Reverb vs Delay (How to Make Your Mixes 3D)

The key to making your mixes sound modern and professional is depth.

A good mix is more than just a good recording. It has a sense of space, a ‘larger-than-life’ quality…

In essence, a good mix sounds 3D.

So, how do you achieve that?

It all comes down to your use of reverb and delay.

But which should you use, and when?

You just have to ask yourself this one question.

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Hello hope you’re well. Rob here from Today you’re going to learn the difference between reverb and delay, when you’re going to use each and I’m going to outline three key approaches that are going to help you to use reverb and delay to create depth, interest, and space in your mixes.

Now, if you really want to learn how to use reverb and delay like a pro and nail this, so you don’t need to worry about in future mixes and it comes as a second nature. Be sure to download the free reverb and delay cheat sheet that I put together just for you because you’re watching this video and that’s going to contain all the key information from this video and a bit more and you can reference that in your mixes to make sure you get this right every time. You can get that by either going to the link you see in the video now, link in the description by going to all one word.

Okay, so what’s the difference between reverb and delay, when should you use one over the other? Well, both of these effects can be used to create depth and space in your mixes, but for me there’s one clear distinction. Reverb creates space while putting things further away from the listener, whereas delay creates space while keeping things near to the listener. So reverb is far, delay is close.

And this is vital because even though they can both be used to create space they sound very different and they have a very different psycho acoustic effect on the listener. What that means is with reverb delay generally the end-listener isn’t necessarily going to pick up on this stuff, on a conscious level at least, but they will pick up on it on a sub-conscious level. And when you use reverb on something, heavy reverb, it tends to make it sound further away because if you’re standing in a room with someone and they were at the other side of the room and they were talking to you, you would hear more of a reverb than you would of their voice, whereas if they were right up in front of you, you would hear lots of their voice and not their reverb.

Whereas, with delay we can create a sense of space without having that reverb tail and making things sound far away, so that’s the distinction. Reverb is far, delay is close and we can break this down into several strategies; three specific strategies that I’m going to show you in just a second, but first of all I want to give you a really obvious example of how reverb can create depth and space within a mix.

Now, me and one of my best buddies Jason Moss from behind the speakers always use this track as an example and I just want to give you a quick listen now. In the verse you’ll notice that Selena Gomez is really close and intimate to the microphone. It sounds like she’s right there in front of you, but then in the pre-chorus the back wall just kind of falls on it open up. There’s suddenly this epic reverb on her voice and suddenly the mix has this incredible sense of depth and it goes from this really close sound to this really big sound, and this stark contrast makes it really obvious how reverb can be used to create depth. So, let’s have a listen.

So, there’s a few things going on there. It’s not just reverb there’s some delay in there as well, but hopefully that gives you an idea now of what we’re talking about when we say depth in a mix because you can really hear it there and listen back to that again if you really want to get a sense of that.

So, now let’s go over each of those approaches. Well approach number 1 is to use reverb to create space, but also to create space and put things further away. So, I’m going to just show you in this mix I’ve got a reverb set up, I’ve got a bit of EQ before just to cut out the mud and some of the bottom and I’m just using event type stereo room here. In terms of decay time I really like to keep it below 2 seconds, generally near a 1 second, long reverb times can very quickly clog up your mix and you don’t want to use them, especially if you’re using liberal reverb. So, if it’s a slower track or a track that lends itself a bit more time having a more open reverb heavy sound then you can go to near 2 seconds as long as it’s not too fast. But if it’s a faster track or if it’s a really dry kind of in your face track then you definitely want to be near 1 second or below that. So, let’s just have a listen to actually what’s been sent to this room reverb. So, first let’s just have a listen to the track.

Now, let’s listen to what’s actually been sent to the room reverb.

So, we’ve got a lots of keys and symphony parts in there and a lots of snare backing vocals we can hear quite a lot, and then these sort of a more kind of atmospheric sounds going on. So, what I’m doing there is the things I want to put further away from the listener I’m sending to the reverb buss and I’ve got on a buss because I want to send multiple things any time-based effects like reverb, delay you want them on an effects buss like this and you send to here B-20 that’s buss 20 which is going to reverb to actually add reverb to stuff. So, that creates a sense of space and depth, but anything I send to that is going to put further away from the listener. Let’s listen to this if I bring it up really loud and mute it and unmute it.

