We are surrounded by reverb in our day-to-day lives, our ears expect some sort of sound reflections wherever we are. Put yourself in a completely dead room with absorptive material on every surface, it just doesn’t sound right. Right? It’s the same with guitar. A completely dry signal with no reverberation just lacks the warmth and natural sound our ears expect.
What is reverb and what does it do?
Reverb effects produce the natural echo that you’d find in a large room, hall, cathedral or even stadium. What it does is add some short delays to the original sound that emulate the reflected sounds coming back at different intervals from various surfaces in the “room”.
What’s the difference between reverb and delay then?
Well, although both manipulate the time-related aspect of the guitar signal, reverb is produced with a combination of very short delays that are blended together and tail off. These blended sounds are difficult to differentiate between the individual delays. A delay on the other hand takes the signal and repeats it once or many times with the repeats staying the same or trailing off. The important difference is that with a delay you can hear those repeats as they form an echo.
So, what does it sound like?
Check out this video
Reverb Pedal Buying Guide
While most amplifiers have reverb built in, they are quite limited. You just can’t beat a separate effect unit for complete control and variety of sound.
Different Types of Reverb
Many (but not all) pedals will offer different modes giving you a choice of various reverb types.
Room - Strong initial reflections from the wall but they die very fast lasting around 0.1 to 1 second.
Hall - Used to simulate the level of reverberation in a large space such as a concert hall. It will give about 1 to 3 seconds of reflections.
Spring - This is actually emulating a man-made sound. Spring reverbs are an early effect where an audio signal is sent down a long spring (or several) and the resulting sound is then picked up at the other end. This is then mixed in with the original sound. This is what is often found in guitar amps and originally made popular when Fender added it to their amps in the early 1960s. It can emphasise the higher frequencies and add a lot of texture to the sound. Surf music makes heavy use of this effect. Obviously in a pedal there are no springs and this is created entirely by electronics.
Plate - Another man-made mechanically produced sound that is emulated electronically. Back in the 50s and 60s studios would have a large metal plate mounted on spring clips. The audio signal would then vibrate the plate which are picked up with strategically placed microphones. Plate reverb doesn’t add quite as much depth or distance like you find in hall reverb.
Other special modes - Other reverb effects include:
Shimmer - Lots of short delays with pitch shifting tails.
Reverse - Created by reversing the reverb tail so it builds up rather than decays.
Typical controls will include:
Level / Mix - This will sometimes be labelled “dry/wet” and controls the amount of effect against the dry signal.
Decay - Length of time the reverb takes to fade out.
Tone - Allows you to highlight high or low frequencies. The effect can often swallow up higher frequencies so turning them up can bring the reverb out in the mix.
Below is our list of some of the best reverb pedals on the market today
Note: There's a lot more information below but clicking the above links will take you to current prices, further information and customer reviews on Amazon.
Let’s start this round up with a relatively inexpensive pedal from Behringer. The first thing you’ll probably notice when you hold one is that it is make of plastic as are most of Behringer’s compact pedal offerings. It clearly isn’t going to take the abuse that you could give some of the other, metal-cased offerings on this page but treated with some respect and it will last.
Another annoyance is access to the battery compartment. You have to use a pen / screwdriver to push in the hinges of the foot plate which then comes away - taking care not to lose the spring inside!
In use the sounds are really not bad at all with its strong points being the spring and room settings.
This is a surprisingly good pedal for the money. If you feel you must have a reverb in your line-up but don’t want to spend a lot of money then the DR600 if very hard to beat.
TC Electronic Hall of Fame 2
This is an updated version of the original Hall of Fame affectionately known as HOF. Added to those original sounds is the popular shimmer effect and another 2 preset slots have also been added. Another new addition that stands out is the “MASH” footswitch. Now in addition to allowing you to stomp the effect on or off, more gentle foot pressure allows the switch to act as an expression pedal.
This is a fairly compact unit but it certainly feels tough and they’ve packed a lot of sound into it.
This pedal also includes TC Electronic’s TonePrint technology allowing you to save and download presets via a USB cable including some tones used by your favourite artists. What’s more you can control what parameter MASH influences.
Biyang Tri Reverb RV-10
The RV-10 is a small but well made pedal containing 3 reverb modes: Room, Hall and Spring - in stereo if you want it.
One cool feature the the A/B switch which adds some intensity/gain to the effect. Setting A gives brighter more intense reverb with setting B making the sound a little darker.
While it does have a limited number of modes, many players tend to stick with room or hall settings. If this is you then the Biyang Tri-Reverb will do just fine because it is capable of some very satisfactory reverb sounds and it won’t break the bank.
Fender Marine Layer Reverb
While Fender have made effects pedals for years it isn’t something that are particularly known for nor are they a major player in this market. However, this may well be changing with their new range of pedals. They seem to be making a serious push into this market.
The first thing that strikes you when you take the Marine Layer out of the box is the impressive build quality. Plug it in and you get the sound quality to match. Something else that strikes you is the led illuminated knobs - perfect to see your settings on stage (you can turn these off with a switch on the back of the unit). However, the main on light is seriously bright. Something that does seem to bother some people. The battery door is a fantastic design. It’s magnetic and makes changing the battery a breeze.
Three modes are on offer: Room, Hall and Special (a modulated reverb offering a shimmer effect). The variation switch gives you a different version of each mode.
Fender are famous for their amp spring reverbs so it does seem a little odd that they haven’t included a spring setting on the Marine Layer.
TC Electronic HOF Mini
The HOF mini is the baby brother of the Hall of Fame but keeps things simple. So simple in fact that there is only one knob on the front of the unit. Not only that but it is tiny!
Now, with only one knob to control the amount of reverb it is simply a case of, more or less. That’s it. However, there is a twist. Any of the sounds that are available in its Hall of Fame big brother are available to download via USB using TonePrint. Another way of transferring presets is via the TonePrint App. The way this works is really cool because you hold your phone against a pickup on your guitar and it sends an audio signal through the pickup into the HOF. We told you it was cool.
We feel this is the perfect solution for those that want a basic reverb for an amplifier that doesn’t have it included.
Boss RV-6 Digital Reverb
Boss have been producing quality pedals for years and are very popular with pro and amateur musicians alike. The RV-6 is an improvement on their impressive RV-5 pedal. It now has three extra modes: dynamic, shimmer and also a delay and reverb mix.
The shimmer effect, while not to everyone’s taste, is one of the best you can buy. For those that want to connect an expression pedal there’s an input for that too.
The new dynamic mode is really quite interesting. While you are playing lots of notes and the reverb sits back in the mix. When you stop or slow down your playing the reverb really comes into play. A fantastic mode if you don’t want your solos to get drowned out in reverb.
Surf music fans take note - the spring reverb is particularly nice on the RV-6.
So, what is the best reverb pedal for guitar?
If you want value for money then the Behringer DR600 is hard to beat. Sure, it isn’t the nicest and most versatile of the bunch but the sound you get certainly belies its price tag. If you are looking to gig most nights then you probably want to look elsewhere due to the plastic construction.
For simplicity and solid construction then the Biyang Tri-Reverb is a great budget pedal. If you don’t want anything more than room, hall and spring reverbs but need something that can stand up to some heavy road use at a reasonable price then it’ll probably keep you happy.
Our personal favourite is the TC Electronic Hall of Fame 2 which is truly versatile, well built and the presets are very useful.
What is the difference between reverb and delay?
Technically reverb involves delay but it’s made up of many little delays that gradually fade. Think of the sound when you are in a large hall or church. A delay is a distinct repeat of the original signal and is better described as an echo.