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Tag: reverb

Why do we need so many reverbs?

Without any introduction, here’s my current list of reverbs:

And this is a curated list as some others has been moved to unused for some time, but not necessarily permanently.

The question is simple, why do I or anyone else need this amount or even more? The answer is not so simple though. Yes, I know many times we can tweak a certain reverb to sound like some other, we can insert EQ, Dynamics and-or Saturation before or after the verb changing its sound. Automation is another thing that can make real difference as we can automate certain parameters to change the type of reverb or the tail multiple times in a song. Combining different reverbs can take you into even more interesting territories, honestly the possibilities are almost endless even if you only have a few different reverb plugins.

It’s a curse

If you don’t have a vision, multiple choices can easily derail the mix process and you find yourself endlessly searching for the best while loosing perspective. The other possibility is what you liked the first day may hate the next and change again on the third. Of course you might just find the best possible reverb for the material but more often than not it’s just brings you further away from the real solution.

Many times I see some purchase all the famous ones thinking that if all the big names use some of these than they must be good enough for the rest. But this kind of thinking is bad. The biggest names in the industry turns out to be very picky when it comes to reverbs. And for a good reason. They use what really works for them. It doesn’t matter if it cost 50 dollars or 300. If it not suit your taste, you can’t achieve what you want, it doesn’t worth your money. Note that it doesn’t mean that it’s bad. It only means that it’s not for you.

Don’t be a mindless collector. I mean it is so tempting to pull the trigger when you see the deals on forums and other places. It is easier to read some user reviews and believe it’s going to be just fine for you. And as I mentioned, it’s even more tempting to buy instantly when you see someone famous in the advertisement. But the point is until you tried it, until you’ve thoroughly tested and become familiar with its idiosyncrasies, there’s no way it’s going to be a good purchase.

One strange phenomenon can happen if you have too many choices. Many people think that having endless choices makes you creative as you don’t have any boundaries. But in reality it does the opposite. Ever been in a restaurant where the menu is way too long? Your brain suddenly can’t decide as it has too many choices and frankly many seems like a great choice. It’s the same with this. You won’t be more creative, actually you derail you vision while trying to pick the best from an enormous list. At the end you might have the best that really fits the project but you might as well lost the creative spark, the vision not to mention you wasted too much time and don’t have enough left to polish the rest of the mix.

It’s the best thing

On the other hand, owning many different reverb can be the best thing. For example if you know them well, know your favourites for certain things and have at least an idea where to start, then it’s great to have multiple choices. Some think that owning for example multiple plate reverbs is not necessary as they do the very same thing. But make no mistake, even rooms or plates can have quite different qualities. And most of the time it’s not that one is better than the other, it can be substantially different and that can be the recipe for success. Not all plates created equal or the same.

It’s very easy to test this yourself. Just make a test session with a snare and some other instrument samples. They can be short, mono or stereo. The main thing is that you need some reference samples and they need to be dry preferably. Make an aux where you instantiate the first plate you find in the list. Make it sound great on the snare for example. Then bypass that first insert, and do the same with the second one in the list, and do this until you tried all of your different plates. If you happy with all the settings, simply bypass and reactivate the different plates will deliver you amazingly different results. And this is still true even if you try to match them as close as possible. So having multiple choices even from the same type is not necessarily a bad thing.

And don’t deny, there are happy accidents. When you just insert one from the arsenal accidentally and it turns out to be the best choice. The funny thing is, this can happen with the default preset many times. Just throw it in and hear what it does. If the style is great, you might only want to tweak a few settings to get the desired result. Or just quickly change it to another one. While I love to have my own preferences sometimes it’s fun to really just experiment with different choices and surprise yourself.

If you are like me who love to save your own presets and many times have an idea what might work with the particular material you’re working on, then it’s absolutely the best thing to have a bigger arsenal so you have options. The key is to keep balance, it’s great to have preferences and presets, but it’s also vital to sometimes break free of the good old things and go wild without any preconceptions. By the way the wild experiments can lead you to your best ever presets later on.

So how many do we really need? The only thing I can say is: it depends on the person and the job. Probably if you tend to work on mainly similar material, you don’t need more than let’s say 3-5 different ones. But if you work in many different genres or in the film scoring world, you might need more than that. The solution is to forget the marketing materials from companies, forget the once-in-a-lifetime offers, forget what others use. Think about your own work and needs, make thorough tests and choose what really works for you.

