Just about every digital audio workstation that audio engineers use will ship with a few basic audio effects that can be used to enhance your audio recordings. A very common effect that you can hear on most of today’s professional recordings is called reverberation or “reverb”. Reverb can take a dry and isolated signal and make it sound as if it was recorded in a great hall, a canyon or within a wide open space. Reverberation is basically the reflections that sound waves create when they bounce off of any given surface within any given space such as stone walls, carpet, concrete or brick to name a few.
These reflections create a sense of space that can range from a small closet to the largest oil tanker. The effect that reverberation can create for an audio recording of a band can range from a small venue the band would perform at or a large concert arena or outdoor venue. This can add a lot of character to a recording and create a believable environment experience for the listener. Usually an audio recording will be made in a studio or a good controlled environment and then the effects, such as reverberation, can be added later to enhance the overall experience for the listener.
Reverberation is just that. It creates an environment that the band or audio material that the listener hears can be imagined to be performing in. Reverberation can have several parameters that can be controlled such as the size of the environment, the materials used on the floor and the walls and the distance from the listener is standing from the source of the audio in relation to the listeners position in the environment. You can also control the tail of the effect such as how long the effect lingers after a sound has been made. Take for instance the pop of a snare drum. This type of sound is powerful but it is very short and has a quick release. The basic sound of a single snare drum pop would last for less than a second but with reverberation the sound can last for several seconds due to the reflections in the environment that reverberation creates.
An initial sound may have already passed its initial attack, hold and release states while re verb will create the “memory” of that sound and retain its initial qualities while reflecting it off of certain surfaces that are determined by the programmer using the effect. A programmer or audio engineer can create the high frequencies of stone wall reflections or the dampened low frequency reflections of sounds that are created when a room is covered with carpet or sound proofing materials. It may not seem like a dampened or sound proofed room would sound as if it has a lot of space but it does add a sense of space because there will be slightly more reflections than if the audio engineer simply captured a completely dry source of audio.
So you might have already assumed that not only can you control the attack, hold and release factors but also the equalization frequencies that are present in the space you wish to create for your digital audio recording. There are several other factors that can be considered in high end reverberation effects and depending on how much you spend on this type of audio effect will determine the amount of control you will have over the entire range of effects available such as fade, crossover frequencies and duration of decay. Decay is simply how long it takes the effect to fade down to zero decibels and the crossover frequencies will tend to be cut at the higher ranges of the spectrum during the decay phase. In order to make the artificial sound of reverb to sound more realistic to the listener most of these parameters have been factored in during the programming of the effect at the factory the effect was created at.
Here is an example of a live recording and natural reverberation that is created and captured from the environment that the recording was captured in: Natural Reverberation.
There are several different types of this invaluable effect and as many different manufacturers and you may have a simple version that ships with your audio recording software. If you are unsure about how to control this type of audio effect then start with the simple form of reverberation to get a feel for it and then move on to the more advanced versions of this widely used audio effect.
If you have any questions or if you feel like something is missing then leave a comment in the section below. Also list your favorite reverberation effects and settings for others to use! Make it sound good!