it.

Make sure to wear headphones and get your critical listening ears on so that your drum edits are clean and not full of pops. Previously I mentioned that we would need to monitor our drums as we edit them and that erroneous edits come through the most in the cymbal microphones. In order to make this possible we’re going to mute the tom tracks and lower the volume for the kick and snare tracks. This exposes mostly high hat, ride, and overhead microphone signals. Also, make sure to pan the overhead microphone signals hard left and right too.

STEP 14: Turn on Auto Crossfade

SONAR is known for it’s streamlined feel and quick functions. One of the best examples of this is SONAR’s auto cross-fade functionality. Since we’re  putting this drum pattern back together we’ll need some speedy way of making sure the clips do not pop when overlapping.

Within the track view click on the Options > Auto Crossfade. This feature allows you to crop one clip into another and automatically yield a cross fade. (more…)

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Mixing Heavy Metal with the ProChannel & Softube Mix Bundle

The Softube Mix Bundle is a strong and creative addition to SONAR’s ProChannel strip.  This bundle adds 5 solid effects, great for any mix, to the Softube Saturation Knob already in SONAR X3 Producer.

For this article I’ve mixed a Heavy Metal track from the group Dark Ride using mostly Softube ProChannel effects. You can download the project here and follow along if you have the Softube Mix Bundle. If not then the screenshots in this article should suffice.

Setting up the Mix

Listen & add Markers

At first listen I put in Markers throughout the entire project to make navigation and looping sections much easier. Using the shortcut M – it’s pretty easy to drop in a Marker wherever your Now Time Marker resides. After that, you can name them accordingly. This paticular song was relatively short and included an introduction, two verses, 3 choruses, bridge, solo section, and breakdown.

Routing, grouping, and track folders

While you’re mixing it’s easy to become slightly overwhelmed by larger projects. What I do in this instance is make a stereo bus for every group of instruments that I have in the project. This allows me to apply mixing effects to the instrument groups as whole before they hit my main mix bus. The tracks route directly to the buses and then the buses route directly to the 2 bus. For each instrument group I also assigned them a color category and a track folder to make things a bit easier to manage within the Track View.

Levels & panning

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