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Consider it done… a positive experience

It’s only fair to vent if you mention the positive things when it comes to customer support. And honestly I like to spread these great experiences so everyone can vote with their money and support the companies who really care about their customers.

The other day I was setting up a score mix and decided to use Exponential Audio’s Nimbus as one of the quasi surround reverbs. I know it’s not available as a multi-channel plugin (not yet), but I thought in multi-mono it can still be a nice solution. However, I’ve found that it’s not available as a multi-mono plugin.

I didn’t know the reason so I wrote to Exponential Audio’s support to ask if this is intentional. They responded within 24 hours, actually read my mail because they already checked that it is really not there as a multi-mono and told me they look into it, it is a bug and they’re going to solve it.

Without too much praise, in my opinion, this is how a professional treat their customers and take care of his/her products. Again, Exponential Audio proved that they not only make some of the best reverbs in the plugin world, but they take their work and support seriously. If you don’t know much about them, go grab the demo, I’m sure you’ll end up spending some money there.

Wonder why do I have so many customer support stories? Because in my opinion simply venting and moaning on different user forums is not enough. We all should send bug reports, crash logs and experiences to developers so they can make the products we use better. Most of them welcome these. Those are the worthy ones.

And voila! This happened almost a week ago, and Exponential Audio already released the updates that cures the problem. What else a mixer could wish for? You can download the new releases here.

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Upgraded to Nimbus

As you probably know I’m quite a big fan of Exponential Audio’s reverbs. Beside the fact that they are amongst the very best sounding reverbs, it always amazes me when a small shop deliver something that truly change the scene, and does this only with their product. Without overly loud obnoxious marketing. Without unnecessary and unkept promises. Exponential Audio is in fact does the opposite. They not only keep their promises, but gives us more than their promised.

Before the release

First of all, anyone who’s ever owned any of their product is eligible for the discounted upgrade, although the introduction price is very fair in my opinion.

Since they announced Nimbus was coming, I was excited. Honestly I thought I didn’t need another reverb, but at the same time I knew Michael wouldn’t announce something that is only a minor facelift. Then, as more and more information came to light, I started to plan, what if it’s really that good I’ll want to upgrade at the minute is coming out? Then heard the examples on their page and felt that this is probably going to be my next purchase. But, I’m really a picky old cynic when it comes to choosing my reverbs.

Demo

So while I was really liked all the things I’ve read and heard, it was obvious that I need the demo to test it in my lab. Literally minutes after the official launch I immediately grabbed the demo. Loaded my trusty test session to hear what Nimbus could do.

For me two basic things are very important about reverbs. One is of course it must sound fabulous, and it must be very easy to achieve the best result easily. It’s not about laziness. It’s about maintaining the focus. If you have to tweak things endlessly, all your energy will be wasted on technical details instead of the creative side. So, achieving great results rapidly is a must.

Welcome to the preset library. Tons of spectacular presets are there to get you started. The navigation makes it even easier to find the right one. Up and down arrow let’s you change the category (plate, hall, etc.) while left and right arrow goes through the presets.

Without further ado, after about an hour of testing, I immediately bought the upgrade.

Nimbus

What it can do for us

Well, honestly I think the time has come to unplug your hardware reverbs. I mean it! The immediate feeling when I instantiated the plugin was that it is all that many felt missing from the plugin reverbs. It is such an amazing thing that it can be dirty, old-school, more modern or even unbelievably clean. After a day it has a permanent place in my template sessions.

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Plugin revision (again)

Every year I stop and look back, re-open older sessions to see what I’ve done and how I’ve done it. And also to see what tools I’ve been using, which are the ones I seldom use. To be honest my iLok is very valuable not for the obvious reason that it holds the licenses, but because I’ve spent huge amount of money to software in the last couple of years. But only spent money which was really worth, which I really needed for my job.

Test, demo, test

As you might know I’m very picky when it comes to plugins. I always, always thoroughly test before deciding if I really need or want something. I’m a true believer in that you don’t need 100 different EQs and 200 different compressors to mix. A few carefully selected ones will make your life easier, will help you to achieve the SOUND you’re after, but that’s it. No need to a mile long list of fetish emulation. Don’t get me wrong, there are superb emulations out there, but you certainly don’t need them all.

ilok2

Plugin companies want you to believe that their new/old/emulation stuff will make your mix so much better, even they ask famous engineers to endorse/promote their plugins. In reality though, you need only a few to make a word class mix.

