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Topic: It's a lame question, but..

  1. #1

    It\'s a lame question, but..

    I know it\'s a lame question, but it is very big mystery for me: How do you, people, get good spaceous results with reverbs like Lexicon MPX-500, Zoom 1202 etc.? I especially mean \"release\" time problem.. For example - with MPX or Zoom used, wet-dry balace 50/50 - I set release times for instruments (in GS Editor) (Strings, woodwinds, perc., etc.) to, let\'s say, 0.2 sec. The releases of tones sound OK, but all sound too muddy and over-reverbed, just like a \"cheap\" digital reverb, just reverb which absolutely destroys the clearness of instrument tones, but at least, there is a solid space feeling. But this is the only way to have at least some space-feeling.

    If I change the wet-dry balance to lower for \"wet\", then the clearness of sound is of course better, but the music lost hall-feeling and sounds almost dry and thin. When I lower release times (in 50/50 reverb), then the spaciousness is better and better, instruments sound more and more clear, but... The tones begin upleasantly cut-off. For exaple I set release times in GS Edit to 0.05 sec, and then all the music sounds way better and more spacious, live, almost as I\'d like it to sound, but - the terrible thing is, that there are these brutal cut-offs which sound, of course, very very unpleasant. Strange thing - the only thing I can do to remove these cut-offs is increasing release time of instruments, but then - as I told - the tone transitions sound OK, cut-offs are away, but the overall sound lose its spaciousness, the instruments begin sound very muddy. So what to do?

    There are two possibilites - muddy, not clear sound, but at least - decent space feeling and realtive \"OK-so-so\" sound, but nothing really good, or - very nice space feeling, very clear sound of instruments, but terrible cut-off of the tones.. This cut-off can be reduced by somenting like \"over-legato\" playing on keyboard, and especially with solo instruments with fast attacks it is sometimes almost unnoticeable, so the result is sometimes good, but in general, it\'s not usable. And some compromise between both cases also doesn\'t help - the result is then, that the cut offs are not so bad, but of course also the clearness of sound is not so good, etc. I just don\'t understand what to do to get nice spaceous sound - I don\'t mean necessary hall-feeling, but at least spacious sound, without being thin thanks to too dry recording - but with very clear sound and not destroyed release etc. with verb, as I described.

    For example - I\'m able to achieve decent sound with some music - it sounds clear, relatively rich etc., but the problem is, that it is very very dry, and also thin because of it. Not bad at all, but sounds as if all the players are standing in front of you - and that\'s not too good especially with choirs, strings, etc. The releases of tones, clearness, and all is OK, but extremly dry (with only a little reverb). But when I want to add space - then the reverb destroys clearness of tones, begins sound muddy etc. In many recordings for example of Thomas_J or Simon Ravn I hear perfect clearness of sound and release times (no cut offs) but also together with great spaciousness! How is that possible if these reverb untis make - good spaciousness, good clearness but terrible cut offs thanks to low release times (0.05 for example) - or - no cut offs, good release sound , decent spaciousness, but dirty sound, not clear, thanks to higher release times mixed with verb, lost of instruments detail - just like cheap digital hall.

    But Thomas\', Simon\'s and others\' recordings sound just like if they would be dry (with such nice clearness and detail, no cut offs etc.), but are having also great space feeling, as if they would be recorded with some miracle(?) reverb setting which add space but also doesn\'t destroy the clearness of tones. But I heard Thomas, Simons and the others uses Zoom, MPX-500 and similar reverbs, so I am really out of any idea.. How is possible to achieve such sound with reverb? I mean spaceous, but sharp, clear-sounding as if it would be dry or what.. and not \"destroyed\" by reverb.. I tried to use also some soft reverbs like Renaissance or Acoustic Mirror, but the result was even worse. I tried all settings, I am helpless. Or simple question - I have decent recording, properly sounding, but very dry - how to add space to it?? I mean really only space and not classic unpleasant coloring of tones by reverb. I would really really appreciate any expert advice on it. I would like to be able to add space to dry music, but I want space and not muddy reverb with dirty coloring of tones and releases between notes. And in many recordings I heard here there is space with detailed sound and not muddy reverb.. Sorry for the lenght, this topic is maybe a bit naive, but it\'s really important for me to learn something deeply about this. Thanks..

  2. #2

    Re: It\'s a lame question, but..

