As in so many aspects of modern music production, we’re rather spoiled when it comes to the types of reverb we can add to our mixes. We can work with convolution reverbs, which use impulse responses recorded in real spaces to create formerly unfeasible levels of authenticity. Or, we can take our pick from a spectacular range of ‘artificial’ algorithmic reverbs, which use the lightning-fast capabilities of our computers’ CPUs to dream up similarly impressive sounding spaces; useful for everything from extreme special effects to perfectly tailored ambiences.
As a concept, ‘artificially added space’ has been central to the sound of recorded music since recording itself became viable, so it’s no surprise that the ingenuity of engineers in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s helped forge a range of techniques and pieces of equipment which satisfied the technical and creative whims of maverick music producers. Take plate reverb as an example – plate reverbs don’t sound ‘natural’ at all. Try selecting a Plate algorithm in your modern reverb plugin of choice and solo it on a vocal or instrumental part and you’re unlikely to immediately associate the sound with a type of room or hall. However, they tend to shine a light on the sound being processed, offering it a focus, warmth and colour which is, sonically, hugely appealing.
Spring reverbs, meanwhile, offer a different take along similarly ‘retro’ lines; this approach uses a transducer to transmit sound to a coiled metal spring. Throughout the 1960s, guitarists were seduced by the sound of spring reverbs – so much so, in fact, that Fender started using them in amplifier designs. Even with the advent of digital reverb units such as Lexicon’s 224, the input transformer stage and 12-bit digital to analogue conversion ensured that colour and a unique sonic identity were central to the sound.
So no wonder that, inspired by these unit and many others, leading plugin manufacturers are flocking to create clones of the most coveted reverbs ever developed. Among these are UAD’s emulations of AKG’s BX 20 and the AMS RMX16 reverbs. Waves’ Abbey Road Plates are wonderful recreations of proprietary devices constructed at the world’s most famous recording studios, while Valhalla’s VintageVerb manages to provide its own unique sonic (and visual) style to echo the sound of spatial treatments from yesteryear.
Through this month’s walkthroughs and video, we’re exploring how a number of classic reverb techniques can benefit your mixes, irrespective of the musical genres you produce. Let’s remind ourselves why the sound of these boxes has never fallen out of favour.