Reverb! We all love it. But WHY? What actually is it? What does it do? Hint: It’s more than drenching your guitar solo in that nice echo that helps you imagine you’re playing at Wemberly.
We’re bringing it right back down to basics today, with input from our in house Tone Wizard, Simon Fraser-Clark. We’re talking about different types of reverb, how they’re created, and shouting about our personal favourite reverb pedal.
Reverb is the phenomena of sound waves being reflected back to the listener from the environment around them. The type of space defines the unique characteristics of the reverb. The reflection reaching your ear tells your brain about the characteristics of the area. We experience reverb all day every day, but we do not really notice it until we are in something like a large hall or a cavernous space.
From a musical perspective, reverb is a sense of space. All 12 notes that have already been played in every combination and style. What can elevate your sound is what happens after the note is played… reverb! It adds flair and colour to your playing. Reverb pedals emulate this to colour your tone.
Reverb is what makes an instrument played in a cathedral sound different from the same instrument played in a lounge bar. This effect is so important that players such as Brian May have called it ‘Hot Space.’
Shopping for reverb pedals can be daunting when you don’t know what you’re looking for
From a guitarist’s point of view, Reverb can be split into a number of key types. They range from simple plate reverb to a spring reverb and all the way up to a digitally created reverb algorithm.
In simple terms, here is a brief description of the main types of reverb:
Plate reverb was originally produced using a magnetic driver (think of a speaker coil) to drive vibrations in a large sheet of metal. The large metal plate vibrated via a signal passed from a transducer. The vibrations were then captured with a contact microphone. The result was dense, warm, and inviting, great for vocals and snare drums.
Spring reverbs deliver a sound unlike any other. They operate in a similar way to plate reverbs with a transducer at one end and a pickup at the other but employ a spring (or multiple) instead of a plate. Because of their small size, spring reverbs are often found in guitar amplifiers, although standalone spring tanks exist for studio use, too.
Spring reverbs yield a clean, bright sound, and are a must-have final touch for vintage-inflected guitar tracks.
Digital reverb systems are designed to replicate all the characteristics of natural reverb events with mathematical processes. Notably, digital reverbs cannot perfectly recreate the effect of natural reverb. However, the developers of digital reverb systems have found several ways to deliver a convincing experience of space. There are generally two groups of digital reverb: algorithmic and convolution. We won’t go into these today!
It is safe to say that most modern reverb plug-ins that you’ll come across fall into the algorithmic category, most likely including any stock reverbs in your DAW. In general, any reverb plug-in not specifically marketed as a “convolution reverb” unit is algorithm-driven.
There are a LOT of reverb pedals out there. Watching demos, reading reviews and trying things out is the best way to find the right one for you.
Whilst you’re here, we may as well shout about our personal and incredibly biased favourite! The BCC triple mode Secret Path Reverb pedal emulates a plate reverb, a spring reverb and also includes the ‘Secret Path’, which has a deep and mesmerising evolving sound. It’s super versatile, from small and subtle to grand and ambient effects. Check the demo below!