Reverb is an essential effect in all kinds of music, as it adds space to the sound. It's present from the moment you plug your electric guitar amp in and strum a chord.
Listen carefully. Here your sound moving through the air in your room?
That’s Reverb - Natural reverb of course.
Reverb pedals, on the other hand, allow you to utilize the depth and tonality of different "spaces." They help to move your guitar sound further back in the mix or create a sense of ambiance.
Because reverb pedals help us create a surreal tone, they're easily the most popular type of pedal on the market. The issue is, there are SO many pedals out there that it can be hard for anyone to choose.
Luckily, we know quite a bit about guitar reverb pedals, and we’re here to break it down for you so you can cut through all the noise and get experimental!
If you're looking for the most high-quality tones that you could get out of a reverb pedal, look no further than the Strymon Big Sky. The reason why so many professional players use the Strymon Big Sky is that it is packed full of just about every reverb sound you could ever need.
Strymon is known for making the best sounding pedals on the market thanks to their wealth of audio knowledge, but they outdid themselves here.
Within the Big Sky, you can find (a massive) 12 different types of reverb for everything from natural, roomy tones, to out-of-this-world atmospheric and psychedelic sounds.
Whatever genre of music you play, the Strymon Big Sky can adapt. The adjustable knobs allow you to manipulate a variety of parameters from decay, to pre-delay, to mix, to time values, to tone, and beyond. You can either run it stereo or mono as well depending on your rig.
Bottom Line: The Strymon Big Sky comes packed full of high-quality sounds that will make your jaw drop as you strum your first chord into it. While it may be one of the priciest pedals around, the amount of versatility you get makes the price justifiable.
Here ye here ye you mere mortals. The Holy Grail hath risen from the lands of reverb in its most compact form, giving you some of the most divine reverb sounds at such an incredible value, you might fall off your dragon.
Okay, but seriously, this pedal is fantastic. There are three reverbs built-in with a simple, flippable switch for toggling between them.
You have a classic spring reverb along the likes of old surf rock, a lush and spacious hall reverb for massive, cathedral-like tones, and Flerb, a reverb that is so unique, it's almost hard to explain without you hearing it.
Beyond the complicated reverb algorithms included in the pedal, you get a wet/dry control to regulate the amount of original signal coming through. It can go from very subtle to very prominent in a slow sweep, allowing you to dial in the perfect sound easily.
Bottom Line: If you're working with limited space on your pedalboard, or need a reverb pedal that is a bit more budget friendly, the Electro Harmonix Holy Grail Nano is there for you. It gives you the classic, high-quality reverb tones on a simple, user-friendly face.
We know what you’re thinking: Wow, Boss does have it all.
You're right there my friend. Boss is known for having an incredibly long line of high-quality yet inexpensive stompbox pedals that last forever. Seriously, this thing is built like a tank. If there were one best "on-the-road" pedal brand, it would be Boss hands down.
Back to the RV-6 though, as it is the sixth iteration reverb pedal that has seen a few nice upgrades over the years.
Onboard, you have eight reverb effects including Room, Hall, Plate, Spring, Dynamic, Shimmer, Delay, and Modulate. If you're looking for versatility, it's right in front of you.
We love the fact that you can use it as a stereo or mono pedal too depending on your rig. You can insert it into your fx loop and get lush, stereo delays, or plug it into the regular amp input to get your standard reverb sounds.
As with many Boss pedals, you can also plug in an expression pedal to dive even deeper within your tones.
Bottom Line: Both compact and versatile, the Boss RV-6 is one of the most inconspicuously sophisticated guitar reverb pedals on the market. Beyond that, it’s the perfect pedal for anyone on the road thanks to its tank-like strength.
Known for its use in the rock and metal realm, the MXR M300 has so much more to offer than you might believe. Even with the recognizable presets, the overall tone of the MXR M300 is all its own. For those who need something a bit simpler to work with, it’s perfect!
Just like with Boss RV-6, MXR allows you to connect an expression pedal so that you can manipulate and fine tune with detail. Beyond that, there are three knobs on the interface for mixing the wet/dry, changing the overall tone, and changing the decay time.
The included reverb presets are plate, mod, spring, room, pad, and "epic." Yes, you read that right: epic. They all sound pretty great too which is the fantastic part. Yes, you may not get the most flexibility regarding manipulation, though what you will get is a compact pedal with quality sound and performance.
Bottom Line: For a pedal with a simple interface and a variety of solid presets, the MXR M300 is a must-have. Its audio signature is very popular throughout the metal and rock realm as well.
