Convolution Reverb: A Quick-Start Guide
The apparent complexity of some convolution plug-ins can be a bit intimidating if you’re new to the idea, so here’s fast-track guide to getting decent results, regardless of the software you happen to be using. Firstly, here’s the bare minimum you need to know about the plug-in you’re using.
– How to load in an impulse response.
– How to adjust the wet/dry mix. You’ll usually get best results if you insert the plug-in in separate effects return channel and feed it via your DAW’s auxiliary sends, in which case you should set the plug-in to output only reverb (‘wet’) signal, not any unprocessed (‘dry’) signal.
– How to adjust the reverb length. This control may be called ‘time’, ‘decay’, ‘length’, or some such.
The first important task is choosing the impulse response. This can justifiably take 5-10 minutes on its own, so don’t be tempted rush it. Once you’ve got something that adds a spatial or tonal quality which suits the tracks you’re adding it to, then the next critical step is adjusting the effect’s length and mix level in tandem – you’re looking for a balance of these parameters that gives you the enhancement you need (perhaps a sense of space, or a nice rich sustain) without unwanted side-effects (for example, a loss of mix clarity or a muddy tonality).
Next EQ the reverb return channel to carve away any unnecessary effect frequencies, especially at the low end – this is one of the big secrets of successful reverb use.
Finally, increase the reverb’s ‘predelay’ parameter a little (or add a delay plug-in to the return if there is none) and see if that lets you get away with a lower reverb level – most reverbs will benefit from at least 10ms of predelay.
Mike Senior is a professional engineer who has worked with Wet Wet Wet, The Charlatans, Reef, Therapy, and Nigel Kennedy. He has transformed dozens of amateur mixes for Sound On Sound magazine’s popular Mix Rescue column.
As part of Cambridge Music Technology he also provides in-depth training courses and workshops specializing in the documented techniques of the world’s top producers. His new book, Mixing Secrets For The Small Studio is a down-to-earth mixing primer which shows how to achieve commercial-grade sonics within real-world project/college setups.