Drum Reverb

Covering techniques, pitfalls and advanced functions of how to configure and use drum reverbs.

Beat Construction

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Getting the right reverb texture for drum sounds is as important, and as complex, as creating the right reverb texture for vocal takes. Whereas the the human voice is complex and needs to be treated as such drum sounds are not complex but they do contain low end energy that can play havoc with the clarity of the reverb. Invariably, the end result is that of frequency smearing and congestion (muddiness).

Frequency Smearing

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. 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.

So, we now know that using the reverb processor’s built-in filtering tools will alleviate most of the frequency smearing and congestion (muddiness) that results when processing low frequency content. However, that is never enough as we need to consider how each sound within the drum beat behaves. Some sounds will start and end at different times to other sounds and we have to accommodate for these start/end variances. Pre delay and early reflections can help a great deal in shaping the reverb’s behaviour over time and if coupled with sensible diffusion settings a clean and clear response can be achieved.


When the sound is triggered there is a pre delay just before the signal reflects off the first surface. The time taken for the signal to reach and reflect from the first surface is known as ‘pre delay’. In other words, the pre delay controls the amount of time taken before the reverb sound begins. By adjusting this parameter you can impress a change in distance. The longer it takes for a sound to reach a reflecting surface, the further that reflective surface is away from the sound source. This is the first stage in the reverb process.

Early Reflections

The early reflections are the primary reflections after the pre delay and this is actually quite significant as it will denote the shape and size of the room before the decay sets in which in itself further defines the dimensions of the space. We tend to concentrate more on the pre delay and the early reflections to reference ourselves to our surroundings/environment than we do to the dissipation process of the ensuing reflections.


Diffusion parameters control the spacing in between the early reflections. The tighter they are packed together, the thicker the sound, and vice versa. The more diffusion you apply the thicker the reverb will sound. This can translate across as ‘dark’ or ‘confined’. If you apply less diffusion, the opposite happens; you space out the reflections further apart and make for a thinner reverb sound.

In the video I explain the workings of a reverb processor and run through some examples using a drum beat sequence. I use the stock Cubase reverb plugin, Ozone and Valhalla reverb plugins so as to afford you a variety of different textures to choose from. I explain how to structure each reverb for optimum settings when processing drum sounds and beats.

Plugins used in this video:

Steinberg RoomWorks SE

iZotope Ozone Reverb

Softube Tsar-1

Topics covered in this video are:

  • Understanding Low Frequency Smearing
  • Diffusion and Energy
  • Filtering for maximum impact!
  • Drum Processing Requirements
  • Early/Late Reflections
  • Density and Feedback
  • Tips and Tricks