How to Create an 80s Gated Reverb?

Tom May 23, 2021

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How to Create an 80s Gated Reverb?

Hey producer!

Today’s blog is all about recreating a classic sound, that has made a big comeback, and can be used in just about any genre! Think Phil Collins. Think Madonna. Think 80s. Think BIG! Yep, you guessed it. Gated Reverb.

Noise gates are useful for so many different applications. You can use them to clean up ‘spill’ or ‘bleed’ from one mic into another, for example, the high hat spill in the snare mike on an acoustic drum kit. You can use them to clean up the in between noisy bits of a vocal or guitar part; and then even more creative uses, such as creating interesting rhythms on a synth pad sound, or stutter and glitch effects for example. 80s style synth pop has made a really nice comeback the last little while, and this Gated Reverb technique is not just for the classic or retro sound, but can be used in any typical modern EDM genre to get a really nice ‘big’ sound.

Hey, you can try this out in Rap, RnB and other genres too! We’ve asked Bronwen from to demonstrate how to create the Gated Reverb sound, using a track from the RETRO sample pack by 2Deep available right here at

Here are the steps to get that Gated Reverb sound:
First you need to create a send (Aux Bus) on the track you want to apply the gated reverb to. For this blog, we’ve chose a snare drum to send to the Aux Bus.

Name the Aux Buss Gated Reverb. On this aux bus you need to add a series of 4 plugins in this specific order:

  • Reverb
  • Compressor
  • Noise Gate
  • Equalizer
  • Ok, now start with each plugin.
Here you get to experiment with what reverb sound you like. Experiment. It all depends on the style of the song itself, so you may use a different reverb for each track on your album.
Make sure you set the Wet volume to 100% and the Dry volume to 0% so you get as much reverb as possible and as little of the original audio source. Set a long sustain and release (over around one second total is fine) so the volume doesn't waver and change too much.
Now, use the compressor & really squash that reverb. Use at least a five-to-one ratio if not a bit higher as a starting point. Again, experimentation is key. Move your threshold until you see a good amount say around 4dBs of Gain reduction on the GR meters of the compressor. There's no hard rules or go-to settings. Try use a fast attack and medium to slow release. Hey, you can even test not using a compressor at all. This is where you need to use ears! Does it sound good? Great, then keep it! Not good? Then, tweak it! We like that! Keep it or tweak it! Mantra. Keep or tweak. Keep or tweak. Aah, but back to the topic at hand!


Now pull up the noise gate on that aux buss. You'll soon realize that you can’t use the compressed reverb as the trigger, so insert the snare drum on the side chain of the noise gate plugin to trigger the gate to open and close based on the original drum track. Now, Instead of having the noise gate use the reverb track's unvarying levels (due to the heavy compression), we'll have it use the fluctuating levels of the original drum track. When the original snare drum strikes, the noise gate opens up and allows the reverb to shine through.

Now, on the noise gate, set the Hold setting to about 500ms. You'll adjust this to taste based on the tempo of the song, but that's a good starting point. Hold tells the gate to stay open for that period of time. Then set the release to be very fast. You want it to close abruptly, but slow enough that it's a smooth transition. You should now have a gated reverb coming through behind the original drum track. You'll want to tweak the Hold and threshold settings on the gate until you get the sound that works for you. The best way to do this is to listen to the kick and snare together.

Keep or tweak.

As soon as you get a good blend, put it in context with the rest of the mix and tweak from there!

Finally, that EQ. This is used to add some clarity and definition. Try a bit of a bump in the upper mid-range area even say around 5KHz. This should bring the sound forward a bit and add some brightness. And there you go! How to set up Gated Reverb. Just repeat the steps for any other sound you want! Watch the video to see these steps in action. You can apply this technique in just about any DAW!

Open those gates of imagination!

The r-loops Team!

USED SAMPLE PACK (2Deep - R3tro):