Plate Reverb vs Spring Reverb on Vocals [Excerpt]

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Plate Reverb vs Spring Reverb on Vocals [Excerpt]

So now, we’re going to talk about plate reverbs.

Plate reverbs are pretty darn different than
springs, so I’m going to give it a play real

quick so that you can hear it, and then I’m
going to start explaining the differences,

both what we’re hearing, and why physically
that happens.

[plate reverb]

Alright, so that’s our plate.

Let’s compare that to the spring real quick.

[spring reverb]

Alright, some pretty darn big differences.

The first is that the plate is stereo.

The spring is mono.

If you want a true stereo return from a spring,
you have to have two separate sets of springs

that are driven by the same driver.

To have a stereo plate, you can actually get
a real stereo capture with one plate, and

the reason is because a spring reverb is effectively
one set of one-dimensional transverse waves.

It just goes on back and forth lengthwise.

When you have a plate, you actually have a
360-degree pattern happening over a flat surface.

You have two dimensions, and so every spot
on that plate is going to give you something

slightly different, and so by placing two
pickups on the plate, you can get a real stereo


This has a lot of other ramifications as well,
and we’re going to hear those things.

The first is that the combination of echoes
is much more diffused.


When we listen to our spring, we hear that
ridge-y quality.

[spring reverb]

When we hear the plate.

[plate reverb]

We hear a much more even and smooth tail.

Now, that’s because all of these different
echoes are collecting and coming back in a

very fluid pattern, where every echo is coming
in very evenly, and so we get this very, very

smooth tail.

In fact, plates are actually smoother than
most real rooms.

It’s very difficult to design a room where
all of the collected echoes decay so naturally.

Now, the other thing is that we get a much
more even frequency response.

When we listen to the spring, we hear that
certain words, we get very distinct peak resonances.

One’s in the lower mids, and one’s in the

[spring reverb]


We hear that very cold sounding upper mid-range
tone, and then also on certain words, we hear

a low mid frequency, somewhere around 400-500
Hz about, where it just seems to really spike


[spring reverb]


You hear it right on “No.”


Or, �=”No more.”

Here in the plate.

[plate reverb]

Very even.

Now, the plate happens to be pretty bright

Well, that’s because it’s a vibrating sheet
of metal.

There’s a lot of upper harmonics, there’s
just a brighter tone, and so one of the aspects

of plates is that you can get a pretty shiny
tone out of them.

Now, again, like springs, every plate is going
to be different, depending on the material

being used, the thickness of the plate, the
pickups being used, where the pickups are


Basically, and actually even just how well
rolled the plate itself is.

If the plate is very, very smooth and very
even across its surface, meaning there’s not

a lot of little bumps or ridges, there’s no
bending in the plate, then we’re going to

get very even, smooth frequency response.

This is an EMT140, they’re known for having
very smooth, even frequency responses.

[plate reverb]

Now, mechanical, analog reverbs do share a
couple of things in common.

First of all, when we listen to this, were’
getting one set of echoes coming out and coming


We don’t really get any kind of discreet collections
of echoes, so while in a real room, you’re

going to get sets of early reflections, and
then you’re going to get a different set of

the later reflections, here it’s not really
appropriate to describe what we’re hearing

as different sets of reflections.

What we’re primarily hearing is one set of
reflections with a unique decay tail, particularly

with the spring.

In the plate, we do hear what we might want
to describe as an early versus late reflection.

[plate reverb]


You can hear that there’s a collection of
echo buildup at the front that’s a little

bit tighter and has a little bit more high
end than maybe like, the very tail of a word.


We lose a little bit of high end in the tail.

So there is some difference between the first
set of reflections that go out and come back,

versus all of the different transverse echoes
that might bounce around the plate itself,

but overall, they’re pretty connected.

The spring itself being one-dimensional is
literally just one set of reflections.

There is no separation between anything that
can be qualified as early, versus anything

that can be qualified as late.

It’s just not how a spring works.

[spring reverb]

So that’s one of the things that we have to
think about that basically, the reverb is

going to be one set of reflections, and however
it sounds, that’s kind of how it sounds.

Other things that we need to consider is that
without some kind of mechanical system in

place, we cannot change any of our timings,
so you know, with an EMT140, you can shorten

it with a rubber stopper.

