What Is The Best Reverb Pedal In 2020?
I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been asked the question “what’s the best reverb pedal?” The answer I always give is the same – it depends. If you’re a beginner on a budget, it can be tempting to simply choose the cheapest reverb pedal on the market. If you’re looking for high-quality ‘verb you might just go for the most expensive one you can afford, or the one with the most options – because more is better, right?
But, it’s never that simple and there are so many different pedals on the market today. Choosing the best reverb pedal for your needs comes down to a balance of four main factors: Flexibility, simplicity, price and sound quality. Most importantly it has to fit your needs as a guitarist.
The Top 5 Reverb Effects Pedals Discussed Here
The BigSky comes with a speaker cabinet emulator setting, which warms up your tone when hooked up direct to a mixing desk or a PA when playing live. While its not quite the same as plugging straight into a valve amp, it certainly does a good enough job and sounded great to our ears.
With it’s MIDI in/out and a host of other features, this is the standout choice amongst the premium reverb pedals on the market. It doesn’t quite have the same level of experimental-type sounds as the Eventide Space, and it’s large footprint means it won’t be an automatic choice if your pedalboard is already crowded, but its flexibility, ease of use and wonderful sound quality make this our favourite.
The HoF Mini is blessed with “TonePrint” technology, which means you can download a wide selection of different reverb effects and tones directly from your smartphone, via their app. The TonePrint library features tones created by legendary guitarists such as Steve Vai, Brian May (Queen), Jon Petrucci (Dream Theatre), Roger Glover (Deep Purple), and Joe Perry (Aerosmith).
The analogue dry-through and True Bypass help ensure that the sound quality of the reverb effects in the HoF mini is first class. If you’re looking for an ultra-compact pedal or just want to a simple pedal that isn’t limited to a single reverb, then the HoF mini is highly recommended
As you’d expect from a pedal so small, there’s no space inside for a battery so you have to use a 9v power supply, which sadly isn’t included.
The HoF Mini also lacks the ease of use and control of its big brother, as you can only download and use one preset at a time, and there’s no easy way to tweak the sound in the moment so if you’re a control freak, then this probably isn’t the pedal for you.
It has eight inbuilt modes, including the standard room, hall, plate, spring and modulate, along with three new modes:
- Dynamic – adjusts the volume and mix that responds to your playing
- Shimmer – an octave pitch shifter providing lush overtones
- Delay – for that classic reverb / delay combination
The delay isn’t as flexible as you’d expect in a standalone delay pedal but it’s more than good enough as an added bonus, especially at this price.
The mod and shimmer modes sound great, but there are mixed reviews about the spring reverb. Some say that it sounds too “splashy”, but there are plenty of guitarists who don’t have any problems with it.
The RV-6 offers stereo and mono as well as an extra input jack that lets you control the mix with an expression pedal.
Overall, the RV-6 provides a great sound, great build quality and feels like an improvement over its predecessors in terms of sound quality, and the delay mode makes it a solid choice.
It’s a fairly simple unit, with 3 different reverb modes – Room, Hall and Spring, with a simple flip switch that lets you choose between them. Just two knobs provide control over the mix and the decay time, and to our surprise it sounds pretty good. There’s also switch that lets you to toggle between “A” and “B” modes, with the “A” setting adding a touch of fuzz or distortion, adding up to a total of six different sound settings.
Build quality is very good, with the unit feeling rugged and the controls smooth.
The Hall and Room sound similar in tone, but with each having different decay characteristics, and giving you a decent ambience, but many people seem to feel that the spring reverb doesn’t really match the quality and dynamics of other pedals on the market.
Guitarists with very keen ears may also notice that the RV-10 affects their tone slightly.
If you’re looking for a full-featured or premium reverb, then this probably isn’t for you, but if you’re on a tight budget or just want a simple pedal that won’t break the bank, then it might be a good option. There are plenty of people out there who love their RV-10s.
It’s a flexible unit, with seven on-board reverbs catering for most needs – Room, Hall, Plate, Reverse, Grail Flerb (Flange and reverb from their Holy Grail pedal), and two spring reverbs – Grail Spring (again ported form their Holy Grail pedal), and an Accutronics spring tank emulator.
There are also plenty of knobs to control mix, decay, pre-delay, tone, pre-delay and tap tempo offering tons of control over the resulting effect. You can also save up to eight presets which helps when you need to switch quickly during a gig, and just saves you having to remember all the different settings. Despite the flexibility, the controls are still intuitive and easy to use.
