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Is your room big enough?

I’ve been lucky enough to be able to record in very interesting acoustic spaces. Natural ambience has always been part of my “sound” and over the years I developed a more personal approach to room micing and ambience usage in my mixes. However, there where quite a few times that I had to artificial enhance or even recreate this specific room and ambience signature sound due to either over treated or really small recording spaces I encountered as a freelancer. In the following video I demonstrate such an attempt: create a bigger space and room perception from a smaller room.

In this example we have a perfectly recorded drum kit but the recording space lacks depth and vibe…. Since I am a huge Steve Albini fan when it comes to drum sounds I decided to manipulate the existing room mic tracks in order to get a more familiar to me vibe out of them. This is just one of the several different approaches in “enlarging” your recording space. Despite the various options there is one specific element in such a signal chain that is always present and that of course is compression. Compression has the ability to interact with the way sound waves spread over time and thus bring forward elements like the bouncing room reflections usually hidden in the decaying initial signal. It’s important to have a clear understanding of the time constants in a compressor (attack and release time) and how they work in order to obtain the desired results. Generally speaking what we want in such a scenario is to heavily compress the actual signal (usually meaning a fast attack setting and a high ratio) but instantly release it as it starts decaying (fast release time). Over the years I found out that most aggressive processors like FET or VCA work much better than the more musical likes of Opto and Mu ones. Since our ambient signal is going to be mixed with the actual sound source having a more aggressive and smashed signal doesn’t really matter.

Another important factor is the ability to artificially add a percentage of ambience. I tend to use convolution processing in order to create realistic rooms. However what I usually do is to choose really small room impulse responses and transform them with dynamic processing and eq rather than picking larger and more reverberant rooms.

So, as you can see it’s pretty easy today to add realistic space depth and width to your “dry” recorded sounds… the main question is which way to follow. Picking the harder way described above and in the video will lead you to a more personalised sound, a sonic signature that will make your recording discreet and special!

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