Last updated on October 20th, 2017
Reverb falls into the ambient effect category, similar to delay and echo in the way it manipulates your signal. It's likened to the delay effect because it's technically a timing effect which, in the world of signal processing, can be described as "sound after sound." In other words, the original sound is produced and another sound follows.
In most cases, reverb is provided by an amplifier as an onboard effect. Fender, in particular, is known for amplifiers that have an excellent built-in reverb, many of which are the hallmark feature of their parent amp model.
Take the Fender Princeton Reverb, for example:
Fender amps run the show when it comes to onboard reverb. Flickr Commons Image via Huppypie
Some amps will also have tremolo - or even chorus - as an added effect, though they're less common than the reverb add-on.
But, what if your amp doesn't have reverb?
A lot of amps don't, while others simply don't provide much control over the tone or type of reverb they include. In that situation, a pedal is the most ideal solution, which will give you a unique-sounding reverb that's far more customizable than what most amplifiers will afford you.
Typically, a reverb pedal will give you the following controls:
- Time, sometimes called "Dwell" or "Decay"
- Mix (fade between wet and dry signal)
You can also have different types of reverb flavors, often called modes. The most typical are the following:
The difference between them is usually subtle, but each one still has a distinctive sound that you can't take advantage of when you would otherwise have one reverb option isolated in your amplifier. For those who use a lot of reverb, adding the effect in pedal form is a wise move, perhaps even if your amp does offer an onboard reverb source.
Getting that extra measure of control over your effect is helpful, so we'll look at the best reverb pedals for accomplishing that.
But first, let's talk about how and in what context we've constructed this list.
How are we determining which reverb pedals make the cut? Isn't that kind of subjective?
The discontinued Boss RV-3, which combined reverb and delay. Flickr Commons image via Lehungp
A lot of websites that we would not recommend to you, write lists like this one all the time. And yes, they are extremely subjective. Not only that, but they're largely unhelpful in terms of providing actual information about (or experience with) the guitar pedals in question.
With that in mind, we need to point out something about this piece of content, and others like it that we have written: These recommendations are based on the knowledge and opinion of real musicians. We are not marketers or internet gurus trying to make a buck off Amazon. Now, we do use affiliate programs to support this site and those who run it, but we are not simply throwing pedals up without knowing why we're suggesting them. The point is to provide a proper context for your purchase, which we believe is the best way to make a sale, anyway.
These recommendations are based on the knowledge and opinions of real musicians who have used this gear.
And while the opinion of any human being on a topic like this is always going to be somewhat subjective, we can give you concrete reasons why we recommend these reverb pedals over others.
Primarily, our recommendations are based on the following factors:
- Actual use and experience with the reverb pedals highlighted
- Secondhand knowledge from other musicians we know who have used or owned these reverb pedals
- A proper value assessment (more on this below)
Contributors to this Article
Guitar World contributor, educator, writer and guitarist since 1996.
Worship leader, PCA deacon and guitarist.
Session musician, guitar, keyboard & bass
Additional recommendations and contributions from:
What is a proper value assessment?
We determine value by first knowing the features of effects and guitar pedals that matter the most. For example, when it comes to delay pedals, we know that (in many cases) having a tap tempo included in your delay pedal is better than not having one.
How do we know this? Because we've used a lot of delay pedals, some of which did and did not have a tap tempo.
This means that we can make a proper value assessment based on actual features without just saying, "this delay pedal will sound great" or something like:
"Among the most prolific pedals made popular by its solid performance."
Use this Google result if you want to see what site we're referring to.
That kind of endorsement is, quite frankly, dumb and completely unhelpful.
Keeping it concrete. The RV-3 on a small pedalboard. (View Larger Image)
Additionally, as we identify and confirm more features that add quality, we can then look for pedals that give you those features at the lowest possible price points.
Thus, we define the best reverb pedals by identifying those that provide the most value, based on the following:
If you boil it down, our template is quite simple.
Just look for the features that matter and see which brands and pedals deliver those features at the lowest price.
- As quality goes up, value increases
- As price going down, value increases
- As quality goes down, value decreases
- As price goes up, value decreases
What this list is and What it is Not
We should point out that this list is not a ranking or a full review of each reverb pedal. Per our publishing policy, we do not publish physical product reviews, in favor of making contextual recommendations.
The term "review" is a bit deceptive, since most people who review guitar gear don't have anything bad to say about it. That's not a review as much as it is an endorsement. In most cases, we simply avoid talking about products that we can't or wouldn't recommend to Guitar Chalk readers.
Thus, it's misleading and disingenuous to call this a review.
As a consequence, we want to be clear that this list is not a review, nor are the numbers used an indication of ranking the products in any particular order. Instead, these are contextual recommendations, based on our experience that may or may not apply to your own situation.
