I agree that there are only three main types, but it is impossible to explain the topic in depth if you limit your discussion to just five or seven types. This is what always happens. It is unfair for the reader.
This article will explain what the effect is. For more information, see What Is Reverb?
It is important to note that while I will be discussing each type and its characteristics, as well as when they should be used, I won’t go into detail on how I should use them. This topic has been covered in our article Mixing With Reverb. If you are a mixer, you can open that article to learn more. Let’s get on with it.
These will be divided into three groups: acoustic and mechanical. This is a great mental structure to keep in mind, based on the way they were created (or how they were created originally, as we all use digital reverbs nowadays). As we move through each category, I will explain it.
Acoustic reverbs are chamber reverberators. This is a fancy way to say “rooms of different sizes”. The characteristics of the reverb depend on the wall’s size, shape, or material. In the past, some studios even created their own reverb rooms.
We mean small rooms, the same size as a bedroom or living area. They are used to produce the familiar and intimate sound we associate with indoors. They have a shorter decay tail (about 0.75 seconds) and are heavier on early reflections.
Room verbs have a dense density of echoes which add warmth and color to tracks, just like a small room. If you use lots of room reverb, you’ll notice a buildup of low and middle frequencies. This will need to be equalized. It is great for drums and strings at higher levels and lower levels for the most prominent instruments in a mix.
Chamber verbs are chamber reverberation that is created by studios who have the space and budget to build their own rooms. They are similar to room reverb, but have less color buildup to maintain transparency. They are also more focused on the thickness of their tails while keeping early reflections smaller.
They were created to be transparent so you can see them as a neutral option. These require less post-processing, but they have fewer of their own characteristics. It can be used on vocals, lead guitarist, and other prominent tracks in a mix.
Hall, which is a shorter version of ‘concert hall’, are large spaces that have been designed to provide a pleasant acoustic environment. The decay tails are longer in 2nd range and have a little pre-delay bulit so that early reflections don’t start immediately. Instead of building up early energy, the density builds up in the tail.
These are typically used in the types of mixes that you would expect for orchestras, solo pianos or singer-songwriter songs. Mix engineers use them for slower songs, such as ballads, or any other song with a less complex arrangement.
A cathedral reverb can be thought of as a longer, wetter hall verb. This is due to the fact that a cathedral’s size is smaller than a concert hall, as well as the reflective, less scattering material and the more rectangular or square shapes they are made. Their decay times can be as long as 10 seconds.
They are light in the beginning reflections and energy, but heavier as they build up. This can lead to a thickening or blurring sound. It is best to avoid fast-paced songs that have rhythmic elements. Instead, focus on slower, more melodic tracks. It’s fitting that the name means “wheel house”, so keep your wheels in place. You may have heard of stadium reverbs or cave reverbs. These are similar to cathedral reverbs but with a longer delay.
This type of reverb has a short decay tail, only 0.5 seconds. It is mostly composed of early reflections, which are very faithful to the original sound. It has very little color or character and is as dry as possible. It adds a smoother sound to the audio, and it is so fast that many listeners won’t even notice it’s there.
Ambience reverb can be used to push whole songs or entire tracks through a bus. This creates a feeling of glue which subtly makes the entire instrumentation sound like they belong together and was recorded in the exact same acoustic environment.
The mechanical reverbs are the two types that we invented. They allow us to create the effect without having to use a large space. This allowed us to modify the properties to a certain degree. They became smaller and more affordable over time, but the first ones that hit the market were 600 pound (like the Abbey Road Studios EMT 140).
Plate Reverbs can be created by vibrating a sheet of metal like a speaker cone, and recording the results. These reverbs can have short, medium or long decay times, but they almost always have very fast early reflections that are high in energy.
Although they are dark, the initial energy is often quite bright. Plate verbs are often associated with Pink Floyd’s most famous albums. Although some songs are beautiful and upbeat, they have an eerie, dark feel to them. They recorded with a 600 lb. Plate at Abbey Roads.
Spring Reverbs can be created by vibrating a spring like a plate. They are dark in color and have a metallic appearance. Although physical springs are still possible in guitar amplifiers, it is becoming less common.
There were problems with mechanical springs’ movement. Digital springs don’t have those problems. They make a terrible thundering sound when they are bumped, which is not a problem in general.
VST plugin reverb
All of the above digital reverbs can be replicated by computer algorithms, samples and/or recordings made in their acoustic environments. These samples can then be further manipulated. These include VST plugins that you can use with your digital sound system, reverb effect pedals, and synthesizer modules.
Convolution reverbs are made from an actual recording of an acoustic environment as a sample. This is then analyzed, and a frequency profile of them is created. The algorithm then simulates that environment.
You can make these sound however you like by choosing a different sound sample or altering the sound profile. These are not very common as we can reproduce any space without samples these days. They are still available, and you should be aware of them.
The term refers to a reverb with very quiet initial reflections, which grow in intensity and amplitude as it enters the decay tail. This unnatural sound is often used in experimental, ambient, ambient, and electronic music.
Shimmer verbs shine because they are passed through multiple pitch shifters. This is essentially a normal sound effect that you can set up in any way you want. Then, it’s moved up an octave to emphasize the higher frequencies. It was a common sound in dance music from 1990.
It is usually added to synthesizer pads or any ethereal sounds, such as string pizzicato. It works in a similar way to passing a reverb through a microphone, which brings out lots of sparkle and brilliance. Although it’s a very pleasing sound, there are only a few uses for it.
A gated reverb has a longer decay time and is very similar to a chamber or room verb in coloration, neutrality, and neutrality. It is then passed through noise gates that cut off the tail quickly before it naturally decays to zero. This was difficult to do manually in the days before computers existed.
Today, plugins can handle the entire process of compressing or gating. This sound is one of the most well-known. It was popularized in 1980’s pop music using snare drums (and all the kit). With the revival of the 80’s, it’s back with new genres such as synthwave.
Imagine taking a reverb tail, turning it around so it doesn’t decay but slowly increases in volume. Then moving it so it happens before the instrument. This is a reverse-reverb. It was possible to reverse a tape and re-record it in the past.
This effect was used mainly in horror, scifi and fantasy films and music. This effect is now more popular in dance music, genres such as dubstep, thanks to the popularity of “the Drop”, where the beat gradually builds in intensity until it reaches a crescendo.
Standard reverbs decay linearly, but that’s not the case. It’s more logarithmic. Any reverb that has been artificially altered to decay in another way is considered non-linear. Gated verbs are non-linear. This is what most of them sound like. However, they are created in a different manner.
These are not created by a compressor on a high-early reflection reverb and then sent through a gate. Instead, they are created using multitap delays with short diffusors. They all sound a lot like gated verbs to me and have that 80’s vibe.
This is the complete list of all the different types of reverb…
Now you are ready to use any one of these reverb types. Although I have given some examples of where they are used most often, it is a good idea to experiment with them, especially if you don’t use any of them very often. This is a way to sneak them in and test their effectiveness.
You might be interested in our list top reverb pedals if you are a guitarist. Many of them provide access to many of these types of reverb, with great presets that you can modify to make your own. These presets will help you to improve your live sound and mix skills.