Exploring Convolution Reverb (Pros and Cons)

Discover what convolution reverb is, how it works, and its role in audio production. Learn tips and techniques for beginners!

Imagine you’re walking into a grand cathedral, and as you take your first step inside, you’re immediately surrounded by a heavenly choir’s breathtaking harmony. The voices echo and reverberate, filling every inch of the cavernous space. What if I told you that you could recreate that awe-inspiring acoustic experience in your very own music studio?

Well, buckle up because that’s exactly what we will discuss about convolution reverb! It’s time to add some depth to your audio and take your productions to the next level, whether you’re in a cramped bedroom studio or an illustrious recording hall.

What is a convolution reverb? Convolution reverb is a digital audio processing technique that recreates the acoustic properties of real-world spaces by using impulse responses. This allows producers and sound engineers to achieve realistic and immersive reverberations in their audio projects.

What is convolution reverb, and why is it important?

A convolution reverb, in essence, mixes an input signal (the sound to be echoed) with the sound of an actual or virtual acoustic area to create the appearance that the input was recorded in that place. The sound of the acoustic space is captured in what is known as an impulse response (IR).

Image of a musician in a recording studio. Source: pexels
Image of a musician in a recording studio. Source: pexels

As you might expect, such a sound excites the reverberation (the response) in the space, so the impulse response (or at least its initial recording) sounds like an explosion followed by the space’s reverb reflections.

Convolution reverb is important because it allows producers and sound engineers to recreate the acoustic properties of real-world spaces with a high degree of accuracy.

Depending on the convolution reverb software used, the IR recording may need to be treated after capture to eliminate the original impulse trigger sound and leave only the response, a process known as deconvolution. However, many convolutions reverbs do not require this step.

Convolution reverb is important because it allows producers and sound engineers to recreate the acoustic properties of real-world spaces with a high degree of accuracy. This results in natural and immersive reverberations, which can enhance the overall quality and emotional impact of audio productions.

By using convolution reverb, creators can achieve professional-sounding recordings, even in less-than-ideal recording environments, thus elevating their projects to new levels of depth and realism.

My favorite MIDI keyboard (at the moment):

AKAI Professional MPK Mini MK3

Exploring convolution reverb (pros and cons) | 717qmgla7zl. Ac sl1500 | audio apartment
My favorite MIDI keyboard (at the moment):

AKAI Professional MPK Mini MK3

I’m loving the AKAI MPK Mini MK3 for its compact design and the range of controls. It’s one of my essential tools. The velocity-sensitive keys and MPC-style pads are great for making beats, while the thumbstick and knobs give me precise control.

How is convolution reverb used in a home studio?

Convolution reverb can be used in a home studio to enhance audio recordings and productions by adding realistic and natural-sounding reverberation effects. Here are some steps to use convolution reverb in a home studio:

1. Choose a convolution reverb plugin

Many digital audio workstations (DAWs) come with built-in convolution reverb plugins, or you can purchase third-party plugins. Make sure the plugin is compatible with your DAW.

2. Install and load the plugin

Install the convolution reverb plugin according to the manufacturer’s instructions and load it onto an audio track, bus, or send/return channel in your DAW.

3. Select an impulse response

Convolution reverb plugins typically come with a library of impulse responses, simulating various spaces such as rooms, halls, or cathedrals. Browse the library and choose an impulse response that suits your desired sound.

4. Adjust settings

Most convolution reverb plugins provide some control over parameters like dry/wet mix, reverb time, and pre-delay. Tweak these settings to achieve the desired balance between the original audio signal and the reverberation effect.

5. Create custom impulse responses (optional)

If you want to capture the unique characteristics of a specific space, you can create your own impulse responses by recording the sound decay in that environment. Process the recorded audio and import it into your convolution reverb plugin.

6. Apply convolution reverb to individual tracks or the whole mix

Convolution reverb can be used on individual tracks, such as vocals, drums, or guitars, to add depth and space. Alternatively, it can be applied to a bus or send/return channel, allowing you to share the same reverb effect across multiple tracks.

Image of a computer setup used for audio recording. Source: pixabay
Image of a computer setup used for audio recording. Source: pixabay

Pros and cons of convolution reverb

Convolution reverb is a widely used audio processing technique that has its own set of advantages and disadvantages. Understanding both sides of the equation can help you make informed decisions about its application in your audio projects. Let’s explore the pros and cons of convolution reverb.

