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With the exception of pure orchestral recordings, reverb is used in nearly every mix.  They allow us to add and build up these missing elements in the mix, and they are also be beneficial for many other mixing tasks.  But the question is, what is a reverb?

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Reverb is easier to understand if we imagine an impulse sound, like a hand clap, emitted from a sound source in an empty room.  As sound diminishes when traveling through air and being absorbed by surface materials, the reflections will slowly decay in amplitude.  Reverb is the collective name given to the sound created by bounced reflections from room boundaries.  In mixing, we use reverb emulators, either hardware units of software plugins, to simulate this natural phenomenon.  In simulating natural or creating imaginary ambiance, crafting the ambiance of a production is considered one of the more important and challenging practices in mixing; ambiance transforms a collection of dry recordings into an inspiring spatial arrangement that gives our mix much of its character.  The reverb controls let us mold the ambiance and make creative decisions that can make our mix more cohesive and dynamic.  There is a loose link between sequenced productions and acoustic spaces.  For such projects, the ambiance is realized based on the creativity and vision of the mixing engineer. Sometimes an imaginary ambiance is applied even when a natural one is expected. This is done in order to achieve something refreshing, different and contemporary. Many factors contribute to our perception of depth. During mix-down, reverbs are the main tool we use when positioning sounds in the depth field. This is extremely desirable in many situations; it adds another dimension to the mix, let us position instruments more naturally, establishes hierarchy and can also help with masking. The bond between depth and reverb does not come without a price. Although sometimes unwanted, reverb addition often increases the perceived source-to-listener distance and therefore reverbs are regularly utilized for applying depth.

Word to the wise, common problems that reverb might cause or otherwise what we should look out for when in use are:  Definition, which smear sounds, making them unfocused, distant, and can decrease both intelligibility and localization;  masking, usually being a long, dense and wide sound, reverb can mask other important sounds;  clutter, which can give the mix a ‘spongy’ impression; timing, when applied reverb can affect the timing of a performance, especially a percussive one, and changing the timbre an effect that can deform the decay envelope.

[All information in this article was cited and noted from Mixing Audio: concepts, practices, and tools written by Roey Izhaki.]

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Giovanni “G-Shott” Hamm

Critical Recording Studio


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