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How to Use Space Designer in Logic

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Read Time: 15 min

Reverb is invaluable when mixing. It can add character to the song and makes an instrument come alive. Depending on what type of song and character you are after, there are different types of reverbs that you should use. Big powerful ballads require long and lush hall reverbs, rockabilly-type tunes need short slap-back room echoes.

In Logic Pro 8 there is a very powerful reverb engine called Space Designer, which has a lot of functions that may intimidate someone opening it for the first time. It has all the features of a typical reverb unit, but works by feeding it impulse responses that generate the room's characteristic. In the following Plus tutorial I will show you in-depth the versatility and intuitive way that Space Designer handles the reverb in your projects.

A Little About Impulse Responses

Space Designer is a very powerful convolution reverb engine. It takes an impulse response from certain rooms - taking the characteristics of the room tones if you will - and simulates it. It can take a room with a sound you like, and create a reverb out of the reflections. If you have sound files with the impulse response from a room you like you can load it into Space Designer easily. Once you have the sound of the room you like, you can modify it. Space Designer allows you to tweak pretty severely. Logic comes with a lot of preset impulse responses that are almost enough for any home recording session.

There are various impulse response categories sorted into small, medium and large sizes. These presets are sometimes modeled after famous and commonly used spaces in the recording industry.Some of the preset impulse responses (IRs) you can find in Space Designerare:

  • Rooms – These range in sizes from small drum rooms, string chambers and live chambers. They have early reflections and are good for a smaller sound.
  • Halls – These range from small ambience halls to lush balladesque cathedral tones.
  • Plates – These IRs are modeled after various plate reverbs. They range from short plates that sounds ideal for vocals to bigger plates ideal for choirs or percussion.
  • Gated – Instead of having to go through the trouble of making a gated reverb using your gate's side-chain, Space Designer has some convincing gated reverbs for you to choose from.
  • Spring – These emulate the spring reverbs most commonly found on guitar amps. Although some IRs are emulations of vintage spring reverbs, the dominant IRs are of various types of amps.
  • Indoor spaces – Say you like your trumpet solo to sound like it's played in a smoky New Orleans jazz club, Space Designer has some options for you. From basements to cathedrals, these convincing indoor emulations give you various options to choose from. Also, they give you realistic options if you need to put your foley sounds into certain situations during post-production if you are working in sound for picture.
  • Outdoor spaces – These include street-type ambience, mountain echoes or forest type loneliness. These emulations can enhance your post-production, or for experimentation.
  • Warped spaces – These spaces are weird, and range from the not-so-untypical room next door to weird black hole and thunder wave emulations. It is best to have a clear idea of the effect you are after before using the weirder ones.

These are just some of the impulse responses you canget from Apple. If this isn't enough, you canload your own IRs, or search for more on the Internet. IRs I have found range from vintage units to inside somebody's mouth.

Step 1 – Load Your Impulse Response

Clicking on the arrow besides IR SAMPLE you get the option ofloading your own impulse response.

Step 2 – Categorize Your Impulse Responses

After you've downloaded some impulse responses, be sureto categorize and organize them so you don't have towade through folders to find what you're looking for. Ifound some IRs from the Lexicon PCM90 series. As you can see I havethem in the Impulse Response folder so it opens up directly when Iclick load in Space Designer.

Space Designer's Features

The Space designers control surfacehas several control areas:

  • The IR area – Here you can load you impulse responses, change them from mono to stereo, and change the sample rate of the impulse response. Changing the sample rate can be useful depending on the sample rate of your project and the power of your CPU. When you change some of the attributes, a progress bar will count down until the new impulse response has been generated.
  • The Filter area – Here you can filter your reverb and add resonance to emphasize frequencies around the cut-off frequency. You can choose how abruptly the low-pass filter cuts off by choosing between 6 dB or 12 dB per octave. The band-pass filters 6 dB per octave out the middle of the reverb, leaving the highs and lows of the IR. The high-pass filter has a 12 dB per octave filtering and smooths out the low frequencies that might make things muddy.
  • The Envelope area – This is where you modify the envelope of the reverb by adjusting the initial level, attack and decay time. The envelope switch lets you control the filters over a period of time. You can adjust the settings by changing the numeric values or moving the nodes visually.
  • EQ and Reverse switch - Clicking the EQ in the envelope window are you displays a parametric equalizer, and clicking the Reverse button reverses the reverb envelope, making reverse reverb techniques a breeze to create.
  • Above that, in the output area, are the dry and wet controls, which let you adjust how much wet and dry sound exit Space Designer. This is better than using an insert because it's more comfortable to control the volume by riding the faders rather than sliders. We'll be looking at these sliders later.