Our Two Favorite Reverb Pedals from this List
In our opinion, the two best reverb pedals out of what we suggested would be the following:
Best Reverb Pedals & Recommendations Based on Value
We'll look at five different reverb pedals that we've used or have been recommended to us by people in the industry that we trust (see the contributors section above).
Before we get to the actual pedals, let's do a quick review of what a reverb pedal (effect) actually does. Remember, reverb is an effect that produces sound after sound, which means that one of the most important elements of the reverb effect is how it decays over time.
The graph would look something like this:
Reverb diagram showing trail decaying over time after initial echo of actual signal. (View Larger Image)
In most amp-based reverbs, there's no option to change the length of this decaying trail, which is akin to having a delay without a way to change the number of repeats. It doesn't mean the amp reverbs aren't good, it just means they aren't nearly as flexible as the pedal versions.
As we filter through products to find the best reverb pedal for your particular situation, we're taking the following features into heavy consideration:
- Modes: Does the reverb pedal provide multiple, selectable modes?
- Decay or time control: Does the reverb pedal allow you to control the length of time your reverberation will decay for?
Now, obviously we'll look at a lot of other features, since these two seem somewhat basic. But, these are a baseline of what you should be looking for, meaning you want your reverb pedal to allow for both tonal variety and control.
With parameters set, let's start with our favorite of the bunch: The TC Electronic Hall of Fame reverb pedal.
TC Electronic Hall of Fame Reverb
TC Electronic's Hall of Fame reverb pedal is stacked with features and is easily our top recommendation from this list. The first perk is a mode selector that gives you a total of ten different reverb types, in addition to the TonePrint option. TonePrint is TC Electronic's signature feature that allows you to program tones into your pedal designed by artists and popular musicians.
Even without TonePrint compatibility, the Hall of Fame would already be playing with house money.
Stereo inputs and outputs, a decay control and true bypass are other noteworthy features that improve the value of this stompbox.
Perhaps our favorite feature is a far more subtle aspect of this pedal's interior, which is a circuit design that runs your dry signal through an analog path, before reuniting it with the wet reverb signal, which is produced by a digital processor. This means your guitar's signal coming into the pedal is unimpaired by the digital components, giving you a far more pure and organic-sounding output.
The path looks something like this:
The dry and wet signal are separated in the HOF, sending your dry signal through an analog circuit. (View Larger Image)
The "FX Level" knob is what controls the mix between these two circuits, allowing you to dial in as much of either as you want to hear. Keep it directly in the middle for a good balance of both paths.
- FX Level (wet/dry mix)
- Mode selector (10 different reverb modes)
- Pre Delay switch (short or long)
Price and Value
The HOF is one of the single best examples of a convergence of price and quality features that we've ever been able to find. While we can't mention pricing in this article, we'd recommend clicking through and checking the retail price on the HOF, then comparing it to the other reverb pedals in this list. As far as value, the HOF is nearly a perfect 10.
Boss RV-6 Digital Reverb Pedal
There have been a series of the Boss RV pedals, some of which have included delay as part of the package. The RV-6 doesn't brand as a reverb/delay pedal, but it does have a "+Delay" mode that incorporates it into the reverb's decay trail. While it doesn't quite meet the same decorated feature list as the HOF (no true bypass, no analog signal, less modes) the RV-6 does add an expression pedal option, which gives you some added flexibility that might be more helpful in performance situations.
Seven reverb modes are available, including "Shimmer" and "Modulation" which gives you some nice variety that doesn't typically show up in other reverb pedals.
Peter (one of our contributors pictured about) gets a great sound out of this with his Taylor 114ce acoustic guitar, going straight into a preamp and then a PA system.
An acoustic guitar pedalboard is one context where we can vouch for this one working particularly well.
- Mode selector
- E.Level (mix)
Price and Value
It's more expensive than the HOF and less impressive on the spec sheet. However, the RV-6 has some distinct appeal with the expression pedal option and the added delay and modulation options. The value for acoustic guitar rigs and live setups is certainly there.
Ethereal Wampler Reverb Pedal
The Ethereal is our first reverb pedal in this list that puts more emphasis on delay than it does on reverb itself. A lot of reverb pedals will use delay as a kind of groundwork to expand the variety of a single reverb mode, instead of just adding multiple modes or reverb flavors.
In our book, that counts as having a lot of modes.
This means that, with the Wampler Ethereal, you can have one reverb tone that's customizable by several layers of delay. Remember, delay and reverb are both timing effects that have an "after the sound" component. Thus, the two tend to get along together quite nicely and can combine for a lot of interesting effect flavors.
