The Five Main Types of Reverb, and How to Mix with Them — by Jamey Staub

November 3, 2013 by  

“Just put some reverb on it.”

The EMT 140 plate -- a classic way to reverberate your sound.

The EMT 140 plate — a classic way to reverberate your audio.

That request just pisses me off. What reverb? Which style? Hall? Room? Plate? Chamber? Spring? Tunnel? Cave? Well? Gated? Phased? Flanged? Real Space? Analog? Digital? Plug In?

There are so many choices that it can be daunting to pick the right reverb for the right job.

The many considerations needed to decide which reverb to use will be discussed in this article: I will present the points that I use to determine what reverb I employ in the mix process, that conveys the feeling for the particular emotion I wish to invoke in the listener. I will also discuss the many types of natural reverb and reverb simulators that exist in today’s world of music production.


Reverb is defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary as:

: a sound that echoes
: an effect or result that is not wanted

I think this is a lame definition. Reverb is a sound that echoes, but the echoes that create reverberation are extremely complex – from the onset of the initial reflection to the last heard decay is a multitude of echoes that have variations in time, repetition and frequency response.

Secondly, in the world of mixing, reverb is definitely a sound that is wanted and useful in the creation of a wonderful listening experience!

The type of reverb depends on the size and shape of the room that the sound echoes in. A square room provides many less reflective surfaces than a cathedral. The material of the reflective surface determines the frequency response of the initial reflections and subsequent echoes that result in the tail or length of the reverb. The harder the surface, and the more surface angles and lengths of the room, the longer the repetition of echoes occur, resulting in a longer tail or reverberation time.

The first “REVERB” observed by humans was probably heard in a canyon or a cave when we were known as Neanderthal. The repetition of echoes in an enclosed or open space was probably quite frightening and intriguing.

I remember as a kid a place in the mountains called Echo Rock where I would yell something and hear it echo after 1 or 2 seconds. Further down the mountain where the walls were closer together, I would shout and hear a rapid repetition of echoes that I later learned was “reverb.”

The main difference between echo and reverb is the number of repetitions of sound per millisecond. A reverberation is perceived when the reflected sound wave reaches your ear in less than 0.1 second after the original sound wave. Since the original sound wave is still held in memory, there is no time delay between the perception of the reflected sound wave and the original sound wave. The two sound waves tend to combine as one very prolonged sound wave.

For the purpose of this article I will define some terms that I use to describe reverb:

Sound reflections, and their variations, shape our perceptions of reverb.

Sound reflections, and their variations, shape our perceptions of reverb.

Once a sound event occurs, the first echoes are called “Early Reflections.” These are generally 5 to 20 milliseconds in length.

After that the sound has had a chance to bounce around the room and becomes the “Body” of the reverb. This can last anywhere from 20 milliseconds to infinity.

The last part of the reverb I will call the “Decay or Tail.” This is the last perceptible sounds and can be from .1 to several seconds. The end of the tail occurs when the sound pressure level of the echoes reaches 60dB – close to inaudibility for human ears.

Without getting too technical it should be mentioned that the reverb time of a space has been defined as the time it takes for the initial sound pressure level (SPL) to be reduced by 60dB (for example if the initial SPL is 100 dB, the time it takes to go down to 40 dB would be the RT60 time).

Types of Reverb

The most basic types of reverb fall into five categories.


The first three are naturally occurring phenomena within a physical space and the last two are manmade devices. Though there are many other types that could be mentioned, I will focus on the aforementioned reverb types and their typical uses in today’s music mixes.

The optimum reverberation time for a space in which music is played depends on the type of music that is to be played in the space. Orchestral music is often written with a particular reverb time of the hall to utilize the decay to enhance harmonic structure.  Rooms used for speech typically need a shorter reverberation time so that speech can be understood more clearly.

You can hear some academically-oriented examples of reverb in action here.


This term refers to the reverb heard in a concert hall.

Generally the construction of a music hall attempts to produce a reverb that lasts anywhere from 1.2 to 3 seconds or longer. The characteristics include an audible cluster of initial reflections followed by a full body and a decay that ends with a rolloff of high-frequency content.

There are many well-known great sounding Concert Halls throughout the world. Boston Symphony Hall, Vienna’s Musikverein, Walt Disney Concert Hall are a few noted for their accurate and tasteful reverberation characteristics. The most obvious use is for Symphony and Orchestral performance.

If you can’t afford to rent one of these Halls, turn to the digital world.

A Lexicon 224 trademark was a particularly lush reverb tail.

