Even with hundreds of new DSP convolution reverbs and patches

don't you sometimes wish you could just have Capitol Records' studios' reverb chambers, or Wally Heiders from the 70s?  How about the Columbia "church" in New York where Miles Davis did "Miles Ahead?"  Or any number of studios where your favorite group or artist recorded.  Sometimes you want to grab a little of the "old magic" that made hits and apply some of that to your current project or artist.  I've found this to be the case more lately, especially as the quality of newer recordings drops because lazy engineers are using only the available reverb patches or plug ins in their desktop software. 

Well folks, the "world's laziest recording engineer" brings you all those great rooms, chambers, halls, plates, and more--and they're virtually free!

A while back I bought a Lexicon MX400, outboard dual
stereo reverb unit.  For a long time, I've felt that outboard reverb was about the only studio tool I would prefer to keep outboard, despite the pretty good sound exhibited by some of the built-in DSP reverbs in software these days.

There are many outboard units and probably some DSP programs capable of "collecting" reverb signatures.

Last year I recorded a 19-piece big band made up of mostly guys from the great big bands of the 40s and 50s, a lot of them in their 80's and one fellow over 90 years old.  We did a CD project that happened to have a Billy May chart "My Lean Baby" Sinatra had also recorded at Capitol in 1961, and I thought 'wouldn't it be great if I could have Capitol's actual reverb chambers to help make the sound of this big band authentic for the era.'  LINK

So here's what I did.

I started a recording session in my favorite DAW, Adobe Audition 3 (most DAWs can do this in much the same way), and ripped a few seconds of a "Sinatra - The Capitol Years" collection -- a Billy May chart on "Almost Like Being In Love" that happened to have two nice big, fat ending chords.  Here's what that looks like -- you can see the two chords at the end of the waveform:

Next, I copied the last chord (highlight-CTRL-C) and pasted the copy twice (place cursor-CTRL-V) onto two tracks below the original.  The first copy looks like this:

Next, I shortened the second copy to just the chord--without its trailing reverb tail:

Zoomed in - horizontally

Next, I assigned the output of the shortened chord "stimulus" to the Lexicon's inputs:

Next, by bringing up the mixer's reverb return from the Lexicon, I was able to hear the output of the reverb and compare it to the sound of the "LAST CHORD WITH REVERB TAIL" from the Capitol CD clip.  In this case, setting the Lexicon's mix value to around 50/50 let me hear if I was close to the same basic AMOUNT of reverb as ther reverb on the track.  Ain't solo buttons wonderful?

 The Lexicon is returned to a Motu 2408 mk3

Next, I adjusted the Lexicon's program.  First to get in the ball park--large hall, small hall, plate, chamber, etc.--and then tweaked and fine-tuned until an A-B comparison of the original chord with its tail, sounded as close as I could get to the sound of the isolated short chord stimulus plus a mix of the present Lexicon settings.

The settings show how I set the MX400 to sound like CAPITOL A

Once the Lexicon MX400's settings sounded like the Capitol Records chamber, I saved the program (and all of its settings) to "CAPITOL A" and backed up my MX400's memory to hard drive and a flash drive that contains my studio essentials.

Note from the picture above, that I've also managed to copy and store reverbs for United Western Studio A, Staples Center in Los Angeles (a Rolling Stones concert), the EMT 140  Echoplate Linda Ronstadt used at Sound Factory West (where I was Chief Engineer in the 70's), the RCA Hollywood recording studios chambers, Columbia in new York (Miles Ahead), Wally Heider Recording, where CSN and CSNY recorded, and the Zipper Concert Hall at the Colburn School of Music, across the street from the Disney Hall at the Los Angeles Music Center.

I love this inexpensive little Lexicon unit!  It rocks AND sounds good.  I can only imagine what their PCM96 sounds like.

Thirty years ago you worked in one recording studio, and generally what came out of that studio had a rather distinct "signature" that was in many cases, a reflection of that studio's electronic, acoustical and engineering assets and also its deficits or in some cases its liabilities.  Today we have the power in many of our tools, to be in any studio, anywhere we want to be, if we take some time and look a little closer --beyond the manual-- at those tools.

My appreciation to audio engineers who've thought up the tools that allow the "world's laziest reccording engineer" to be so clever with so little effort.

Drew Daniels - November 21, 2010.


1.  The original last chord of the ripped track
     - 4 seconds 24-bit WAV file  LINK

2.  The "stimulus" portion of the last chord
     - 0.25 second 24-bit WAV file  LINK

3.  Pure reverb return from the Lexicon MX400 using the
     dialed-in and saved "Capitol A" studio chamber settings
     - 4 seconds 24-bit WAV file  LINK

4.  The stimulus track mixed with the Capitol A return track
     - 4 seccond 24-bit WAV file  LINK

5.  The ending 8 seconds of the original track with the last chord
and its new Lexicon "Capitol A" patch mixed down
     - 8 second 24-bit WAV file  LINK