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In The Studio: Three EQ Curves For Effects

By Bobby Owsinski June 20, 2012

This article is provided by Bobby Owsinski.

One of the things that many young mixers struggle with is getting reverb and delay effects to blend well in the mix.

This happens more with reverbs than delays, especially during those times when the reverb just never seems quite right.

Usually the way the problem is addressed is to audition presets until you find something that seems to fit better, but that can take a lot of time and you can end up chasing you’re tail very easily where you’re never sure which one is the best.

What many engineers seem to forget is that most of those presets are the same basic reverb with different EQ settings, which you can add yourself to get there faster.

One of the things that would happen regularly back in the early days of artificial reverb (especially when plates came along but way before digital reverbs) is that one of the ways to tune a reverb was to add an EQ on the send before the actual reverb itself.

Usually the EQ was set more to cut than to boost (although you’d boost it if you wanted a bright sounding plate), but if done well, the reverb would suddenly fit a lot better in the track. In fact, back in the classic days of the big studios, this was done in the back room and not left up to the engineer at the console, and it became one of the reasons for clients wanting to work there. They loved the sound of their reverbs.

We can use those same techniques today using reverb plugins on our DAW. Just remember that it usually sounds best if the EQ is placed before the reverb, not after it. Here are three EQ curves that I use all the time.

(click to enlarge)

Vocal Reverb
One of the things about reverb is any low end just muddies up the track, and high end may stick out too much, that’s why we want to roll each end of the frequency spectrum off a bit, in this case at 200 Hz and 10 kHz. When we’re using reverb on vocals, sometimes it fits a lot better if there’s also a bit of an EQ scoop in the mid-range around 2kHz where the consonants of the vocal live. It looks like the curve on the left.

(click to enlarge)

Instrument Reverb
For instruments, I like the Abbey Road curve, which is what they’ve used on their reverbs since the 60s. This means that the low end is rolled off at 600Hz and the high end at 10 kHz. This curve makes any reverb sound a lot smoother and fit better with the track. You’ll find that by adding more reverb, you just increase the depth without it sounding washed out. Off course, too much of a good thing is no good either, so be judicious with the amount you add.

(click to enlarge)

Drum Reverb
Sometimes reverb on the drums is the toughest of all in that you want depth without calling attention to the ambience. A good way to do that is a variation of the Abbey Road curve where the high end is severely rolled off to 6k, 4k, or even 2 kHz! You’ll find that you’ll have some depth without the ambience ever calling attention to itself. While these EQ curves work great with reverbs, don’t be afraid to try them with delays as the results are very similar. You’ll get depth without hearing much of the delay itself. Of course, if you want to really hear the reverb or delay, go the opposite way and increase the high end and the effect will jump right out of the track.

There are a lot more tips and tricks like this in The Mixing Engineer’s Handbook, and you can read some excerpts on my website.

Bobby Owsinski is an author, producer, music industry veteran and technical consultant who has written numerous books covering all aspects of audio recording. For more information be sure to check out his website and blog.

About Bobby

Bobby Owsinski
Bobby Owsinski

Music Industry Veteran and Technical Consultant
Bobby Owsinski is an author, producer, music industry veteran and technical consultant who has written numerous books covering all aspects of audio recording. To read more from Bobby, and to acquire copies of his outstanding books such as The Recording Engineer’s Handbook, be sure to check out his website at


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