This will likely be a quick one. One of the most common problems I hear in mixes, especially with less experienced engineers, is that when the reverb gets turned up, the vocals get muddy. The solution is simple; high pass the reverb. Got it? Ok, we’re done.
Channel Strip High Pass
Well, not quite. I’m going to give you a few ways to high pass your reverb. Perhaps the easiest way is to simply turn up the high pass filter on the reverb return channel. Most of the time, we’re bringing the reverb in on a regular channel, and it has full processing. So go ahead and engage that HPF and dial it up. You also might find that taking a little out of the low-mids also helps. But we’ll come back to that in a moment.
Effects Level High Pass
Some reverb effects have a high pass filter (and even a low pass) built in. You can also use the function there. Why use it at the effect level instead of the channel strip? Well, the main reason I prefer to do it there is snapshot control. It’s not that I can’t snapshot the EQ of my return channel—that’s easy enough—it’s that I’m already recalling the effect setting with each snapshot. For me, it’s easier to recall the effects, and then recall only fader movements on my individual channels. It’s easier and quicker for me to scan down the recall settings and make sure I’m not recalling any EQ or anything on any of the channels than it is to make sure I’m grabbing EQ on the effects return channels. Again, it’s not that we can’t do it, it’s just easier to do the effects.
You may also have some different controls in the effect unit. High dampening is another one that is very useful for taming some of the high end sizzle that can make reverb stand out instead of blend in.
The question should be asked, how high to set the HPF? Well, probably higher than you think. I typically start with my high pass somewhere around 250-300 and go from there. It’s not uncommon for me to go to 400, especially when I’m layering effects. This is all by ear, of course, there is no set formula. However, what you’ll find is that the higher you run the HPF up, the more reverb you can use without it clouding the vocals. It seems counter-intuitive, but you can actually get more reverb by taking it away. At least the low end.
Give it a try this week. I bet your mixes will sound better.