11 Best Reverb Pedals: The Ultimate List (2018)

Reverberation, or reverb, is, perhaps, the oldest so-called effect. The acoustic effects of a room or hall on singing in particular has been used for centuries, beginning with the earliest religious music, like early Jewish ritual songs that were sung in places of worship.

Later, in the medieval period, composers would use their knowledge of a given structure’s natural echoes as part of their work. Over the years, the knowledge was crystallized and used in the design of performance spaces. Back then, if you wanted control over the reflections of a space, you needed to have a whole building, or at the very least a room, built.

Naturally, we’ve come a long way from those days. Spring reverb — basically a metal tank with (you guessed it) springs in it — was patented in the late 1930s. These are still fairly popular in amp construction; if your amplifier has reverb, look inside and see if you can spot the metal tank. Or shake it (gently!) while it’s on and you’ll hear the springs bounce. Plate reverb, a sheet metal and pickup situation, became popular in the late 1950s. This was the choice for studios, especially given that these units weighed several hundred pounds.

The times when no reverb at all is called for are so rare, it would be pointless to detail those situations. Even the lightest touch of room reverb to warm up cold guitar tone makes a world of difference. It’s certainly non-negotiable in the studio, but having control over your own hand-picked reverb tone is ideal.

Some players just need a touch of it, so pedals that emulate amp or spring reverbs will suit them best. Ambient players who will feed long delay times to a huge hall reverb might want more options. There are also effected reverbs that add textures when needed.

What type of reverb should I buy?

There are several different standard types of reverb, most of them based on actual acoustic or physical treatments. Some are described as a type of room, while others are much more speculative. Here are some general notes to guide your search.

  • Hall: Emulation of a large, typically wooden, concert hall. A big sound, but an organic one that tends not to crowd your initial attack. Cathedral and church are variations of this that emulated harder wall surfaces in a large space.
  • Room: Emulation of a smaller recording chamber, again typically wooden. Excellent for acoustic instruments, but can be useful in many applications.
  • Plate: Meant to recreate the sounds of the 50s studio devices discussed above. Similar in overall length to hall verbs, but without the feeling of space.
  • Spring: Shorter reverbs based on the spring-loaded tanks built into amplifiers. Typically trying to capture a Fender sound, but other variants exist, as well. These can be somewhat dark yet lively.
  • Shimmer: A type of effected reverb, this adds an upper octave to a long decay time which is optionally modulated. Popular with worship players.
  • Modulated: Sometimes called Mod, this is an effected reverb where an LFO cycles some parameter during the decay. It could be pitch or another effect that changes. Good for adding movement.
  • Gated: Places a gate after the reverb so that you get the initial reverb sound with any decay cut off.
  • Pad: Meant to emulate the sound of a held synth, some reverb pedals allow you to freeze or modulate notes using long decay times.
  • Lo-fi: Just as it says, this emulates low-bandwidth recordings and can add some interesting grit or texture along the lines of AM radio.

For this list, we’ve focused on well-rounded, compact reverb pedals with a few weird ones thrown in for variety. Unlike our delay pedals post, we decided to skip the mega-verbs. If you want reverb pedals that can do everything under the sun, you’re looking for any of the following:

Each of those are unbelievably flexible and offer the highest-quality reverbs going. In fact, each of those could easily take up a spot on this list, which is in part why we decided to skip them. If you need every single reverb possibility known to man, go grab your credit card and buy one of these fantastic behemoth devices. In what follows below, we’re interested in the somewhat-more-affordable pedals out there; the ones that tend to focus on just handful of options rather than everything under the sun.

If you’re looking to add a sense of atmosphere to your guitar tone, we’ve rounded up the top ten best reverb pedals to help you choose.


1. Electro-Harmonix Holy Grail

Electro-Harmonix Holy Grail reverb pedal

Electro-Harmonix

The Holy Grail is well-documented in the annals of pedal-based reverb. It used to be housed in the old-style Electro-Harmonix thin metal box, but these days, the Nano version does it all in a much smaller (and tougher) package. To me, all three modes are very distinct sounding.

Spring is the straight-forward Fender-style amp reverb. It starts to get very saturated around noon and you can encourage a lot of the springy sound. Hall sounds to me like a cathedral sound versus, say, an amphitheater, and tends toward the dark side. Turning this all the way up washes out your dry signal entirely. Flerb is a really fun setting that adds the jet-like flanger effect to the reverb sound.

If this one doesn’t cut it, there are variants on the Holy Grail theme. First, there’s the Holy Grail Neo, which swaps out the Flerb for a Plate-style reverb. Then there’s the Holy Grail Plus which has Spring, Hall, and Room types, and adds a Blend knob to control the wet/dry mix. Finally, there’s the Holy Grail Max, which offers Spring, Hall, Plate, and, crucially, Reverse. The Amount knob on this one is swapped for a Time knob, which changes the decay or reverse time.

