What Is Pre-delay?

Effects are important in audio processing because they allow us to improve our audio and get it to a standard we want it at.

One of the popular effects used in many arenas of audio engineering is delay.

Delay is the echo-like effect that sounds more like a repetition of the original signal on which the effect is applied.

This post will cover what pre-delay is. The whole point of this is to give some more surrounding insight to reverb and delay so you get better at using and applying pre-delay in your work.

With that said, what is pre delay?

Pre-delay is a parameter or control that you’ll find on reverb processors or units. It simply refers to the amount of time between the original dry signal, and the audible onset of early reflections and reverb tail.

Carefully adjusting and using the pre-delay parameter makes a huge impact in the clarity of a mix.

For example, a longer pre-delay will move the reverb tail out of the way of the vocals, making them much more present and understandable while eliminating the stacking up of delay that may cause the mix to lack clarity.

I know for a person that isn’t really a technical audiophile  this is a lot to take in and understand.

so let me give you a simpler working definition of pre-delay.

In the simplest of terms pre-delay is simply how fast your reverb kicks in after the original signal plays.

This is a useful parameter in audio processing because it gives the user a lot more control over reverb and it doesn’t really restrict them in what can be done with the effect.

For example, if we have a vocal we can simply set our reverb to  kick in after our original sound source.

This can make the vocal sound even better.

Another good part of using pre-delay is that you can use it in any genre of music without encountering problems.

Application of Pre-Delay

Let’s get into the various ways in which pre-delay can be a helpful tool in your mixing of audio.

Space

A mix is only as good as the way you treat all elements.

Each and every element needs to have their place in a mix so they don’t feel out of sync with other elements.

When working with effects like reverb, you can often times run into problems if you use it on many layered instruments without effectively using pre-delay.

If you however employ pre-delay you can create some space around your mix elements.

For example, say you have layered instruments all with reverb.

You can use different pre-delay settings on such instruments to avoid overwhelming reverb th kicks in at the same time on all elements.

Clean mix

Reverb as you obviously know has the ability to make sounds bigger which can be a great way to deal with sounds that sound too dry or insignificant.

This is ofcourse only one way you can use reverb.

You can also set up your pre-delay so that it kicks in after the direct sound which can in turn give you a clean and smooth sound.

Pre-delay allows you to treat your reverb like the way you treat delay.

Often times, delay is set to kick in after the original sound plays, in order to create a more wide feel.

With reverb, the pre delay function can help you do this.

Avoid muddiness

Pre-delay also allows you to reduce or completely avoid muddiness in a mix.

If you have sounds that sound muddy. You can use pre-delay to give them space so they pop out.

Calculating Pre-delay

Some people find calculating pre-delay challenging but it’s not very complicated.

Pre-delay on a reverb unit whether digital or analog is set in milliseconds.

A minute has 60,000 milliseconds so you can basically base your pre-delay calculation off this.

I usually like pre-delay at 1/32 which means I divide 7500 milliseconds by the BPM of the song.

Of course this doesn’t always work as I need it to, so I pretty much try out different millisecond divisions until I find the sweet spot.

You can therefore try this as well.

The milliseconds divided by your bpm.

Just ensure that the number you choose is a percentage of 60,000.

If this is too complicated for you, try using any online pre-delay  calculator.