Creating a Big Studio Reverb a.k.a the Abbey Rd Reverb

Create the famous Abbey Rd Big Studio Reverb for your mix projects.

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The big studio reverb, also known as the Abbey Rd reverb, is the master mix reverb your tracks dip into for the overall space and colour of your mix.

Before we get down and dirty with the technique let us talk a little about what the Abbey Rd reverb is. There isn’t a producer in our industry that has not heard of Abbey Rd Studios and particularly the Abbey Rd ‘sound’ when talking about reverb effects. If you listen to any Abbey Rd recordings that are rich in reverb effects you will notice how little low end clutter there is and how well both the low and high frequencies are managed and represented. The reverbs come across as smooth and clean. The reason for this is quite simple: it is how the reverb is processed. Before we can explore this technique let us look at the biggest problem facing producers when using reverb effects on mixes: that of frequency smearing.

Frequency Smearing

Frequency smearing can take place when a frequency range from the dry source sound is mixed with the same frequency range that is repeated by an effect but with different timing settings. With reverb effects we use the pre delay and reverb decay time to control the behaviour of the reverb and these two parameters will introduce a timing variance between the dry channel that feeds the reverb and the wet channel (auxiliary effects channel) that runs the reverb effect. Think of this as two sounds playing together but out of phase – ie, both sounds are not in sync.

Reverb and low frequencies just don’t marry well. We producers spend more time trying to manage low frequencies than any other frequencies and no matter how hard we work at getting the low frequencies to sit nicely in the mix we know that once reverb is applied clarity goes out of the window. Nothing smears a reverb’s response more than low frequencies. A similar problem exists with high frequencies as well. Quite often they can come across as brittle and metallic.

The solution to the above is to use filtering to remove the frequencies that will cause problems with the reverb. Reverb effects are presented with all manner of filtering options for exactly this type of a problem. We can use the reverb effect’s built-in filtering or EQ section to remove frequencies that smear or cause other anomalies like a brittle high frequency response or a build-up of low frequency content. If the reverb processor does not come with a filtering section then you can use an equaliser post reverb either in your DAW’s channel inserts or  by using an auxiliary channel where the reverb processor is placed.

Master Mix Reverb

The master mix reverb is the most important reverb you can use as the reverb denotes the overall space that all sounds will reside in. Additionally, you can use the master mix reverb to gel sounds so that they all sound as if they belong together. We apply the same gluing principles when we use compression and limiting to marry sounds together. The trick with getting the perfect master mix reverb is to use band-pass filtering to remove the problematic low and high frequencies and when it comes to recreating the Abbey Rd reverb effect we use a specified band-pass that starts at 600 Hz and ends at 10 kHz. The sub 600 Hz filter removes the nasty low frequencies that are generated by many instruments and when they are summed from instrument to instrument you can easily see how quickly the mix muddies and loses clarity. The post 10 kHz filter removes abrasive high frequencies that are usually produced in a busy mix. Band-passing the reverb effect allows for clarity and control and it is this single process that has given rise to the famous Abbey Rd reverb texture.

In the video I explain how to use the reverb processor’s built-in filters to recreate the Abbey Rd reverb effect. I explain the process in detail using a female vocal take as the source. I show you how we band-pass the reverb effect to create a big studio master reverb. Both versions of filtering are explored as one defines the Abbey Rd reverb effect and the other defines the master mix’s reverb effect. I explain how to find the correct band-pass filtering values using an equalsier to detect the range of frequencies we want to process on a vocal take.

Plugins used in this video:

FabFilter Pro Q2

FabFilter Pro R

Topics covered in this video are:

  • Creating a Studio Reverb
  • Famous Abbey Rd Reverb settings
  • Filtering Reverb
  • Band passing Reverb
  • Pro R complimentary EQ
  • Understanding Sympathetic EQ for Reverb
  • Timing and Bleed
  • Sync and free-form