The Joy of Convolution Reverb and Impulse Responses in Ableton Live 9

Love Ableton Live, but miss a built-in convolution reverb? In Live 9 you can find both a convolution reverb and use impulse responses to create your own spaces and effects. Gary Hiebner sounds it out.  

What has been missing from Ableton Live over the last few years has been a good included convolution reverb plug-in. Now with Ableton 9 Suite and the inclusion of Max For Live there finally is one. This comes in the form of Convolution Reverb, and Convolution Reverb Pro. Let's take a look at these and explore their user interfaces. I’ll also show you how you can pull your audio samples into them to create your own unique convolution reverbs.


Step 1 – Convolution Reverb

This is the most basic form of the convolution reverb. It is located under Max for Live > Max Audio Effect. If you don’t see this device then make sure you have installed the Max for Live Essentials pack (https://www.ableton.com/en/packs/max-live-essentials). This includes the Convolution Reverb devices. When you first launch this device, you will be introduced with a window where you can ‘Drop IRs Here’. This is where Impulse Responses can be added. 

Pic 1


An Impulse Response is a real space recording of an audio file that can be added to the convolution reverbs. This is the reason why these types of reverbs sound so real, because they incorporate the sound of real spaces into them as opposed to algorithmic reverbs. Included in Convolution Reverb is a selection of Impulse Responses. 

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Or you can add your own by dragging any audio file onto the ‘Drop IRs Here’ window. You can also change the Decay, Size and Predelay of the impulses. The Gain can be increased, the Width changed, and there is a Dry/Wet parameter to dial in how much reverb is applied.


Step 2 – Convolution Reverb Pro

With the Convolution Reverb Pro you have more flexibility with editing and manipulating these Impulses. Under Mode, you can either choose Single or Split. With Single you can set two different IRs under the A and B. This is a nice way to compare IRs. If you set the mode to Split it allows you to set an early reflection (Early) and a late reflection (Late). This way you can create your own amalgamated IR reverb with two different IRs.

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The categorization of presents and IRs in the Convolution Reverb Pro is better arranged. With the Convolution Reverb you could only view the presets through the browser, but with the Convolution Reverb Pro that can easily be navigated through the plug-in. Under Type you can choose a category and there are some interesting ones such as Springs, Strange Spaces, and Experimental. Under this box is a list of the IRs available for that category.

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There’s some great sounding rooms and halls all the way through to some strange, esoteric sounds such as those found under the Strange Places and Experimental categories.

Strange Places Underwater Reverb:



Experimental Ice Noise Reverb:



You have the same controls to edit the IR: Decay, Size, Predelay, Width, Gain, and Dry/Wet. Following this is a section where you can further edit and manipulate the reverb. Click on the arrow to expand the view to see the more options.

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Step 3 – Tweaking The Pro

First you have an EQ where you can carve out the sound of the reverb. Maybe you want to remove some of the high end from the reverberated signal. Next you can change the positioning of the reverb. It can be panned across the stereo field or you can use the Depth parameter to change its proximity effect. This allows you to either sit the reverb closer, or further back from the listener’s position.

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Mod can be used to add some modulation to the reverb impulse. Adding some delayed modifications to the reverb source. Try switching between the Normal and Widen mode to hear the difference it makes, and between Mod I and Mod II. 

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The Damp section is another sound design tool that can be used to tailor the dampening or diffusing of the reverb sound through an EQ graph. There are 3 nodes in the EQ graph that can be altered. Under the EQ graph are Freq, Decay and Q parameters for each node.

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Lastly, there is the Shape section where you can edit the start and end points of the impulse. Fades can be added, and the length can be changed. Or you can even reverse the audio impulse here for very different and unique sounding reverbs. Add a preset then go in and reverse it. Hear how it sounds on your audio. You might not want to use it throughout a song. But it works really well for short sections to add interest in a song. 

Reverse Reverb:



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Step 4 – Creating Your Own IR

Now that you know your way around the interface, let’s look at how to create your own IRs and apply it to your audio. I’m going to be working with a drum loop, but I want to transform it into something more with the convolution reverb, something a bit more interesting. 

Drum loop:



I have recorded a clap sound of a room I was in. With a clap or bang sound you have a sharp initial attack and then the sound tails off depending on the size of the room and how the sound reflects off the surfaces such as the walls and ceiling. Other ways to record an impulse is to either pop a balloon, or use a starter pistol. They can produce sharper initial attacks with longer tails compared to the single clap method. There are more high-end ways to record impulses, but lets stick with these rough ways to record them.

Clap:



So find a room, and use a device to record your impulse. Either cart your rig with your microphone and computer, or simply use the recorder device built into your mobile device. Sure if you wanted excellent quality you could use a high-end field recorder. But even lo-fi devices like mobile phones can be used to record interesting impulses.

Now drag your recorded audio file into the Convolution Reverb Pro. I have added the Convolution Reverb Pro to a Send track. I will be sending my drum loop to this track. Jump to the EQ section and fine-tune this sample. I have boosted the low end and cut out some of the midrange, and the high end. Next I have moved over to the Position Tab where I have brought the position closer in the center. 

Now onto the Shape tab. I have introduced a slight Fade In of 109ms and a Fade Out of 67.5ms The Early is set to 100%, the Length is set to a Realtime length of 16.1s and the Cascade is set to 73.2%.

The beauty of the Convolution Reverb Pro is that you can set up two different impulse responses and them split them to create this amalgamated impulse response reverb. So set the mode to Split. And the A and B where you place different impulse responses changes to Early and Late boxes. This being the early and late reflections of the reverb. 

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So the clap with the sharp initial attack will be my early reflection. Now I want to add a crazy sounding impulse response as a second option for the late reflection. How about the ABLCR Chord Vocal. Listen how different your audio sounds now with your own IR early reflection and a crazy late reflection with a melodic tone.

Drum Loop with Convolution Reverb:



Conclusion

It’s great to finally have a convolution reverb plug-in included in Ableton, and a great one at that. There is a great selection of IR presets or you can reverb your own impulse responses and drag them into the reverb. By splitting the IRs you have a different early and late reflection, which really gives you some flexibility with your reverb settings.

Test out this convolution reverb with your future projects. Go and record your own IRs, and start bringing them into your Ableton projects.


For further Ableton productions techniques check out the following tutorials:


Live 9 401: Mixing & Mastering Toolbox

Live 9 404: Producing Techno and House

Live 9 405: DJing Techno and House



Gary Hiebner is an enthusiastic South African Sound Designer and Apple Tech Head! Gary has been involved in the South African music industry for the decade, and in this time has also been involved in the sound design and music production for many advertising agencies and media houses. Gary is a devoted Logic and Ableton user, but he al... Read More

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