Pros (Advantages)

Convolution reverb offers several advantages that make it a popular choice in the world of audio production:

  • Realistic reverberation: Convolution reverb provides a highly realistic representation of the reverberation characteristics of actual spaces or environments, allowing you to create a sense of depth and spaciousness in your recordings.
  • High-quality results: By capturing the impulse response of physical space and applying it to your audio, convolution reverb produces high-quality results that accurately simulate the natural ambiance of the recorded location.
  • Versatility: Convolution reverb allows you to apply various impulse responses to your audio, enabling you to recreate the acoustics of different environments, such as concert halls, cathedrals, or small rooms, all with a single tool.
  • Efficiency: Unlike other reverb techniques that rely on algorithmic processing, convolution reverb uses pre-recorded impulse responses, which can be quickly loaded and applied to your audio. This efficiency is particularly beneficial when working with limited processing power or tight project deadlines.
  • Precise control: Convolution reverb plugins often provide extensive control over parameters like pre-delay, decay time, and wet/dry mix, giving you the ability to fine-tune the reverb effect to suit your specific needs.

Cons (Disadvantages)

While convolution reverb brings many advantages to the table, it’s important to be aware of its limitations and potential drawbacks:

  • Heavy resource usage: Convolution reverb can be computationally demanding, especially when working with long impulse responses or complex audio projects. It may require substantial processing power and memory, which can be a challenge for computers with limited capabilities.
  • Lack of flexibility: Unlike algorithmic reverb, which allows for more creative manipulation of the reverberation characteristics, convolution reverb is limited by the characteristics of the recorded impulse responses. This limitation may restrict your ability to achieve highly unique or unconventional reverberation effects.
  • Storage requirements: Convolution reverb relies on storing a library of impulse responses, which can take up a significant amount of storage space on your computer or audio workstation. Large libraries with higher-quality impulse responses may require even more storage.
  • Inability to modify in real-time: Modifying the parameters of convolution reverb, such as adjusting the decay time or repositioning virtual microphones, typically involves reprocessing the audio with a different impulse response. This lack of real-time flexibility can slow down the workflow and limit experimentation during the mixing process.

By considering both the advantages and disadvantages of convolution reverb, you can make informed decisions when incorporating this technique into your audio productions, ensuring that it aligns with your creative vision and technical requirements.

If you want even more tips and insights, watch this video called “Convolution Reverb EXPLAINED: What does it actually DO?” from the Beat Academy YouTube channel.

A video called “Convolution Reverb EXPLAINED: What does it actually DO?” from the Beat Academy YouTube channel.

Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

Do you still have questions about convolution reverb? Below are some of the most commonly asked questions.

How does convolution reverb differ from algorithmic reverb?

While convolution reverb utilizes recorded impulse responses from real-world spaces to create reverberation, algorithmic reverb generates reverb effects by using mathematical algorithms.

Convolution reverb tends to sound more realistic and natural, whereas algorithmic reverb offers more flexibility and control over the reverb parameters.

Is convolution reverb resource-intensive?

Yes, convolution reverb can be more resource-intensive than algorithmic reverb, as it relies on complex mathematical processes and larger impulse response files. This can result in higher CPU usage and longer loading times, especially when working with high-quality impulse responses.

Can I create my own impulse responses for convolution reverb?

You can create your own impulse responses by recording the acoustic properties of a space using specific techniques, such as generating a loud impulse sound and capturing the resulting reverberations with a high-quality microphone.

After processing the recorded audio, you can import the custom impulse response into your convolution reverb plugin to achieve unique and personalized reverberation effects.


So, have we successfully reverberated your brain with convolution reverb knowledge? I hope I managed to echo all the essential information you were looking for! If you have any lingering questions, feel free to drop them in the comments section below—I read and reply to every single one. Your feedback might just spark a new blog post!

If this article resonated with you (pun intended), don’t hesitate to share it with a friend, and make sure to explore my full blog for more tips and tricks in the wonderful world of audio production. Thanks for reading, and may your audio projects forever reverberate with the sweet sound of success!

Key takeaways

This article covered what convolution reverb is. Here are some key takeaways:

  • Convolution reverb recreates the acoustic properties of real-world spaces using impulse responses.
  • It differs from algorithmic reverb, which generates reverb effects through mathematical algorithms.
  • Convolution reverb can be more resource-intensive due to complex mathematical processes and larger impulse response files.
  • Creating custom impulse responses is possible by recording the acoustic properties of a space and importing them into a convolution reverb plugin.
  • Choosing the right convolution reverb plugin depends on your needs, budget, and desired level of control over reverb parameters.

Helpful resources

Image Andrew Ash
Written by Andrew Ash, Staff Writer

Hey there! My name is Andrew, and I'm relatively new to music production, but I've been learning a ton, and documenting my journey along the way. That's why I started this blog. If you want to improve your home studio setup and learn more along with me, this is the place for you!

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