If you're in the market for a reverb pedal that is simple and requires about zero explanation, check out the J Rockett Audio Boing. Part of their Tour Series of pedals, the Audio Boing is a simple spring reverb that was made to help your guitar cut through the mix while giving you that classic, spring-y atmosphere.
You'll only find one giant knob on the face of the pedal that has a pretty striking resemblance to the old-school Deluxe Reverb pedal. Thanks to the incredibly large size of the knob, you can quickly turn it with your foot, allowing you to manipulate the sound while you play.
The pedal has tons of headroom meaning you can use the reverb very subtly in overdriven amps without getting that nasty overdriven reverb tone.
Beyond the parameters and sounds, this pedal is built like an absolute tank. We love simple, boutique pedals like this, especially when they put a lot of work into the specific sound.
Bottom Line: Going for that surf-y, psychedelic rock sound that will make even the biggest Dick Dale fans turn their heads? The J Rockett is a must-have, one-trick-pony kind of pedal.
Looking for a reverb pedal that gives you an entire universe of sounds to mess around with without the steep price tag? The TC Electronic Hall of Fame pedal is the best guitar reverb pedal for anyone that is just getting into the reverb game.
There are ten different reverb types onboard, giving you everything from your classic sounds, such as plate, spring, and hall, to more unique sounds such as ambient and lo-fi.
There are four different parameter controls on the face besides the reverb types, giving you an intuitive workflow when manipulating your sounds. Decay lengthens and shortens your sound; Tone changes the overall tone of the reverb, and Level acts as a wet/dry knob.
In the middle, you have a small switch that lengthens or shortens your pre-delay, allowing your initial signal to cut through the mix a bit better, no matter what kind of soundscape you use. Thanks to TC Electronic's TonePrint technology, you can import tones from the community, giving you almost endless possibilities.
Bottom Line: If you’re in the market for a reverb that is well-rounded without a hefty price tag, the TC Electronic Hall of Fame 2 is perfect.
The Digitech Polara offers 7 Lexicon-Grade Reverbs for you to mess with. If you know anything about reverb, the Lexicon is pretty much the holy grail of all studio reverbs.
The Digitech Polara allows you to play with a variety of high-quality reverbs including room, plate, reverse, modulated, halo, spring, and hall.
You have a few standard knobs on the face like Decay and Level, though you also have a Liveliness knob that allows you to adjust the tone of the reverb.
We dig the unique Tails On/Off switch too, which allows you to let the tail decay naturally after you turn the pedal off. It is essentially like toggling the bypass mode depending on the sound or effect that you want. When you want that untouched sound, toggle it off for a true bypass effect. There are the stereo ins and outs as well so that you can set up according to your rig.
Bottom Line: If you’re someone who is into boutique pedals, the Digitech Polara is one of our favorites boutique reverbs around. From classic sounds to ethereal sounds, the experimentation is pretty much endless.
The Earthquaker Devices Transmisser is easily one of the unique reverb pedals on our list. It was created by the ex-Black Keys tour manager in Akron, Ohio, along with the guys from Earthquaker Devices.
For a boutique pedal, it is top-of-the-line. You literally cannot get the sound of this reverb anywhere else, so if you're in the market for a fresher, more dynamic reverb sound to experiment with, this is a beautiful place to start.
There are six knobs on the face of the pedal, which may look a bit complex. The beauty of all the knobs is that you can continue to find new tones through manipulation.
You have your pretty standard controls such as decay, tone, frequency, rate, and mix, though warp is where things start to get a little funky. Their Warp knob adds a wild and innovative sound to your reverb tone by creating an upfront warbling sound that modulation lovers will flip over.
Bottom Line: If you want to get the most out of one type of reverb effect, the Earthquaker Devices Transmisser is solid. It’s perfect for those who like to build their songs from scratch.
If you go back to just about any record that was made in the 70s, there is no doubt that you will hear a plate reverb. We discussed the characteristics of plate reverbs earlier and why so many musicians and engineers love them.
The problem is, not many pedals have been able to replicate the sound accurately. Most plate reverb pedals end up sounding weirdly thin and metallic.
Catalinbread knew that and decided to make a pedal that focused on the lush, thick ambiance of the classic plate sound without it feeling too obtrusive.
You have four basic controls on the face of the pedal. The three standard ones include time (decay), pre-delay, and mix, while the last one, high pass, gives you the ability to uniquely roll off lower frequencies for a less muddy mix.
The pre-delay on this pedal is something to note as well, as it gives you up to 100ms of pre-delay, allowing your guitar to cut through perfectly.
Bottom Line: For a pedal that truly defines a particular era in music, the guys at Catalinbread did a fantastic job with this one. It's a warm, full-bodied plate pedal without the enormous size of EMT's original device.
