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I am kind of new here and will need your patience with my novice questions. I would like to be quided on the best reverb for vocal and best settings.

1. I am having a multi-effect processor providing me with so many choice and I do not know what is better even after trying each one of them. I have a choice between, GATE,SMALL ROOM, LARGE ROOM, SMALL HALL, LARGE HALL, SOFT AMBIENCE, VOCAL PLATE, WARM PLATE, ROMM AMBIENCE, and so many other reverb patches. What do you use most on vocals or other instruments.

2. The other question concerns the level. On what levels should I set my AUX send and FX return. Most of the things I have read advice to use as little effect as possible but most of the time they don't define what that little is. Could you please provide me withsuggestive numbers I can start with?

Your help will be greatly appreciated.

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anonymous Tue, 10/07/2003 - 07:33

I guess I could say "listen - use your ears" on both question and still sleep well knowing I gave a correct answer, but I wont - because I know how much I hate being told that on every question regarding audio engineering.

Most reverb algorithms in your effectbox are based on natural spaces, except for the gate and the plates. THE sound in pop music is more or less based on the sound of plate reverbs, try using it on vocals, e guitars and snares. Rooms could be useful for faking a context (ambience) for drumkits and percussion, though recording with room mics in a good studio is way better. Halls are great for acoustic music like jazz or symphonic recordings. These are just some starting points that work great sometimes for some drums in some songs with some reverb units, and should never be looked upon as rules.
Once in a while a 12 second cathedral on the maracas could get your pants wet, so try everything on everything, who knows what will happen?
If none of your programs worked it could be one of these problems:

1. Wrong parameter values such as predelay, decay time, diffussion yada yada
This is rocket science until you learn what they do - read the manual.

2. Crappy unit. Many great sounding albums are mixed using, say, a Lexicon 480 which are VERY expensive - for a reason.

3. "Wrong" context. Trying to put plates on a string quartet? Could sound interesting, but not natural. Try a simulation of a real acoustic space, like a hall or a church.

I hope it was of some help.

Finally, listen - use your ears :)

anonymous Tue, 10/07/2003 - 07:46


It wasn't very long ago I had the exact same questions. So my answers will certainly be sympathetic, even if innaccurate! Later, the big boys can jump in and dazzle us with their knowledge!

First of all, concerning reverb types - a lot of it is style dependent, and a lot of it depends on your specific box. Listen to a lot of different recordings in different styles. An adult contemporary CD (like Celine)will certainly use reverb entirely differently than Janet Jackson.

So you have to have in mind what style you are going for, since there is no universal right answer. Your choice of reverb will also be greatly affected by which algorhythms sound good on your particular box. Some boxes might have a great sounding plate, but crappy rooms, for example, and that should certainly influence your decision. Difference in boxes also makes giving universal settings impossible, since they won't translate from one brand to another.

But there are some universal principles:

1) If you are using the Reverb on an aux return, always set the mix at 100%. Otherwise you may get a phasy sound. If you are using it as an insert or in-line, then you will need to use a much lower percentage in the mix. How much? Until it sounds good. (Sorry - no other answer.)

2)Plates tend to be less dense than rooms or halls. They also contain no "early reflections", so they they are often a good choice for vocals when you want to hear a nice reverb tail without getting too muddy.

3) Small rooms are excellent for when you are trying to warm up a voice or make it sound like it has three dimensionality without actually making it "reverby". In a lot of contemporary music, obvious reverb is a no-no, but a small room (or sometimes even a delay) can be very useful to give the vocal more dimension.

4) Larger spaces are often used to imply a concert or live feel. These days, you might find them used more on things like strings than lead vocals, unless you are going for a particular effect on a particualr song.

5) Gated reverb and reverse reverb fall more into the category of special effects, as they are not natural phenomena. Chances are, most of your vocals will not use these unless you are aiming for an unnatural effect.

Now let's discuss settings:

(Again, specific numbers don't translate from one brand to another, but there are some general principles.)

1) Time or Decay - this is one of the first things you will adjust. It is one way you set how long you will hear the reverb. A small room, for example, will have a time component of less than a second, while a large hall might be three or four seconds (or more, for some of those Cathedral settings). The time parameter lets you mess with the presets, so you can experiment with creating a large hall with only 0.2sec decay, or a small room with a 6 second decay! The tempo of a song and the rhythm of the melody can influence your time settings too, as you sometimes want to make sure the reverb of one word isn't muddying up the next word.

2)Early reflections - this allows you to add more or less into the reverb mix. Early reflections are the main cue by which the ear identifies the size and shape of the space. Just as in real life, too many early reflections can make a vocal sound phasy. (That's why a lot of people acoustically deaden their vocal booths).

3)Predelay - this parameter allows you to insert a delay between the time the dry sound is first heard, and the time the reverb starts to effect it. By increasing pre-delay, you can often improve clarity of a vocal, since the initial consonants will remain dry and only the ends of the syllables will sound like they are reverberant. However, if you make the predelay too long, you will hear it come in as a seperate impulse (like a delay) which may not be what you want.

4)Density: More density is smoother, but also thicker. Cutting back on density can improve clarity, but too little density and you will start to hear it as a string of discrete echoes.

5) EQ - sometimes this is just in the form of a high frequency roll-off. Very useful in a vocal where "esses" are a problem - you don't want to reemphasize them in the reverb. Also good for creating natural sounding spaces, since in real life the higher frequencies don't reverberate as long.

Those are the big five. Depending on the box, there may be also specific parameters for room size, wall texture, room shape, and a bunch of others that I can't remember right now because I'm not near a box I can look at.

