Setting Effects Parameters in Your Home Recording Studio - dummies

Setting Effects Parameters in Your Home Recording Studio

By Jeff Strong

Part of Home Recording For Musicians For Dummies Cheat Sheet

Every effect (signal processor) that you use in your home-recording studio has certain settings, called parameters, which you can adjust to tailor the sound to your liking. The compressor and reverb are the two most common effects (signal processors).

Choosing reverb parameters

Reverb is a natural part of every sound and represents the way a room sounds as a sound bounces around it.

  • Room size/type: Whether you use a reverb patch within your DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) or a separate outboard reverb unit, you can choose the type of reverb that you want to use. You have the option of a room, hall, or plate (a type of reverb that uses a metal plate to create the sound). As well, you can choose the size of the room in either meters or feet.

  • Decay: The decay is the length of time that the reverb lasts. Larger or more reflective rooms produce a longer decay.

  • Predelay: The predelay is the amount of time from the sound’s beginning to the start of the reverb (described in milliseconds). Predelay helps to define the initial sound signal by separating it from the reverb. This parameter is essential in making your reverb sound natural.

  • Density: The density parameter controls the level of the early reflections (the first few milliseconds of the reverb sound). This parameter enables you to simulate different sizes of rooms because, in a larger room, the main section of a reverb takes longer to reach you.

  • Diffusion: Diffusion affects the density of the reflections in the main section of the reverb sound. A higher diffusion setting results in a thicker sound.

Controlling compressor settings

The compressor is used to compress the dynamic range of your signal and is used in all the stages of recording: tracking, mixing, and mastering.

  • Threshold: The threshold setting dictates the level where the compressor starts to act on the signal. This is listed in dB (decibels).

  • Ratio: The ratio is the amount that the compressor affects the signal. For example, a ratio of 2:1 means that if a signal goes 1dB over the threshold setting, its output from the compressor is only 1/2dB louder.

  • Attack: The attack knob controls how soon the compressor kicks in. The attack is defined in milliseconds (ms), and the lower the number, the faster the attack.

  • Release: The release parameter controls how long the compressor continues affecting the signal after it has started. Like the attack, the release is defined in milliseconds.

  • Gain: You use the gain knob to adjust the level of the signal going out of the compressor. This is listed in decibels. Because adding compression generally reduces the overall level of the sound, you use this control to raise the level back to where it was going in.