A Lexicon 224 trademark was a particularly lush reverb tail.

The Lexicon 224 and 480 were my favorite boxes years ago. Today there are numerous plug-ins that model hall reverbs including Lexicon, Waves and convolution reverbs (convolution attempts to simulate actual physical spaces using impulse responses).

I used the Waves TrueVerb plug-in on a recent mix for the artist Riley Goldstein. On the song “Everything,” which you can hear on her ReverbNation page, the string recording utilized the Vienna orchestra in GigaStudio and I added a touch of 2.4 second Waves Hall Reverb during the mix.


A chamber is usually a smaller physical space than a hall that results in more clarity yet still provides a blend of harmonic content and dispersion of sound.

A chamber is usually rectangular and can be constructed from cement or wood. I also include a stairwell or hallway in the chamber family. The frequency response and decay is dependent upon construction material and size. The typical chamber reverb varies from .4 to 1.2 seconds.

The original use of these type of rooms was for small ensembles that came to be known as Chamber Orchestras. I was in Vienna for a wedding and had the good fortune of listening to a chamber orchestra in  the castle up on the hill.

The room was all natural wood and glass windows behind the stage. The eight musicians played very interesting counterpoint and the shorter reverberation allowed me to hear each instrument’s line clearly without becoming muddy. The warm reflections of the wood softened the overall tones of the violins and violas and allowed the low end of the contrabass to be heard clearly.

In pop music, the Beatles used the chambers built below Abbey Road Studios for vocal effects — you can hear an example of that that here.

If you mute the right channel (direct vocals,) you can hear the chamber effect in the left channel. Another great example of using a chamber to get a specific sound is quite apparent on the drum sound on “When the Levee Breaks.” John Bonham was recorded at the base of a stairwell in the poorhouse, Headly Grange.


This term refers to a shorter RT60, typically from .2 to 1 second.

Imagine yourself in a conference room where you have a strong initial reflection followed by a quick series of echoes that constitute the body and a tail that decays quickly with minimal frequency rolloff. Then again, imagine being in a gymnasium where the hard reflective surfaces provide a great deal of initial reflections while the decay lasts longer as the reflections get lost up in the high ceilings and corners.

Again, the room reverb characteristic is varied depending on physical size and construction material. Common uses of room reverb can be heard on many rock recordings from Aerosmith to Led Zeppelin.

In that era, many engineers would close mic the guitar amp using a dynamic cardiod as well as place a distant mic around 8 – 15 ft back from the cabinet in omni , to pic up the room sound. The two mics were either separately recorded or combined and recorded to one track.

When Jamey's in the box, the Audio Ease Altiverb convolution plugin is a go-to.

When Jamey’s in the box, the Audio Ease Altiverb convolution plugin is a go-to.

A great example of this can be heard in the opening riff of this song.  “Dancing Days” by Led Zeppelin. One of my favorite digital reverbs dedicated to room reverb is the Lexicon PCM 60. There are quite a few plug-ins that produce room reverbs, but the ones I use the most are TrueVerb and Audio Ease Altiverb.


The plate reverb is a manmade device that implements a sheet or plate of metal that vibrates when a sound wave strikes the surface.

At one end or corner is a transducer that emits the sound wave. As the wave propagates through the metal, another transducer receives the sound at different times and levels depending on the construction material of the plate. My observation is that there are minimal initial reflections but a full bodied reverb and a smooth tail. The RT60 can be manipulated using mechanical dampers that touch the surface and reduce vibration of the plate.

In the late 1980’s and 1990’s I used the EMT 140 at Greene Street Recording, Soho NYC extensively on vocals and drums (snare in particular.) It is also interesting to put a delay in front the plate to get a predelay – great for lead vocal in a ballad.

When I don’t have an actual plate I love the Lexicon PCM 70, and a plug-in that emulates the EMT 140 quite well is the Universal Audio version.

I used the Waves plug-in RVerb Compact with a plate setting of 1.7 sec for the chorus vocals on the newly released Luscious Jackson song “Show Us What You Got” and can be first heard at 00:20 — check it out on YouTube below.


A spring reverb is similar to a plate reverb in that it is a manmade device that utilizes transducers to produce and receive the sound waves via the physical device – in this case a spring.

Spring reverbs have noticeable frequency characteristics such as resonances in the body and filter changes throughout the decay. These have variable RT60 times controlled by spring tension, construction material and dampers. They are often found in guitar amplifiers.

