Space Is the Place, Part 1 (Bonus)

The following are explanations of some of the basic reverb parameters. Understanding these will help you have more control over the reverb in your mixes.
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The following are explanations of some of the basic reverb parameters. Understanding these will help you have more control over the reverb in your mixes.
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The following are explanations of some of the basic reverb parameters. Understanding these will help you have more control over the reverb in your mixes.

Reverb Type, or Algorithm
The type of reverb emulation you use can be thought of as your primary control over general decay time, coloration and EQ, early and late reflections, and overall spacial simulation. It''s important to remember that every reverb type has its own subtle character. And although the names may be similar, the character of reverb algorithms varies greatly from one manufacturer to the next. The most common types are included here. Higher-end reverbs often include more-specific emulations (with titles such as “Marble Foyer”) or offer sophisticated impulse-generated simulations measured in actual environments (such as famous concert halls or cathedrals).

Long Reverb Types: Hall/Church/Cathedral/Plate
These are all lush reverbs that are designed to create a dramatic audible presence in a mix for a few seconds at least. Halls tend to have the most even coloration, while churches and cathedrals generally offer medium coloration, spectacular reverb tails, and more midrange. Plate settings emulate actual rectangular metal plates with transducers at numerous points around the edges, so the resulting sound is thick, rich, highly colored, and often rather bright.

Short reverb types: Ambient/Nonlinear/Room/Chamber/Spring/Gated
Ambient and nonlinear reverbs tend to be short and uncolored, adding lively early reflections to sounds without sounding overtly like reverberation. Room and chamber types add distinctive coloration and can be short or long, giving a strong impression that the track occupies a real-world acoustic space with nearby walls. In addition, chamber settings emulate the highly reflective rooms designed specifically to create reverberation in the predigital age, and often have an identifiable 1950s or 1960s vintage quality.

Spring settings simulate the bouncy, metallic effect of guitar-amp and vintage standalone spring-reverb units. Gated reverb (also known as the ''80s snare sound) is usually a bright, dense reverb that has an abrupt and often adjustable decay cutoff occurring within a half second or less. This type is often used to add precisely timed thickness and sustain to percussive sources. Because of its overuse on snare and sax in the ''80s, gated snare is thought of as being a bit dated, but it is still useful.

Once you have chosen an appropriate reverb type, you can use whatever parameter adjustments are available on that particular box or plug-in to fine-tune the response.

Decay Time (adjustable in seconds and tenths of seconds)
Decay time represents the length of reverberation time, or how long it takes for the reverb to decay to inaudibility. Depending on the reverb algorithm, changes in decay time can also vary apparent coloration, diffusion, and early reflections.

Mix or Dry/Wet (adjustable by percentage)
This parameter determines how much of the original dry signal and the reverb signal are present in the reverb''s output. On either an outboard reverb unit connected to a mixing board or a plug-in on a DAW mix or aux bus, reverb mix is usually set to 100 percent wet. The amount of reverb returned to the mix is then adjusted on a hardware or software reverb or effects return fader. With a nonbus reverb plug-in, the mix percentage controls the ratio of dry to reverberant sound on a particular track.

Diffusion (adjustable by percentage)
Diffusion can be thought of as reverb dispersion or density. Low diffusion settings simulate environments with flat, reflective walls that yield discrete and separated echoes. This kind of setting can easily sound clattery or generate fast flutter echoes on percussive sources, and is often more effective on sustained sounds. High diffusion values emulate an environment with randomized surfaces, producing a thicker or cloudier reverb sound having closer and less distinct reflections.

Filters and Damping (adjustable by frequency or other nonstandardized proprietary values)
A variety of filtering schemes are available on most hardware and software reverb devices. These are generally shelving-type EQs designed to either attenuate high-end response (to soften bright or sibilant reverb tails) or cut low-end muddiness. Some filters can also be used to boost shelving or bell EQ response. Such EQs can be pre- or post-send, and sometimes both options are available.

Damping simulates the acoustic phenomena of a concert hall with curtains and plush seats, where high-end energy is absorbed and therefore decays more rapidly than lower frequencies. Check your manuals for exact details on these versatile parameters.

Predelay or Reverb Delay Time (adjustable in milliseconds)
Predelay is an adjustable delay in the onset of reverberation, creating a “dry window” that allows the initial transients in vocals and percussive sounds to be heard more clearly. To seem natural and not be heard as a discrete echo, predelay needs to be shorter than 60 to 70 ms, which is generally perceived as a distinct slap-back echo.