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9 New Ways to Use Reverb with Neoverb

by Mike Metlay, iZotope Contributor October 16, 2020
Neoverb presents an appealing design that embodies a whole lot of reverb power.

A reverb that listens:

Neoverb

Balance your own mix:

Neutron 3

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With reverbs being one of the most prolific breeds of audio plug-in around, it’s easy to question how many you actually need in your arsenal. The fact is, the more types of reverb at your disposal, the more creative possibilities you have for creating space in your audio. That’s why Neoverb has three independent reverb engines housed in a single plug-in: because you can never have too many flavors and styles of reverb!

Tools vs. toys

Throughout my years of electronic music production and audio engineering, I’ve come to make a distinction between tools—necessary elements to make music sound its best—and toys, which embody the joy of creative music making. When it comes to effects processors for sound design, tracking, or mixdown, reverb is my favorite: it’s both a vital tool and an endlessly creative toy.

That said, it takes a lot to make a new reverb stand out from the competition. Ideally, such a reverb would either be a great tool—letting you work with reverb in a streamlined workflow that gets great results with minimal fuss—or a great toy—giving you sounds you might never have heard before.

The new Neoverb plug-in from iZotope is a delight, because it’s both.

In this article, I’ll give you a quick introduction to many of Neoverb’s new features, and run you through some examples of how its power can transform the way you use reverb in your tracks and mixes. 

In these examples, I will focus on drum and Latin percussion loops, because that sort of content makes it easy to hear Neoverb’s parameters as they change. Of course, that shouldn’t stop you from experimenting with Neoverb on any source at all. Let’s get started!

Neoverb: intelligent, creative reverb effects
Neoverb: intelligent, creative reverb effects

What’s so “neo” about Neoverb?

As you can see from the screenshot above, Neoverb doesn’t look like other reverbs at first glance. It seems almost too simple! 

The center of the display has the triangular Blend Pad, which mixes three different reverb engines by dragging the circular cursor. This can be automated in your DAW for dynamic reverb changes, or simply used as a quick way to blend the three reverbs to taste. 

The left-hand side has controls for the three reverbs’ type and Space, and the right has general controls for Modulation, Pre-Delay, Input Smoothing, Wet/Dry mix, and overall level. The bottom of the panel has tabs for the Pre EQ and Reverb EQ, and Advanced Panel features are revealed with the arrow to the left of the Blend Pad. 

We’ll look into each of these features below, but first… what’s with that button at the top?

Not sure where to begin? Reverb Assistant is ready to help you along.
Not sure where to begin? Reverb Assistant is ready to help you along.

1. Meet Reverb Assistant

Users of iZotope plug-ins like Neutron and RX will be familiar with the idea of an Assistant, a smart algorithm that analyzes audio and makes suggestions for treatment based on what it hears. However, what Neoverb’s Reverb Assistant does is a bit different from what you get from Assistants in other iZotope plug-ins.

When you’re looking to tweak audio for the clearest and cleanest possible result, ideas like frequency masking or the presence of artifacts like clicks or hum are easy to understand and correct. But reverb is a creative effect! How can an Assistant know what you want to hear from the space you’re giving your track or mix?

Well, it can’t on its own, but it’s designed to ask you for a bit of guidance before it can make its suggestions. To do that, you access the Reverb Assistant screen shown above. It offers simple controls for Style, Size, and Tone—quick and easy ways to dial in a general shape and feel for your reverb. Need a relatively dead room for a tight drum sound? Set a more realistic reverb with Small or Medium Size and a Dark Tone. Want a huge space for your sounds to bloom? Go Dramatic, XL, and Airy. It’s just that simple.

On the next screen, Neoverb runs the Auto Cut and Unmask features and tweaks your EQ to taste. Don’t worry, you can always switch it off if you don’t like it. And then you’re ready to go!

In the audio examples below, you can hear a basic drum track under the two sets of conditions I describe above. We start with the Large Drum Stairwell preset. No further tweaking was done, so you can hear what the Neoverbs’ Reverb Assistant came up with on its own. Pretty cool, huh?

Dry Drum Kit

Reverb Assistant A

Reverb Assistant B

The Blend Pad is an intuitive way to mix early reflections, a medium reverb tail, and that glorious long boooooom...
The Blend Pad is an intuitive way to mix early reflections, a medium reverb tail, and that glorious long boooooom...