A classic spring reverb is the one found in the Fender Twin Reverb Amplifier. Engineers have taken them out of the cabinet to use for mixing. Also the Furman RV-1 and Orban 111B have very cool sounds.  I built a spring reverb from a garage door spring with fairly good results.

Spring reverbs are great for electric guitar and vocals as well as woodwinds. You can hear the spring bouncing in this song by The White Stripes:

For a complete discussion on Spring Reverbs visit Amplified Parts here.


This discussion is a basic introduction to reverb. There are many other types that deserve exploration such as gated, phased, flanged, non-linear, tube, ductwork, trash can, reverse to name a few as well as some that have not been invented yet.

The use of reverbs is crucial in mixing music and dialog. Whether you are able to use natural occurring spaces or manmade devices, reverb adds ambiance, tone and emotion to your mixes. They can define a mix wholly or just be used as an effect for a section or a single snare hit.

Whether you are mixing the New York Symphony or a vocal and guitar, the right reverb will bring your mix alive and take it to a place you’ve never been. So if you want to add some special sauce to your mix… NOW you can just throw some reverb on it.

Jamey Staub is a Producer/Mixer that loves analog gear and is amused by the attempt to copy and emulate it. He recently mixed the new album by Luscious Jackson, Magic Hour.

UVI Releases Reverb Plug-In – Sparkverb

October 6, 2013 by  

Paris-based developer UVI has just released Sparkverb, which promises to build a unique workflow for speedy discovery of applying reverb in unique ways.

The interface can be as simple or as complex as the user needs it to be with a resizable GUI. While allowing users to discover new ways to apply reverb, Sparkverb can also function as a traditional reverb, covering basic to infinite decays and anywhere in between.

Let UVI's new reverb plugin spark your creativity with more results and less knob twiddling.

Let UVI’s new reverb plugin spark your creativity with more results and less knob twiddling.

UVI’s new Sparkverb plugin is available now for $199.00 MSRP for Mac and PC in AAX, AU, RTAS and VST formats.

Here are more features from UVI:


With a cutting-edge algorithmic design, Sparkverb breaks the boundaries of contemporary reverbs giving users modern and innovative controls that dramatically enhance usability, speed and creative freedom while delivering breathtaking sound quality and remarkable CPU efficiency.

Enormous sonic range, fast and efficient workflow

Easily traverse everything from natural sounding spaces to infinite, shimmering ambiences with stunning depth and fidelity throughout the entire spectrum. This type of range typically implies a dense and complex interface – not in Sparkverb.

Usability and workflow were pivotal considerations in development.

A great deal of care was taken to allow a high degree of customization with the fewest controls possible, resulting in less time spent fidgeting and more time being productive.

At the core of Sparkverb’s interface is a frequency-based spectrum editor; use it to sculpt and refine your sound with phenomenal speed and control. Adjust decay globally and across multiple bands with hi/lo multipliers and crossovers directly on a single canvas. It’s an entirely new way to work with reverb.

All other controls are clearly arranged and labelled, including A/B comparison, making fine-tuning a painless process.

Dialling in a reverb, simple or complex, has never been this fast


From subtle to radical, or anywhere in-between

Sparkverb shines in traditional mixing sessions but was designed to be an exceptionally flexible creative tool as well. Discover new spaces and explore the full range of sonic possibilities effortlessly with built in mutation and randomization controls.

These functions are made even more useful by parameter locks available on every control.

Experiment within prescribed boundaries such as a fixed mix amount or pitch modulation to find exciting variations that work for your specific need. Another innovative tool comes in the form of the Preset Voyager.

At launch, Sparkverb creates a 2-dimensional array of all presets on your machine; simply toggle the Preset Voyager display and click-drag between preset nodes to freely interpolate new settings. Watch controls update in real time to see what’s happening and create new presets to redefine the space – the possibilities are limitless.

PSP Audioware Launches SpringBox — Spring Reverb Plugin for Mac/PC

April 22, 2013 by  

Here’s a beautiful start for your in-the-box adventures this week.

PSP Audioware, the Polish upstarts behind a plethora of highly prized plugins, have just launched PSP SpringBox, a hardware spring reverb emulation for Mac and PC (VST, AAX, RTAS).

A painstaking re-creation of the moving coil reverb units made famous for populating guitar amps and Hammond B3 organs, the distinctive sustain and metallic undertones of spring reverb have gone on to prove highly desirable for guitar, drums and many more mixing applications.

PSP wants you to spring into spring with SpringBox!

PSP wants you to spring into spring with SpringBox!