Now that we have had a quick look at SpaceDesigner's features, let's dive into some tips and tricksyou can use day-to-day.

Step 1 – Warping vocals

We'll start by heavily modifying some background vocals.I'm going to discard the vocal track completely, and only use thereverb track. I start by sending my vocals to an aux where I insertSpace Designer. It is good practice to use effects like reverb assend effects to their own channel, instead of as insert effects. Thatway you have both the dry signal and the effected wet signal whichyou can mix at will. This backing vocal track is the sound-clip of a song from mySAE Institute. No one could tell me the title or artist of the originalsource - if you are familiar with it, please let me know.

Here is the unmodified track:

Step 2 – Putting Your Aux on Pre-fader

I'm putting my aux on pre-fader and pulling the original trackcompletely down. That way the signal is sent directly to the reverbsend, and you don't hear any dry signal.

Step 3 – Selecting a Warped Reverb

Space Designer presets have different categories. TheWarped Spaces category is great for making weird sounds.I'm inserting the Long Breeze Verb which is a really long 10.0sreverb in the Large Spaces category.

Listen to what I've got so far:

Step 4 - Getting Creative

Now you can get pretty creative with modifying the impulseresponse. You can tweak the initial level, attack time, decay timeand end level. On the bottom right corner you can also decide wherethe IR starts, and the pre-delay on the reverb. You can also modify the envelope by dragging the reddish-brown nodes on theenvelope window if you don't like punching in numbers. I modified the envelope quite severely as you can see here.

Our sound sound clip has changed into this:

Step 5 – Using the Built-in EQ

Equalizing reverb sends is a useful trick, and is usually done by inserting an EQ plug-in before thereverb itself. With Space Designer, itcomes built-in: flicking on the EQ button in the top right corner ofthe blue window switches to the EQ mode.

As you can see, I've EQed the reverb quite severely. SpaceDesigner has a four-band parametric equalizer consisting of a highshelf, a low shelf and two variable bell curves. Using only theshelving filters sounds almost like it's under water, and bycutting out the middle and high frequencies you sort of get apad-like sound.

Step 6 – Adding a Little Dry Sound

Although we've eliminated the source sound by sending it pre-fader,we can still feed a little bit of the original sound into it. Byusing the Dry slider in Space Designer you can feed a little bitof the unaffected sound into the effect's return. As I show below, I've added around 10 dBs of dry signal.

Listen to it here:

Adding Depth to a Guitar Track

Let's try something different.With the rise of guitar amp simulations, many home-recordist are plugging their guitars straight into their sound-cards. This takes out the need to learn any substantialmicrophone techniques, but leaving a DIed signal as it is can result in adry and unflattering guitar sound. Let's give a guitar track moredepth and space using both the guitar amp spring reverb and SpaceDesigner.

Step 1 – Using the Spring on Guitar Amp

Insert Guitar Amp on the guitar track and switch on thebuilt-in spring reverb. Alternatively,you could use the Space Designer's spring reverb IRs on a seperateeffects send. But I want my guitar sound in the guitar track, sendingthe springed guitar sound into the reverb.

Here's the guitar without the spring reverb:

And here it is with the spring turned on:

Step 2 – Putting your Guitar in a Room

You record your guitar directly into yourinterface and like the spring reverb on the amp simulator, but feel itdoesn't sound like it was recorded in a room. You can addSpace Designer and select a good sounding room. This fools the earinto thinking the guitar was played in a great sounding room through an amplifier with its spring reverb turned on.Using an aux send, send the signal the usual way to SpaceDesigner. But this time select itin mono - I'll show you why in a few moments. Select a room you like - I've selected Villa Bathroom which is a small room response.

Listen to the guitar in the room. Hear how it has more depth andtotally creates the illusion of being recorded in a room.

Step 3 – Panning Your Reverb

Now you have a springy guitar in the bathroom - there is definitely more depth to your guitar track.Now for an even more interesting sound we can pan it. Because we haveboth tracks in mono we can pan them hard left and hard right. Thisway we move the original signal a little to the left but because ofthe reverb to the right we still fill out the soundscape nicely.

Listen both sounds panned hard left and right here:

Now you just have to find a perfect fader balance for your springguitar sound and your room reverb. As you can see in the screenshotthe reverb fader is lower than the original but it still has a veryhigh signal. Let's leave guitar sound for while, and see what kinds of experiments we can do with toms.

Making Big Toms with Big Cathedral Reverb

There's something special about huge toms echoing in thebackground. Using Space Designer's big indoor spaces we cansimulate the effect of massive toms thundering in a great cathedral.