If you have the money (and the pedalboard space), you could skip the Holy Grail altogether and go for the Electro-Harmonix Cathedral, which will let you do everything you could dream of — in stereo.


Specs:

  • Reverb type: Spring, Hall, Flerb (adds flanger effect)
  • True bypass?: Yes

Price: $121.10

Buy the Electro-Harmonix Holy Grail here.


2. Catalinbread Topanga

Catalinbread Topanga reverb pedal

Catalinbread

Some of those aforementioned spring reverbs are legendary for playing certain styles. If one of the styles or tones you love is dripping 60s surf verb, this is the pedal for you. Designed to emulate the Fender 6G15 dedicated reverb unit that sells for $1000 or more, this will give you all that wet, springy reverb for much less.

The Dwell knob is more or less akin to the reverb length, but in this instance functions as a volume for the springs themselves. The Tone knob rolls back the highs on the wet signal which can put space between it and the dry signal sound. The Mix knob will allow for 100% wet signal, unlike the 6G15.

The Volume knob is a separate preamp within the pedal that drives the pedal as a whole, or can act as a clean boost with the Mix knob low. This pedal is meant to go after overdrive and distortion right into the front of the amp.

For a vintage plate sound, try their Talisman.


Specs:

  • Reverb type: Spring
  • True bypass?: Yes, with optional buffered trails

Price: $159.01

Buy the Catalinbread Topanga here.


3. DigiTech Polara

DigiTech Polara reverb pedal

DigiTech

Over the years, DigiTech has released a number of reverb pedals to mixed results. You could almost always find a cheap Digital Reverb somewhere, and later on they came out with the Hardwire line, which was a bit of an improvement. Lately, reflecting the success of boutique pedals and their tendency to feature high-end graphic design, DigiTech have released a new line to compete more directly.

The Polara is the direct descendent of the Hardwire reverb. Types of reverb include: Room, Hall, Reverse, Halo, Modulated, Plate, and Spring. The latter three of those effects use the Lexicon reverb algorithms. For controls, you get Level, Liveliness, and Decay, as well as a switch for Tails. The knobs of this unit lock in place so your settings remain untouched during transport. As a bonus, you get stereo outs for the true reverb experience.

Lest you think this is just a reboxed Hardwire RV-7, take note of the new Halo mode, which uses octaves to achieve a far more lush atmosphere than anything available from DigiTech before. Perhaps with another pedal maker, you’d get only the Halo mode and it would cost $99.


Specs:

  • Reverb type: Room, Plate, Reverse, Modulated, Halo, Hall, Spring
  • True bypass?: Yes, with optional buffered trails

Price: $149.95

Buy the DigiTech Polara here.


4. TC Electronic Hall of Fame 2

TC Electronic Hall of Fame 2 reverb pedal

TC Electronic

You may have read about the Hall of Fame’s little brother the HOF Mini in our cheap effects post. That little guy is great, but limited. If you need the full compliment of controls and tones, you have to go the source. The Hall of Fame is aptly named, since it resides on many a pro pedalboard and is supremely flexible. This is probably the closest you’ll get to the mega-verbs I discussed in the intro, but the price is far more reasonable.

To begin with, this pedal also has three slots for TonePrint, which is TC Electronic’s massive library of effect presets which are totally customizable on the computer. Beyond that, you get eight dedicated reverb sounds to choose from, including everything from the expected Spring to grittier sounds like Lofi. Room is good for warming up your tone, while Church will give you a dark, enormous tone.

Controls include Decay, Tone, and Level, in addition to a switch that lets you choose between short and long pre-delay. Long pre-delay will maintain more dry signal before the reverb effect. Like the Polara above, there are stereo outs, and like the Topanga, true bypass is selectable with an internal switch if you prefer tails.

Version two of the pedal adds Mash — a magnet-driven, pressure-sensitive footswitch that acts as an expression pedal. Mash is mapped to a fixed parameter with each of the on-board reverbs, but using TonePrint, you can assign it to anything you like. The LED below the Decay knob indicates how hard you’re pressing down, and you can control the curve at different pressure points. Additionally, for those who aren’t so sick of it they could scream, TC caved and added a Shimmer algorithm.

All these upgrades, and the price is still the same as the predecessor. If you were reluctant to give in to the Hall of Fame before, now may well be the time.


Specs:

  • Reverb type: Room, Hall, Spring, Plate, Church, Shimmer, Modulated, Lofi, plus many more with TonePrint
  • True bypass?: Yes, with optional buffered trails

Price: $149.99

Buy the TC Electronic Hall of Fame 2 here.