There’s a special intro offer to sweeten the pot (along with your mix). Until April 30, 2013 PSP SpringBox can be purchased for $49. Starting May 1st, the regular price of $69 kicks in. Owners of the PSP Effects pack qualify for an even better discount.

Here are more details, from the fine peeps of PSP:

PSP SpringBox is an emulation of a hardware spring reverberator (VST, AAX and RTAS for Windows; AudioUnit, VST, AAX and RTAS for Mac OSX). It recreates several features typical of a spring reverb, such as a convincing “boing” on transients and a repeatable resonating musical character with an adjustable presence.

A selection of configurations from two to six springs total is provided, as well as the ability to set stereo spread and pan/balance configured to suit various mix setups – from a typical guitar reverb to a creative uses as a send reverb in the mix. Thanks to PSP SpringBox’s two channel A and B settings setup and range of presets operation is fast and easy.

Hear SpringBox in action via the magic of YouTube:


Mix Analysis: How David Bendeth Mixed “Shadow Moses” by Bring Me the Horizon

April 14, 2013 by  

Massive. It’s the only way to describe the lead single “Shadow Moses” from British metalcore band Bring Me the Horizon and their new album Sempiternal.

David Bendeth was the mixer of choice for "Sempiternal", the new studio album by Bring Me the Horizon.

David Bendeth was the mixer of choice for “Sempiternal”, the new studio album by Bring Me the Horizon. (click on all photos in this article to enlarge)

A 4:12 journey, “Shadow Moses” is a feast for those in search of rock that’s as advanced as it is emotional. The searing vocals, intensive rhythm guitars, and explosive drums will grab your attention first, but repeated listenings reveal plenty that’s decidedly different as well – keyboards, loops, evocative gang vocals, and space are all deftly combined inside.

The mixer who pulled “Shadow Moses” and the rest of Sempiternal together? David Bendeth, the longtime music industry pro who’s been a recording artist, A&R Exec, producer, mixer, and writer since he first topped the U.K. charts with his single “Feel the Real in 1980”.

While Bendeth continues to wear all those hats, it’s his mixing skills that are currently in highest demand – not surprising when you look at his hit track record for artists that include Paramore, Breaking Benjamin, Papa Roach, Taking Back Sunday, Lenny White Band, Kaiser Chiefs, Underoath, Bruce Hornsby, Killswitch Engage, Vertical Horizon, SR-71, and Elvis Presley (Elvis 30 #1 Hits).

Born in London, England, Bendeth long ago relocated stateside, and today he sculpts his highly musical mixes from the House of Loud, his SSL 4000-equipped studio in Elmwood Park, New Jersey. Although plugins are present and tapped regularly as he works in Cubase, the veteran mixer puts a big emphasis on his outboard gear, an enviable collection of classic reverbs, delays and dynamics.

Working with his assistants, mix engineer Brian Robbins and digital editor Mitch Milan, Bendeth had no shortage of fascinating challenges to tackle when mixing Sempiternal (Epitaph/RCA), the band’s fourth studio album. Produced by Terry Date (Deftones, Pantera, Limp Bizkit), the record’s pedigree got Bendeth excited from the start.

“Terry has made huge, great-sounding rock records,” he says. “For Sempiternal, he was able to make tracks that were so workable. We were very lucky to have an artist that was passionate about what they wanted, and a producer that knew where they wanted to go. On first listen, I heard a record with a lot of darkness and atmosphere. I saw the opportunity to create a listening experience that would be like watching a dramatic film.”

Bendeth could have understandably felt overwhelmed by the project’s high track count. Fortunately there was constant overseas communication between Bendeth, the group’s singer Oliver Sykes, keyboardist Jordan Fish, and guitarist Lee Malia (bassist Matt Kean and drummer Matt Nicholls round out the lineup). The result was a collaboration helpful in working through the musical puzzles that Sempiternal often presented, a process embodied perfectly by “Shadow Moses”.

Give the song a listen (and watch the arresting video while you’re at it), then read on in our latest “Mix Analysis” as Bendeth explains how he made this single slam so deliciously.

Construction Materials

“Shadow Moses” was the first track I mixed, because the band knew it would be the first single. And when they heard an album I mixed for the band Underoath, Lost in the Sound of Separation, they referenced that to me.

Bring Me the Horizon didn’t want me to make it sound exactly like that album, but they liked the overall sound of that record, which was produced by Adam D of Killswitch Engage. That was a highly risky record with all sorts of elements: keyboards, loops, and gang vocals. Underoath watched me mix it for three weeks! I thought, “OK, there’s a template for what they’re looking for,” and that was a starting point.

