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Monday, May 19, 2008

The Difference Between Reverb and Echo

When you're working on music and you want to add some nice room ambiance to a vocal track that you recorded dry, you add reverb. But when you're in a large room and you hear your own voice distinctly coming back to you, you call it echo. Wait, what? What gives? Is there a difference?

'Reverb' isn't just some fancy term to make industry professionals feel elite, though I'm sure it has that effect. Reverb and echo are two different things. Here are the technical definitions of each:

is characterized as random, blended repetitions of a sound occurring within thirty milliseconds after the sound is made. This is all the sound that immediately bounces off any nearby surfaces before it gets back to your ears. So first you'll hear the original sound and then all the stuff bouncing off the walls, furniture, trees, people, giraffes and even acoustic tiling. Your brain is specially equipped to notice reverberations before your conscious perception does. It blends the reverb with the original sound before you even notice it and then tells you that it all came from the same location, just so you don't get confused. Weird, huh? With enough practice though, you can turn off this feature and notice the reverb that occurs in every space. Snap your fingers, or as I do, make a sharp clicking sound with your mouth, and try to listen to the room around you instead of yourself. You'll start to hear it. Try it in different rooms. It'll sound different each time.

is defined by distinct repetitions of a sound occurring after 30 milliseconds. This is when you can unquestionably hear a distinct... well, echo of a sound coming back to you. When you are at a big canyon or inside a gigantic room and you, of course, say "Hello!" and then a moment later you hear it again, that's echo. For some reason, in the world of music production, it's called 'delay'. The term 'echo' is, to my knowledge, never used. What's wrong with 'echo'? I have no idea.

Next time you're at the Grand Canyon, a cathedral or an ancient meteor impact site, try some of these other phrases instead of boring ol' "Hello!":

"I'm not a crook!"
"Olly-Wolly Poliwogy Ump Bump Fizz!"
"AMPA receptors are both glutamate receptors and cation channels that are integral to plasticity and synaptic transmission at many postsynaptic membranes."
"meine hosen sind juckende!"


Obi said...

Really nice post. It's good to know the key difference is blended repetition(reverb) versus distinct repetition. Keep it up!

Anonymous said...

really what an explanation very gud.

Anonymous said...

It is a delay - you're playing back a delay of the original sound. right?

Jurgen said...

lol meine hosen sind juckende my pants are itchy XD

Craig said...

To my knowledge the term delay is a holistic term for any thing that arrive after the original and then it is divided it reverb and echo based on its delay time (less or more than 30ms

arun kumar said...

Thanks for the knowledge...but i have to show this difference in my android application :(

Sahir Malik said...

very nice post

Anonymous said...

Thanks. Good explanation.


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very well explained, thank you very much.

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