In nature, reverb reaches us from all directions. As such, stereo reverbs, which see reflections reaching us from all angles, are more realistic than mono reverbs, where the reverb comes from just one point.
But whilst stereo reverbs are impressive, immersive, spacious, and more realistic, they can sometimes take up a lot of room in the mix, potentially reducing the intelligibility of the dry signals as they fill the entire stereo field with reverb. Similarly, the use of stereo reverbs can make the localization of some instruments less distinct. What’s more, a very wide stereo reverb can sometimes sound detached from the dry signal. In this lesson, we’ll explore some options you can use when a stereo reverb just doesn’t work for the mix.
Mono reverbs are often used in mixing as an alternative to stereo reverbs. They work really well for things like electric guitars… Multiple electric guitars, each sent to mono reverbs which are then panned to the same position as the dry signal, will make each reverb sound more cohesive with its dry signal than if each were sent to a stereo reverb. Each guitar and its reverb will also maintain a stronger position in the stereo field. This process will also keep the stereo field more clear than multiple stereo reverbs would, which can help to reduce the masking that reverb can often cause.
Narrowing a stereo reverb:
Another option if a mono reverb sounds just too narrow is to send a signal to a stereo reverb but reduce its width, either by altering the plugin’s width control if it has one or via panning, which we will look at in a moment. The reverb can then be positioned around the dry signal so that it is focused on just a portion of the stereo field surrounding the dry signal, rather than the whole stereo field. This gives more space than a mono reverb and creates a focused, impactful sound, that prevents the reverb from sounding detached from the source in the way that wide stereo reverbs sometimes do.
How to pan stereo reverbs:
So, how do you pan a stereo reverb? Well, most stereo reverb plugins these days are ‘true stereo’. This means that the left and right channels being sent into the plugin are processed discretely. As such, the stereo reverb which is output from the plugin is able to reflect the positions of the signals being sent into it. So a dry signal, sent to a true stereo reverb via a stereo send which is panned to 3 o’clock, will see the reverb emanate from the 3 o’clock position and then fill out the stereo field.
This means that a mono signal, sent to a stereo reverb, via a stereo send, doesn’t have to originate from the centre. It can be panned via the send to originate from the same point as the dry signal (or any other point). Similarly, a stereo track, sent to a stereo reverb, via a stereo send, can be panned via the stereo pan pots on the send to emanate from your desired position, and, as per the previous point, also occupy the desired width.
Not all reverbs process the incoming right and left channels from the stereo send in the way a true stereo reverb does. Some sum the incoming stereo signal to mono, so panning of the stereo send might not be reflected in the stereo output of the reverb. Nevertheless, panning can still be achieved via the panning of the stereo reverb return aux track. The same is also true with mono reverbs.
Panning mono reverbs:
A mono signal can be sent to a mono reverb, via a mono send, and the position of the reverb can be panned to the desired position using the pan pot of the reverb return aux track. Similarly, a stereo signal can be sent to a mono reverb via a mono send and positioned using the reverb return aux track’s pan pot.
So, don’t be afraid to experiment with mono reverbs as well as stereo, and don’t hesitate to reduce their width and pan them around your mix as necessary. Do you stick to stereo reverbs in your mix? Or do you incorporate narrower or mono reverbs? Leave a comment below.
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