Reverb effects: What They Are And How To Use Them

by Joost Nusselder | Updated on:  May 3, 2022

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Reverberation, in psychoacoustics and acoustics, is the persistence of sound after a sound is produced. A reverberation, or reverb, is created when a sound or signal is reflected causing a large number of reflections to build up and then decay as the sound is absorbed by the surfaces of objects in the space – which could include furniture and people, and air. This is most noticeable when the sound source stops but the reflections continue, decreasing in amplitude, until they reach zero amplitude. Reverberation is frequency dependent. The length of the decay, or reverberation time, receives special consideration in the architectural design of spaces which need to have specific reverberation times to achieve optimum performance for their intended activity. In comparison to a distinct echo that is a minimum of 50 to 100 ms after the initial sound, reverberation is the occurrence of reflections that arrive in less than approximately 50ms. As time passes, the amplitude of the reflections is reduced until it is reduced to zero. Reverberation is not limited to indoor spaces as it exists in forests and other outdoor environments where reflection exists.

Reverb is a special effect that makes your voice or instrument sound like it’s in a large room. It’s used by musicians to make the sound more natural and it can also be used by guitarists to add a “wet” sound to their guitar solos. 

So, let’s look at what it is and how it works. It’s a very useful effect to have in your toolkit.

What is a reverb effect

What is Reverb?

Reverb, short for reverberation, is the persistence of sound in a space after the original sound is produced. It is the sound that is heard after the initial sound is emitted and bounces off surfaces in the environment. Reverb is an essential part of any acoustic space, and it is what makes a room sound like a room.

How Reverb Works

Reverb occurs when sound waves are emitted and bounce off surfaces in a space, constantly surrounding us. The sound waves bounce off walls, floors, and ceilings, and the varying times and angles of reflection create a complex and audible sound. Reverb typically occurs quickly, with the initial sound and the reverberation blending together to create a natural and harmonious sound.

Types of Reverb

There are two general types of reverbs: natural and artificial. Natural reverb occurs in physical spaces, such as concert halls, churches, or intimate performance spaces. Artificial reverb is electronically applied to simulate the sound of a physical space.

Why Musicians Need to Know About Reverb

Reverb is a powerful tool for musicians, producers, and engineers. It adds atmosphere and glue to a mix, holding everything together. It allows instruments and vocals to shine and adds extra warmth and texture to a recording. Understanding how reverb works and how to apply it can be the difference between a good recording and a great recording.

Common Mistakes and Pitfalls

Here are some common mistakes and pitfalls to avoid when using reverb:

  • Using too much reverb, making the mix sound “wet” and muddy
  • Not paying attention to the reverb controls, resulting in an unnatural or unpleasant sound
  • Using the wrong type of reverb for the instrument or vocal, resulting in a disjointed mix
  • Failing to remove excessive reverberation in post-editing, resulting in a messy and unclear mix

Tips for Using Reverb

Here are some tips for using reverb effectively:

  • Listen to the natural reverb in the space you are recording in and try to replicate it in post-production
  • Use reverb to transport the listener to a specific environment or mood
  • Experiment with different types of reverbs, such as plate, hall, or spring, to find the perfect sound for your mix
  • Use reverb exclusively on a synth or line to create a smoother and flowing sound
  • Try classic reverb aesthetics, such as the Lexicon 480L or the EMT 140, to add a vintage feel to your mix

Early Reverb Effects

Early reverb effects occur when sound waves reflect off surfaces in a space and gradually decay over milliseconds. The sound produced by this reflection is known as reverberated sound. The earliest reverb effects were relatively simple and worked by mounting large metal clips to a resonant surface, such as a spring or plate, which would vibrate when in contact with the sound waves. Microphones strategically placed near these clips would pick up the vibrations, resulting in a complex mosaic of vibrations that create a convincing simulation of acoustic space.

How Early Reverb Effects Work

The earliest reverb effects used a standard feature found in guitar amps: a transducer, which is a coiled pickup that creates a vibration when a signal is sent through it. The vibration is then sent through a spring or metal plate, which causes the sound waves to bounce around and create a diffusion of sound. The length of the spring or plate determines the length of the reverb effect.

Reverb Parameters

The size of the space being simulated by the reverb effect is one of the most important parameters to consider. A larger space will have a longer reverb time, while a smaller space will have a shorter reverb time. The damping parameter controls how quickly the reverb decays, or fades away. A higher damping value will result in a quicker decay, while a lower damping value will result in a longer decay.