Its sound has been described as “pristine” with no digital artefacts or “grit”, which may be what you’re after. If you’re looking for something with more of a traditional sound, then it’s probably not for you.
While the Cathedral does the basics very well, it’s probably overkill if you’re just looking for a little ambience if your playing. It really excels at those spaced-out shoe-gazer sounds, and the infinite decay setting really delivers on that front. It’s not quite in the same league as the Strymon BigSky or the Eventide Space, but if you’re on a budget then the EHX Cathedral can get you pretty close for much less.
10 things to consider when choosing the best reverb pedal for you
Before we dive into the details below, here’s a quick summary of things to consider when buying a reverb pedal for guitar:
- The types of reverb effects
- Your budget
- Your musical style
- Reverb quality
- Size and portability
- On-board controls – ease of use vs flexibility and tweakability
- True Bypass, buffers and other signal considerations
- Stereo vs Mono pedals
- Connectivity – MIDI, USB and other connectors
Types of reverb effects the pedal offers
Digital reverb pedals all have special electronic algorithms, designed to mimic analogue reverb effects.
Some pedals will offer a wide range of different reverb effects, while some will focus on replicating one single effect exceptionally well.
The 5 most common types of reverb effects used in pedals today are:
Other Reverb types
Those are the most common reverb effects you’ll come across, but there are literally dozens available. These include variations on the traditional room, chamber, hall, spring and plates, as well as some creative new effects that can add an extra dimension to your sound. Some of our favourites include:
As you can see, the range of options available could be overwhelming, but if you’re new to the world of reverb and aren’t sure which to choose, then a solid option for you could be one of the many affordable pedals that offer all the main types in a single pedal.
- Pitch Shift, Halo or Shimmer
Prices for reverb pedals typically start at around $25 with the premium pedals selling for over $1000, so one of the first ways to narrow down your options is to decide how much you want to spend. Once you’ve nailed that, use the following tips to help choose the best reverb pedal for the money.
Your musical style
Almost all of today’s most popular music genres from Blues to Jazz and Pop (and everything in between) have a particular type of sound associated with them. Reverb is often one of the most common effects used in music today, and the different types of reverb will each add their own stamp to the sound, and contribute to the overall feeling.
For example, Blues guitarists are renowned for their use of spring reverb to give their sound some bounce, or sometimes opting for a room reverb to add a touch of warmth, while post-rock and modern acoustic guitar music is often drenched in long, dreamy reverb effects.
(More on the best reverb pedals for each genre below).
As we’ve mentioned above, some pedals will sound better than others. Those that focus on one type of effect, will usually provide a more accurate representation than those that come with multiple options.
In that case most amateur guitarists, especially beginners, are unlikely to notice much difference.
On the other hand, a cheap reverb pedal under $50 can sound pretty mushy in the higher frequencies so unless you’re completely strapped for cash, these aren’t recommended.
Size and portability
There are two main reasons why the overall size of the pedal may be a factor in your decision:
- If you travel a lot with your gear – maybe playing gigs in different venues or even just round your to your buddy’s place for a jam session, then you might want to keep things light and compact.
- If you have a pedal board with other pedals, then you’ll need to consider the amount of space your want your reverb pedal to occupy, relative to all you other pedals.
In my younger days when I was playing with my band at various places in London, I had to lug all my gear across the city on public transport and I opted for the smallest pedals I could find as long as they sounded ok.
If you’re a bedroom player, then size and portability might not be an issue for you.
On-board knobs and controls
All reverb pedals come with some level of control over the sound ranging from the simple (insert pedal with 1 control) to the complex (insert pedal with lots of controls).
The number and types of controls available will affect the different ways you can adjust the sound, to configure it just as you like it and you really need to think about how much flexibility you’re looking for here, and whether you’re willing to trade that off against simplicity.
While more controls gives a much wider range of sounds to suit multiple styles of playing, it can sometimes be tricky to remember exactly how you got that awesome tone, once you’ve changed all the settings.
Some examples of the controls you might find on a reverb pedal include:
In many pedals, you’ll also find a Mode or Preset switch that allows you to choose from a range of inbuilt reverb effects (such as room, hall, plate, spring, etc).
These modes and presets are great for convenience, especially if you want to switch quickly between different effects while you’re playing. They’re also great for beginners who just want to an easy starting point for each effect.
Some pedals come with a feature called TonePrint, which allows you to download a specific effect to your smart phone, which someone else (often a professional guitarist) has created and made available. Those can then be transferred wirelessly from your phone straight to your pedal.