5. EarthQuaker Devices Afterneath Otherworldly Reverberation Machine

EarthQuaker Devices Afterneath reverb pedal

EarthQuaker Devices

If, somehow, you’re bored with the possibilities of the Hall of Fame, have I got a pedal for you. Sometimes honoring the past and encapsulating well-loved effects isn’t enough. You have to push the envelope and build something new. EarthQuaker Devices is no stranger to making strange things, so it shouldn’t surprise you that the Afterneath is out there.

Rather than emulating a spring or plate directly, this pedal uses a series of short delays cascading into one another to create the reflections typically created by reverb units. Each delay stands in for each decaying reverb reflection, thereby creating an enormous space. The sheer size of this pedal far outstrips anything most pedals are capable of, and the novel approach means that they don’t darken and dampen too much on longer decays.

For controls, you get Length, Diffuse, Dampen, Drag, Reflect, and Mix. Length controls the decay, while Mix controls the wet/dry ratio. Reflect changes the regeneration, and feeds the output back into the pedal. Drag controls the speed, while Dampen changes the tone.

Diffuse can be thought of as a size knob, changing the spread of the effect. I have one of these on my board and rarely play clean without it. The dragging, pinging effect is pure magic. If you need more space in your reverbs, as well as a touch of modulation, consider this unique creation.

I have one of these on my board and I absolutely love it. You should know that because of the density of the reverb, there’s a slight volume drop when it’s engaged. I get around this by using a wet-dry amp setup, but when I can’t use that, I stick an Xotic EP Booster (we wrote about that here) after it in the loop if I find myself struggling to be heard. Definitely worth it, in my opinion, and it shouldn’t dissuade you from considering this pedal.

In addition to the Afterneath, EQD offers the similarly bizarre Transmisser, as well as the more vintage-influenced Ghost Echo and Levitation.


Specs:

  • Reverb type: Modulated
  • True bypass?: Yes

Price: $225

Buy the EarthQuaker Devices Afterneath Otherworldly Reverberation Machine here.


6. Walrus Audio Fathom

walrus audio fathom reverb pedal

Walrus Audio

Released just this year, the Fathom reverb combines a healthy amount of functionality into a relatively small enclosure, just like the ARP-87 on our delay pedals list. There are four reverbs inside this pedal, but the controls expand each of them.

Those controls include Decay, Dampen, and Mix, all of which are common and easily understood. There’s a white line to denote at where on the Mix knob is equal parts wet and dry signal. The Program knob lets you select between the Hall, Plate, Lo-fi, and Sonar modes.

Depending on which you select, the X knob controls a different function. For Hall and Plate, it controls the pre-delay. For Lo-Fi, it controls the width of the filter, and for Sonar the blend of the high and low octaves. Technically, it’s fair to say that this pedal is really a modulated reverb, as all modes are controlled with the Mod switch that allows you to select between low, medium, and high modulation. Only in Sonar mode does switching it to Lo turn off the modulation.

The footswitches are a bit unique, too. The Bypass switch functions as the expected on/off, but when off, it can also be used as momentary switch to add reverb just to a small section. The Sustain switch stretches out the reverb decay until you release it for pad-like effects.

In some says, this pedal recalls the Old Blood Noise Endeavors Dark Star or even the Procession that came before it. Those are great options to consider, too, but instead of having multiple reverb modes, they offer multiple effects for the reverb.


Specs:

  • Reverb type: Hall, Plate, Lo-fi, Sonar
  • True bypass?: Yes, with optional trails

Price: $199.99

Buy the Walrus Audio Fathom here.


7. Boss RV-6

Boss RV-6 reverb pedal

Boss

What Boss does best is provide the best of the mid-range, standard-setting pedals in tough enclosures. If you need a little more than the Fender reproductions above, try this unit. This is the latest update to a fine lineage of digital reverb units and provides a good variety of tones for the price.

With the RV-6, you get seven different reverb modes covering everything from subtle and expected to modulated. The standout option on this pedal is the Dynamic mode, which responds to your touch and guitar volume. By playing harder and louder, you can create a larger reverb splash to accentuate the key moments of a track.

The controls include Effect Level, Tone, and Time, and are programmed to adjust in response to one another so you always have a perfectly calibrated sound. Pair this with stereo outs and you’ve got an excellent all-around unit with everything the daily player needs for any style.


Specs:

  • Reverb type: Room, Hall, Plate, Spring, Modulated, Shimmer, Dynamic, +Delay
  • True bypass?: No

Price: $149

Buy the Boss RV-6 here.


8. MXR M300

MXR M300 reverb pedal

MXR

Like the Boss above, this MXR unit is designed to deliver a variety of tones while still being pedalboard and wallet friendly. The novel operation of the push Tone knob lets you cycle through a total of six reverb effects, all created to sound emulate studio-style reverbs.

