This post focuses on the use of predelay to allow reverb to be added to a sound without muddying it up too much.
A lot of producers are really reverb shy these days. It’s true that reverb can really date material… it was used so much in the 80s and 90s that a lot of what gives modern music its edge is its dryness. You’ll find that simply plopping a reverb effect on a track with often decrease its clarity or, in the case of vocals, its intelligibility. One way to account for this is to reduce the mix or length of the reverb. But sometimes you really want a long reverb tail and a really wet sound. What to do?
I recommend adding predelay. Some reverbs offer predelay built right in. Others don’t, meaning you’ll have to add a delay ahead of the reverb processor to offset it a bit. For vocals I like values around 80-150ms. For drums and other instruments it can sometimes be even longer. This produces a very dramatic rhythmic sound and allows you to really layer on the ambience without burying the track. The bigger the reverb time, the more adding (some) predelay will help.
One reason this might sound better is that real spaces have predelay built right in… it takes some time for the echo to happen. So our ears expect that sort of response, not the instant splash that digital processors can provide.