Reverb on the mix-bus

Under most normal circumstances, using reverb on the mix bus is no different to using a send on every track, with every send set to the same level. Usually this it not a good idea – it’s better touse sends to apply reverb in different levels to different tracks. Some sounds can ‘take’ more reverb than others. Some sounds need more reverb then others to emphasise the depth in the mix. A send level of 0dB (unity – meaning the reverb is the same level as the dry sound) might still be not enough for sustained sounds like pads and organs. On the other hand, a send level of -21dB might sound extremely wet for staccato sounds or hand percussion.

Having said that, there is a place for mix-bus reverb. While it’s not as refined or tailored as using individual sends, it is much faster. I’ve done it myself on occasion when I’ve had a project that’s up against a hard deadline. Mix-bus reverb also sounds different to individual sends when it’s placed after other mix-bus processing, such as compression or other dynamic effects (for example, NOT eq). Whether this sound is useful for you and worth the greatly-reduced flexibility is up to you.

Reverb in mastering is a slightly different matter. In this situation it’s too late to adjust the reverb in the mix, so it can only be applied to the stereo mix. Reverb may also serve a slightly different purpose when used in mastering – to make all the songs in a release have a similar ambience. This might be particularly important on compilation albums or albums with a wide variety of sonic approaches.

-Kim.

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  1. I really got a kick out of your post. I don’t really have much to say in reply, I only want to comment to reply with wonderful work. great luck in 2010.

  2. I *always* use reverb on the master channel. It’s a personal choice, but it works for me and the type of music I record. I liken it to having all of the instruments recorded in the same environment.

    I then place the individual tracks forward or backward in the mix using a combination of EQ and volume.

    The only time I can’t really see this working is for people who like to mix their tracks hot- without any cushion or headroom.

    Nice blog, btw. looking forward to reading more.

    Cheers.

    • steel
    • July 3rd, 2010

    All sensible thanks…
    the approach I take to reverb is to decide how much “natural reverb” each instrument has for it to sound as it should, and the mix bus verb is applied as the space in which the whole ensemble/group is playing in, this does not mean that a hall verb is applied (live in St. Paul´s Cathedral) but rather a space in which everything in combination sounds “natural” or correct…

    -extreme e.g. garage bands sound fantastic in “garages” – tawngy guitars slightly detuned with wammy verbs, out of tune lowest string basses pumping in strange frequency ranges, dustbin lid (the old metal ones) cymbals and explosive snares… (don´t mention the vocals, this is a world for itself….)…..

    enjoy each moment

    • Iain Booth
    • October 20th, 2010

    Kim,

    I normally do not master my own mixes for a few good reasons … but had a client with a low budget and a mastering engineer who over comped the mastering process leading to distortion. I volunteered begrudgingly to remaster it but warned him it would not be as “hot” as the previous effort.

    I tried several approaches and wasn’t really happy with them … that is until I threw a reverb on the master output just for a lark. All of a sudden the tracks came alive and I could buckle down to doing the job. I have kept this as my ugly little secret not knowing it was a pretty normal thing.

    Thank you for liberating me. I no longer need to have to slink around feeling like a cheater. Here’s to the never ending process of learning.

  3. @Iain Booth
    Sometimes reverb in mastering is absolutely the right choice – it depends on the circumstances. If you had to master a bunch of songs and some (or all) where quite dry and stark, I wouldn’t be surprised if adding reverb worked well.

    -Kim.

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