In the Ethereal reverb, you can layer two delay effects, where both have four different delay types to choose from, via the black button labeled "Delay Modes." These modes allow you to assign different subdivisions to each delay layer which, when stacked on top of the reverb effect, give you some really unique decay sounds that trail off from the initial signal.
The reverb is a plate-style tone, which has its own mix knob. Your delay layers have a mix knob as well, meaning the pedal can function as a standalone delay or reverb stompbox.
All these features result in a wonderful array of tones that are subtle but really flavorful, ideal for dressing up clean fills, progressions or simple melodies.
Wampler ups the value a little more by adding true and buffered bypass.
- Delay Mix
- Reverb Mix
- Delay mode selector (four different subdivisions)
Price and Value
Wampler would be considered a boutique pedal manufacturer, which means they'll tend to be a little more expensive, but also more likely to give their products more creative attention and include features like true bypass, which you don't get with Boss pedals. It's also a unique blend of delay layers and reverb tones, which can really draw you in and make you want to deviate from the cheaper options.
Walrus Audio Descent Reverb Pedal
To the best of our knowledge, Walrus Audio is the only pedal builder to combine the reverb and octave effect. If there are others, let us know in the comments section.
Either way, the results in the Descent Reverb are nothing short of phenomenal. If you watch the demo video below, you'll hear some of the most unique sounds capable of being produced by a guitar pedal. Pigtronix did something similar with delay and pitch shifting in the Echolution 2 Ultra Pro, but we think the combination is even better in the Descent.
While the control scheme is somewhat complex, the basics are a plus or minus one octave option, which drops the decay of the reverb up or down 12 semitones.
In other words, the sound after the original sound is manipulated.
This gives you an ethereal, almost organ, tone that's hard to put into words.
You've got three types of reverb to choose from:
Additionally you have a wet and dry mix, allowing you to zero in on the reverb decay without hearing the original notes at all.
Stereo outputs (supports stereo inputs as well - see above diagram), an expression pedal option and the ability to store presets makes the Walrus Audio Descent one of the best reverb pedals available, even with the boutique price tag. It's hard for us not to recommend it, regardless of cost.
- Dry Mix
- Reverb Time
- Wet Mix
- Dry Signal
- Reverb Mode Selector (hall, reverse and shimmer)
- Octave Minus One (-1)
- Octave Plus One (+1)
Price and Value
Like Wampler, Walrus Audio charges a premium for their pedals, since they're a boutique company with a smaller staff.
As you can see, it's just a handful of fellers based in Oklahoma City:
But again, that's the price of getting a product with more individual attention from a smaller company. It's just a better reverb pedal that has had more hands-on attention and creative passion poured into it.
Thus, our conclusion - despite the higher retail - is that the Descent is one of the best reverb pedals in existence, and certainly worth the investment.
EarthQuaker Devices Avalanche Run Stereo Reverb Pedal
Like the Wampler Ethereal, the Avalanche Run - by EarthQuaker devices - puts a lot of emphases on the delay aspect of the pedal, adding subdivision options and two separate mix knobs (one for delay and one for reverb).
The result is a similarly diverse and subtle reverb effect that we like for lead guitar players who want to add some layering over fills and melody lines.
One of the most notable features of this pedal is the tap tempo for the delay, which is one of the only reverb pedals that supports this functionality.
In fact, that's the primary reason we've included it in this list.
Particularly if you're really interested in the delay side of your reverb pedal, the tap tempo should be a major feature consideration for you. Assuming that's the case, we'll take the Avalanche Run without a lot of hesitation.
EarthQuaker Devices throws in true or buffered bypass to sweeten the deal.
You can checkout a ton of sound samples here, or watch the video in the "TONE" section below.
- Delay Mix
- Reverb Mix
- Tap Tempo
- Reverb mode selector (reverse, normal and swell)
Price and Value
The single biggest issue when deciding if this pedal will work for you is figuring out how you feel about the tap tempo and the delay. If that matters to you, this one quickly jumps to the top of the line. Once again, boutique pricing tiers are to be taken under consideration.
EarthQuaker Afterneath Reverb Pedal
The Afterneath gets a place on our favorites list, largely because of the "Drag" feature that allows you to sort of delay the decay of your reverb effect, giving off an ambiance that trails off behind each original note as it bleeds into new notes. It's a very unique reverb effect, which blends particularly nicely with a fretless bass in the example video below.
You've got to be really into that sound, since it's not a traditional reverb pedal. If you're looking for unique tones that break the mold of traditional effects, it's an easy call that's certainly going to provoke some creative variety.
At the same time, you can get some really nice, conventional-sounding reverb tones out of the Afterneath, which is built one-at-a-time in Akron Ohio, with true bypass.
We'd recommend listening to a few sound samples, starting with the demo video, before pulling the trigger.
