Use delay instead of reverb?

The most common choice for novice engineers who want to make an instrument sound “special” or more like a record is reverb. And while reverb is an extremely useful effect for giving mixes their own unique ambiance, there’s another way to achieve that sound without eating up as much space in your mix.

Next time you want to liven up an instrument without sounding gimmicky or obvious, send its signal to a delay unit. A delay usually consists of some, but not all, of the parameters you’d find in a reverb processor. You can use a short delay to add thickness (try 4-8 milliseconds with 10-20% feedback on a rhythm guitar); you can go a little longer for a “slap” effect often found on lead vocals (try 30, 60, 90 or 120 ms to employ an Elvis or John Lennon vocal effect.) Or you can use a really long delay (e.g. 800 ms w/40% feedback) for a more obvious effect, like having certain words of the vocal repeat and trail off in the distance.

Tip: For your lead vocal, try using a delay and a reverb. The delay is only used to thicken the vocal – dial up anywhere from 30-90 ms, with little or no feedback, and leave the fader just below where you can detect the sound of the delay. Then utilize the reverb (short hall, small plate, etc.) to create the more noticeable ambience for your vocal.

The information above came from “Studio Buddy — The Home Recording Helper.” It’s a self-contained, easy to use database of recording tips designed specifically for people with home studios. If you find this article helpful, you should download the FREE program at

Reprinted with permission from TAXI: the world’s leading independent A&R company helping unsigned bands, artists and songwriters get record deals, publishing deals and placement in films and TV shows.

© 2002 TAXI. All rights reserved.

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