With this spring that I’m using, which is
a hardware spring, it is as long as it is.

It just decays for as long as it’s going to
go and that’s it.

Some springs, you can adjust the timing by
moving stoppers closer or further apart, same

idea, or you can even manually adjust the
tension to get different tonalities and things

like that.

So it really depends on the exact individual
unit, but in general, they just function as

they function mechanically, and there really
isn’t much to them.

So now, let’s play it with the lead vocal
again, and let’s do a little bit more comparison.

[vocals and spring reverb]

So with the spring, we hear a lot of texture.

It’s very clearly presently there.

It has a certain quality to it that can be
evocative of something being a little bit

more lo-fi, or a little bit more trashy.

It has a very specific modal response where
certain words are being emphasized, because

there’s more frequency buildup there, and
when we listen in the overall record.

[mix with spring reverb]

It’s pretty obvious whats ‘happening.

Now, I’m going to bring in the EMT.

[mix with plate reverb]

Because the frequency response is so even
and because the echo decay is so much more

diffused, it ends up sounding a lot more transparent
when it’s actually inside the mix, and so

even at louder volumes, because actually,
the EMT is turned up quite a bit compared

to the spring, it’s really not as noticeable,
and if we want something that just adds a

subtle gloss, this plate is going to be a
really good choice.

If I turn this down about 11dB, here’s the
vocal without it.

[vocals, no reverb]

Here’s with it.

[mix, with reverb on vocals]

It just makes the vocal sound a little shinier,
a little glossier, and it gives it more dimension.

It doesn’t put it in a specific room, it doesn’t
sink it back in space necessarily, it just

puts a certain gloss around it, and that can
be really useful, because a lot of the time,

when we’re mixing our vocals, we want our
vocals to be very forward in the mix, but

we want them to have that sort of gloss and
polish that a reverb provides.

Plates end up being a really good choice for
that, particularly EMT style plates, which

are known for being a little more on the shinier
side, and having this very even frequency

response and modal response.

Now, the spring reverb, even at a lower volume.

[mix, with spring reverb on vocals]

It’s immediately applying a very distinct
texture to the vocal.

Sometimes we want that, sometimes we don’t.

It’s not like one thing is better and one
thing is worse.

Now, the other thing to consider is that when
it comes to quality of plate, sometimes we

want a cheap plate, sometimes we want a nice

When it comes to quality of springs, sometimes
we want a cheap spring, sometimes we want

a nice spring.

The nicer springs and nicer plates are defined,
and generally more expensive, because the

tension is more even on every side.

Everything has been calibrated in a much more
accurate way to create a much more even and

pleasing response.

That takes more work, it takes more engineering,
but we don’t always want that.

Sometimes we want something that maybe is
a little bit trashy.

With a plate, a plate has to be manually tuned
on every side to create even tension across

the entirety of the plate, and if you don’t,
you end up getting those modal responses that

change the frequency balance.

Sometimes we want that affect.

Sometimes, we want something – particularly,
there’s this cheap plate effect that creates

this sort of hashy sounding top end?

Sometimes we want that very distinctly.

That’s in a lot of David Bowie records.

There’s a lot of times where that can be desireable.

So it really depends on what you want.

What I’m going to do now is I’m going to bring
in the banjo spring, and also a plate return

on the acoustic, and now I’m going to bring
in the plate return on the lead vocal as well,

and we get this.


I’m going to mute them all up, and here we
go again.

[mix, no reverb]

We don’t even necessarily notice the reverb
when it’s on, because it’s fairly subtle,

but once we take it off, this whole thing
just sounds sort of bland, and lifeless, and


I’m going to put it right back on, and here
we go.

I’m also going to turn this cello down, because
gosh, that is loud.


I mean, even with the reverbs way exaggerated
like that, frankly, I’d rather hear it that

way, because it becomes much more interesting.

We get a lot more texture, we get a lot more
tone, and it starts to sound, for lack of

a better way of putting it, a lot more musical.

Plate Reverb vs Spring Reverb on Vocals [Excerpt] // An excerpt from Mixing with Reverb comparing plate reverb (EMT 140) and spring reverb on vocals // More:

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Plate Reverb vs Spring Reverb on Vocals [Excerpt]

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