The Sempiternal album came on a hard drive with at least 120 tracks. Terry really covered his ass, because he’s old school: There were two sets of microphones on the guitars, the snare was miked underneath. The room mics were not great, because of the room, but certainly enough to work with.

We got the song up really fast, then realized how many elements there were. There was a choir, ambient keyboards, sections that were just strings, a loop, keyboard and vocals.

I realized there would be a lot of moves — it wouldn’t be a static mix. There would be hundreds of moves in each section of the song.

So these tracks came in with tons of vocals, tons of keyboards. I was shocked, because Bring Me the Horizon is supposedly a guitar band, and I was like, “Wow, this is a ton of production.” But I knew the new keyboardist, Jordan Fish, was helping the band to take their sound to the next level with his understanding of modern music.

The SSL 4000 at House of Loud.

The SSL 4000 at House of Loud.

I was in contact with him immediately, as well as Oliver Sykes, the singer. We were on the phone every day – that was the good news. The bad news was that they were on vacation in Bali! We would Skype every day for hours, and did that every day for the whole album mix.

I was also on the phone right away with Terry Date — he gave good direction on what he wanted to do. Using samples is not Terry’s thing, for example. He loves the sound, like I do, of natural drums.

But the band wanted all of the bells and whistles these days to be competitive, so I figured I had to get on that right way and get them a drum sound. Not by using a drum replacer plugin — stuff that we created here in the studio. Everything was prepped long before it hit the console.

I also listen to the lyrics, because I’m one of those weird guys who wants to know what the song is about.

Initial Pass

It was like, man, this is heavy! But the thing I recognized right away when I first put it up and got the vocals in was that there was this chant. It was great because it gave me this feeling like a ton of people were with him, and he was sort of at the center. It reminded me of Oliver Twist, very medieval sounding — like a medieval video game, with Oliver Sykes as the leader. It was very eerie. I had to create this vibe.

So I looked at the reverbs right away, and looked at the lengths. I wanted to use different kinds of delays, with different dotted 1/8th note and 1/4 note stuff, to give different ambience and lengths – things needed to get stretched out a bit.

Pretty much all of my effects are hardware, and I have everything hard-wired on my console, so I can solo all my reverbs. I love that, because I can hear what’s going on in the background of the song. I can hear how wet everything is, and I can govern myself accordingly. It’s so easy to just put a mix into “swim” mode – I do these things as tastefully as I can, so they’re not taking over the song.

Of course very studio has a Lexicon 480L, which I love. I’m not using it on the drums, just on the vocals. On drums I’m using an AMS reverb, an SBX 90, and I’m using Fireworx, which is a TC Electronics piece. I’ve got two PCM 42′s, which again is pretty standard, and I’m also using a Publison Infernal Machine 90, which is a very rare piece.

Bendeth's beloved Publison Infernal Machine was a key reverb.

Bendeth’s beloved Publison Infernal Machine was a key reverb.

That Publison is interesting — the French built it, and it was the first unit you could ever use to sample in 16-bit, so it’s this big old thing. It’s a very rich reverb. It sounds like a plate – you’re able to push things on it, so it sounds atmospheric, very deep and dark, with a lot of depth to it.

And I’m also using another Lexicon reverb, a 200. It’s a double rack unit, and it’s really old.

Sometimes I’ll do something really stupid, like plug the SBX 90 into a Lexicon. That creates reverb on your reverb — it just puts it in a different place sonically.

For delays I’m going with the PCM42s, at a quarter-and-a-half, and I’m going with a plugin that’s creating a dotted 8th note with a half, and obviously just chaining the lengths. Then I’m EQing the reverbs on the way back, so that they don’t’ get too messy.

And of course the keyboard and loops. Jordan Fish had spent so much time doing it — he really wanted it to be heard. Terry Date’s exact words to me were, “Carve it out as you see fit.”

The first day I didn’t’ get it right, I still thought it was a guitar band. Then I started focusing on the keyboards, and getting the right ambience in there. That was a job, getting them not to fight each other: Guitars and keyboard can be on the same wavelengths, and pushing each other out. So we worked it and worked it, carving it till we got it.

Mixing It!

It was section to section. Overall, it was about pushing really hard, then backing off, and keeping the listener interested the whole time.

A Challenging Intro
After an initial call-and-response that Oliver does with the choir/gang vocal, the intro to the song has no vocals for a stretch of almost 40 seconds. I had to work on the song so something was going to happen there.

