Sound is an incredibly broad and complex subject. You can ask 5 different engineers to mix the same piece of music, and you will get 5 different interpretations.
But that is also what makes music so interesting…it is completely subjective.
Just as painters do with colors, mixers and producers interpret the concepts of ‘space’ and ‘ambience’ in many different ways.
Sounds can be described as cold, bright, warm, dark, fat, thin, woody, tinny, brassy, dry, wet, etc….there are a myriad of categories. And just like sounds themselves, the ways in which a space can affect a sound, in terms of the way we hear it, can vary greatly.
To understand the concept of spaces having their own “sounds”, think about why so many people like to sing in the shower. The hard reflective surfaces cause sound waves to bounce back and forth and up and down, filling the entire space.
The next time you take a shower, simply clap your hands loudly and pay attention to what happens to the sound.
When most people think about reverb, they often think of long, lush decays. And that is definitely a great option for some sounds, but definitely not all.
Sometimes a shorter and more subtle reverb can be a much more suitable option in bringing a particular sound to life and giving it a sense of space, without making it sound too washy or distant.
With reverb, like so many things in life, sometimes less or more. And this is where choosing to use an “Ambience” reverb rather than a “Plate”, “Room” or “Hall” can make all the difference in a mix.
Traditionally, “Ambiences” are thought of as being very short, non-distinct reverbs which are used to add a sense of three-dimensionality, without making something sound too “wet”. It can add a subtle sense of space to a very dry-sounding track.
In essence, it adds an impression that is more felt than heard.
Often, engineers use mic distance to add a sense of space while recording an instrument. Sometimes moving a mic further away from a source to get a little bit of the room sound is enough, or many times additional “Ambient” mics are used in combination with close mics to capture the character of a room.
Today, with so many sounds being recorded directly into computers, many modern artists, engineers and producers rely on digital reverb technology to add size and depth to small or dry recordings, in order to really bring them to life.
“Perhaps the king of all digital reverb units is the Lexicon 480L, a legendary piece of gear that has been a part of more classic recordings than we could ever hope to mention here.”
And now, Relab’s LX480 Essentials makes getting that classic magical 480L reverb sound faster and easier than ever before.
The LX480’s “Small Ambience” algorithm was designed to become a part of the direct sound, and add a sense of space to a vocal or an instrument recorded with a close mic.
For an example of this, let’s look at how 8x Grammy-nominated Nashville-based recording engineer and mixer Joe Carrell uses the LX480 “Small Ambience” preset on a dry lead vocal.
Joe’s “Small Ambience” preset adds a subtle yet vital sense of space to a small, dry lead vocal. And while this newly-added sense of space may not be glaringly obvious on a first listen, you definitely notice it when it’s not there.
“Sometimes just a hint of space is exactly what a track needs. I frequently use an Ambience patch on a lead vocal when a completely dry patch would sound too “unproduced”, but a thicker longer tail from a plate would be too much. When I want the listener to actually feel like they are in the room with the artist, but still add an element of “better than real life”, ambience patches are my go-to.” – Joe Carrell
In your own mixes, try “Small Ambience” as a starting point for your vocals, drums, synths, loops, guitars, or anything else that starts with a direct or close-mic’d sound.
And as always, simply adjust the reverb time (RTM) to better suit the tempo or feel of the song or sound as you blend in the ambience with the original signal.
With the LX480 Essentials, you can spend less time searching for sound and more time creating them.
Want to dig deeper into your reverb?
If you’re the type of engineer or producer that likes to dig a little deeper (OK a LOT deeper!) and wants to have tons of control of your reverb parameters, you need to check out the LX480 Complete from Relab.
LX480 Complete is a fully-featured reverb plug-in and considered to be the most accurate recreation of the original Lexicon 480L reverbs, including additional features and enhancements that meet the demands of the modern production workflow.