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.
of new DSP convolution reverbs and patches,
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
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,
recorded, and the Zipper
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.
SOUND CLIPS FOR THE
original last chord of the ripped track
- 4 seconds 24-bit WAV file LINK
"stimulus" portion of the last chord
- 0.25 second 24-bit WAV file LINK
reverb return from the Lexicon MX400 using the
A" studio chamber settings
- 4 seconds 24-bit WAV file LINK
stimulus track mixed with the Capitol A return track
- 4 seccond 24-bit WAV file LINK
ending 8 seconds of the original track with the last chord
and its new
Lexicon "Capitol A" patch mixed down
WAV file LINK