It's no surprise that most reverb pedals are expensive. These companies put in tons of detailed work to create the fantastic sounds they do. But for those of you who are on a serious budget, we recommend checking out the Donner Reverb.
It comes complete with 7-Mode effects including room, hall, church, spring, plate, studio, and mod. Anyone who has ever used reverb in their DAW will probably recognize all these names right away.
There are three standard knobs up top including Decay, Level, and Tone, each of which are incredibly tiny.
The best part about this pedal beside it being stupid cheap is the fact that it is miniature in design. While it may be difficult to believe, they somehow pack an insane amount of "space" into the little thing. This is great, as if you don't have a ton of room on your pedalboard to sacrifice, you can easily squeeze this little thing in there and still get some massive tones.
Bottom Line: For serious pedal budgeters, beginners, or those who have a limited amount of pedalboard space, the Donner Digital Reverb is an excellent miniature pedal with a variety of options.
What Makes a Great Reverb Pedal?
Types Of Reverb
While some guitar pedals have only one type of reverb, there are others that have many different types of reverb. Whether or not you want an all-in-one solution or a one-trick-pony is up to you.
It is helpful to know what kinds of reverbs are available in the pedal market though, so let's check out some of the most common types and their practical applications.
Room reverbs are the smallest of the bunch, as they are meant to help simulate the acoustics of small space. Room reverbs have short reflection characteristics, dissipating fairly quickly after the initial hit.
You can almost think of a room reverb like a slapback delay in that you get a short reflective sound. Go stand in the middle of your room and clap. Hear that little delay after? That’s room reverb!
If you’ve ever played through an old tube amp, such as a Fender Twin, then you’ve probably used a spring reverb before. It’s a reverb that is created naturally using a transducer and a pickup at opposite ends of a spring. These help to capture the vibrations of the spring, turning them into that classic, boingy sound.
While there aren't that many companies out there that have been able to reproduce true, analog spring reverb, there is a buttload of companies that have been able to create digital emulations that ring true.
If you're going for that vintage, psychedelic or surf rock tone, a spring reverb pedal is a must-have.
Plate reverbs came into existence during the late 1950s when the EMT 140 came out on the market. This 600lb monster is easily the most famous plate reverb to date.
Engineers created reverb by feeding signals between these large, hanging sheets of metal to get a pinpointed reverb sound. The point was to get something that could be more focused than a hall reverb without sacrificing decay qualities.
Many reverb pedal manufacturers have plate settings on their pedals now for players who want variety in their decay times, yet an overall focused sound.
Trying to make that guitar sound like it's coming from the inside of a massive cathedral? You're going to need a hall reverb.
Hall reverb is the biggest out there, featuring much longer decay times than any of the reverbs listed before.
The reflections in hall reverb are typically very complex, giving your sound an airy, lush, and out-of-this-world type of sound. Think 80s ballads.
In the past decade, we’ve seen a massive influx of shimmer (otherwise known as pitch-shifted) reverbs into the market. They harmonize to your guitar signal, giving your complex, crystal-like reverbs that sound almost unreal.
These types of pedals will typically come complete with octave controls (up or down) to help create heavenly and ethereal sounds, far beyond those that come from hall reverbs.
True Bypass Vs. Buffered Bypass
True bypass vs. buffered bypass is a significant thing to discuss when it comes to reverb pedals. While it's pretty typical for guitarists to lean towards true bypass pedals, there are reasons why it might not be the best idea when it comes to a reverb pedal.
The whole point of a true bypass pedal is that your guitar's natural signal will come through the pedal without being affected when you turn it off.
While that may be perfect for overdrive pedals or compressor pedals, when you're working with reverb, you want to be able to get natural decay as you turn it off.
If you have a true bypass pedal and you turn it off after your reverb-heavy section, the reverb will cut off immediately, resulting in a strange and unpleasing sound.
This is why many pedal experts will tell you to go for buffered bypass pedals when you're looking at reverb effects. While they may affect your sound a bit, even when turned off, they won't give you a weird cut-off when you stomp out your effect.
If you're working with a stereo rig, you should look for a stereo reverb pedal. The results of a stereo reverb pedal are much more full than you would get from a mono versionl, and when placed at the end of a chain, can give you far different characteristics than what you could achieve in mono.
Spacing Out Yet?
So that just about wraps up our Reverb Pedal article! From studio-class reverbs, to touring reverbs, to beginner reverbs, we tried to include at least one pedal for every kind of reverb lover out there. We hope that you were able to learn a little something along the way.
We’ll say it once again if you are dead serious about getting the best sounding and most versatile reverb on the market right now, the Strymon Big Sky is unmatched. With many parameters and high-quality sounds, you will never run out of ways to experiment.