Step 1 – Selecting a Big Massive Space

In the Big Spaces category we can find a big indoor space calledGrand Church. This IR is a simulation of, you guessed it, a reallybig church. So by using the same methods as before we send the drysound source (in this case the toms) to an aux bus where we insertSpace Designer. Be sure to have Space Designer's output on 100% wet.

Listen to the dry tom sound and then how it sounds when the reverbis activated. Notice how much more powerful the toms become. Withfurther EQ and leveling you can get some pretty thick thunderoustoms.

Step 2 – Using Automation to Add Movement and Interest

I'm going to use these toms as an example of how you can usereverb to add interest and movement to an instrument or a track. Someengineers and producers like automating the reverb so that it hasmore punch on certain phrases, like the end of sentences. Some alsolike to turn it on and off, depending on the part of the song. It alldepends on what you have in mind for your songs, but a good rule isto have a certain amount of automation in your mixes, just to keep itinteresting. Using the simple automation view in Logic we can easily automatethis. We are going to make the toms echo in the distance using onlythe reverbed source and slowly creep in the dry sound until you canhear the direct source more clearly. We have the effect send onpre-fader so that when the volume of the tom track is down, thereverb still sounds.

As you can see, I am only using volume automation, though you can automate any parameter you want. First you only hear the reverbedsound, like you are in a completely different part of the church,listening to the toms in the distance. Thenslowly I creep in the source sound so it sounds like you are gettingnearer to the source. Also notice that I only lower the volume of thereverb to -14 dB so you can still hear the reverb around the toms,for a more natural feel.Listen to the automated toms here:

Effecting the Reverb

Effecting the reverb can also make for a subtle (or not so subtle)difference in your mix. Putting your effects as an insert cansometimes be too much, and smother the clean signal. So instead ofputting the effects as a separate send, we put ittogether with the reverb return. I'll be inserting a pitch shifter tomake things interesting to the ear, harmonizing in fifths.You can find the pitch shifter under Pitch>Pitch ShifterII>Mono.

I chose a plate type reverb for a guitar line and then I inserteda pitch shifter in front of the reverb. That way, the clean guitargets sent to the pitch shifter that is harmonizing in fifths and thenis sent into the reverb. This way only the harmonized signal exits Space Designer. Seven semitones is a perfect fifth, so be sureto set the parameters to 7 semitones and 0 cents. And as always, putthe output to 100% because we are going to affect the whole signal.

In the first sound clip you can hear the guitar line without thepitch shifter. The nice plate reverb sounds good with the guitarline, giving it more depth.

Now we put the pitch shifter to work. Listen to the end resulthere.
As you can hear, pitching the reverb gives it an interestingeffect. It sounds like the guitar line has a ghost note harmonizing with it infifths. You don't have to stop there, you can try harmonizing thereverb in octaves or if you want a weird detuned effect you can slidethe cents around in order for the pitch shifter to not harmonizeperfectly.

Pre-delay on Vocals for Better Clarity

Using pre-delay to distance the reverb is often used in mixing. Since reverb isbasically the echoes of the walls around the source sound, pre-delaygives you the feeling that the walls are a little bit farther away.So in effect, the reverb is reproduced milliseconds after you hearthe source sound, fooling the listener into thinking the room isbigger. In Space Designer there is an easy way to control thepre-delay: the button on the bottom right of the screen can dial up as much pre-delay as you want.I have a small subtle example of using pre-delay to give moreclarity to vocals. I have sent the vocal track to a small hall thathas thick early reflections cluttering up the phrases of the vocal.By subtly dialing up a pre-delay of 30 ms the reverb enters a littlelater, giving more clarity to the phrases and more definition to thevoice.

In the first sound file, the reflections get into the source sound and muddyit because of the small size of the room.

In the second example I've put a 30 ms pre-delay to distance thereverb just a tiny bit from the source. The effect is subtle, but in a mix subtle differences can make all thedifference.


Now I hope you are getting to know how Space Designer works, and if you're already familiar with it, I hope these exampleshelped spark ideas for future production. Reverb can serve manydifferent purposes, and Space Designer in Logic is a versatile andpowerful reverb engine. Reverb is good for putting a littlespace and depth around your tracks, and with Space Designer'sfeatures and a little creativity you can make it more effective. Using high quality impulse responses and using its editing features, EQ and filters, you can bring new life to your songs.Using a few different reverbs together,automating for interest, tweaking for weird soundscapes, and effectingthe reverb return with modulation is just the tip of theiceberg. With a little bit of ingenuity and knowledge of SpaceDesigner's features you can go far.

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