    Thanks for your nice comments Dis [img]images/icons/smile.gif[/img] Now on to the problem... Well I guess the old \"use your ears and experiment\" phrase works here too. But it seems you already did that, so I\'ll just say what I do at least. First, I primarily use the MPX1 for reverb - I bought an MPX500 cheap, but haven\'t come to grips with it yet - I thought it would be like MPX1, but better sounding - maybe it is, and I just didn\'t figure it out yet, but for the time being I still use MPX1. I have a preset which I use for almost everything. Sometimes I run brass + woodwinds through my TC M-One instead, and percussion generally goes through both of them with totally different presets than the rest of the orchestra, to add even more space feeling (since most orchestral percussion has too little ambience). Assuming that the MPX500 has just about the same settings as MPX1, I can tell you what my default preset looks like: It is of course a HALL reverb. Room size is set to 45.5meters, diffusion at 100%, predelay very little or none - maybe a bit more for celli and basses than violins and violas, but that\'s not so important. Bass reverb is at 1,0, decay at 2.5seconds, highcut at 1.6khz, reverb shape at 51, spread at 24 - the spread setting is very important. With a high spread setting it will take longer for the reverb to \'kick in\' and thus give you a weird, muddy, echo\'ed effect.

    I think highcut is also very important. Usually you don\'t hear a reverb of piccolo flutes or trumpets lasting for the complete decay time - the high frequencies are damped fairly fast, or your sound would get completely screwed up in high frequency material.

    I don\'t know what else to say - I don\'t consider myself an expert in the field, and would still love to get a better spacious feeling - especially DEPTH - in my stuff. Maybe other people here have some ideas for that.

  3. #3

    Re: It\'s a lame question, but..

    I thought the MPX-1 had the same reverb engine as the MPX-500 but with extra effects and stuff built in it? The MPX-1 does cost more does it not?

    Anyway here are my thoughts on reverb: I think the most important thing when adding reverb is to make it sound as if there is no reverb added at all. I don\'t mean it should be dry but it should be a transparent effect. So it doesn\'t sound like an instrument with reverberations added, but an instrument that is playing in a hall. This is all down to the dry/wet ratio and the way the sample instrument itself is recorded....and of course the quality of your reverb unit.

    Getting that sharp sound you talk about after you\'ve added reverb is achieved with EQ. If I add reverb to a cymbal hit for instance it goes far back in the hall but suddenly its muddy and sounds like a weak hit instead of the poweful crisp hit it was. So I boost the top ends to crispen it up again. I think this could solve your problem. [img]images/icons/smile.gif[/img]

    Dis, can you add some paragraphs to your post? Its a bit of a pain to read in one massive block like that.. [img]images/icons/smile.gif[/img]

  4. #4

    Re: It\'s a lame question, but..

    Thanks a lot, Simon! I think the depth in your stuff is very good. Thanks for setup parameters, I will try to experiment with similar parameters on my reverb unit. But MPX-1 is much better than MPX-100/500, it\'s the higher generation I think, and it has better basic hall sound.

    Hasen: Thanks for the tips! I will try to use EQ as you described. \"..most important thing when adding reverb is to make it sound as if there is no reverb added at all..\" - Yes, that\'s it! That\'s exactly what I meant. And that\'s the sound I\'m not able to achieve with MPX-100/500 or Zoom or software reverbs.

  5. #5
    Senior Member Bruce A. Richardson's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 1999
    Dallas, Texas

    Re: It\'s a lame question, but..

    Without hearing your original mix, it\'s hard to make recommendations, but here are some general hints...

    Listen to the frequency range of your original track, then carve that frequency out of your reverb signal with EQ. This allows you to push the reverb hotter while still getting definition in your track\'s fundamental range. If you are using a reverb with built in multiband EQ and damping, damp the instrument\'s fundamental range much more tightly than the surrounding frequencies, and boost the range just below the instrument\'s fundamental to add warmth to the reverb sound. If your reverb lacks that level of control, just patch in EQ before or after it.

    Try delaying the reverb signal a bit, so that your original voice \"speaks\" before the reverb washes around it. A little of this goes a long way, and it\'s a somewhat antiquated trick. Back when springs and metal plates were used to generate reverb, this was actually a necessary thing--it helped engineers fake wall reflections. Now that wall reflections are computed algorithmically within most reverbs, you will actually do more harm than good with this in many cases. Still, it\'s a good trick if you\'re aware of the sonic issues involved, and you don\'t go to crazy with it.

