What is Plate Reverb – How to Use it in Your Mix

Reverb allows you to create more space in your mix by tapping into the third dimension of depth. When you add more reverb to a track, you’re simulating a natural effect that it’s coming from farther away and existing in a larger space. Most types of reverb simulate actual spaces of varying sizes. Plate reverb is kind of the odd man out in that it’s the rare reverb which simulates an artificial space, but it can be used to achieve some interesting effects. Let’s identify what is plate reverb and more importantly how to use it in your mix.

What is Plate Reverb

what is plate reverb

As I just mentioned, plate reverb doesn’t try to emulate a physical space like most room based reverbs which would try to simulate your track in a basement, cathedral, etc.

Plate reverb is the sound of sending vibrations through a large sheet metal plate, then capturing those sounds via a microphone.

Pioneered in the late 1950s by Elektromesstechnik with the EMT 140 which featured a literal 1 by 2 meter steel plate, it uses an electromechanical transducer to create those vibrations.

The iconic London based Abbey Road Studios had EMT plates installed in

The metallic plate is obviously where the name of the reverb comes from, but this very specific effect is what is being emulated via plate reverb plugins like Valhalla Plate.

The artificial concept seems odd, but the result is a very clean yet satisfying reverberating sound which is all its own.

How to Use Plate Reverb

While plate reverb should be experimented with on virtually any track you want to add depth to, it especially shines on vocals and snares.

plate reverb

On a snare, any kind of reverb can be used to add size and width to a snare via that reverb’s colorful (short) decay. A plate reverb in particular just gives it a very particular color which sounds nice to filling that role.

On vocals, I like to use a plate reverb alongside a room reverb (two separate aux/return tracks).

The room reverb is good for creating a natural reflection quality and cohesion as discussed before on all tracks which use it.

Like with the snare, the plate gives that vocal a unique quality to make it stand out and give it a bit more character. That’s really the best way to describe it; simply try it on some vocals of your own to hear how they shine.

The Valhalla Plate Reverb is my go to when I want a versatile plate sound with lots of options/presets for coloring the tone.

What is the Best Plate Reverb

There are a number of solid options when it comes to emulating plate reverb via a plugin. This is handy considering the size and weight of the real thing!

Abbey Road Reverb Plates

As I mentioned earlier, Abbey Road Studios had their EMT plates installed in 1957 and they’re still being used today.

Waves worked with Abbey Roads to create a plugin which specifically modeled and recreated that sound. Aptly named Abbey Road Reverb Plates, its quality was purportedly validated by the engineers at Abbey Road:

abbey road reverb plates

I don’t know about that, but Giles Martin, son of famed Beatles producer George Martin, used it while remixing the music of the Beatles for its most recent release, so that’s one heck of an endorsement.

I find myself using this plugin more and more for not just plate but reverbs in general.

Featuring four different plate options which model the same varieties installed at Abbey Road, each has its own distinct sonic “flavor”.

The “Damper” slider is essentially the length of decay and size of the reverb you want and features 11 positions (0-10) with 10 being the longest.

The exact decay times associated with each setting varies with each unique plate, though the range is roughly between 1 and 5 seconds (at the longest setting). I typically set this between 0 and 2 for a decay of roughly 1-1.5 seconds or so.

Pre-delay determines how soon after the dry audio plays that the reverb signal triggers. 20-40ms works well on vocals with the higher end resulting in more of presence with a delay like effect.

You can further color the sound of the reverb to your taste using the bass cut and treble filter.

The bass cut high pass filters roughly up to 1000Hz on the max setting of 3.

The treble filter is a bit trickier as it acts as a -20dB to +20dB dial. Dead center it’s flat.

Going into the negative begins to low pass the reverb around 4k.

Moving the dial all the way to the bottom at -20dB basically leaves the low pass around 1k, roughly meeting the high pass you get with the max bass cut, making the leftover signal pretty weak and what’s left being low mid heavy.

Going into the positive territory on the treble dial acts as a kind of shelf to prop up the higher frequencies, making your reverb brighter and thinner the higher you go.

The drive dial adds some saturation like thickness which becomes a noticeable distortion close to the 100 position.

Analog adds in a bit of hum and noise which is characteristic of the actual plates the plugin is emulating, but you can leave this at 0 to keep the signal as clean as possible.

Valhalla Plate

Valhalla makes an entire line of different reverbs, from the practical like the Valhalla Room or this Valhalla Plate to absolutely crazy texture effects like Valhalla Shimmer.

Their plate reverb is the go-to choice for a lot of producers for good reason; there’s arguably no more versatile plate reverb on the market:

valhalla plate

Their plate offers a ton of versatility by virtue of the different metal types you can model the plate after:

valhalla plate mode

Each option gives the reverb a distinctive attack and tonal character which is unique to that metal. Thankfully each one receives a brief description as you choose it.

You can admittedly feel a little overwhelmed going through all of the choices which is why the dozens of presets which come with it come in handy.

Valhalla Plate Best Preset

Here is my personal jumping off preset for vocals or really most instruments (I use it for both as a send):

valhalla plate best setting

The “Steel” setting features an slightly darker leaning yet clean, medium attack character. I offset that a bit with the high pass filter and feature a relatively short pre-delay and decay.

All of this should be adjusted to taste and to fit your mix, but this is a great place to start.

Little Plate

I LOVE Soundtoys’ Little Plate because it’s dirt simple.

There’s literally 4 controls on it, and assuming you’re using it as a send rather than an insert, you really only need to worry about the decay time (and maybe the low cut filter):

The “MOD” switch adds a little modulation to the tail, but I rarely use that. I like to high and low pass my reverbs, incidentally with the Abbey Road Reverb trick, to keep my reverbs from getting too muddy, but the low end is the problem area. As such, the low cut/high pass filter is mostly all you need.

While I don’t pull this one up often, you can make some awesome drones to blend into the background of your mix with the Little Plate’s literal infinite decay time. I’ve created some useful buried textures in my mixes using this set deep in the mix.

Plate Reverb Reviewed

  • Plate reverb is the sound of sending vibrations through a large sheet metal plate, then capturing those sounds via a microphone.
  • It has a cleaner tone than most room reverbs.
  • One of the best plate reverbs available for quickly dialing in practical reverb sounds is the Waves Abbey Road Reverb Plates which is modeled after the EMT plates installed and used at Abbey Road Studios.
  • Valhalla Plate is arguably the most versatile plate reverb available as it features a dozen different metals which each have their own character and attack.
  • Use a pre-delay of 40ms, a relatively short decay between .5 and 1 seconds, and high pass at 500Hz on your plate reverb as a send for an instant vocal reverb which works well in virtually any mix.

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