Mastering with iZotope Ozone 5: Reverb (Part 3)
[music for mastering]
If you’re working in a home recording studio, especially if you’re working primarily in the box, it’s likely most of the signals you recorded are dry and lack the ambiences normally captured in a large studio. The good thing is some great software reverbs including the one in Ozone 5 that make it possible for all these signals you record to sound like they were performed in an acoustic space.
One issue when working primarily in the box is a lot of the sample libraries and cabinet impulses you’re working with were all recorded in different spaces so it can sound like these instruments and singers weren’t in the same room when they actually recorded. This can make their performance sound unnatural. What you can do is add some subtle reverb at the mastering stage to bring the whole mix together. Let’s get to the reverb.
I want to point out and the warning I have for you is it’s easy to overdo reverb when it’s across the full mix. If you’re trying to add it as a perceivable effect you should focus on that in mixing not the mastering stage. If you find yourself wanting to overdo it, go back and do it in the mixing stage and then come to mastering and focus on how you can do it very subtly to blend everything together.
First control I’ll show you is the wet mix and dry mix. Wet mix is the level of the reverb, and dry mix is the level of the unprocessed signal. I’ll blend it all the way up to 100 — you can hear what’s happening it immediately washes out the whole mix.
[music with reverb]
I usually only bring in 20 to 30% and I’ll come back to this later after I figure out how I want my reverb to sound. With Ozone 5, you have lots of controls and reverb types, you can really dial in a reverb that fits your song. While I’m doing that I’m gonna switch on the solo wet button which allows me to only listen to the wet without hearing any dry. Here’s what it sounds like only reverb.
[wet reverb solo]
Next it’s a matter of using the controls to find a reverb that you think will fit well with your song. There’s different modes, anything from a room — a very short decay time, more of an intimate sound — which will probably fit well with my pop/rock song. All the way up to an arena, which has a much longer reverb time — probably won’t fit my song. Maybe more for a huge rock kind of sound where you’re going for that larger than life feel. But I’m gonna focus on the ones that have the shorter reverb times: room, theatre, plate. So I’ll switch these on and listen. What I’m listening for when I’m switching between them is which reverb fits well with my song, which instruments are more accentuated, which frequency ranges are accentuated from one type to the other, and then it’s a matter of using the other controls: decay time, to fit the song.
I noticed the room has some nice things going on in the upper-mids. The theatre is very wide and has some low-mids that are louder than other parts. The plate is very bright. A lot of high frequencies. I think the one I like the best is the room. I’ll focus on this and it’s just a matter of dialing in decay time. I don’t really want it to be very long because it’s more of an intimate pop/acoustic song. I’ll also play around with low frequency decay and high frequency decay.
Next is a width control. This is the stereo image of the reverb. It’s gonna be all the way to the left and right. Or if you want it to be very much in the center. Now, I’m gonna try a couple things for this song. My intuition is I want it to be close and narrow because it’s an intimate song. But I’ll try both a narrow and wide one.
I’ll start with it being narrow. I’ll come back to this when I bring in the unprocessed signal and see how it’s fitting altogether. Last thing is the EQ processing that can take place. I normally try to do this because I find with reverb on things like kick drum can sound too boomy, and reverb on cymbals — especially in mastering — can be a bit bright and harsh.
Next I’ll turn off solo wet so I can bring in the unprocessed signal mixed with the wet signal. I think that 20% on the wet mix control is plenty. Let’s make sure it’s not washing out my mix or too much of a perceivable effect.
This idea of adding reverb at the mastering stage it a great technique to use especially if you’re working a lot in the box. Again, don’t overdo it. Bring it in subtly, just as everything you would do at the mastering stage.