True Bypass vs Buffered
A full discussion about true bypass vs signal buffers is beyond the scope of this article, but they could play a role in the choice you make here.
To put it simply, when you run a guitar signal through a pedal, it can affect the overall signal. Of course, that’s exactly the point when the pedal is activated but it’s true to some extent even when the effect is switched off.
True bypass allows the signal to bypass the pedal’s circuits when it is not active, helping preserve your original sound. This sounds great at first but it has some downsides you should be aware of.
Most importantly, True Bypass cuts the tail of your reverb stone dead when you switch the pedal off. This is quite jarring, and can ruin the effect especially when using lush, slow decaying reverbs.
This isn’t such a problem with shorter, more ambient reverb effects or if you always keep your reverb activated like I do.
But if you like to switch up your effects mix mid-song, then you’re likely to notice the fact that your reverb disappears immediately with a true bypass pedal.
Fortunately there is a solution – buffered pedals. These pedals are designed to maintain the original tone, whether they’re switched on or off. They also ensure that your reverb decay is maintained when you switch off mid-song.
Although this is still subject to some esoteric debate in professional sound engineering circles, generally speaking a good quality buffered reverb pedal is usually a sound choice for most amateur guitar players.
Stereo vs mono
The signal output of any guitar pedal will either be stereo or mono.
The difference is that stereo uses two independent output signals or channels that can be fed into two different speakers to create a feeling of space. Mono will only output to a single channel.
The key thing to bear in mind is that when a mono signal is sent into a stereo input, the resulting sound is still mono. However, when you send a stereo signal to a mono amp, you get a mono sound.
In simple terms, a stereo pedal can work with both mono and stereo amps, but a mono pedal will only ever be mono so if you know you need stereo (for example, you have other stereo pedals earlier in your signal chain), or think you might in future, it can be worth investing in the flexibility provided by a stereo pedal as long as it meets your other needs and budget.
All of the pedals in our reviews come with at least two standard 3.5mm mono jacks – one input and one output. Some, as we’ve mentioned above have an additional output for stereo.
That’s all well and good for hooking up to an amp or two, but generally not the best option if you want to plug into your DAW, computer, or even your smartphone.
If that’s your thing, you’re most likely looking for a pedal with a MIDI Musical Instrument Digital Interface) connection.
These tend be towards the higher end of the price range, and generally aren’t necessary for normal use.
For advanced requirements (recording, synching across set-ups, etc)
Reverb Pedal Brands
Digitech is a US-Based guitar effects unit manufacturer owned by Harman, which is in turn owned by Korean electronics giant Samsung. Harman also licenses its professional algorithms to Digitech, which helps them deliver pro-level sound effects in a stompbox. Perhaps this is why Digitech pedals are used by bands such as Megadeth and Awolnation.
Fledgling Chinese brand Mooer has only been around since 2014 when it debuted its Twin Series. Since then its reputation has been growing quickly among local and Western artists alike, with the introduction of its famous ShimVerb and also its series of compact “micro” pedals.
Boss, owned by Roland, was an early pioneer of guitar effects, creating its first pedals in the 1970’s. Famous for its unmistakable design, rugged build quality and top-notch effects, Boss pedals can be found on almost every pedalboard.
Danish company TC Electronic produce some of the best guitar effects pedals around, and can be found in rigs used by many of the most famous guitarists. Their standout feature is their TonePrint technology, that allows you to download thousands of new tones to your pedal wirelessly from your smartphone.
Japanese audio effects company Zoom built reputation on multi-effects pedals and processors. Since setting up base in North America, it has continued to make great effects pedals, while expanding into all kinds of audio/visual recording products.
Founded in 1989 in Germany by sound engineering and piano student, Uli Behringer, Behringer built a reputation for its balance of high-quality and affordable prices. Their range covers dozens of effects pedals, including the DR600 but they’ve also expanded into all kinds of music tech including guitar amps and PAs.
Founded by musician, promoter and pioneer, Mike Matthews in 1968, EHX manufactures dozens of guitar effects pedals including 10 different reverb pedals (such as the Holy Grail and Cathedral) out of its NYC facilities.
Although they’ve only been around for just over a decade, Earthquaker devices have built an impressive roster of artists including Paul Wiley (Marilyn Manson), Albert Hammond Jr (The Strokes), and Cameron Avery (Tame Impala). Founded 2004 by guitarist Jamie Stillman, and still describing themselves as a boutique pedal maker, these guys offer over 40 different models, including seven reverb pedals at last count!