On my iLok I have 77 activated plugins. Including different Pro Tools licenses, EQs, Compressors, Reverbs and other miscellaneous stuff. I think it’s a bit too much, but going through the list I realise that I use almost all of it. Only 4 activated plugins sitting there mostly unused. Not because they’re bad, but whether I’ve found some better alternative, or I don’t really need it.

This yearly housekeeping always reminds me how important to choose our weapons wisely, and to not listen to promising advertising. Instead, if you feel the urge to buy something, I suggest to always, always make time to really test it. Do what you want to do with it, then do more, do crazy things with it to see-hear under all possible circumstances. After these first tests, try to recreate the behaviour with other plugins you already have in your arsenal. If, with some effort, it is possible to recreate that thing, you’ve got your answer, you don’t need the new plugin.

I take this very seriously. I could’ve spent many thousands on different emulations, but honestly many times they’re not that far apart from each other.

My very strict test process saved me huge amount of money over the years, so I stick with it. It takes more time and effort to always test the newcomers, but this way I really know that I have the best possible tools for my job.

Be your own judge, don’t let the marketing department fool you!

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New year’s very early discoveries

First of all, Happy New Year to everyone!

Well, it’s not about any new year’s resolution, I’m not that type, sorry. Rather, it’s about some perspective. Amidst the big mixing sessions I seldom have time to really experiment with different plugins, try absolutely new things, so I thought as the start of the new year is a bit more calm, I make some tests.

Reverb

My lovely reverbs for post production and for music. Many fellow engineer recommended me different reverbs for certain tasks and as I’m admittedly a reverb fan, well, downloaded most of it to hear what they can do for me. After many hours of testing and tweaking things in Pro Tools I came to this very succinct conclusion:
If you need very high quality, really stellar sounding verbs with reliable automation, use Exponential Audio’s Phoenix and R2 and Avid’s Revibe.
Probably many of you just raised your eyebrows, but I must say that Revibe is still a exceptionally good reverb, I would go as far as to say if you’re in post production, it’s a must have. From time to time I love to experiment and test new things, but for a reason I always use this trusty old friend. I think the difference lies in the thought process that went into designing and updating this reverb. The original idea was to make a great and versatile room modelling plugin that suits for post production. At least that’s what I think and that’s what I feel when I use it. Very well made presets gives you direction, but if you want, tweak the parameters until you hear what you want.

reverbs

I know it’s probably strange that I don’t mention any convolution verbs. I have my reasons for it. Because I hardly use any. First, the most popular one cannot be automated properly, there are many issues with its automation, if you’re more interested in it, dive into some real user forums or test it yourself. The second, and this is the biggest one for me, is that for some reason many times they sound flat, lifeless and not really convincing. I’m not an expert so I don’t know the reason behind this, but it seems to me that algorithmic reverbs tend to sit better in the mix. They sound more organic and frankly, many times more realistic.

Upmix

I started to test the few remaining upmix plugins. Two things:

  • they are expensive
  • all require magicians and witches to code one

Right now, I’m testing the Auromatic Pro 2D up-mixer which seem to be preferred by many excellent mixer. I think the reason why many of these up-mixers failed to convince me is that I need them for multiple things. One day for music, the other day for complete mixed material, and after that for some special effects things. I’ve found that most up-mixer is good maybe only for one thing, but fail when it comes to multi-faceted work, not to mention that it must downmix perfectly. I have high hopes in this Auro up-mixer simply because the engineers who recommended it I trust.

auromatic 2d

The next few days going to be very interesting ones for me during these tests.

Plugins

It is only a small discovery, but for me, a very enlightening one. I checked my recent templates and discovered the fact that I’m using only a few different ones. If you’d take a look at my iLok list, I have many different types of EQ and Dynamics, etc. but it seems I only use a very small percentage of it.
From EQ I usually use 2 types, 3 types of dynamics and as you might have guessed, the aforementioned reverbs, that is all. And the real discovery is that I don’t even miss the rest!
This, again, proves the point for me that we don’t need a hundred different compressors or EQs for a mix.

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