We are very excited to announce the release of our second program pack for the Wet Reverberator Plug-in. Designed by renowned sound designer Drew Schlesinger, the Drew Schlesinger Factory Pack features 50 beautifully crafted programs for the Wet Reverberator Plug-in ranging from small rooms, booths and spaces to enormous, unnatural spaces.
We sat down with Drew to discuss his approach to preset design, creative uses of reverb and the Wet Reverberator Plug-in.
Tell us a bit about your background and work as a sound designer.
Well from 1987-1999 I was making a living as a professional synthesizer and effects sound designer for most of the major manufacturers like Roland, E-mu, Yamaha, Sony, Alesis, Kurzweil, Korg, Lexicon, TC and others. I did a lot of effects work for Lexicon and Eventide, some for Yamaha, and for Sony when they were making their rack devices. For Lexicon was the PCM 80/81, PCM 90/91, the Model 300 and a few others. Eventide started with the H3000 with a bunch of presets, one of the main ones being “Crystal Echoes” around 1990 which has become what everyone now knows as Shimmer. It was a reverse pitch shifter with long delay and feedback tuned to a 5th or an Octave that gave you that glistening echo sound. Another well-known preset is the “Black Hole” reverb. I created the algorithm for that in the DSP4000. Those two were sort of trademark sounds, but honestly, there’s been thousands of presets over that 10- or 11-year span, and little bit of plug in sounds in the last few years as well.
If you see a preset that says “Drew’s” something, most of those are generally mine. I’ve now seen some IR Impulses for various devices that clearly came from one of my presets which is kind of cool.
When you’re looking at reverb what are you looking for out of a good reverb?
It’s really two things: 1) to be able to imagine a space, a physical representation of a real space and be able to recreate it where somebody feels like they’re actually in a room, whether it’s a really small or big, and 2), having the ability to be really creative with things that don’t sound natural, depending on what the reverb algorithm allows you to do. When you start talking about unnatural spaces, it’s usually something that’s either gated, very big or swirly. When you create something like a train tunnel or cavern, you still try to get some natural characteristics, but when you try to get some really huge, spacious sounds, that’s when you start pushing the reverb to its extremes. Then it really comes down to what kind of control you have within the reverb’s functionality. What capabilities and parameters you can manipulate to get you where you want to go. One of the things I’ve found with the Wet Reverb that surprised me, and is pretty amazing, is that it’s just one reverb algorithm and you can still get a lot of different types of spaces, and a lot of realistic spaces. There’s a couple of different things the algorithm provides that makes that possible.
First off, the width control is incredibly important. One of the things that’s often a problem is some reverb algorithms is there’s kind of a hole in the center, there’s a lot of energy panned hard right and left but, in the middle, it lacks density. When you can focus the reverb and bring in the sides to make it narrower, the energy sounds different and more focused and you can get a much more realistic sounding room, especially as you get small and you can focus the effect. The ability to change the decay without getting ringing, especially on smaller spaces, is also very important. It’s very hard to have a reverb algorithm without a size control that allows you to bring the decay time really short without it having really weird resonances, and you can also get really long without those weird resonances. So, it’s really impressive that with just the Wet algorithm, and without a size control, you can get very drastic variations in decay times and it still sounds natural, or unnatural if you want. Usually you have to tweak a whole bunch of parameters to do that.
Other things that are very useful are the attack characteristic, I’m not exactly sure how he’s doing it, but depending on where you set it, in medium sized rooms, it really brought a sense of space and realism to the sound. It seems to increase early reflections and brings the sound a bit closer. Sound like some of that may also be feeding the the main reverb core as well.
Between the Width, Attack and the ability to really move the decay time at very wide variations of settings without it getting weird, you can get some really great spaces, some big things, small things, medium things etc. And of course, the Pre-Delay as well gives you an indication of the size of the room, how far away you are based on reflections and bounce back from walls.
I love the array of really realistic spaces in this preset pack, it hits a great balance between really beautiful and nondescript to some pretty effect-y creative spaces like the Slappy Room preset.