California-based Strymon is a high-end boutique pedal manufacturer established in 2008. Their range currently sits at 16 pedals, including three reverbs in the form of the BigSky, BlueSky and Flint pedals.
Founded by Brian Marshall in 2009, starting with the Proteus, Subdecay have expanded quickly. Their roster includes MGMT guitarist James Richardson, Guitarist for Chris Isaac, Hershel Yatovitz, and Flaming Lips guitarist & drummer Steven Drozd. Their reverb offering is the Super Spring Theory Spring Reverb.
Known for its modular Livemaster effects system, Chinese pedal maker Biyang created their first effect in 2003. The Baby Boom series of pedals followed in 2010. Their reverb effect pedal offerings are the RV-12 reverb, and the RV-10 Baby Boom, which is one of the cheapest reverb pedals on the market.
Started in Orange County, CA in 2009 and named after its founder Brian Neunaber, this company sits in between boutique and mass production. They like to produce a lot of pedals, but with the same care and attention of a smaller outfit. Neunaber are used by some of the most famous guitarists in the world, such as John Mayer, Joe Satriani, Carlos Santana. The Immerse and Wet are their two reverb pedals.
Boutique pedal maker GFI System offer just a handful of pedals at this point, having only been in existence since 2010. Founded in Indonesia by Henry Widjaja, they take advantage of low production costs, while offering the same craftsmanship you’d expect from a higher-end manufacturer. No wonder they’re quickly gaining in popularity and their Specular Reverb is a good reverb pedal.
Tone City Audio
Relative newcomer Tone City have only been around since 2014. Since then, they’ve rapidly built out their range of mini pedals including the Tiny Spring.
MXR pedals have been around since the 1970’s and were used on classic recordings by the likes of Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin. As tastes changed in the 1980’s they fell out of favour but have since been revived by the legendary Jim Dunlop. They’re now being used by the likes of Zakk Wylde, Kerry King, Slash, and Dimebag (R.I.P.). The MXR 300 is their reverb pedal, and narrowly missed out on a spot in our top reviews.
Going for just over 10 years, Wampler Pedals are built to a very high-spec and are tested rigorously. They’ve found their way onto the pedalboards of legends such as Guthrie govan, Keith Urban, Brad Paisley, and they have more than a handful of reverb effects pedals.
New Jersey-based Eventide has developed a pedigree in manufacturing audio, aviation and broadcast equipment over the past 40 years. Its artist roster includes the likes of Queens of the Stone Age, John Petrucci, and Glasvegas. The Space is Eventide’s high-end reverb pedal.
This small boutique pedal maker was founded by Terry Burton. It offers two ‘verb units – the Mercury 7 which comes in both stompbox and pro audio module formats.
With three reverb effects pedals including the Creamer, Fat Shuga, and Room Mate Junior, T-Rex also develop high quality equipment such as power supplies, cables, and pedal boards for guitarists around the world.
The name Fender has been synonymous with guitars, amps and effects for over half a century. They’ve recently launched a new range of beautiful looking pedals, designed by Stan Cote, which cover the range of effects you’d expect, including overdrive, delay, and compressors, and of course the Marine Layer Reverb.
Mr Black is a Boutique guitar effects manufacturer founded in 2008 and owned by parent company Jack Deville LLC. Among their product line of almost 20 pedals, Mr Black offers 3 different reverbs – The Eterna, The Eterna Black Modified and the Supermoon.
Crazy Tube Circuits
Crazy Tube Circuits build their guitar effects pedals by hand in Athens, Greece. They have just a single reverb on offer at the moment, the Splash Stereo Reverb.
Boutique Pedal company Catalinbread were founded in 2003 in Portland OR by Nicholas Harris who sadly passed away in 2016. The company still remain true to Harris’ dedication to High-quality, durability, great tone and produce some of the top reverb pedals available such as the Topanga Spring, Talisman Plate and Belle Epoch.
Source Audio was founded in 2005 by former executives of Analog Devices, Inc., Thomas H, Lee Partners, and Kurzweil, so it has a pedigree in the audio effects industry. In 2006, they released their first product, the Hot Hand Motion-Sensing Ring. Since that time, their Reverb pedals have found their way onto the rigs of David Gilmour, U2, John Mayer, David Bowie, Aerosmith, The Cure, and Victor Wooten. Not only do they sound great, but in our opinion Source Audio make some of the most beautiful-looking stompboxes around, including the Ventris.