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!
Best Reverb Plugins 2021 [Paid]
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.
Besides the Lexicon and EMT emulations, UAD makes a ton of other fantastic reverbs not listed here, such as Capitol Chambers and Ocean Way Studios. Check those out to add even more variety to your collection!
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.
The goal of the team at Denise Audio was to create a technology that was better than the classic algorithmic reverb plugins that use a combination of short feedbacking delays to create the illusion of reverberation, and they did so through the creation of their TXVerb technology.
The innovative TXVerb technology in this plugin allows for highly creative use, different sounds, and enhances the character and coloration of any audio that is run through it, in an extremely natural way so that it sounds defined and tight from the lowest kick all the way up to the highest vocal.
Little Plate by Soundtoys is a gorgeous reverb inspired by the EMT 140. Its controls are super simple, and unlike the original plate unit that capped out at a 5-second decay, Little Plate goes all the way to infinity to create some truly unique sonic landscapes. There’s also a built-in low-cut filter to keep the reverb from muddying up the mix. Finally, Little Plate has a Mod switch that introduces some subtle modulation (e.g., a little bit of ‘chaos’) to the end of long decay tails.
The Bricasti M7 is one of the most iconic hardware reverb units ever made. Seventh Heaven is the best software emulation of the lush M7 ever made! There are two versions of the plugin: Standard and Professional. With the more affordable Standard version, you get 30 original M7 presets, while the Pro versions comes loaded with 236. Apart from that, the two versions differ somewhat in terms of flexibility, with the more expensive option obviously offering a bit more.
Quite simply, Seventh Heaven is the only way to capture the magic of the Bricasti in your DAW.
Best Reverb Plugins 2021 [Free]
TAL produces several freeware plugins, including a simple ‘vintage’ sounding reverb. TAL-Reverb-4’s interface contains four sections, including Main, Mod, EQ, and Mix. From there you can choose the size and decay of the reverb, use high- and low-pass filters for the Abbey Road trick, determine how much modulation you want in the reverb tails, and set the dry/wet balance.
Voxengo’s OldSkoolVerb is a flexible algorithmic reverb running the gamut of classic reverb sounds. Plates, rooms, halls, and chambers are all possible, and Voxengo considers the spatial image to be quite clear and easily wedged into a mix. They recommend trying OldSkoolVerb on non-percussive sounds, like vocals, piano, and synth pads.
13. Protoverb | u-he
Protoverb is free, and it’s also considered ‘researchware,’ meaning its development is ongoing. This is a very unique plugin because it does exactly the opposite of what algorithmic reverb plugins try to do, which is avoid natural room resonances. Protoverb actually recreates those natural resonances you’d hear in a space; there’s no need to modulate the signal because this plugin just models what a room really sounds like—warts and all.
14. Dragonfly Reverb
Dragonfly is a free bundle of four different plugins: Plate, Room, Early Reflections, and Hall. Each is highly customizable, and many users consider Dragonfly one of the best sounding free reverb plugins out there. You can achieve rich, bright sounds that don’t sound overly synthetic, and anything in between.
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!