What do you do for those 45 seconds? My instinct was to make the snare smash like nothing you’ve heard before – let’s keep it exciting. It’s achieved by putting a lot of length on the reverb, and having it sound like it’s in an arena.

But I also paid attention to the attack of the snare – it’s their snare, with some samples that I use, to make it sound even more exciting. I mixed Paramore’s 2007 record Riot, and everyone remembers the sound of the song “Misery Business” (click the song title to listen) It’s interesting to see how people remember certain elements of songs you’ve mixed – and most engineers remember drums. I wanted to make this snare drum crushing. I wanted to make it too loud! (laughs).

The House of Loud producer's rack of classic outboard got a full workout for "Shadow Moses".

The House of Loud producer’s rack of classic outboard got a full workout for “Shadow Moses”.

Also in that intro section, I drew on the keyboard to make the keyboard build the tension. The guitars are staying where they are, playing that crushing thing, and the keyboards are moving through this progression, changing the feel of the song, right away. I jacked the keyboards along with the drums, so that there was a lot of movement, building and building and building into something like a movie.

I’m constantly riding the Ultimation faders — everything’s moving and nothing is static for long. I would push the guitars up and down – they’re actually moving with the music in time. I’m trying to make the song come to life, through the movement of the mix. Keyboards are getting louder and louder, the keys are getting fuller and fuller, and you’re like, “Wow, what’s going to happen?”

I also pushed the guitars way harder than I normally would, then I worked on the snare to make it smack you in the face, because it was in half time, while everyone in the band is full time. I also put the mics all the way up, to make it sound like this was the beginning of a concert. Then he starts screaming like Lemmy, that’ s the image I had — like Motorhead, the “Ace of Spades” (click on the song link to listen) kind of thing.

Then everything dries up as soon as Oliver comes in: It’s just guitars, bass, drums and vocals. He’s just front and center.

Verse to Chorus
I wanted everything pumping, but I knew when I got to the chorus in that song that I would get to half-time. And everything would have to unfold in a large way, because that would be the moment when everyone was focusing on the singing.

I had to make sure I had enough headroom when the chorus hit. You had to feel that the song opened up – I had to keep it tight up to that time.

So I got my template for the first chorus, and basically pushed everything as hard as I could, until the buss compressor started to shut down, and then I backed off. I’ve got another SSL compressor across my buss, and I was watching it to make sure it wouldn’t distort. Then, knowing that (Sterling Sound mastering engineer) Ted Jensen would grab it and move it another few dB, I widened it out and pumped it up, without letting the track fold.

Double Chorus Ending
At the end there’s a double chorus that goes from half time to full time. I listened to this vocal, and the first time I heard it, I didn’t know it was a vocal. It was up an octave, and I realized it reminded me of a steel guitar I heard on a Pink Floyd record.

Reverbs flock -- and rock -- together.

Reverbs flock — and rock — together.

I thought the background singer who performed that particular part did a great job with it, and I rode it as if it were a guitar, to make the last minute of the song different from anything else.

Finally, I had to come to a full stop with everything, and bring it down to nothing.

If you listen to the verse, then you’ll hear that the kick, snare and vocal are straight down the center. Then as you enter the chorus, it went from very small-sounding to very wide, quickly.

Lead Vocal Technique
I worked with the vocals first, so I could set the levels to the drums, and then I mix in sections of 8 to 16 bars. I do that section, stop, then figure out how I’ll bridge it to the next section, so that it becomes one seamless thing level-wise.

Oliver’s vocal performance is a combination of singing and screaming, so I had to go back and forth between the two tracks (that he recorded with the different feels). If you listen to the finished track carefully, you’ll notice the singer has no time to breathe between each line.

So during the mix, I had to make sure I could hear every single word. I dealt with that using a Compex Vocal Stressor which was on its own rail, and instead of riding the lead vocal, I rode the stressor. I’d just move it 2 dB, and I listened to it at very low volume, so I could make sure I heard everything he was doing.

The point was not to use too much reverb on the screaming part of the vocal – just a little bit of 1/8th note delay on the PCM42, and then a little slap which we created on a plugin set at 80 milliseconds. On the choruses there was an ADL with a little bit of room, and then a quarter note delay to give it the length, along with the aforementioned Vocal Stressor.

Then there was a double of Oliver’s vocal, which I put just to the right at one o’clock – it was tucked underneath the primary vocal track. There was also a pair of stereo doubles, so it didn’t sound like there were two people singing, but it did sound fuller.

