Excellent Plug-in Reverb — For Free!
I regularly come across small-studio engineers who are putting up with slightly dodgy-sounding reverb processing, such as the CPU-light plug-ins built into their DAW. However, there’s really no need for this, because excellent convolution-based reverb is freely available for both PC and Mac. All you need is a convolution plug-in and a library of ‘impulse responses’ (effectively sampled reverbs) to load into it.
For PC, Christian Knufinke’s freeware SIR is great, and the payware SIR2 is both better and cross-platform if you have a little cash to splash — I’ve been using it for Sound On Sound magazine Mix Rescue remixes for ages. Another cross-platform freeware option is Yellow Tools Halls Of Fame Origami Edition, you can’t load in your own impulse responses here, but the included library is pretty good – bear in mind it’s a 662MB download though! There is also a convolution plug-in (ReaVerb) built into the affordable Cockos Reaper.
There are masses of free impulse responses now available for download: a couple of good sources are Noisevault and Echochamber. If you’re not sure what to go for, I’d recommend Echochamber’s Lexicon 960 files, which were recorded from the top-of-the-range hardware studio processor of the same name. They’re not quite as nice-sounding as the original unit, but they’re first-class nonetheless.
In case your German isn’t up to much, here are direct links to the six bundles of impulse-response files:
A couple of favorite impulses of mine from that set are ‘l960acoustic_fill.wav’ and ‘l960ambience_hall.wav’, so do check those out.
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 Rescuecolumn.
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.