Remember, with so many parameters there is usually more than one way to get "more reverb" or "less reverb" on a vocal. For example, you could change the send level (or mix level if an insert), increase the time/decay, or change the size of the room. All of these will accomplish your goal of "more" or "less", but each solution will sound very different.

So in the end, experimenting and listening to the results is going to be your best tool. Examine the parameters in the included presets in your box, if you have one that shows them. Try changing each one to extreme settings to really get a feel for what it does to the sound. It won't be long that you'll know a lot more about reverb than I do!

Which will be excellent, because next time YOU can answer these questions! :D

OK - now the heavy hitters can step up and give you some REAL answers!

(P.S.: While I was writing this Daniel F. posted his response. I agree 100% with everything he said in his excellent answer.)

KurtFoster Tue, 10/07/2003 - 10:19

WOW!! Great answer White Swan, lots of details.
I would like to add a couple of simple points. First on a fast tempo, use shorter reverbs. Rule of thumb is the verb should decay before the next kick hit (especially if you're using the 'verb on a snare). The dacay of the verb should fit the tempo of the tune. On slower songs, longer 'verbs ..

On vocals many times, I will use more than one reverb. If the vocal is very dry, (recorded in a dead booth) I might add a bit of a small short room to liven it up a bit and give it some stereo spread, then add a longer 'verb for dramatic effect. If you only have on reverb, this is no problem. Print the short 'verb to a couple of extra tracks and then mix that in with the dry vocal to send to the longer 'verb.

pandamonkey Tue, 10/07/2003 - 10:38

Hey guys (and gals!),
Good answers, very impressive. I would also say that if you have the option, sending your Aux send "post fader" is nice so that both the dry and Aux send levels stay proportional to each other as the overall signal is increased or decreased on the dry channels. As you probably know already, sending multiple dry signals via their Aux sends to one effects unit is also nice as using a commom effect setting on various channels gives your sound continuity and saves you DSP if your relying on a software plugin. (Reverb plugs can be pigs!) The wet/dry on your effects unit should also be set at 100% wet (unless you are using it as an insert).

I make mainly electronic/experimental music so this trick may not work for your application however sometimes I like to completely reverse a track or part, apply reverb, save it, then reverse it back again. With a long tail on your reverb reversed and in front of the audio, it can make for a cool build up effect. (try it on a cymbol hit)

Lastly, if you want to tighten up your reverb, make all of the parameters proportional to this equation.... 60/BPM=___
So, if your tempo is 127bpm, 60/127=.47
You could then set your parameters at 47ms, 4.7 seconds, 4.7/2=2.35secs etc. Whatever works.

I like to open up a factory preset on a plugin or effects unit for a starting point, then adjust the parameters using the above equation to better fit with your music, it's an easy way to achieve good results quick!

In any case, White Dove and Daniel F's replies are gold. You should be well on your way!


vinniesrs Tue, 10/07/2003 - 12:32

Great advice from everyone! I have only a couple of things to add. First, I find that sometimes I get the right overall decay(time)on a vocal track but it sounds a little muddy. Usually the reverb comes into the board through a channel which allows me to reduce the low and low mid sounds to taste. My personal preference for vocal reverb is the plate, and I like long decay times-sometimes 5 or 6 seconds.
With respect to how much you should use, I always compare effects with cosmetics. Effects are there to enhance the mood and natural beauty of your track, and for the most part should not be too noticeable. Just like the make-up on the girl.
Have you ever said "WOW that girl has really nice.....eye liner?" :s:

AudioGaff Tue, 10/07/2003 - 13:25

You need to sit down and spend dozens of hours tweaking your effects units until you learn all they can do. The same applies to plugs. No shortcuts if you want to master the use of this kind of tool and gain the skills on how to use it when it you need it. Once you get to know your effects, it will be easier to listen for the effects used on other peoples recordings. Then you can compare what they did and what you may want to do.

I've mentioned this before, but one way to to learn an effects unit or comp or eq is to patch in a few different sources such as a CD player with dry music or instruments, MIDI/Sampler/Drum machine, talk radio or even the TV audio. I've spent many hours with the TV into an effects unit with something like the news or C-SPAN. Record some dry tracks of different instruments or vocals, make a long loop and tweak, tweak, tweak. If you drink booze or do drugs, this is a place where they can be productive and fun.

anonymous Tue, 10/07/2003 - 23:16


You guys are amazing in your patience and help and I am truly grateful. I know that there is no short-cut, practice and time is the key. But still it is a great help to be given some guidance to start with. I hear a lot about breaking the rules, but one needs to know those rules first before deciding to break them.

If there are any more things you remember and want to add please continue to do so. :h:

anonymous Wed, 11/19/2003 - 08:51

The other question concerns the level. On what levels should I set my AUX send and FX return. Most of the things I have read advice to use as little effect as possible but most of the time they don't define what that little is. Could you please provide me withsuggestive numbers I can start with?

I agree that reverb must be applied only in small doses or it will drown your mix. (unless if you are trying to create an unusual effect)

Reverb IMHO is the best when you have to pay real attention to hear it and when you don't exactly hear on which instrument it is applied to.

Maybe you could try some gentle delay on the vocals. This appears to me to be the best way to give space to your vocals.

anonymous Sat, 11/22/2003 - 04:58

:) Hi....really helpfull you have some tip for software plugin reverb to use? Tc native reverb, one of the waves reverbs (RVerb, Trueverb)or some another plugin? I have also TC M-One XL and TC Helicon vhat would you chose? Is some soft plugin better than two of these HW units?


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