- Learn how to EQ your reverb
- Learn how to prevent your reverbs from sounding muddy
- Find out if it’s best to EQ before or after reverb
- Also, check out our post on the best reverb plugins for vocals
As engineers, you have many options and tools to make a track mean something to a listener. Effects such as reverbs can add a great deal of emotion to a track, but standalone effects can often use some help to give it precisely the right sound.
One of the most effective ways to add that little extra something is by using EQ, but where does the EQ go?
In this article, I’ll get into how the placement of EQ affects reverb and when different placements of EQ come in handy.
What Does EQ Placement Do?
When considering placement, I ask myself a few questions to determine whether I should place an EQ before or after my reverb.
Do I want to control what goes into my reverb? Or do I want to control what comes out of my reverb?
When sending your dry tracks to a reverb, you might find that some frequencies overload it. In that case, taking those frequencies out before getting to the reverb will preserve clarity and eliminate unwanted muddiness.
And sometimes, a reverb might have an undesirable or desirable characteristic, in which case I would either sculpt it out or enhance it after the reverb.
With these two questions in mind, let’s look at a few ways I like using my EQs to sculpt reverbs.
Related: 6 Best Free Reverb VST Plugins
1. Clear Up Those Vocal Stacks
I like to layer lots of backing vocals, and for them to stay out of the way of the lead vocal, a nice amount of reverb will help to tuck the backing vocals in. But with many tracks going into one reverb send, many frequencies to process.
Especially the low end is likely to overload the reverb, not necessarily distorting it, but it is expected to sound messy. This is why I like to use what is called the Abbey Road trick. The Abbey Road trick involves placing an EQ before your reverb unit.
I use the EQ for a highpass filter at 500-600Hz and a lowpass filter at 10 kHz, although sometimes I might filter away more high frequencies depending on the amount of sibilance in the vocals and how much I want the listener to be aware of the reverb.
This trick will ensure that your reverb stays out of the way of the other instrument. Another bonus to using this trick is that you can get away with a more wet signal because the frequencies that could distract the listener (mud and ice-picky brightness) are filtered away.
Related: 7 Best Reverb Plugins For Vocals (to Suit All Budgets)
2. Enhance That Snare Crack
Something everybody can agree on is that a good plate reverb on a snare is a recipe for good drum sounds. But sometimes, the plate needs extra help to make the right sound. I like a nice and bright snare sound in a rock track that can cut through the mix.
One of the plates I really like to use is the Arturia REV-140 which is an EMT replica. It sounds fantastic, but sometimes it needs a little help to cut just how I want it to. In that case, I like using an EQ after my reverb. More specifically, I like to use an analog emulation of an EQ.
I like using analog emulations for EQ boosts because you can get away with boosting more because of the musical saturation of analog emulations. When boosting the high end of a reverb, too much EQ can make the reverb sound too extreme, so the saturation will smooth that out. I typically like a subtle shelf boost at around 5 to 8 kHz for snare drums.
Another thing worth mentioning is that I think it’s essential to make these decisions while listening to the whole track. Primarily because, in this case, I wouldn’t want the reverb to dominate too much, so I always EQ in the context of the music.
Related: Mixing Rock Snare Drums (7 Tips to Fix Your Garbage Snare)
3. Prevent Bass Phasing Issues
Little physics lesson incoming – The waveforms of low frequencies are relatively wide. In the audio world, this basically translates to them not being very directional. No matter where you’re standing in a room. You’re often able to hear bass frequencies.
Higher frequencies, on the other hand, have a narrower waveform. This translates to them being very directional. If you move away from the ideal listening spot, high-frequency information is the first thing to go.
Putting reverb on things like a bass or anything else containing a fair bit of low end can cause the low frequencies to cancel each other out. Needless to say, a weird-sounding low-end can be an absolute buzzkill when listening to music, but luckily EQ is here to save our ears.
By placing an EQ before the reverb, you can prevent the reverb from causing phase issues. Simply place a highpass filter before your reverb and set it to at least 300Hz. That way, you’ll make sure there’s no low-end information in the reverb that’s going to cause phase issues with their respective dry tracks.
It is good to note that any effect involving stereo imaging would benefit from this trick, as anything with stereo imaging will likely cause phase issues in your low end without a high pass in front of it.
Related: 7 Different Types of EQs (And When To Use Each)
Use a De-Esser With Your Reverb
Imagine the sound of your vocal reverb is precisely hitting the spot, but when the singer starts singing a phrase with lots of “s” sounds, the reverb gets too much. In that case, I like to place a de-esser before my reverb.
I’m specifically choosing to place it before the reverb because I like the way my reverb sounds.
Placing the de-esser before the reverb prevents the excessive high-end information from reaching the reverb in the first place. So, it will not change the reverb’s tone, but it will prevent the reverb from producing painful or distracting high frequencies.
Related: Ultimate Guide To Working With De-Essers
Make It Your Own
Now that I’ve shared my favorite ways of using EQ in tandem with my reverb, it’s up to you to find out in which ways you want to incorporate EQ in your reverb mixes.
Remember, if it sounds good, it is good, so rules don’t apply here. These are just things I found helpful in my productions, so have fun exploring all the options. Happy mixing!
Before you go, check out our Reverb Cheat Sheet (A Complete How-To Guide)!