And then without reverb.



So, even then when I bring it way up it’s still quite subtle, but let’s solo these things going to the reverb. And now let’s listen, so this is without reverb.

And with.



So, we’re adding space and depth to those parts, but it has these effects this kind of sub-conscious psycho-acoustic effects and making them sound further away.

So, then we get to strategy 2, which is delay because what about something like the lead vocals that we want to add a sense of space to. We don’t want them to sound dry and boring, but we don’t want to use reverb because that’s going to pay away, remember reverb far delay close, so with the lead vocals something that we want to really in-your-face and up at the front of the mix, close to listener. Instead we’re going to use delay.

So, let’s solo the lead vocal and let’s listen to that without any stereo delay or mono delays, which I’m going to talk about in a second. And what we’re doing here is again we’ve got a bit of EQ coming after it, just removing of the low-end and the top-end as well, got some saturation just to make it a bit more exciting. But the main thing that’s going on with the stereo delay is we’ve got a different time on the left and right, so 112 milliseconds on the left, 177 on the right and that has the effects of creating a stereo sound because it’s got different times on the left and right here and really low feedback, so it’s just like one echo, so it’s a slap-back delay. So, this is without.

Then we bring that in.



So, now we’re adding a sense of space to the vocal, but we’re not making it sound further away. We’re not really used to hearing things like this in the real-world, so it sound kind of unnatural in solo but in the context of the mix what this does is it creates a sense of space around the vocal, makes them sound a bit more polished, makes them sound a bit more realistic without putting it further back in the mix. So, now we’re using delay to create space but keep things close, remember reverb far delay close.

So, that’s approach number 2 and normally I use this mostly on lead vocals using a stereo delay like this. Sometimes if it’s a guitar part or another part that you want to create a sense of space around, but you don’t want to use reverb to put it further back what you can do is just use a mono delay, if you just grab something like the tape delay and we can just use – directly on the channel we can just have it like 10% weight or less and just have a really quick delay and what this does is it puts it a bit further away from the listener, takes it a bit out of focus, without putting it way back in the mix. And also, another downside of reverb is just it gets messy if you send everything to the reverb buss it’s going to start getting messy that’s why I think it’s important to use short decay times. So sometimes it’s good just to use a bit of a slap-back delay like that, but let’s get rid of that and move onto approach number 3.

So, approach 1 was reverb to create space and put things further away. Approach 2 is use delay to create space and keep things close, and then approach number 3 is to just use either of those effects reverb or delay to add interesting character, because we can think of these effects in two ways either as a subtle mixing techniques, so here you can see my room reverb is really low it’s just subtly adding depth to the mix. Again the stereo is pretty low as well, just subtly adding space to the vocal, but then also we can use reverb-delay as obvious effects and sometimes you just want a load of reverb on the track because it’s sounds good it’s a creative decision, and also we can use mono kind of echo delays here on the vocal to add interest to the vocal. Let’s go to verse and listen that, so I’ve just got mono delays here that at time to the tempo of the track with some other cool effects going on.

So, this shorter mono delay is been used to just add a bit more depth about being noticeable, and then we’ve got this longer kind of crazy flanger mono delay that’s just been automated too, so if I go to the send and turn on automation and we’ve got mono delay. You see the vocals is only been sent on the last word and that creates that cool echo effect, so that’s approach number 3 is using reverb and delay more as an obvious effects to add interesting character to the track rather than just a subtle mixing technique to create depth or space in the mix.

So, there are the three approaches that for me is the key difference between reverb and delay. If you want an overview of each of those approaches and a step-by-step breakdown of how you can apply them in your own mixes go and grab the free cheat sheet. I made it just for you specifically for this video. It’s completely free and you can get it by going to the link you can see on the video now, the link in the description below or go to all one word ‘effectscheatsheet’ and that’s going to help you to get this right every single time, so you never struggle to decide should I be using reverb or should I be using delay. So, I hope you enjoyed the video. Leave a like if you found it helpful, and I’ll see you again soon.

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