Back to blog
September 16, 2020

Creating a common space with reverb

In a nutshell, you can describe the process of mixing as the creation of a cohesive whole from a collection of individual tracks. That can be challenging when you’re working on a song where many of the tracks were recorded separately and in different studios.

In the episode “Pro Member Mix Fix: Six Of One - Episode 2: Guitars, Vocals & The Mix Bus,” Fab demonstrates one way to unify disparate tracks—give them the same ambience so they sound like they were recorded in a common space. In this case, he accomplishes that by running selected tracks through the UAD Ocean Way Studios plug-in, which models the acoustics and microphones from Studio A and B at the famed facility’s former Hollywood location (now under different ownership and called United Recording).

Is it Real?

The song Fab is mixing is called “Some Summer Day” by the band Six of One. It combines a repeating multi-instrument loop with overdubbed vocals, guitars and bass parts. In a previous episode from this series, Fab layered the kick and snare hits in the loop with samples to fatten them up and make the song sound more contemporary.

When adjusting those sampled drum tracks in the mix, he decides to “create the illusion of space” on them. He opens a stereo aux track in Pro Tools, inserts the Ocean Way Studios plug-in on it, and uses an aux bus to send signal to it from the snare sample track.

The Ocean Way Studios setting Fab uses on the snare.

He’s using one of the Studio A presets from the plug-in. The setting features a model of a stereo pair of AKG C12 mics that are 14.8 feet from the source.

He experiments with the level of the return and also compares the snare with the plug-in muted, and decides he likes it the way it sounds and adds authenticity.

Later, he sends the electric bass to the same instance of the plug-in, as well. You might not think of bass as being a candidate for reverb—you have to be judicious about how much you apply to avoid creating messy low end wash—but in this case, it works.

Later on in the video, Fab is working on another bass part, the “bass accents” track, and adds the Ocean Way plug-in there as well. Finally, he puts some on the rhythm guitar track, too.

Now he’s placed the sampled snare, bass, and guitar through the same Ocean Way Studios processing, helping each sound better individually and have a common sonic signature.

Fab sends tracks to the Ocean Way Studios plug-in via aux send.

The Way of Ocean

The UAD Ocean Way Studios plug-in is a uniquely designed processor created by UAD in conjunction with Allen Sides, a respected engineer and producer, and the owner of Ocean Way Recording.

The plug-in lets you choose between Studio A or B’s modeled acoustics, as recorded through your choice of vintage mic pairs with adjustable distance. Some of the mics feature cardioid patterns, some figure-8 and some omni.

You can choose from two operating modes: In Reverb mode, the plug-in functions like a standard reverb. It combines the source signal with the reverberated signal—typically from an aux send—to create the final result.

Re-Mic mode takes everything a step further. It processes the source audio so that it sounds like it was recorded in Studio A or B at the position and with the mics that you choose. Either way, it’s a potent effect.

You do have to be careful when you use it. UAD recommends starting with one of its presets, which all use specific mics and positioning recommended by Sides to get optimal results. The presets each use only a single stereo mic pair. However, you can turn the other two pairs on if you want and switch the mic types and their distance from the “source.”

You do have to be careful of putting the signal out of polarity when you switch on more than one mic pair due to phase differences. There is a polarity reverse button for each mic pair.

Finding Space

Let’s check out some more examples of how you can use Ocean Way Studios to create a shared space for tracks recorded in different places.

First, here are some MIDI drums with minimal reverb (the less ambience on a source, the better Ocean Way Studios’ Re-Mic mode works. The output of the drums is being sent to an aux track with Ocean Way Studios inserted and set to Re-Mic mode. The plug-in preset is RE-MIC OWA Drums 1, which features a sampled pair of AKG C12s, which are 14.8 feet from the kit.

You’ll hear four measures of dry drums, and then four with the plug-in turned on.

The drums were processed in Re-Mic mode.

The congas in the next example are from Logic Pro X’s Drummer instrument. They have a little reverb on them to start with. You’ll hear four measures without any processing from the plug-in, and then four with. They’re being processed in Reverb mode from an aux channel, with a similar setting featuring the same virtual mics and placement.

Here are the congas and drums together, again without and then with processing. Notice how much more connected they sound with the processing on.

Guit Going

Next is the electric electric guitar part (it’s actually a DI Strat running through the Scuffam S-Gear amp modeler with a crunchy overdriven sound). It’s getting sent via aux send to another instance of Ocean Way Studios, which is in Reverb mode.

The plug-in is set to one of the plug-in's guitar cabinet presets for studio A with the pre-delay at about 25%. The setting features a stereo pair of C12 virtual mics, 13.8 feet from the source. As with the other examples, the settings are rather heavy on the ambience to provide a sense of what the plug-in can do.

You’ll also hear some additional reverb on the guitar (Waves H-Reverb) that’s on from the beginning. When using the Ocean Way Studios plug-in to simulate the acoustics of one of the studios, there’s no reason not to add reverb from another plug-in after the fact, if you want to.

For the guitar track, the Studio A virtual-miking position differs from the drums.

One of the advantages of Reverb mode is that you can set Pre-Delay and Wet/Dry balance, unlike in Re-Mic mode.

Since all the instruments in these examples are in Studio A, they all have a similar room sound, even though the virtual mics and their positioning are different.

The next example features a rough mix of the drums, conga, guitar and bass. The latter has a bit of processing, as well. Again, the Ocean Way plug-in is bypassed on all instruments for the first four measures.

The Ocean Way Studios plug-in is excellent for this type of application, and the Re-Mic setting is unique. That said, you could substitute another reverb with a short room or chamber setting if you’re trying to put tracks in a common space.