Readers' Letters: Can a digital reverb unit provide artificial reverberation that is as good as the real thing?, and more...

David Mellor

David Mellor is CEO and Course Director of Audio Masterclass. David has designed courses in audio education and training since 1986 and is the publisher and principal writer of

Thursday November 30, 2006

NOTE: This is now quite an old article and some links may be missing.

In response to Can a digital reverb unit provide artificial reverberation that is as good as the real thing?, Josh Tays writes...

I'm sure that you only used the 480L in the picture because it is an easily recognized classic that is still widely used. I wonder if it may have been more advantageous to have a picture of a newer TC verb. The 480L obviously has a cool sound to it and people love it on vocals, but it has never been an accurate room emulator. On the other hand, there are a lot of reverbs (both hard and soft) that do a really good job of emulating spaces.

That being said, there's a lot to consider about the original recording and what is the end goal is. Not everything needs to sound specifically like a specific room, especially not a bad/ok sounding room that most of the people reading this are using. If someone is trying to achieve a "real room" sound and has to work in an inadequate environment in the first place, the digital is probably the better way to go, (a moderately good digital reverb is way better sounding than a crappy room). Another consideration should be how the reverb is used. Most people just put the snare in the reverb when recording drums, or maybe the snare and toms (perhaps toms in a different sounding room) This will never sound like a room mic, unless that mic were gated and or sample replaced on snare and or tom hits. Rooms don't discriminate, they hear the hat, cymbals, and even the kick.

Now, there might be people saying won't that make my kick sound boomy. Maybe, depends on the diffusion, and absorption qualities of the room being modeled. Also to be considered in that process is the eq settings even room mics get eq and the character of the mic will add its own sonic character which will need to be addressed.

What about other settings. I generally find the ER/verb balance to be in need of adjustment. Unless the user wants to achieve a close ambient mic, ER is going to be of little help in getting a "real room" sound or at least the most desirable room sound (as you are likely to get a number of early reflections in your overheads in the first place).

Please don't take this as an advertisement of digital verb as a means to get great sound. It certainly is not that. I am a firm believer in the power of a great sounding room, whether it be big, small, live, dead, or somewhere in between, however when circumstances dictate the need to change the sound of a source from that of the original good sounding room it can be done with a fair amount of realism, or with an unrealistic, but pleasing effect.

Thanks for all of your work and articles. They are fun to read.

RP response: Thank you for your comments. Your input is much appreciated.

In response to Question – "Can I record audio by plugging into my computer's audio input?", Brandon - Metal Shop Podcast Host. writes...

I record using the line-in method with the stock soundcard on my pc. Let me tell you, it was a heck of a trial and error process to get the levels set just right. It takes some time, but you can get the levels on the windows recording mixer set just right with a little effort and patience.

I use a BOSS BR-532 as my external pre-amp and have an RCA>---<1/8"miniplug Y-cable running from the BOSS unit into the line-input jack on the soundcard. This setup has worked well for my 'one track at a time' needs at home, so I've had no real need to upgrade.

To listen (if interested) to The Metal Shop Podcast (focusing on rock and metal production techniques), go to

In response to Is your bass mushy, flabby and out of time? Here's how to fix it..., Al Pratt writes...

I've struggled with recording and mixing bass for years, and I've come up with the following solutions:

1) An accurate control room with adequate bass trapping and decent monitors ( a sub woofer is good,too)

2) To get a good quality bass sound, nothing beats a good bass player who knows his sound.

3) A good sounding bass guitar with relatively new strings (if you are the bass player)

4) In the mix, using a a shelving EQ, roll off the bass to the maximum and starting at the lowest frequency slowly sweep upward until the mud disappears. Slowly increase the level of the low frequencies until there is enough to define the low end. Then with a high shelf, starting around 1kHz increase the frequency level until there is enough presence to make it punch through. The frequency used depends on the song, the technique of the bass player and what other instruments are in the mix. Notches, etc. can be used to reduce string noise and other problems.

4) If you need a compressor, delay the attack enough so that the beginning of the note isn't suppressed (if the timing is off you may have to intentionally compress the beginning of the note to let the bass drum dominate) Watch out that the decay is properly adjusted so that it doesn't affect the following note.

5) If you mic a bass amp, the split signal idea will give you the best results, with either one mic on the voice coil and one at least 6 meters away if you have the space. Or use a direct box to capture the direct bass sound.

