Reverb is one of the most commonly used effects in mixing. It’s part of a broader category of processors we sometimes call “time-based effects,” which also includes delay. Before digital, reverb was recorded using actual rooms called echo chambers. A signal would be fed into the chamber and the resultant natural echo was recorded by a microphone in the room. Eventually, synthetic reverbs like springs and plates were introduced as well. Today, we have access to some of the best reverb plugins that emulate different acoustic spaces and different classic synthetic reverbs.
How are Some of the Best Reverb Plugins Used?
Reverb can be used in a number of ways. It can create an acoustic space for an instrument to sit (like a drum room or a concert hall), can add “excitement” to a track, can add depth and dimension to an instrument, or can push a track further back in the mix.
To create a space, for instance, a great trick is to imagine the performer in an acoustic environment and to attempt to recreate what that environment might sound like by using reverb. Of course, plugin presets can do the bulk of that work for us!
Additionally, to make something sound bigger or more exciting, you can experiment with using shorter reverbs. To add depth or push a track back, you can use big reverbs with longer decays. Experience and experimentation will ultimately determine how you decide to use some of the best reverb plugins available!
FabFilter’s Pro-R reverb is a highly customizable, very open-sounding plugin. It was designed with musicality and intuitiveness in mind, and the controls reflect that. Parameters like “Brightness,” “Distance,” and “Character” are easy enough to imagine, allowing you to dial in a reverb sound you like without being overly technical.
There’s also an integrated 6-band post-EQ, so you can really sonically shape your reverbs in great detail. FabFilter tends to be a favorite, and the Pro-R is certainly one of the best reverb plugins out there.
This is another example of an extremely customizable reverb plugin. The H-Reverb has successfully combined classic reverb concepts with some of the most advanced aspects of digital reverb processing. The result is a plugin that sounds great and is feature-packed enough to suit your creativity.
The H-Reverb utilizes what’s called Finite Impulse Response technology. Without getting too technical, FIR provides richer, deeper decays with a crispness that sits nicely in a mix.
Famed engineer Manny Marroquin has a handful of great plugins with Waves, and his reverb is no exception. It’s a convolution-based reverb with some really cool features, like built-in EQ, phaser, and distortion. It also includes 18 different reverbs—6 styles of reverb with 3 room sizes each.
The interface is well laid out and very easy to use. It doesn’t take much fussing around to dial in a great sound.
Renaissance Reverb is another awesome plugin. It isn’t CPU heavy, so if you have an artist who likes to track through reverb, loading up an instance of RVerb is great. There’s a grittiness to RVerb as well that makes it a cool choice for when you don’t want an overly hi-fi, super pristine sound.
RVerb features 12 different reverb types and an “early reflection system” for extra texture and density. Try it out!
UAD plugins are celebrated for being some of the best analogue emulations ever produced! For this one, Universal Audio modeled three different EMT 140 plate units installed at The Plant Studios in California. The plugin is also endorsed by EMT themselves.
The EMT 140 provides a lushness you’ll be hard-pressed to find anywhere else.
The original Lexicon 224 was introduced in 1978 and would become one of the most popular reverb units of all time. The UAD version is yet another faithful replication of the classic digital reverb, and it understandably sounds incredible.
The same algorithms found in the original hardware were used in the plugin. If you’re looking for an iconic digital reverb, look no further.
Valhalla makes a handful of standalone reverb plugins, including VintageVerb, Room, and Plate.
VintageVerb is based on old school digital reverbs, like the previously mentioned 224. Room includes many different sounds, from tight ambiences all the way up to halls. You might have guessed that Plate realistically models the physics of traditional plate reverbs, with some added parameters that the original hardware can’t touch.
Bonus: Your Stock DAW Reverb
Whether you’re in Pro Tools, Ableton, Logic, Cubase, or any other DAW, many of them include some pretty great stock reverbs. Especially if you’re not at a level where you feel the need to get third-party plugins, you can get some fantastic results using the tools you already have!
Sometimes, the best reverb plugins don’t have to cost extra!