Add clarity to your audio mix using pre-delay

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In this video, engineer Scott Wiggins explains the use of pre-delay with reverb on your vocals and snare drum to help add the desired effect while maintaining clarity and presence.

Using effects when working on your audio mix is a basic part of the process, but there are so many parameters and settings to most effects. Understanding what they do is part of being a good engineer. The pre-delay setting on many reverbs is a good example. You’ve seen the setting, but do you know what it does? The pre-delay setting controls the amount of time between when you hear the original signal end and the reverb begin. If the pre-delay is set to 0, there will be no separation between the original signal and the audible reverb.

Have you ever added a reverb on a vocal or snare drum track in your audio mix and find it sounds washed out? Pre-delay is a simple way to tweak your reverb setting and add clarity to your mix.

Pre-delay and your vocal track

In most recordings with a vocal track, you want a wet vocal sound with a good amount of reverb, but you don’t want to completely wash out and lose the vocal. This is one instance where you could set a pre-delay time to add a little separation between the vocal and the reverb. We are talking millisecond delays, and any reverb that has a pre-delay setting will work.

As with any recording, the sound you are ultimately looking for is subjective, but as you adjust the parameters I explore in the video, you can find the result that’s right for you. Start with a preset on your reverb and tweak to taste for your vocal, adjusting the pre-delay time, size of the room, and the decay of the reverb as well.

Pre-delay with a snare drum

Like most home studio owners, chances are you don’t have a great-sounding, large live room to record drums in. You’re probably recording in a living room or bedroom, which means you may be able to get a good snare sound with the close mic but can forget about having a large room mic to blend in with it. This is a situation where you can add reverb to the snare drum and give it a sense of space that was not there on recording day.

By using a little pre-delay on your snare reverb, it will sound a little more natural, like it was recorded in a nice large space. Just as with the vocal, if you add a reverb on the snare without it, it may get washed out.

In a larger context, in a mix with lots of instruments being sent to a reverb, you can quickly lose clarity and have tracks overlapping each other in a non-musical way. Using the pre-delay setting properly can help you separate tracks and add clarity to your mix.

And this is not limited to vocals and drums – you can use pre-delay on any instrument in your audio mix. Just play around, use your ears, and have some fun!


Scott Wiggins is a touring recording artist, singer/songwriter, producer, recording/mix engineer, and music lover. Wiggins has written and recorded multiple songs which have made it into the top Ten on the TX Music Charts and has over 15 years’ experience creating, making, and sharing music. Wiggins has had the privilege of being mentored by and recording music with Grammy-nominated engineers, and his goal is to take what he’s learned and share it on The Recording Solution website and blog.

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9 thoughts on “Add clarity to your audio mix using pre-delay

  1. Pingback: 5 EQ Tips For Mixing Audio Like A Pro | Disc Makers Blog
  2. Excellent. Having the audio AND visual was tremendously helpful. Now can you explain “difussion?!” Thanks!!

  3. In the reply above, I was assuming that ‘Pre’ still refers to Pre-fader signal. Maybe some other consoles had pre-fader in-out jacks for compressors, effects etc; but on a custom Sphere Console, I requested this feature and their design engineer had to incorporate additional output gain for aux equipment and then pad it down going back into the fader so the post-fader amp stage and gain structure would not have to be altered. It worked beautifully and they may have incorporated it in future Sphere consoles. ciao

  4. Thanks Scott.
    As an antique (older) audio engineer -who also works in digital now- I was a little cornfused about your referring to pre-delay.
    Historically, in analog recording, both pre & post-signals were in the same time domain, but after reading your article, I believe you may be referring to new digital boards & DAW’s where the pre/post signal origination points may or might be adjustable via different hardware and daw software.
    So I appreciated your article because it reminded me of the phrase ‘don’t assume anything’ applies even more so in the digital world; i.e pull off the ‘pre & ‘post’ signals and compare them with the primary channel strip signal in analog form on a scope. In the analog consoles & tape deck days, we would copy across an analog track to another track; and then place the copied track in sync (overdub) mode which played that track ahead of the other tracks being heard from the playback (3) head. Depending on the speed of the tape and the bpm of the music, we could then delay the signal to maintain tempo sync. Thanks again for the heads up article.

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