2. Choose your space with the Blend Pad

Each of the three reverbs offered in the Blend Pad has a type selector and a Space control, which is a macro that adjusts several parameters at once.

The first (blue) reverb engine is Reflections, which provides the early discrete reflections that provide the ear with an overall sense of dimension in the room. The second (magenta) can be a Plate, Medium Chamber, or Room algorithm, to provide medium reverb tails for conventional spaces, and the third (red) can be a Hall or Large Chamber, adding longer and more enveloping reverb to the mix.

This is by far the most intuitive and creatively explosive part of Neoverb! Even if you never touch any other settings on a preset, playing with or automating the Blend Pad can provide all kinds of smoothly morphing spaces. 

In the audio example, we start dry, then turn on Neoverb with the Dark Cinematic Snare preset, and then move around the Blend Pad to explore the three chosen reverbs—Reflections, Plate (our example choice for the second engine), and Large Chamber (our example choice for the third engine).

Blend Pad

The Auto Cut function of the Pre EQ: before shown above, after shown below
The Auto Cut function of the Pre EQ: before shown above, after shown below

3. Clean your tone with Pre EQ and Auto Cut

Neoverb uses its unique artificial intelligence capabilities to let you clean up your audio two different ways: either before it hits the reverb, with Pre EQ, or after, with Reverb EQ.

What’s the difference and why would you want or need the choice? To best illustrate that, let’s listen to a looped drum kit with a kick drum that’s hitting our reverb a little too hard. We’d like to tighten things up a bit without losing the essential sense of space, and we’ll check out the two ways to do that offered by Neoverb.

The Pre EQ, as its name implies, comes before the reverb processing. The Auto Cut feature listens to the audio and compares it to the reverb output, and makes predictions as to where to cut the input to provide a tighter and more mix-friendly result. We always have the option to do this by hand, with simple click-and-drag control of three bands of EQ, but Auto Cut can create subtle changes that might be hard for us to reproduce without a lot of back-and-forth trial and error.

In the image above, we see Pre EQ before and after the Auto Cut function is activated. It listens to the audio and calculates a new EQ curve which can be applied with its own strength slider, from 0-200% of the recommended tweak. 

The audio example starts with two loops of flat EQ, then cranks the Auto Cut curve up to 200%. In this case, we’re pushing the curve hard so it’s most clearly heard.

You can hear the bass ringing being cut down, but there are other changes in the mids and highs that you might find either musical or unconvincing. Listen carefully—these changes are much more subtle than what we’ve heard up to now. Check it out:

Bass Ring Auto Cut

A heavy bass ringing is nicely contained with the Reverb EQ’s Unmask function.
A heavy bass ringing is nicely contained with the Reverb EQ’s Unmask function.

4. Open things up with Reverb EQ and Unmask

Reverb EQ comes after the reverb has been added, and like Pre EQ it can be tweaked by hand to your heart’s content. There’s an automated alternative here as well, though: a function called Unmask.

In a manner similar to how Neutron and other iZotope AI-enabled plug-ins work, Neoverb can analyze the reverb signal and determine where a bit of judicious EQ can reveal details that might otherwise be muddied up. In the case of our drum loop, the Unmask function suggests a broad and gentle dip in the lows to remove the ringing. See the images above.

As you can hear in the example below, the second half of the loop has Unmask dialed up to 200%, removing the ring and tightening the kick without substantially affecting the mids and highs. Depending on the sound you’re looking for, either this or Auto Cut could be what you go with—but isn’t it great to have both options, especially since it takes mere seconds to audition them?

Bass Ring Unmask

5. Pre-Delay (with and without Sync)

The Pre-Delay control gives a direct impression of the size of the room your tracks are in. The longer the Pre-Delay, the longer it takes initial reflections of the sound to be heard—which your ears interpret as a larger room with walls farther away.

Neoverb’s Pre-Delay runs from 0–1000 ms—a ridiculous amount, corresponding to a room over 1100 feet across (if you’re at the center). For purposes other than sound design, you’ll usually keep that number much smaller, in the range of 5 to 50 ms. 

Neoverb also allows you to sync the Pre-Delay to your DAW’s tempo, in values from 1/128th note triplets up to a full quarter note (click the little note icon by the control). This is great to add a rhythmic pulse to tracks, a sort of slapback echo that doesn’t require an extra delay plug-in.

