Reverb processors-the principles of use
The best reverb processor
can cost a small fortune. But still, it is worth buying,
because without great sounding reverb the music will not
sound right. But best sounding reverb is not only depending
on the quality of processor. It depends on the quality of...
The importance of ambience in music can not be overestimated.
It strictly influences the artistic value of recording. Each audio
connoisseur will be delighted if he will hear the subtleties
present in his favorite recording, and when his worth a lot of money
listening equipment will reveal them to him, giving the
impression of smaller or larger listener's distance from the
instrument, or the impression of room, in which the
recording was done. It is the precise reason of building the
hi-fi systems. Hi Fidelity should be
capable to cast such nuances any time.
Why is such a reverberation so important for
reception of music? To answer this question we must first
realize what is actually a phenomenon of reverb in sound and how
reaches out to our ear. The sound of both air jet and human
voice or the saxophone is originating from vibrating source.
This vibration makes the surrounding air to move, and in the
form of acoustic waves reaches our ears.
These vibrations travel in
all directions, up and down and 360 degree around the sound
rate of distribution of such waves is very large, it is
approximately 300 m\sec, it varies slightly depending on
the temperature of air. When the waves reach some
surrounding objects such as walls of the room, buildings,
trees in the forest, they bounce off. It does not mean they
do not finally reach the listener, but because they travel
over longer distance then straight waves they come slightly
listener's ear, hears both waves running in a straight
line from the source as well as those bounced off, having to
travel along curved lines. Of course,
the waves that are reflected have more distance to go, so they reach the
ear slightly later than the waves traveling along straight
lines. The human ear can distinguish even very small
differences in timing of sound waves and perceives it as the reverb.
Human ear is very sensitive instrument and can also
hear that reflected waves have been slightly amended by the
material from which they reflected. Hence the color of reverb.
Very important here is the type and hardness of the
material from which the walls are made of, or other items
which could be the cause of sound reflections.
If the room is large, then the waves will travel quite a
long way to the walls and then bounce off returning to the
listener's ear, so in a
large concert hall the reverberation is longer than a
typical room. If a room has many bends the wave will often
bounce back from them until it looses energy and diminishes. Therefore, in the
empty corridors or empty rooms the reverb is very long and
therefore special curved objects, for example on the
ceiling, are installed to eliminate this reverb. Appropriate and balanced
reverb is very beneficial for reception of music, too
strong deafening of the room can completely obliterate its reception. Therefore,
the recording studios and concert halls and even Hi Fi listening
rooms must be properly prepared with regard to the acoustics
From the birth we are surrounded by the sounds. But those sounds
are almost never devoid of reverb, as the reverb always occur in a
limited space. Even when you are in an open space the different sounds reflected from trees, buildings or land
reach our ears, creating the sense of that space. Hence, the
sound containing reverb is perceived as natural and
listener's brain is able to better locate the position
in three-dimensional space.
Therefore the recordings that contain an appropriate amount
of the reverb are perceived by our brain as far better than the
recordings devoid of reverb. They are perceived as natural,
interesting and credible.
In the studio recordings we not always deal
with the fully natural reverb. Most often the reverb on
studio recordings is of artificial nature. Recording studios
use special processors such as reverberation units, chambers and echoes.
There are many kinds of such devices, both hardware and software,
which came to use recently,
but their goal is always the same: to make the recording sounding
at it's best and to simulate the natural effect of reverb.
History of reverberation in
Originally, the studio recordings were performed through the
microphone quite remote from the sound source. This
microphone, like the human ear, received the sound waves
reflected from the walls of the studio room, and enrolled it
into the recording. In the such way the natural reverb of
the studio was preserved in the recording. The effect was even more pronounced, when
they began to use several microphones, respectively mixed
with each other, this way even better results could be achieved. In the fifties
the recording studios started to increasingly equip
themselves with special devices for the producing the artificial
reverb, which they began to add to the recordings. These were the
so-called. reverberation chambers, and spring
reverb units. the new approach to the recording was born- to
put the microphone close to the source, eliminating the
natural reverb from the studio room and then add some
artificial reverb in the process of mixing. This gave the
technicians and recording engineers greater control over
reverberation of their tracks. Each studio had its own technicians and its own
solutions to achieve their often unique reverb.
For example, the famous label Tamla Motown studio in
Detroit, recording such great soul and funk artists as Stevie
Wonder, Aretha Franklin, Jackson Five, The Supremes with
Diana Ross, Wilson Pickett and many others have achieved so
perfect sound of the the rhythm section - the drums and
bass, that the bands used to come there from all over the
world just to record their rhythm section using the Tamla
Motown studio. When the studio moved to California in
the beginning of the seventies, they cut out the whole room,
as the legend says, and took it with them along with the
drum set nailed to the floor.
EMI Studios at Abbey Road in London recording the Beatles or
Pink Floyd not only had its own, perfectly worked out sound but
also their own reverberation chamber. Abbey Road
Studio's reverb chamber was made of a cast iron pipe with the speaker and
microphone on both ends. The
microphone picked up the sound of this loudspeaker reverbed
by the pipe,
which was mixed in to the original, direct sound.
At the same time at Abbey Road the very close placement of microphones for recording instruments
was introduced, which at
the beginning raised great technical objections of studio
management, it was feared that the placing such
expensive type of microphone as the Neumann U-47 very close to the
membrane of a kick drum of the Beatles is not only its
desecration, but it can cause damage to the capsule by too
much sound pressure levels.
The Beatles were also the only band which was allowed to do
that, as mentioned by their sound engineer, Geoff Emerick,
and other bands had to record using the traditional method
of more distant placement of the microphones.
Close miking gave much more powerful sound to the
Beatles' rhythm section, which was even an object of
jealousy for the specialists from Tamla Motown, but virtually deprived
the recordings of natural reverb of the room. The need for
artificial reverberation has become more prominent.
In the earlier days they used two basic tricks to obtain the reverb in the
recording session. The first was the use of reel-to-reel tape
with more playback heads added and the looped tape, which gave the
opportunity to obtain both an echo and reverb, depending on
the speed of the tape, while the second was to apply tricks
of additional, special microphones arranged very far from
the instruments and collect an enormous amount of room
reverb, which later was mixed back into the close, dry
microphones signal, which gave both very powerful and naturally reverbed sound.
Over time, the first specialized tape reverbs were built,
called the echo cameras with many heads offering the
possibility of multiple sound and repetition to achieve the
effect of reflecting the echoes. Musicians quickly used it
as an additional means of expression, and even the whole
compositions were sometimes based on the sound of such
devices. A good example might be David Gilmour of Pink
Floyd, who used the Binson plate echo effect, or Jimi Hendrix, the
greatest electric guitar virtuoso of all times, using very
much of artificial reverb and echo in his recordings.
Practical implementation of the reverb in the mix
Generally you can say that the reverb can be used in the mix
on the basis of two approaches: either for the purpose of
obtaining natural ambience in the mix, simulating a kind
of live recordings, or as a special effect, used to obtain special
sound textures. Both approaches are widely used and the best
way of using reverberation in recording is to take advantage
of both of them.
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