A simple but effective reverb setup

Hi all,


I know I know it's been ages but I thought I'd quickly throw out a blog on how I set up my reverb for orchestral mixes. I used to use a really, really complicated method but of late I've settled on something fairly simple and straightforward that I feel works and gives a realistic result and uses fairly modest CPU.


I'm literally only going to use QL Spaces for this and we're going to set up some sends.


So as a starting point we might as well set up the placement reverb tracks in the sequencer. These are reverbs to handle room placement and you can easily use some of the presets from QL Spaces. Heck I often use the So Cal Hall presets for all of these. Don't forget that as we're using them as sends set the Dry to 0 and set the Wet to 100. We'll create 4 of them: one for strings, one for woodwind, one for brass and one for percussion.


Now we are also going to add an 'ambient' reverb which is going to help get a consistent room sound. For this I often use something from the Epic Film Final Verb collection but some of the bigger hall sounds can be fun. This really can be quite a large reverb.


Finally if you wish you can add a desk reverb and again there are plenty of emulations in QL Spaces. At this point, if you have a hardware reverb you could also substitute this.


So we now have 6 FX tracks:







Desk Reverb


The trick here now is how we treat the various channels. Let's start with strings as an example.


For sustained/legato strings we'll obviously use a send to the 'Strings' reverb. This should push our strings back into the room. How much do we use? Obviously that's largely dependent on how wet the library already is. We should be able to balance different libraries here.


Then we add some of the Ambience reverb. Usually only a tiny amount but some nonetheless. We do this because even though the strings are close, they are in a large room and the ambience helps us realise that. If we don't then the room will seem to get larger and smaller depending on whether the brass and percussion sections are playing. This way, even though the strings are relatively close we can hear that there is a lot of room behind them.


Now live strings in great rooms will often still need desk verb and so we are simulating that. As they are quite close, the desk reverb helps to smooth out soft legato passages without adding too much room sound.


Importantly we will split the long and short string articulations. For the short articulations, while we'll keep the Strings reverb, we'll have a little less of the ambient and very little desk reverb. This helps to keep them sounding slightly more lively and limber (and reflects the kind of close miking tricks used in real recording situations).


Alternatively you can automate the levels of desk reverb and ambience. That can work really well.


Sorting out the other sections of the orchestra is done in a similar manner. Again if the library already contains a lot of room info then perhaps add just a dash of ambience and desk reverb. Otherwise it's generally worth adding a little more ambience to the sections further back in the room.


For things like tight brass, I often pull back quite hard on the amount of reverb I'm using to represent again usage of close mikes.


For a woodwind solo I might also use less room information (from the Woodwind and Ambience reverbs) but add in more Desk Reverb. Again this represents using a spot microphone in a live recording situation.


Now I admit that I haven't explained the various levels involved but that really is very much according to taste and the libraries in use. If anyone has any direct questions then ask in the comments and I'll explain further.


The key thing to take away from this blog is how you can use just 3 reverb sends per section to get a very realistic 3d space. I've been using this technique for over a year now and I really feel it works very well.


All the best



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  • Hey James, thank you for the qucik response! I'll definitely check this one out. So u can use for example a Lexington or anything else with a short verb duration as a desk reverb?

    Glad to see another composer that loves to play with reverb setups! You can change your overall sound so much with turning the right knobs and gladly spend your whole time just with adjusting reverb settings.. :-))

  • Hey Tim! Thanks for reading. For a desk reverb you could use really any of the Plate Digital > Classic Digital presets. 

    At the moment I've been experimenting with using Valhalla Room for my 'ambience' and I'm liking that sound a lot. You can hear it on my Ancient Ruins track on my profile page. I'm going with quite a concert hall sound of late and that means a lot of room sound in the mix.

  • Thanks James! It's quite funny I'm using a similar setup since Spaces is out but i never tried the additional desk reverb send. What Impulse would you recommend for a desk / close reverb in Spaces?

  •  Thanks James ,  i m  gonna try this set up soon . 

    it  makes a lot of sense .  thanks for  taking  the  time to explain .

  • Hi Doug, I absolutely love Spaces these days. I don't need to EQ it or anything like that, it's all just a matter of mixing levels. I really think it gives a beautiful sense of 3D space.

  • Excellent blog post. ...Altiverb or Spaces?
    It sounds like Spaces might be a simpler easier approach. Do you ever EQ the reverb? Or just use it as is?

  • Yes, thanks for sharing James. Very useful.

  • Thank you Chris! Many people kept asking about my previous reverb article (with the infamous 11 instances of Altiverb) so I had to explain my new, far simpler approach!

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