On the lead vocals I also had an original Gates Sta-Level, the old 1958 tube job. I like to use the Gates because it gives it a sonic sound. It just doesn’t give it compression, it gives it this overdriven tube sound, and you’re able to control the clarity, and how much you’re pushing it – you’re able to push it without folding it. That’s why they call it the Sta-Level!

They call it Sta-Level for a reason.

They call it Sta-Level for a reason.

I love the sound of the Gates, and of the sound of the Vocal Stressor. They both seem to grab the top end, and the clarity and the annunciation of the words, so I can sit it in the track and not worry about it.

Especially with the center information – the kicks, snare and bass – you have to be very careful that they’re arriving at your ear at the same time, and not losing that center frequency. One dB too much of bass, and the vocal’s gone. If the snare, kick and bass are overloading, and the vocal’s sitting there too, you’re going to lose the detail of the vocal.

Along with the lead vocals, there was the background gang/choir vocals – that was about ten vocal tracks in all.

To mix the choir, I used the Publison. I put it into a concert hall setting – probably two seconds – and basically spread that left and right. I put a little top end on it with the EQ, and used the SSL compressor on it as well.

Gang Vocals
You have to be very careful with gang vocals. If you don’t have the right reverb on it, they sound like they’re in your toilet. But they can sound like they’re in your living room.

I wanted the gang vocals to sound like they were out of the book Oliver Twist – like they’re outside with torches, yelling at you. I went for a hollow reverb that keeps going, so as they sing the next line, their first one is still going.

I wanted people to sound like they were storming a castle. Long reverb that’s dark, two stereo tracks with center information spread left and right across the spectrum. The stereo spectrum is not all that bright. I tried to make it full. I tried to have it hit you, so you hear every single thing clearly.

Guitar Focus
If you listen to something like a Pantera record, Terry Date knows his guitars. They came in pretty good, but everything came in with these drums that didn’t have these samples on them yet. And I did something to beef up the bass as well.

The Neve 1073's were engaged for the guitars.

The Neve 1073′s were engaged for the guitars.

So we augmented the guitars by running them through some original Neve 1073′s that I have, and making them warmer. Remember, once you make the drums and bass move, it’s very dangerous because you have guitars that were recorded to another drum kit.

So we had to make the guitars a little bit more low-middy, pushing them to 200 Hz – those lower mids that you know you’ll need. The key was to make the top end of the bass the same as the bottom end of the guitars, so they dovetail.

Big Bass
On metal records, it’s more about sub, and way less about articulation of the bass guitar – the lower mids and the attack.

So we spread it over three tracks, which I always do: the original track recorded with the amplifier, a DI, and a reamp using a SansAmp. I put them each on a separate rail (fader), and then brought them into a formation that was pleasing to me, listening to the bass and drums together so the kick and bass lined up.

That’s one thing I do with the bottom end – I make sure the kick and bass are slamming together, that they’re really down there. You can’t really hear it on YouTube, but there’s a lot of sub. In every single section there’s an 808 super-bass drop, happening seven or eight times in the song, making sure you could hear it. The bass and drums working together like that sounds powerful.


Throughout the mix, I’m monitoring on NS10’s and Tannoy System 12 DMT mains, with no sub.

One thing that’s really important is that I set the NS10’s on a certain level, and then the Tannoy’s at a certain level. I go back and forth, and if I hear a difference I know the mix is off. They have to sound exactly the same – when I do it, you don’t even know I’m changing my speakers.

I do this because when you’re working on the NS10’s, you’re not going to hear subs or certain frequencies because those monitors are very concentrated on a certain midrange approach. So when you go to the Tannoys, everything becomes that much bigger and wider, but you should still be able to hear the details of the mix.

The mix has to match up perfectly on the NS-10's and Tannoys.

Bemdeth’s mix must match up perfectly on the NS-10′s and Tannoys.


It’s about the full dynamic range arriving at your ears at the same time, and that’s achieved through balancing and EQ, which you mix at low level. When you stand back, you turn it up and say, “Are the two monitor pairs sounding the same, or aren’t they?” If not, then you’ve blown it – you haven’t mixed something that will translate on every setup.

Printing the Mixes
I do seven different mixes at the end – I cover my ass, like all mixers need to do! So you’ll get a (mix with) a half dB-vocals up and effects, then the same thing a half dB down. Then the vocals one dB up and down on all the vocals. Then you’ll get an a cappella mix, an instrumental mix, and you’ll get stems of everything.

