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How to Use Reverb in MainStage

November 16, 2017

Using reverb is a great way to add ambience and atmosphere to your patches, and in most cases you’ll want to use what’s called a global reverb. This just means instead of having an individual reverb instance for each of your channel strips, you can set up one concert-wide reverb that you can send all your sounds to.

Create an Auxiliary Reverb Bus

In order to set up a global reverb, you’ll need to use an auxiliary bus. In the screenshot below, I’ve created a send to Bus 60.

When you create a send in MainStage, the corresponding auxiliary bus channel strip will automatically be created. On Bus 60, I’ve loaded an instance of AUMatrixReverb, a CPU-efficient reverb plugin that can be found under ~/Audio Units/Apple.

I recommend using AUMatrixReverb if you’re looking for a decent sounding stock reverb plugin. Space Designer and MainStage’s other stock reverb plugins are great, but AUMatrixReverb offers the best compromise between sound quality and performance for live usage.

I’ve selected a Medium Hall preset for AUMatrixReverb. When setting up a global reverb, always ensure the Dry/Wet Mix setting is at 100%.

Here’s the same screenshot again.

As you can see, I also placed a Channel EQ after the reverb. I like to cut out the low frequencies on my reverb bus to prevent muddy-sounding reverberation. In this case, I am using a high-pass filter at 200Hz. This means all frequencies 200Hz and lower will be rolled off.

After the reverb bus is set up, simply adjust the send level on the channel strips you want to send to the reverb. Depending on the reverb, I’ve found a send level between -20dB and -16dB is usually a good starting point.

The screenshot is a patch with multiple sounds – piano, strings, and brass.

Sending all three instruments to the same global reverb makes the patch sound more coherent by placing them in the same spatial environment.

Avoid Double Reverb-ing

Some of MainStage’s channel strip presets contain reverb plugins in the Audio FX chain. For example, the “Steinway Piano Hall” preset contains an instance of Space Designer in the Audio FX chain. Make sure you remove these before sending any signal to the reverb bus.

Some third party plugins like Kontakt and Keyscape also have built-in reverb effects, so make sure you figure out where to disable it inside the plugin.

Reverb settings in Session Horns Pro (NI Kontakt) and Keyscape.

When to Use Reverb in the FX Chain

While you’ll want to use a global reverb in most cases, it’s perfectly fine to use reverb plugins in the Audio FX chain in some situations. If you’re designing a super specific sound that will only be used once or twice in your concert, go ahead and use a reverb in the FX chain.

If you’re unsure of which kind of reverb to use, just think what the purpose of reverberation is for the patch in mind. Do you just want to create a generic sense of space, or are you looking to design a specific effect? The answer to this question will help you decide between sending the sound to a global reverb or using a individual reverb in the Audio FX chain.


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