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Being Impulsive with White Noise in Cubase
Chris McCoy on Tue, October 19th 0 comments
REVerence, in Cubase, is a convolution reverb unit used to create realistic spacial effects. Chris McCoy shows how to create custom impulse responses by making some white noise.

No one can deny Cubase is a powerful and capable music making tool. Its vast feature set and the attention to detail are beyond reproach. The wonderful convolution reverb plug-in, REVerence, is no exception. REVerence sounds great and the included impulse responses are from interesting and fancy locations. Unfortunately, I'm not really a fancy kind of guy. Don't get me wrong, I love a good church reverb every now and then, but there's not one gritty preset in there. Where's the back alley, bathroom, or jail cell settings? Fortunately, the designers' attention to detail includes a little tiny import button. Pushing this button opens an entire new world of creative reverb possibilities.

A quick search of the good old interweb shows hundreds of impulse responses of varying quality, all free to download. It is also possible to record your own impulse responses for use in REVerence using a starter pistol, a popping balloon, or a brief burst of white noise. Recording these sounds is not too difficult, can yield some creative results, and is a ton of fun. But what if you just want a quick, easy, and highly customizable reverb, perhaps without going outside of Cubase? My answer is white noise and Cubase automation.

Step 1 - White Noise

White noise is a signal containing equally powered frequencies across the audible band of human hearing. It is a great impulse response because it contains enough frequency information to produce highly usable results without excessively modifying the timbre of the original sound.

To create white noise quickly in Cubase start by opening an empty project and creating an instrument track for a monologue synth. Turn down both oscillator one and two and turn the noise oscillator to maximum. Open the cutoff filter all the way and set the MOD and AMP envelopes to their lowest depth settings. Any MIDI note played should give you a continuous stream of very usable white noise. Record or program a note for at least four measures and export the audio from this track to a new audio file. Import the file into an empty audio track.

Step 2 - Reverb Tails

Now the fun begins; we will literally be designing our own reverb tail. The first step is to draw in some level automation. Using the line tool for your white noise audio's level automation track, draw a line starting at 0db attenuating down to minus infinity. Any length is fine but I find that a measure and a half gives some nice sounds.

The next step will be to automate some EQ changes. The thinking here is that in a real space, higher frequencies get absorbed faster than low frequencies. So over the life of the reverb tail, we would expect to hear fewer and fewer high frequencies. To achieve this effect, activate EQ 4. Set its type to high self 1, set its gain to -24 db, and set the Q to 0. Now automate a sweep from 20khz all the way down to 20hz by drawing a line in the EQ automation lane for EQ 4 under the audio track. Export your audio track for use as an impulse in REVerence.

Step 3 - Reverence

Importing this modified white noise into REVerence will give you a highly usable, somewhat lo-fi ambience sound. You may need to adjust the Time Scaling to fit the tempo of your song and the length of the reverb you want. Also the equalizer in REVerence gives you further sound designing possibilities.

Final Thoughts

Here's an example drum loop with the reverb which starts off dry:

Of course you don't have to stop with a simple Hi-Shelf and Level automation with your white noise. Dialing in a few peaks in the low-mids with a parametric EQ can give a nice approximation of unwanted room modes. Automating a small peak in the gain a few milliseconds after the start of the white noise can give the impression of an object (such as a wall) reflecting the sound. It would even be possible to use a synth-style filter such as Dual Filter to automate a nice and nasty sweep across your tail for some very unnatural but cool reverb effects.

Happy mangling!

For more Cubase Tips and Tricks check out the Cubase TNT tutorial!

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