Frequency and EQ

Reverb can affect different frequencies differently, so it’s important to consider the frequency response of the reverb effect. Some reverb processors have the ability to adjust the frequency response, or EQ, of the reverb effect. This can be useful for shaping the sound of the reverb to fit the mix.

Mix and Volume

The mix parameter controls the balance between the dry, unaffected audio and the wet, reverberant audio. A higher mix value will result in more reverb being heard, while a lower mix value will result in less reverb being heard. The volume of the reverb effect can also be adjusted independently of the mix parameter.

Decay Time and Pre-Delay

The decay time parameter controls how quickly the reverb starts to fade away after the audio signal stops triggering it. A longer decay time will result in a longer reverb tail, while a shorter decay time will result in a shorter reverb tail. The pre-delay parameter controls how long it takes for the reverb effect to start after the audio signal triggers it.

Stereo and Mono

Reverb can be applied in either stereo or mono. Stereo reverb can create a sense of space and depth, while mono reverb can be useful for creating a more focused sound. Some reverb units also have the ability to adjust the stereo image of the reverb effect.

Room Type and Reflections

Different types of rooms will have different reverb characteristics. For example, a room with hard walls will tend to have a brighter, more reflective reverb, while a room with softer walls will tend to have a warmer, more diffuse reverb. The number and type of reflections in the room will also affect the reverb sound.

Simulated vs. Realistic

Some reverb processors are designed to accurately replicate classic reverb sounds, while others offer more variable and creative reverb options. It’s important to consider the desired effect when choosing a reverb unit. Simulated reverb can be great for adding a subtle sense of space to a mix, while more creative reverb effects can be used for more dramatic and noticeable effects.

Overall, the various parameters of a reverb effect offer a wide range of options for shaping the sound of a mix. By understanding the relationships between these parameters and experimenting with different settings, it’s possible to achieve a wide variety of reverb effects, from clean and subtle to strong and quick.

What Role Does Reverb Play in Music Production?

Reverb is an effect that occurs when sound waves bounce off surfaces in a space and reverberated sound reaches the listener’s ear gradually, creating a sense of space and depth. In music production, reverb is used to simulate the acoustical and mechanical methods that produce natural reverb in physical spaces.

Reverb Methods in Music Productions

There are plenty of methods to add reverb to a track in music productions, including:

  • Sending a track to a reverb bus or using a reverb plugin on an insert
  • Using software reverbs that offer more flexibility than hardware units
  • Using hybrid methods, such as iZotope’s Nectar, which uses both algorithmic and convolution processing
  • Using stereo or mono reverbs, plate, or hall reverbs, and other types of reverb sounds

Reverb in Music Production: Uses and Affects

Reverb is used in music productions to add depth, movement, and a sense of space to a track. It can be applied to individual tracks or the entire mix. Some of the things that reverb affects in music productions include:

  • The analysis of spaces, such as the Sydney Opera House, and the ease of adding those spaces to a track using plugins like Altiverb or HOFA
  • The difference between raw, unprocessed tracks and tracks that suddenly have a splash of reverb added to them
  • The true sound of a drum kit, which is often lost without the use of reverb
  • The way a track is supposed to sound, as reverb is usually added to tracks to make them sound more realistic and less flat
  • The way a track is mixed, as reverb can be used to create movement and space in a mix
  • The stopping point of a track, as reverb can be used to create a natural-sounding decay that prevents a track from sounding abrupt or cut off

In music productions, venerable brands like Lexicon and Sonnox Oxford are known for their high-quality reverb plugins that use IR sampling and processing. However, these plugins can be heavy on CPU load, especially when simulating large spaces. As a result, many producers use a combination of hardware and software reverbs to achieve the desired effect.

Varieties of Reverb Effects

Artificial reverb is created using electronic devices and software. It is the most commonly used type of reverb in music productions. The following are the types of artificial reverb:

  • Plate Reverb: A plate reverb is created by using a large sheet of metal or plastic that is suspended inside a frame. The plate is set into motion by a driver, and the vibrations are picked up by contact microphones. The output signal is then sent to a mixing console or audio interface.
  • Spring Reverb: A spring reverb is created by using a transducer to vibrate a set of springs mounted inside a metal box. The vibrations are picked up by a pickup at one end of the springs and sent to a mixing console or audio interface.
  • Digital Reverb: Digital reverb is created using software algorithms that simulate the sound of various types of reverb. The Strymon BigSky and other units simulate multiple delay lines fading and giving the impression of bouncing off walls and surfaces.