Every mixdown goes through an SSL compressor, and then another custom one that Dan Korneff made for me. So the signal path goes through the SSL 4000 console, to that console’s compressor, to the other SSL compressor. Then I have an API across the bus, touching it just enough to clear it out if there’s any confusion.

Also, you’re pretty safe with me in terms of the levels you’ll get – there’s no distortion. I’m going to give (Sterling Sound mastering engineer) Ted Jensen everything I can to make his job easier to do.

I give him what he needs to widen it all out, and put the EQ down the center. You have to make sure the levels aren’t too hard, not hyped in any way, so the mastering engineer can handle it properly where he is.

Yes Master

I’ve been using Ted Jensen since I was 25. I’ve done 95.5% of my records with Ted. I mix with Ted in mind, because he’s just so good at what he does.

I just think he’s really, really musical. He’ll say, “What does this track need?” Sometimes he’ll say, “This track needs nothing,” or sometimes he’ll say, “It needs a little bass.” I don’t think Ted looks at numbers – I think he just moves things until they sound right.

It All Adds Up – The End Result

I’m not gonna lie: The first day, when they were evaluating the first mix, everyone was like, “Change the snare, change the levels,” – it was all level stuff, in a flurry of changes from the management, label and band.

"Sempiternal" is out now on Epitaph/RCA.

“Sempiternal” is out now on Epitaph/RCA.

I took everyone’s notes, and then the keyboard and guitar player stepped up to the plate and said, “You’ve got it. Just shape it up a little bit more.” The second day they said, “It’s done. You’ve got it.” I couldn’t believe it.

Having them be really confident in me was fantastic. All those hours of talking to Oliver, and getting his concept, really helped shape this musically, as well as lyrically.

The 10,000-foot View
This was a perfect project for me. It wasn’t metal, it was a progressive rock record. It had aspects of metal, but at the same time a lot of musicality to it. This really pushed my boundaries. I was able to draw on a lot of elements of dynamics.

The main issues was that the band wanted to move out of the genre of just being a Warped Tour band, and do something a little more daring. The first track on the album, “Can You Feel My Heart,” is the second track that I mixed, and it’s like a dubstep song – you’ll be shocked by the whole album, there’s so many different elements to it.

All the reviews of Sepmiternal are a “10”, but that’s a credit to the writing, and the ability to be melodic – not just scream on a record.

The team that was put together – Terry Date, myself, Ted Jensen – we’ve all had huge platinum records, we all have experience. The perfect band came along at the perfect time, they targeted the right people to do a great job, and it’s rare when that happens. It was the perfect storm for everybody involved.

– David Weiss


Sound Magic Launches Neo Reverb — Hybrid Algorithmic & Convolution Reverb

April 6, 2013 by  

If you’re going to put a new reverb out there today, it better have something to stand out.

Two reverb styles are better than one, within Neo Reverb.

Two reverb styles are better than one, within Neo Reverb.

Sound Magic sounds confident that they’ve got that with their recently released Neo Reverb, a VST plugin for Windows which they explain as a hybrid between an Algorithm and Convolution reverb.

As a quick refresher, convolution reverb uses samples of real spaces or of other reverb devices. Algorithmic reverb, on the other hand, simulates a space using math alone.

The company gets pretty brainy on their Website, which offers plenty of details on the advancements that Neo Reverb offers. The key is a highly efficient processing engine capable of delivering complex reverbs, that Sound Magic claims are indiscernible from hardware units such as the Lexicon 480L and TC System 6000.

Read on, listen to the demos for yourself, and see if you want to hear more. Neo Reverb is available now for €99 or $128.82 USD at today’s exchange rages, for the “standard” version. The Pro Version is €199, or $258.94 USD, and includes an IR (Impulse Response) file convertor, which enables users to convert IRs into Neo Reverb’s Algorithm IRs.


•    Internal 64-bit floating point precision.
•    All-Purpose Reverb contains 8 Algorithms for different spaces, including, Hall, Concert Hall, Room, Plate, Chamber, Ambience, Space, etc.
•    Hybrid Convolution and Algorithm Reverb Engine.
•    Cascade True Stereo technology.
•    Powerful modulation system helps to achieve a dynamic sound.
•    Over 40 in depth controls on the Reverb.
•    Over 130 algorithm IRs in 6 different categories.
•    Dual Cores Controls let users compare different settings quicker.
•    Support up to 32-bit/384kHz resolution.

Hear Neo Reverb in action in this video:


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