I try to find a happy medium where some of them are very characteristic, there’s one called “Kitchen” and “Basement”, where I really try to go for a distinctive, recognizable space so hopefully you’re hearing the sound in a conceptually ‘real’ space. The other thing the algorithm does, that not a lot of other algorithms do, it gives you a sense of depth. It’s not only left to right, but it places you inside the space, and some of that has to do with the width control. I also found that the Bits control has a lot of impact, especially for percussive and drum sounds when you drop the bits down fairly low. It seems to break up the diffusion somewhat, you could hear it as noise on some sustained sounds, but on percussive sounds it doesn’t sound granular, but it made the space less ringy. The other thing that’s great, and kudos to Brian, is the combination of the various EQ and roll-off parameters which are interactive and easy to use. The dynamic decay graphic in the middle is a very nice touch as well. The interface is clean, clear and all on one page so no menu diving and page flipping which is a pleasure.
Being able to shift and tilt the overall EQ curved and define roll off with the sliders at the bottom, you just have a lot of control over what the energy is at various frequencies. You can roll off the high end without it getting muddy, and you can roll off the low end and keep things really clear. You can tailor the sound for a bright room or a smaller space. It almost reminded me in some ways, and I’ve never owned one, of a Quantec Room Simulator which is also one algorithm. That’s really a room simulator and depending on how you set it up, you can give an impression of the energy of a physical space, very 3-D and palpable.
I’m really impressed, a lot of reverbs sound flat and don’t give you that sense of “I’m in a room.” They can get it left and right, but not front to back. Using the width control, if you pan something to a certain spot and use a pretty narrow reverb, and pan that reverb to the same location, you can really move something forward to back at a specific location the stereo field. You can place it in the back left of the room or the far right of the room. The width control really helps in that sense.
One other observation of note is it doesn’t seem to take a lot of energy to excite the reverb, I found the mix on the Wet tended to be much lower than most other reverbs that I’ve used. Usually you’re up to 30-40% wet mix, I found when I used the Wet in line I’d be down at 11-17% maybe 20% and that had plenty of reverb space, so that also speaks to the way the characteristic of the reverb envelops the sound. It also means that users may need to adjust wet/dry mix more often.
It doesn’t take as much to get a lot of sweetness from the reverb. I think people in general tend to think of the Wet reverb as this glorious, spacious, chorusy sound, which it does in spades, but it also does some really small spaces and booths, it can get really small and really tight without those weird artifacts. I know what that takes, usually designing reverbs is a process of trying to get rid of the bad artifacts, not necessarily make it sound good, but get rid of the things that make it sound bad and working toward tuning those various delays and all pass filters so you’re getting rid of those resonances. It’s not easy, so it’s really quite impressive.
How would you recommend approaching the presets in this pack? Is there a thought process you have in mind for how it’s laid out?
I’m not a fan of scrolling through tons of presets, if I had my druthers, I’d rather have someone give me 20 really unique and different spaces that are good starting points, where I can tweak things to fit. Maybe it needs a bit less high end, a little bit more decay, maybe a bit more pre-delay, but just scrolling through 1000 presets, and it’s the same thing like with a synth, “What was the difference between #117 and #241?” What I try to do is come up with descriptive names so people have some sense of reference. Obviously, the creative names don’t really tell you much, like “Chorus Synth”, but if you say, “Chorus Synth Room” or “Chorus Synth Hall”, someone will have a sense that that’s going to be for an electronic sound and it’s going to have some chorus. But a preset like Kitchen, Basement, Corridor, or Long Corridor are going to be more indicative of “I’m in this space”. From looking at the pack, I try to give a very nice variation of different sizes and types of rooms and spaces, from small natural and medium natural, to some big cavernous things. With the big cavernous things, I think there’s probably a lot of those, I think it’s harder to get those realistic spaces. So, if I was mixing music and I wanted to put my horns or guitar into a space and place them, I’d want to have reverbs that would do that without a lot of futzing and editing needed. You should be able to look at it and say, “I’d really like to have this sound like it's in a club or it’s in a hallway or bathroom” and go, “Ok, here’s your starting point.”
I’ve seen some algorithms and I’m not going to say any names, but I’m looking at the number of parameters that’s there and I’m like “this is too much work.” If I have to do that much work and tweak that many things to get it to sound right, I may be able to do everything, but it takes me too long to get anything. It’s personal preference really. That’s what I like about the Wet interface, it has most of the things I need, it gives me a lot of control, I can get a lot of different spaces quickly and easily, they sound good and just in general the algorithm has a great sound and a real sense of space and place.