Natural Reverb

Natural reverb is created by the physical environment in which the sound is recorded or played. The following are the types of natural reverb:

  • Room Reverb: Room reverb is created by the sound reflecting off the walls, floor, and ceiling of a room. The size and shape of the room affect the sound of the reverb.
  • Hall Reverb: Hall reverb is similar to room reverb but is created in a larger space, such as a concert hall or church.
  • Bathroom Reverb: Bathroom reverb is created by the sound reflecting off the hard surfaces in a bathroom. It is often used in lo-fi recordings to add a unique character to the sound.

Electromechanical Reverb

Electromechanical reverb is created using a combination of mechanical and electronic components. The following are the types of electromechanical reverb:

  • Plate Reverb: The original plate reverb was created by Elektromesstechnik (EMT), a German company. The EMT 140 is still considered one of the best plate reverbs ever built.
  • Spring Reverb: The first spring reverb was built by Laurens Hammond, the inventor of the Hammond organ. His company, Hammond Organ Company, was granted a patent for the mechanical reverb in 1939.
  • Tape Reverb: Tape reverb was pioneered by English engineer Hugh Padgham, who used it on Phil Collins’ hit song “In the Air Tonight.” Tape reverb is created by recording a sound onto a tape machine and then playing it back through a loudspeaker in a reverberant room.

Creative Reverb

Creative reverb is used to add artistic effects to a song. The following are the types of creative reverb:

  • Dub Reverb: Dub reverb is a type of reverb used in reggae music. It is created by adding a delay to the original signal and then feeding it back into the reverb unit.
  • Surf Reverb: Surf reverb is a type of reverb used in surf music. It is created by using short, bright reverb with a lot of high-frequency content.
  • Reverse Reverb: Reverse reverb is created by reversing the audio signal and then adding reverb. When the signal is reversed again, the reverb comes before the original sound.
  • Gated Reverb: Gated reverb is created by using a noise gate to cut off the reverb tail. This creates a short, punchy reverb that is often used in pop music.
  • Chamber Reverb: Chamber reverb is created by recording a sound in a physical space and then recreating that space in a studio using speakers and microphones.
  • Dre Reverb: Dre reverb is a type of reverb used by Dr. Dre on his recordings. It is created by using a combination of plate and room reverb with a lot of low-frequency content.
  • Sony Film Reverb: Sony Film reverb is a type of reverb used in film sets. It is created by using a large, reflective surface to create a natural reverb.

Using Reverb: Techniques and Effects

Reverb is a powerful tool that can add depth, dimension, and interest to your music productions. However, it’s important to use it appropriately to avoid muddying up your mix. Here are some considerations when introducing reverb:

  • Start with the appropriate reverb size for the sound you’re treating. A small room size is great for vocals, while a larger size is better for drums or guitars.
  • Consider the balance of your mix. Keep in mind that adding reverb can make certain elements sit further back in the mix.
  • Use reverb intentionally to create a specific vibe or effect. Don’t just slap it on everything.
  • Choose the right type of reverb for the sound you’re treating. A plate reverb is great for adding a solid, free-floating sound, while a spring reverb can provide a more realistic, vintage feel.

Specific Effects of Reverb

Reverb can be used in a variety of ways to achieve specific effects:

  • Ethereal: A long, sustained reverb with a high decay time can create an ethereal, dreamy sound.
  • Quick: A short, snappy reverb can add a sense of space and dimension to a sound without making it sound washy.
  • Fog: A heavily reverberated sound can create a foggy, mysterious atmosphere.
  • Iconic: Certain reverb sounds, like the spring reverb found in nearly every guitar amp, have become iconic in their own right.

Getting Creative with Reverb

Reverb can be a great tool for getting creative with your sound:

  • Use a reverse reverb to create a dive-bomb effect on a guitar.
  • Put a reverb on a delay to create a unique, evolving sound.
  • Use a reverb pedal to treat sounds on the fly during a live performance.

Remember, choosing the right reverb and applying it appropriately are the main reasons for applying reverberation to a sound. With these techniques and effects, you can make your mix more interesting and dynamic.

What distinguishes ‘echo’ from ‘reverb’?