In addition to Plate, Room, and Spring, you also get Epic, which combines analog delay with modulation for darker sounds. Mod is a plate reverb with modulated feedback, while Pad combines down and up octaves, a shimmer effect, and a modulation that is changeable with a compatible expression pedal.

Controls include Tone, Decay, and Mix. Unlike the Boss, there’s no stereo out, though. This is made up for somewhat by selectable true bypass and tails modes.


Specs:

  • Reverb type: Plate, Spring, Epic, Mod, Room, Pad
  • True bypass?: Yes, with optional buffered trails

Price: $199.99

Buy the MXR M300 here.


9. Red Panda Context

Red Panda Context reverb pedal

Red Panda

One of the secretly popular reverb pedals in guitar arsenals around the world is this model from Red Panda. While it’s just a tiny bit less flexible than some of the options on this list, the tone is excellent and offers a nice dark horse candidate.

The six delay modes are all familiar options, and you can finitely control the frequency response so that it will work even with basses. Compared to the Polara, for example, the decay times are far longer, giving you the option of huge, truly spacious reverb without sacrificing any note clarity.

Controls include Blend, Delay, Decay, and Damping. True bypass is internally switchable, again allowing for tails if you prefer. The note clarity of this pedal comes from dedicated dry path op amps that maintain the integrity of anything that comes before it.


Specs:

  • Reverb type: Room, Hall, Cathedral, Gated, Plate, Delay
  • True bypass?: Yes, with optional buffered trails

Price: $225

Buy the Red Panda Context here.


10. Caroline Guitar Company Météore Lo-Fi Reverb

caroline guitar company Météore Lo-Fi Reverb

Caroline Guitar Company

Somewhere in amongst the Hall of Fame’s Mash function and the Afterneath’s cavernous psychosis is this gem. It’s based around a spring reverb, but Caroline likes to make weird, loud things, and this is one of them.

Controls include Level, Attack, Regen, Size, and a Bright/Dark switch. Attack controls the gain from slight boost to grainy overdrive. Size is the space of the reverb, while Regeneration controls the decay. Using these, this pedal will self-oscillate like a delay, which will be very dangerous indeed if you don’t watch the Attack and Level settings.

Like the Hall of Fame, there’s a mash button of sorts, called Havoc, which works with the Size setting for freeze, oscillation, or even fast decay. Because of the danger of out-of-control volume increases via self-oscillation, this is good, old-fashioned true bypass with no options for trails.

This will help your tone stand out in a crowd. And if it doesn’t, you can just turn it up and drown them all out.


Specs:

  • Reverb type: Spring and lo-fi (but so much more)
  • True bypass?: Yes

Price: $199.99

Buy the Caroline Guitar Company Météore Lo-Fi Reverb here.


11. Meris Mercury7

meris mercury7 reverb pedal

Meris

A favorite of both Stefan Fast of The Pedal Zone and Sarah Lipstate of Noveller, this device from Meris simultaneously targets something very specific while also delivering something grand. According to the company, this pedal was inspired by the Bladerunner soundtrack, which you can also hear Stefan cite as an influence, as well. At its core, this is meant to be a modulated reverb and bases everything around two modes.

First is the Ultraplate, which is a plate style reverb. It’s a very usable and pristine algorithm, even if you never touched any of the other knobs. The other rode is Cathedra, which is a cathedral style verb that builds more slowly to an immense space.

There are six knobs to control each of these algorithms Space Decay sets the length, Modulate the modulation, Mix the wet and dry ratio, and Pitch Vector sets the reverb pitch. Lo Frequency and Hi Frequency are essentially EQ controls, but are less direct than simply rolling off certain frequencies. They change how those frequencies interact to emulate certain room sizes. Max Lo Frequency gives the feeling of a larger room, while lower Hi Frequency is a more natural room. Dial these in together to form the kind of space you want.

Each of the knobs also have a secondary function that is adjustable when the ALT button is held down. Space Decay becomes pre-delay, Modulate adjusts modulation speed, Mix adjusts the volume of the pitch as set by Pitch Vector, Lo Frequency becomes a Density control, Pitch Vector becomes attack time for the the Swell footswitch, and Hi Frequency controls Vibrato Depth at the input.

The Bypass switch is selectable between true bypass and trails mode. The Swell knob can be pressed to auto swell according to the Alt setting of Pitch Vector or held to increase Space Decay to maximum.

Ultimately, this is a very beautiful and flexible unit that could be the best reverb pedal for ambient playing. Still, there are more than enough down-to-earth settings in this box that it could serve a variety of purposes. One slight downside is that, especially with hidden function knobs, an on-board preset option would’ve been a nice touch. You can expand this pedal with the Meris Preset Switch or use MIDI to get that function, however.


Specs:

  • Reverb type: Plate and Cathedral (modulated)
  • True bypass?: Yes, with optional trails

Price: $299

Buy the Meris Mercury7 here.


See Also:


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