Price and Value
We'd recommend checking out some of the tones and the P Bass demo video, since the sounds you get out of this pedal are so unique. Again, if you're the type of player that likes experimenting with unique effects, the Afterneath will have a lot of appeal.
Reverb Pedals with Shimmer
This section is a listing of all the reverb pedals with shimmer modes that we could find. Keep in mind, these are not necessarily recommendations, just options you might want to consider if you're looking for a shimmer-style reverb.
If you know of other reverb pedals with shimmer modes, drop them in the comments section below and we'll add them to the list.
Reverb Pedals with Reverse
This section is a listing of all the reverb pedals with reverse modes that we could find. Keep in mind, these are not necessarily recommendations, just options you might want to consider if you're looking for a reverse-style reverb.
If you know of other reverb pedals with reverse modes, drop them in the comments section below and we'll add them to the list.
Where should a reverb pedal go in my signal chain?
Almost all the conventional wisdom on this topic has reverb pedals being placed at the very end of your signal chain, right before your amplifier. Since reverb is an ambient effect, meaning it produces sound after the initial signal, it can be grouped with delay and echo pedals at the end of your signal chain.
Strymon has an article that explains this in detail and provides some extremely helpful graphics for scenarios with and without an effects loop.
Almost all the conventional wisdom on this topic has reverb pedals being placed at the very end of your signal chain, right before your amplifier.
In a non-effects loop, it might look something like this, where the blue pedal is the reverb stompbox.
Reverb Pedal in Signal Chain Without an Effects Loop
If you have an effects loop, all your ambient pedals - including reverb - would get dropped in there, using the send/return option to take them out of your main signal chain.
Here's the diagram from Strymon depicting that setup:
Reverb Pedal in Signal Chain With an Effects Loop
Reverb Pedal vs Amp Reverb
Even when reverb is included as an onboard effect in an amplifier, like you see with many Fender amps, there are a number of benefits to having reverb in the pedal form as well.
Primarily, reverb pedals tend to give you a lot more variety and control over the effect than you'll have with an amplifier. In fact, most amps that have reverb will have a single reverb knob that you turn up for more of the effect, or down for less. This can work if you use reverb sparingly, but if you're into the effect and like to use it a lot, that's not enough control to really get the most out of your reverberated tone.
For those who want or plan to use reverb regularly, we'd recommend going with the pedal variety, even if it's just to supplement an onboard amp reverb.
Reverb Pedal FAQ
Q: Are there reverb pedals with a MIDI connection?
A: Yep. We've rounded up all the reverb pedals with MIDI ports that we could find.
Q: What is the typical reverb pedal battery life?
A: The smaller ones, like the HOF and RV-6 will last several days with heavy use. Larger ones will use up juice about twice as fast. We recommend a non-daisy chain power supply to avoid batteries altogether.
Q: Is it possible to build a homemade reverb pedal?
A: To be honest, it's more expensive and more trouble than it's worth. Our answer would be no.
Q: Can you use a reverb pedal with vocals?
A: While rack reverb processors are more typical for vocalists, the reverb pedals will work all the same.
Q: Can you use a reverb pedal on a bass guitar?
A: While it's not as popular with bass as modulation effects, reverb pedals will work with bass fairly well in most situations.
Q: Do you recommend a reverb pedal going before or after a delay pedal?
A: We recommend having a reverb pedal after your delay pedal, and that it always be the last one in your signal chain.
Q: Are there reverb pedals that come with presets?
A: The Eventide Reverb and Beyond Space pedal is one of the only ones we're aware of.
Q: How important is true bypass in a reverb pedal?
A: True bypass is always better, but never a deal breaker.
Concluding and Additional Questions
Have questions about these reverb pedals that we didn't address? Feel free to drop them in the comments section below. Usually Bobby will answer there, which is preferred over email so that others who read the article in the future will have access to that information as well.
We also love hearing pedal suggestions and recommendations for these types of posts.
Just keep in mind our value assessment and method for including products. It shouldn't just be something you like personally, but should have some objective support as to why it belongs on a best reverb pedals list, like this one.
Again, if you know of other reverb pedals that you think deserve a mention, let us know about it in the comments section below.
- The Physics of Reverberation
- Explanation of Spring Reverb Tanks
- EarthQuaker Devices Avalanche Run Sound Samples
- EarthQuaker Devices Afterneath Sound Samples
- Reverb Pedals with MIDI Ports
- Strymon Effects Pedal Order Article
- Pedalboard Power Supply Rating and Recommendation Guide
- The Pedalboard Planner Written Guide
- The Interactive Pedalboard Planner Web App
- The Minimalist Pedalboard Build
- Best Pedalboard and Power Supply Roundup
- Best Pedaltrain, Boss and Gator Pedalboards
Flickr Commons Image courtesy of Anna Spies