guide to reverb pedals

Everything You Need to Know About Reverb Pedals

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The world of reverb pedals can be a rabbit hole full of endless pedal choices, a number of different reverb types, and people arguing over which reverb pedal is the best. But the truth is, reverb is an incredible effect that is useful in every genre of music and a reverb pedal can be a great addition to anyone’s pedalboard.


But if you aren’t sure if a reverb pedal is right for you, this guide will walk you through what reverb pedals are and how you can use them in your rig.


What Do Reverb Pedals Do?

Reverb pedals recreate the natural reverberations and ambiance that you would hear when playing guitar in a large, open space like a concert hall or inside of a cathedral.

Have you ever clapped your hands in a large, empty room and noticed the sound echoing back into your ears? That’s reverberation – or as we call it in the pedal world, reverb.

Reverb occurs when a sound wave hits a surface and reflects back to the listener’s ears at varying times until the sound waves eventually die out. And the time it takes for the reverberation to die off can be changed depending on how big the space is, and what is inside the space that the soundwaves can (or can’t) bounce off of. That is why large, empty spaces tend to give longer reverberations, compared to smaller spaces or rooms with a lot of objects in them.

In the guitar world, we try to replicate reverberation using pedals.


Adding reverb to your guitar’s sound can help it sound less “dry”, and adding even the smallest amount of reverb can make your playing sound more natural and fluid. Many of today’s amps come with an on-board reverb, but sometimes that just isn’t enough.


Is It Worth It To Get a Reverb Pedal?

If your guitar amp does not have its own built-in reverb, or if you don’t like the way your amp’s reverb sounds, then you should definitely consider getting a reverb pedal. A reverb pedal will often have much more control of its sound compared to an amp’s reverb and will allow you to fine-tune your reverb sounds to your liking.


Are All Reverb Pedals The Same?

No. There are all kinds of different types of reverb pedals. Spring reverb, room reverb, hall reverb, plate reverb, and shimmer reverb are all examples of different reverb types (each wildly different from one another).


Some reverb pedals are very focused on one single reverb type. For example, the FLUORESCENCE Shimmer Reverb from TC Electronic focuses on creating shimmer reverb for more ambient and ethereal musical needs. However, other pedals, like the Context 2 from Red Panda, offer multiple reverb modes in one single pedal.


Check out my demo of the Context 2 below. It features a large number of different reverb types and this video walks through all of them.

Which Reverb Pedal is Best?

It isn’t fair to crown one reverb pedal as the ‘best’ because the choice ultimately comes down to personal preference and your individual reverb pedal needs. But I have compiled a list of the best reverb pedals which offers some great picks for all kinds of reverb types, budgets, and more. 


A personal favorite reverb pedal of mine is the Hall of Fame 2 from TC Electronic. It is a fantastic reverb pedal with a ton of different reverb types and sounds, and it’s quite affordable – making it a solid option for beginners and pros alike.


Where Should Reverb Go Your Pedal Chain?

In a traditional pedalboard signal chain, a reverb pedal will typically be placed at the very end of your pedal chain on your pedalboard. And if your guitar amplifier has an effects loop, try placing your reverb pedal in the effects loop to help retain the clarity of your tone.


However, it is important to experiment with your signal chain to discover what works best for you. Many guitarists place their reverb pedal at the very end of their signal chain, but some don’t. For example, many shoegaze guitarists will place a reverb pedal at the very beginning of their chain (even before distortion and fuzz pedals) in order to get a massive, wall-of-sound type guitar tone. 


Are There Any Analog Reverb Pedals?

A large majority of reverb pedals will be digital. Since a reverb effect is essentially recreating the sound of a space, it can be quite hard to make an analog reverb in a guitar-pedal-sized environment. 


That said, there are a few reverb pedals that use analog technology like springs and spring tanks to create reverb. For example, the Element Spring Reverb from Anasounds uses an external spring tank to create reverb sounds, or the LIGHT Pedal from Gamechanger Audio uses a spring and optical light sensors to create fantastic experimental reverb sounds.


What is the Difference Between Delay and Reverb?

Technically speaking, reverb is a delay effect. But the sounds reverb pedals and delay pedals produce are different. Reverb adds sustain and ambiance to your notes. While delay repeats the notes you are playing with a specific time interval between each repeat.


Do You Need Both a Delay and a Reverb Pedal?

On their own, reverb pedals and delay pedals both sound fantastic, but they can really shine when they are used together. Running a delay pedal into a reverb pedal is a great way to create ambient soundscapes or you can use both effects in conjunction to add a bit more variety to your solos. Overall, it’s a great idea to have both a delay pedal and a reverb pedal on your pedalboard.


Common Reverb Pedal Terms and What They Mean


Knobs labeled decay, type, or mix are very common across most reverb pedals. Here’s a run-through of some common knobs and features on reverb pedals and what they mean. 


What is Reverb Type? 

When shopping for a reverb pedal, you’ll see different reverb types like:

  • Hall

  • Room

  • Plate

  • Spring

  • Shimmer

  • Cathedral


But what does that mean?


Reverb Type is quite self-explanatory – it is just the style of reverb that the pedal is creating. Some common reverb types you will see are Hall and Room, these are made to emulate the sound of playing in a large concert hall or an empty room and are quite natural sounding. Spring and Plate style reverbs are made to emulate the reverb sounds from old reverb techniques where people would use metal plates and springs to create reverb. Shimmer reverb is also a popular type of reverb that uses an octave-up effect on the reverb tail to create ethereal and ambient sounds.


What is Mix on a Reverb Pedal?

The Mix control (sometimes referred to as wet/dry) controls how present the reverb sound is within your audio signal. For example, by setting the Mix knob to 50%, you’d hear the reverb’s output and your guitar’s output equally. But if you set the Mix to 100% you would only hear the reverb sound.

What is A Reverb Tail?

A reverb tail is the decay of the reverb sound when you stop playing.


What is Decay on a Reverb Pedal?

The decay knob controls how long it takes for the reverb tail to become inaudible. Short decay times are great for emulating a small room’s reverb, whereas longer decay times work well for creating ambient sounds and drones.


What is Tone on a Reverb Pedal?

The Tone control on a reverb pedal adjusts the EQ of the reverb sound. This is a great control for dialing in your sound and ensuring that your reverb sound does not get lost in the mix or overpower your tone.


What are Reverb Trails?

Many reverb pedals have a “trails” feature. Turning Trails on allows the reverb sound to decay naturally when you turn the pedal off. This is very useful when you are transitioning between a part of a song that uses reverb into one that does not, because your reverb effect won’t abruptly cut off when you bypass the pedal.


The History of Reverb Pedals


The earliest forms of reverb effects were created in the 1950s and ‘60s, when audio engineers mounted large plates to springs and captured the plate’s vibration using a complex set of contact microphones. They were then able to use this technique to create a rather convincing reverb, which we now call “Plate Reverb”.


Shortly after this, we saw the rise of “Spring Reverb”, which is a reverb type that is found in many vintage guitar amps from the 60s and is still being used and emulated in amps and pedals today. Spring reverb works by sending an audio signal down a length of a coiled spring, causing the spring to vibrate. Then that vibration can be captured by a pickup on the other end and translated into a reverb effect.


Today, there are still a countless number of analog-inspired reverb pedals out there that emulate the classic plate and spring reverbs of the past. But reverb effects are wildly more complex today. With technology and digital processing power at an all-time high, many of today’s reverb pedals have a near-endless amount of sounds and options at their disposal – opening up a whole new world for any lover of reverb pedals.


Need more pedal help? Check out Pedal Haven’s shopping guides to see our top pedal picks.