    Another thing to consider when adding reverb is the quality of the original sample. If it already has a degree of wall reflection present (think GOS) then you probably don\'t want to add more wall reflections...you\'ll just want to add distant tails. Adding wall reflections to wall reflections equals mud. On the other hand, if you\'re dealing with a fairly dead sample (think Dan Dean Brass), you\'ll want to make sure you\'re dialing in wall reflection content as well as reverb tails. In all cases, if you feel you\'re getting more \"mud\" than \"space,\" you\'ll probably want to reduce the level of added wall reflection, and concentrate on EQ\'ing the tail for best level vs. clarity.

    Don\'t forget that the EQ of the original sample has a tremendous amount of influence over its perceived distance. When things are \"close\" they have full low and high frequency range. When things become more distant, they begin to lose high frequency and extreme low frequency content. This is analagous to the way your eye perceives color as light dims--in full light, you see full color, and as things get darker, you see only monochromatically until you see nothing at all.

    A great exercise is to completely turn off ALL reverb, and to use only EQ to make your image as realistic and deep as possible. Once you have done this, begin bringing reverb back into the mix. If you really work at it, you\'ll discover a lot, mostly that reverb is only one tool and spaciousness is a quality which is achieved with a big variety of tools.

    Also, keep a variety of your favorite commercial recordings stored in your mixing machine, ready for immediate recall whenever you mix. A/B listening is the most valuable tool of all. Listen to what you like, then listen to what you have done, and make notes about wet/dry balances, frequency content, etc. There is really no mystery about getting a great sound, and even if your gear isn\'t the greatest, it doesn\'t really matter. You can get 98% of the way there with the rattiest gear in town--you pay the big bucks to get that final 2%. And since 99% of your listeners wouldn\'t be able to detect that final 2% of the quality difference, well, you do the math. Really concentrate on the A/B listening, and just eliminate differences one by one, and soon you will be a mixing fool. NON-musicians have been training to be great engineers for years. With a musician\'s ear, you can get there even quicker, but the key is learning to separate the musical, emotional qualities and to concentrate on what is or isn\'t present in a mix.

    All this is assuming the orchestration is good and spacious in and of itself. If that\'s a problem, no amount of engineering will fix it. It may be worth your time to find some webspace and post an excerpt of your problem piece. Diagnosing a mix problem as general as \"lack of spaciousness\" is a needle in a haystack.

  6. #6

    Re: It\'s a lame question, but..

    Wow, Bruce - that was quite the tutorial on mixing. Thanks.

  7. #7

    Re: It\'s a lame question, but..

    Wow Bruce, your post was music to my ears. [img]images/icons/smile.gif[/img] I\'m not saying I learnt anything but it confirmed all my suspicions about reverb. I\'ve always thought that reverb+reverb=mud. More specifically wall reflections+wall reflections=mud or distant tail+distant tail=mud. I\'ve always believed this but not everyone on this forum would agree with us. You can of course add reverb to a wet sample but it must be transparent so as not to colour the tail, it just smooths things out - especially if they don\'t have release samples. Otherwise it sounds like you\'ve \'added reverb\' which is not what you want at all.

    About the A/B listening, I do that a lot as well and I\'m easily able to spot that 2% difference you speak of which is why I\'m never satisifed. I might send clients a new version of a piece and they\'ve no idea what I\'ve changed. [img]images/icons/wink.gif[/img]

  8. #8

    Re: It\'s a lame question, but..

    Bruce: Thanks for your time and such great, detailed answer. I\'ll try the tips you described. Of course A/B listening is a great thing, but that\'s it that I was never been able to achieve deepness or space of my favourite recordings, nor similar.
    ..completely turn off ALL reverb, and to use only EQ to make your image as realistic and deep as possible. Once you have done this, begin bringing reverb back into the mix.
    <font size=\"2\" face=\"Verdana, Arial\">Great idea, but If I would have dry recording as realistic as possible, and then bring reverb to it, then I\'ll have to completely change release times of all instruments in GSEdit, won\'t I? For example in dry recording - where 0.3 sec releases sounds realistic, it sounds muddy with reverb added, so it must be changed to, for example 0.15. That\'s one of biggest problems - that adding reverb completely changes release, so I can\'t just add reverb to well-balanced dry recording, but I must completely change release times before..

    I\'ll try to find some webspace and post a piece, as you wrote. Thanks.

  9. #9
    Senior Member Bruce A. Richardson's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 1999
    Dallas, Texas

    Re: It\'s a lame question, but..