Echo and reverb are two sound effects that are often confused with each other. They are similar in that they both involve the reflection of sound waves, but they differ in the way they produce those reflections. Knowing the difference between the two can help you use them more effectively in your audio productions.

What is an echo?

An echo is a single, distinct repetition of a sound. It is the result of sound waves bouncing off a hard surface and returning to the listener after a short delay. The time between the original sound and the echo is known as the echo time or delay time. The delay time can be adjusted depending on the desired effect.

What is reverb?

Reverb, short for reverberation, is a continuous series of multiple echoes that blend together to create a longer, more complex sound. Reverb is the result of sound waves bouncing off multiple surfaces and objects in a space, creating a complex web of individual reflections that blend together to produce a rich, full sound.

The difference between echo and reverb

The main difference between echo and reverb lies in the length of time between the original sound and the repeated sound. Echoes are relatively short and distinct, while reverb is longer and more continuous. Here are some other differences to keep in mind:

  • Echoes are the result of a single reflection, while reverb is the result of multiple reflections.
  • Echoes are usually louder than reverb, depending on the loudness of the original sound.
  • Echoes contain less noise than reverb, as they are the result of a single reflection rather than a complex web of reflections.
  • Echoes can be produced artificially using delay effects, while reverb requires a dedicated reverb effect.

How to use echo and reverb in your audio productions

Both echo and reverb can add depth and dimension to your audio productions, but they are best used in different situations. Here are some tips for using each effect:

  • Use echo to add emphasis to specific words or phrases in a vocal track.
  • Use reverb to create a sense of space and depth in a mix, particularly on instruments like drums and guitars.
  • Experiment with different delay times to create unique echo effects.
  • Adjust the decay time and wet/dry mix of your reverb effect to fine-tune the sound.
  • Use noisetools.september to remove unwanted noise from your recordings before adding effects like echo and reverb.

Delay vs Reverb: Understanding the Differences

Delay is an audio effect that produces a repeated sound after a certain amount of time. It is commonly referred to as an echo effect. The delay time can be adjusted, and the number of echoes can be set. The behavior of the delay effect is defined by the feedback and gain knobs. The higher the feedback value, the more echoes are produced. The lower the gain value, the lower the volume of the echoes.

Delay vs Reverb: What’s the Difference?

While both delay and reverb produce echoing effects, there are some key differences to consider when trying to choose which effect to apply:

  • Delay produces a repeated sound after a certain amount of time, while reverb produces a series of reverberations and reflections that give the impression of a specific space.
  • Delay is a fast effect, while reverb is a slower effect.
  • Delay is commonly used for creating an echoing effect, while reverb is used for producing a specific space or environment.
  • Delay is often used to add depth and thickness to a track, while reverb is used to shape and master the overall sound of a track.
  • Delay can be produced using a pedal or plugin, while reverb can be applied using a plugin or by recording in a specific space.
  • When adding either effect, it’s important to keep in mind the desired illusion you want to create. Delay can add a specific echoing effect, while reverb can provide the perfect material for emulating an intimate experience.

Why Understanding the Differences is Helpful for Producers

Understanding the differences between delay and reverb is helpful for producers because it allows them to choose the right effect for the specific sound they are trying to create. Some additional reasons why understanding these differences is helpful include:

  • It helps producers to separate the two effects when trying to achieve a specific sound.
  • It provides a better comprehension of how each effect works and what results can be expected.
  • It allows producers to recreate complex sounds in a more efficient way.
  • It helps producers to provide a specific coloration to a track, depending on the effect they have opted for.
  • It allows for flexibility in engineering and mastering, as both effects can be used to add density and color to a track.

In conclusion, both delay and reverb play a significant role in creating a specific sound. While they may seem similar, understanding the differences between the two effects can help producers to choose the right effect for the specific sound they are trying to create. Adding either effect can work wonders for a track, but it’s important to consider the desired illusion you want to create and choose the effect that best fits that goal.


So there you have it, everything you need to know about reverb effects. Reverb adds atmosphere and depth to your mix and can make your vocals sound more natural. 

It’s a great tool for making your mix sound more polished and professional. So don’t be afraid to use it!

I'm Joost Nusselder, the founder of Neaera and a content marketer, dad, and love trying out new equipment with guitar at the heart of my passion, and together with my team, I've been creating in-depth blog articles since 2020 to help loyal readers with recording and guitar tips.

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