RP response: Excellent comment, thank you.

In response to How to record a 50-strong choir and piano accompaniment with just five mics, Louis Hone writes...

Does the word "Decca-tree" ring a bell? (hint: it was decades before plug-ins were invented)

RP response: Having talked about it at length years ago with Decca engineer Gordon Parry, yes it does. Now a Decca tree plug-in would be interesting... ;-)

In response to How to record a 50-strong choir and piano accompaniment with just five mics, Tom Ghent writes...

I didn't see any mention of the mic polar patterns in your discussion of recording the 50 person choir and piano. I'm sure that the overall acoustic environment could play a part in this. I would be interested in hearing you go into a little bit more detail.

Thanks T.G.

RP response: The lengthy section that talked about polar patterns ended up on the cutting room floor. The person who asked the question has enough to be thinking about already. But it is an interesting point and we will look at it in a 'part 2' to this article.

In response to Why the Digidesign ICON mixing console is the new SSL, Gabriel Simon writes...

It fills the web with publications that say the life is not possible without Digidesign. They are weaving a monopoly, not only larger than that could make SSL, but rather similar to Microsoft. Monopoly to impose conditions. Monopoly 'top of the line'; and then sell Mbox that are no better than any of its competitors at half price just because the potential user ensures compatibility. This article wants to change monopoly no longer SSL, it is now the turn of Digidesign.

RP response: Once upon a time, if you knew how to work an SSL console, you were employable. The same now applies to Pro Tools. One day it will be something else. But any assistant engineer, for instance, who refused to learn Pro Tools would be putting themselves at a commercial disadvantage.

In response to Why can't you buy Fiona Apple's new album? Sony says you can't!, Chris P. writes...

A fantastic musician guitar player from my hometown, a graduate of Berkley school of music was signed by a big label and completed an album. They sat on it and he was not allowed to play live for two years because they had his performance rights as well. Why??? He sounded similar to one of their artists so they tied him up so a competitor couldn't sign him and take part of the market for that style.

In response to How to record a 50-strong choir and piano accompaniment with just five mics, Midnight Blue Studios writes...

I recorded a 60+ voice choir with piano AND a huge pipe organ with just 6 mics.

The choir was covered by a RODE NT-4 stereo condenser raised high and centered with a studio boom. There was one song which featured a vocal soloist, so I used an SE3500 large diaphram condenser hung from another studio boom (to get the mic out of the way for the audience) and placed about 6 feet away and about 7 feet high from the soloist.

For the piano, I used another SE3500 on a regular mic stand about 4-6 feet from the piano. The lid was fully open, so it was easy to get a rich sound.

Because the pipe organs were spaced so far apart, I used a pair of Groove Tube AM-52 large diaphram condensers placed on regular mic stands as high as they could reach and placed about 25 or so feet back from each pipe section in order to catch the complete and full sound of each section.

Finally, I used a ROYER SF-12 stereo ribbon mic on a SHURE A-15 mic stand that goes up to 15 feet high for the church ambience.

That comes to a total of 8-channels. I have 3 PreSonus "Digi-Max" 8-channel mic preamps in a 6U portable rack that feeds a MACKIE "SDR 24/96" digital hard disk recorder in another 6U rack.

My final recording ended up sounding awesome and HUGE, thanks to the ROYER capturing the ambience.

Well, that's my 2-cents worth!!


RP response: Worth more then two cents surely? And we certainly agree that there's no such thing as a mic stand that goes too high.

In response to Why do mic preamps sound different? What is negative feedback?, Mike Galicia writes...

I´m surprised about the commentary that Fets are noisy. Companies like Millennia, Forsell, Avalon, and many others, are using only fets in their preamps, because the better sound that Fet have over bipolar and even tubes.

Please be more careful with comments like this about pro audio.

Mike Galicia

RP response: With respect, a higher impedance circuit is noisier than a lower impedance circuit. This is because the random motion of electrons has a greater influence on the signal. A standard FET is of intrinsically higher impedance than a standard bipolar transistor, in their usual circuit configurations. Having said that, clever designers can work miracles with FETs, tubes and indeed bipolar transistors to maximize the benefits of their good features while minimizing their problem areas. There is a place in audio for all three devices (FETs and tubes are perfect for the internal amplifiers of capacitor mics for instance). We would also very much like to see the development of alternative amplifying devices. Surely not every possibility has been explored yet.

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