Technology: Wrap a "Room" Around Your Recordings

August 30, 2017

The sound of playing guitar isn’t just about the guitar and amp, but the room in which you’re playing. Commercial reverb hardware and plug-ins usually have a room algorithm, but these often tend more toward a reverb sound than the shorter, subtler echoes that occur in a small club or rehearsal space. If you’re recording your guitar direct or using an amp sim, wrapping a room around your guitar can make the sound more “real” and satisfying, as well as fit in better with other miked instruments that incorporate room sound, such as drums or piano.

Fig. 1—The Delay section of PSP’s 608 Multi Delay.
Fig. 2—Stereo delays placed in series can create a room.

DELAYS MEET REVERB

Reverb is multiple echoes bouncing around a room, so we’ll use delays to create our stripped-down room acoustics. You’ll need at least four delays, so a multi-tapped delay is ideal. I prefer PSP’s 608 Multi Delay (Fig. 1), which offers eight individual delay taps. To prevent echoes from hitting at the same time, choose prime number delay times such as 11ms, 13ms, 17ms, 19ms, 23ms, 29ms, 31ms, and 37ms. The longer the times, the bigger the virtual room, but too long a delay yields a less realistic sound. A little feedback creates a more complex vibe, but don’t turn it up to where you hear the repetitions trail off.

For independent control over echo levels and guitar, insert the delay in a bus, set the delay mix to delayed sound only, and add a send to your guitar track that feeds the bus. The echoes shouldn’t be loud—just enough to give the feel of a room. If you don’t have a multi-tap delay, Fig. 2 shows how to use two stereo delays in series (also inserted in a bus) to achieve a similar effect. In this case, a dry/wet mix around 20 percent/80 percent, coupled with feedback and (if available) crossfeed, creates a credible room sound with only four delays. Also note the low frequencies have been trimmed a bit.

A LITTLE CHORUS

As you play, you’re moving around—so your ears pick up different reflections. This adds sonic animation you won’t hear if you just stick a mic in front of a speaker—or use an amp sim that models sticking a mic in front of a speaker. Insert a chorus effect after the delay, set for a very slow rate and a subtle mix (20 percent wet). The effect should be subliminal, not obvious, to add a little bit of animation.

ROOM WITH A VU

Tweak the settings for best results. You might want a bit more feedback, insert EQ after the delays to alter the room’s “acoustics” (such as trimming the highs to emulate softer surfaces), change the wet/dry mix, and so on. Finally, save your settings as a preset. Then, you can add a room any time you want.

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