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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  • How do I set up a desk and ambient reverb in Fl Studio 12?

  • I need to study this again now that I have both QL Spaces and Valhalla as reverb is something I really struggle on my orchestral mixes right now. Cheers for the guide James. :)

  • You're totally welcome, Tim! Glad I can help!

    I feel like writing an updated reverb article but going back to the actual concepts first in terms of why we're using reverb and then what tools we can use to achieve it. I often change the tools from mix to mix. For a rom-com I scored earlier this year I basically just had a couple of reverb sends, one to a basic QL Spaces reverb and one to my Lexicon. For that kind of straightforward mix I don't want a lot of room in there. Even with hybrid style scores I don't need to be that detailed and can get away with one or two simple sends. It's really the detailed orchestral stuff that needs that sense of concert hall 3d space when I spend a lot of time working with multiple layers of reverb.
  • VSS is great! So comfortable..

    Downloaded the demo and in about 10 minutes I got the sound of room I ever wanted to create. Thanks for the tip James!

  • Thanks James. Sounding interesting while I use Altiverb atm and having the feeling that it can be done much easier :) Will take a look into this.

  • Hey Arthur, I worked with Altiverb for years learning how to work around it's idiosyncrasies and EQ out the build up low mids, etc. 10 minutes with QL Spaces and I had a better sound. I've simply never looked back. These days I'm using Valhalla Room quite a lot as well.
  • What's the main reason not using Altiverb anymore James?

  • Hey Tim,

    I no longer use Altiverb at all with my templates. 

    If you're using VSL woodwind then my recommendation is to try out Virtual SoundStage from Parallax Audio. I put all of my VSL woodwinds into there first to 'push them back'. It works really well! Check out the oboe in my Ancient Ruins track, that's the VSL oboe. Hope that helps.

  • That's right, I'm just not  satisfied with the woodwind's sound yet.

    Btw. I've seen you've also posted a reverb setup for Altiverb aswell. I did this aswell before QL Spaces and it worked but is more complicated to mix a great orchestral template IMHO. I just finished setting up my VE Pro Server, creating a new template and I'm not quite sure about using my Altiverb setup again.

    Are you still working with your AV setup? 

    Anyway I really hope East West will deliver the True Stereo IR of So.Cal. Woodwinds soon.. :)

  • Hey Tim,

    You don't necessarily have to have the desk verb be short. You could have a long lush reverb. Normally I use a hardware Lexicon PCM 90 set to large hall. I don't usually add a lot but the sound is great.

    I tend to write a lot of sample-based orchestral music so yeah, getting the sense of space and room is really important. 

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