    Originally posted by Dis:
    Great idea, but If I would have dry recording as realistic as possible, and then bring reverb to it, then I\'ll have to completely change release times of all instruments in GSEdit, won\'t I? For example in dry recording - where 0.3 sec releases sounds realistic, it sounds muddy with reverb added, so it must be changed to, for example 0.15. That\'s one of biggest problems - that adding reverb completely changes release, so I can\'t just add reverb to well-balanced dry recording, but I must completely change release times before..

    I\'ll try to find some webspace and post a piece, as you wrote. Thanks.
    <font size=\"2\" face=\"Verdana, Arial\">If you are shortening releases to reduce mud when you add reverb, then you\'re definitely either using too much reverb, or you\'ve set up those releases too long to begin with. We\'re getting somewhere now--this is good information. I would tweak the releases to whatever sounds natural and leave them alone. Reading between the lines a little, I\'d guess you may be using release times to help simulate room resonance, and that would certainly compound your clarity problems. Any given library is going to have its own acoustic \"space\" as a baseline, whether it was recorded at 3 feet or thirty feet, in a dry or a reflective environment. It doesn\'t matter so much what that recorded space is, but you want your release time to be a good match for the sample\'s baseline ambience, and to have that be your starting point for any added reverb, etc. In other words, get the sample right \"with itself\" without any added processing, and set that as your starting point. That\'s a variable you really don\'t need.

    However, what I\'m NOT saying is don\'t tweak the release times. Many libraries ship with releases on the long side particularly. Just don\'t tweak them differently for wet or dry mixes.

    If you\'re having trouble matching up sounds with recordings, you may want to simplify things for a while. Really limit your instrumental palette, and find some matching commercial recordings. Maybe even knock off a few scores from Norton, etc...anything you can do to get some cut and dried a/b studies. Be merciless and brutal. Take every musical consideration off the plate, and just concentrate on balance, panning, EQ, wet/dry ratio...eventually, if you keep making adjustments you can\'t help but get a match. Be very dispassionate about it, and just eat the elephant one bite at a time.

    I didn\'t mention this in my previous post, but another issue in getting the \"huge\" sound is that in order to have huge you must also have tiny. In order for some things to sound wet, other things must be quite dry. These juxtapositions don\'t necessarily have to be simultaneous, but they have to be present. I have heard many people struggle with reverb, and a great many of them make the mistake of making every single instrument huge and full-range, and equally drowned in reverb. Ironically, the mix begins to sound smaller and smaller as the \"air\" is more and more saturated. Then it doesn\'t sound big enough, so more reverb gets added. It\'s a big catch-22...the bigger it gets the smaller it gets.

    You might try REALLY exaggerating distances. If your pizz basses and bass drum are on the back row, then try making that back row sound a mile away. At the same time, put the front row right under your nose, almost dry, and use EQ and volume to \"mate\" the sounds together into a plausible image. And don\'t get caught in the trap of \"naturalism\" and worry too much about things sitting on certain real estate in the stereo image. I have a lot more fun when I let the imaging spring from the musical content rather than a preconceived seating arrangement. Since we work with very disparate recording styles with samples, it is a lot less frustrating to just let things be what they are. Instead of bending the sample to a specific image, the quicker road may be to bend the image to your currently featured sample.

    The rules are: there are no rules. Whatever you can do to make something sound cool is open game. I have gone as far as to throw up a pair of microphones and record samples through speakers or guitar amps. One of the best ways to fix a wimpy snare is to turn a snare drum on its side in front of a monitor speaker, and mic the bottom head while playing the track back through the monitor. The business is hard these days because budgets are tight and there\'s a real loss of collaboration between composers, players, and engineers. It\'s harder to learn the tricks. A person can\'t really be \"just\" a composer any more and hope to make a good living. You have to be composer, engineer, producer, session player, and bookkeeper all in one. Those are all full time disciplines in and of themselves. It\'s one of those tough reality checks that technology really hasn\'t made the task of becoming all of these things that much easier. Just cheaper.

    Of course, this is just my particular spin. There are many ways to approach mixing, and this is only one...you\'ll find your own path if you keep at it.

  10. #10

    Re: It\'s a lame question, but..

    Bruce, thanks for being a part of this forum. Without agreeing or disagreeing with your posts, I just like your openness and willingness to help.
    You are the \'Douglas Spotted Eagle\' of this forum. [img]images/icons/smile.gif[/img]

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