In the audio example, we start with a dry rhythm, then turn on Neoverb with a mix of Reflections with a tiny bit of Plate. We start with no Pre-Delay, gradually crank it up to 1000 ms and back down again (with pauses at musically interesting room sizes). Then turn on Sync and set it to various classic values, such as a straight quarter note and the dotted-eighth much beloved of electronic musicians. You’ll get a good feel for the creative possibilities in this one little dial.

Pre-Delay

6. Input Smoothing

This parameter is quite subtle. Essentially, it rolls off percussive transients a tiny bit before they’re fed into the reverb, to give a smoother reverb tail. If you mix in some dry signal, your original material won’t lose its punch, but the reverb after it won’t get in the way.

The audio example below has Smoothing switched on and off every four bars, at the full 100% so it’s easy to hear. Notice how the reverb becomes less harsh and aggressive when smoothing is on. Maybe it will work well for your current track, maybe it won’t, but the option to dial it in to add clarity to your mixes is always there.

Smoothing

Looking for something deeper? Here you go.
Looking for something deeper? Here you go.

7. Going deep with the Advanced Panel

All of these parameters are fast and intuitive, but what if you’re the sort of detailed reverb tweaker who wants to get their hands dirty with the conventional parameters that All Those Other Guys offer? Neoverb has you covered: just click the arrow icon to the left of the Blend Pad, and the plug-in will open up the Advanced Panel, with the direct parameter editing you’re looking for, plus some worthwhile extras.

The screenshot above shows the available parameters—for each reverb you get the overall Space command that’s visible at all times, plus dedicated controls for Time, Size, Diffusion, and either Angle (for Reflections) or Attack (for the reverbs). There are also Tone controls to fine-tune the sound of the reverb: a low pass filter for Reflections, and Crossover and Damping for the reverbs. We’ll get to those in a moment.

In the audio example, we take a dry drum kit loop and play with various parameters, first on Reflections and then on the Plate and Large Chamber (this is the Subtle Reflections preset). Listen for how cranking up the Angle parameter causes a grainy smearing of the Reflections, how changing Attack smooths and delays the onset of the Large Chamber and Plate, and how time-sync of the reverb Time parameters makes the track breathe—complete with a stupid-long setting of eight bars of reverb time at the end.

Advanced Reverb 1

8. Tweak your Tone

The Tone controls give you a lot more than just adjustments to the overall EQ of the reverb contour. Unlike the EQ settings, these controls are time-dependent, so you can massage how the timbre of the tail changes with time.

The low pass filter on the Reflections reverb is straightforward, but the Tone controls for the other reverbs offer a lot of options. For each reverb, you can control a crossover frequency for where the sound starts to be impacted, as well as a tilt control to favor high or low frequencies. You can set the cutoff frequency passed by the reverb, and a Damping parameter to choke the tail.

As you can hear in the audio example below, there are all kinds of tonal possibilities here, including a combination of cutoff frequency and Damping that produces a very nice gated reverb.

Advanced Reverb 2

With all these possibilities in hand, Neoverb will become an essential tool and a fantastic toy!
With all these possibilities in hand, Neoverb will become an essential tool and a fantastic toy!

9. The other kind of assistant

Finally, it’s worth mentioning that Neoverb has another way to get started quickly—a very solid library of useful presets that cover the gamut of instrument types and hint at all sorts of cool possibilities. I’ll wrap up this survey with a quick surf through a variety of the presets that will be waiting for you when you take your first steps into Neoverb. At the beginning, I’ll start dry, bring up the wet mix to about 66%, then back it down again. At the end, I’ll switch between presets on the downbeat. Some of these will have significant level changes, so mind your ears! 

Special thanks to Sharooz Raoofi and the awesome folks at samplemagic.com for the demo loop used here.

Preset Surf

The takeaways 

There’s even more to explore in Neoverb—like modulation of the reverb tail for extremely subtle smoothing effects, and the Masking Meter, which lets you connect Neoverb to other iZotope software like VocalSynth 2 and Neutron 3 to share and integrate masking data. 

Neoverb is fast to set up, easy to tweak, fun to explore, and sounds amazing. It’s a great tool for speeding your workflow, and a great toy to explore all kinds of dynamic and rich spaces for your tracks and mixes. Give it a try, and prepare to get really spaced out!

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