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Picture of DIY Reverb Impulses

Have you ever wished you could make your music sound like it was recorded in an awesome Cathedral in Europe? Tired of feeling like a demi-god when you sing in the shower and being sadly disappointed by your vocal stylings anywhere else? Do you love the acoustics inside a spooky cave you found in the mysterious mists of the Himalayas, but do not have the time, resources, or upper body strength to muscle your 18 piece drum kit into it? Well, my sonically frustrated friend, you can CAPTURE that space and use it whenever you want with an impulse response and convolution reverb!

An impulse response is a recording of the reverberation of an acoustic space when an ideal impulse is played. Convolution reverb plugins use pre-recorded impulse samples of real rooms and spaces to build custom reverbs that very closely match an actual space. Convolution reverb plugins simulate real spaces more accurately than most other digital reverbs-- algorithmic reverbs-- which are based on hypothetical spaces. Impulses can be used to capture response of not only physical spaces, but also of speakers, radios, outboard audio equipment, and amplifiers.

So if you record an impulse response in your shower, process it, and apply it to a sample, it sounds like that sample is IN your shower! Woah! Upon completion of this tutorial you too will be able to harness the awesome power of Convolution Reverb!

Step 1: Materials Necessary

DIY Fancy:

  • Party balloons
  • Pushpins
  • 2 microphones (either cardioid or omni, you should try both. I use a pair of tube condenser microphones. If you have a flash recorder with build in condenser microphones, like the Zoom H4N, that will also work.
  • 2 microphone stands or 1 microphone stand and a Stereo T-Bar
  • 2 XLR cables
  • A flash recorder or audio interface (such as a Zoom H4N recorder)
  • Computer with audio editing software and convolution reverb plugin

DIY Cheap and Simple**:

  • Hands to clap together
  • Laptop or smart phone with microphone and recording ability
  • Computer with audio editing software and convolution reverb plugin

*There are many free or inexpensive audio editing programs and convolution reverb plugins.

** Results with the simple form may vary, but Lo-Fi is better than No-Fi

stubbsonic5 years ago

Nice instructable! One fairly cheap way to get both a convolution reverb, and a deconvolver is to buy Apple's Mainstage3. You can't use the Space Designer in another DAW, but you can use the included Impulse Response Utility to generate swept sine waves, and then deconvolve the resulting audio. Mainstage3 is $29.

I've used LAConvolver from Lernvall audio. It was compatible with Mac OS 10.6.8, but I don't know if it still works with the latest OS. It's donation-ware.

I noticed with the popped balloon that there would be some unwanted extra sounds associated pre- & post- pop balloon stuff. All manageable, but might require a few takes.

Also, things like thumping an object with your finger, or recording thunder, all can give fascinating results.

chloe.stamper (author)  stubbsonic5 years ago

Thanks for the tip about Mainstage 3! I tried LAConvolver too, but thought that reverberate was a little more versatile and gave you more control. My favorite is ProVerb (I work in Digital Performer a lot), but I wanted to make this accessible for people just getting into it! I use SIR when I am on my PC.

As for the balloon sounds, I haven't found it to be obtrusive, though the balloon bits hitting the ground have been an issue from time to time. I get 50 packs of party balloons at the dollar store, so I can do tons of takes!

Using unusual sounds is always fun. One of favorite effects is using a recording of a creaky door hinge in an especially reverberant bathroom at school as an impulse!

DP8 is my DAW, too!!

ProVerb is quite easy to use. The included IRs are darn good.

Will check out reverberate for my pals & students looking for a convolution engine.

Another cool trick is to take your balloon, starter-pistol, or hand-clap IRs (or deconvolved sweeps) and use something like Audacity both to varispeed them (slow them down, speed up), but also to mix more than one together.

Things like thunder or big sheets of metal are cool when combined at different speeds.