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Can reverb be removed?

A post by David Mellor
Wednesday June 16, 2010
I have a recording done in a very large hall and it has a lot of reverb on it. How do I get rid of the reverb or reduce it?
Can reverb be removed?

It is normally accepted in audio that you can add reverb to a dry signal, but you can never take reverb away. 

Consider the difficulty of this...

Imagine a solo singer in a large reverberant building like a cathedral. The singer sings the first note of the music, then the second. 

But as the second note is produced, the first is still echoing around the hall.

And then come more notes, all overlapping. Consider the syllables of the words too. 

It would be amazing to have a tool that would take away the reverb and leave only the dry sound. Indeed if one ever becomes available we would love to hear of it. 

However, the likelihood is that reverb removal will never be done to the standard we would like. 

But there's no harm in trying...

Often in audio, if things are not good then you can make them better, if not perfect. 

Reverb has the characteristic that it dies away into silence. What if we could make it die away faster so that it becomes silent sooner?

Well you can do that with an expander. 

When the signal level is above the threshold of the expander, it will pass through unchanged. 

When the signal is lower than the threshold, such as reverb dying away, the expander will bring down the level further. 

With careful setting, you might find that the expander might make the reverb seem a little less, although quiet sections of wanted audio will be made lower in level too. 

If you want to go a stage further, then you can use filters to split the audio into three or four bands, then expand each band separately before mixing them back together.  

The result will never be perfect, and might only be slightly improved. It could be worth a try though.

A post by David Mellor
Wednesday June 16, 2010 ARCHIVE
David Mellor has been creating music and recording in professional and home studios for more than 30 years. This website is all about learning how to improve and have more fun with music and recording. If you enjoy creating music and recording it, then you're definitely in the right place :-)