UPDATED: Reverb fiends that we are, we’ve gone deep once again into the audio production landscape to bring you a fully updated and definitive list of the very best reverb plugins available in 2017. While most entries remain as they were, there are a few important additions and expansions.
The very best reverb plugins for every style and price range are here, including the best free plugins, classic emulations, and algorithmic and convolution models.
To make this list the most useful and comprehensive for you, we’ve broken our selections down into ten broad categories, and provided plenty of alternative choices for each category. This way, you should have everything you need to build your ideal reverb plugin arsenal with the minimum of fuss, and give you some ideas for experimenting – all so that you can get on with making great, expressive music, which is after all the real point!
Why Is Selecting Reverb Important For A Good Mix?
A lot of mixes stand or fall on their use of reverb – the process is used to give the impression of sounds being in a real acoustic space, providing your mix with front-to-back depth, and is often referred to as the ‘glue’ binding all the different parts of a mix into a coherent whole. Using just enough reverb to do these jobs, without overdoing it and turning your track to sonic mush, is one of the major components of a professional-sounding mix.
But, as we’ve said before, not all reverb plugins are created equal. Different types of reverbs are good for different applications, so it’s unlikely that you’ll want to use the same plugin for everything. You might want to use a plate reverb for drums, and a high-grade convolution reverb for strings or background ambience. Often, you don’t want the most ‘natural’ sounding reverb – you want to add a particular colouration to the sound, and that’s why there are so many variations on this vital effect.
Adding to this idea, most of us have grown up listening to music processed with rather artificial-sounding spring, plate and digital reverbs, and those sounds are ingrained in our subconscious as musically appropriate – it’s what we’re used to hearing. So don’t sweat about ‘realism’ too much.
Before we get to the Best 10 selections, check out this quick primer on the key aspects and features that apply to all reverb plugins:
Reverb: A Pocket History
Ever wondered what all the preset names on reverb plugins actually refer to?
Room / Hall / Chamber: The first reverb effects used for recorded music were created with echo chambers – a loudspeaker would play the sound back in the chamber, and a microphone would pick it up again, including the echo of the room itself. The same principle still applies for simulated ‘room’ and ‘hall’ reverbs -you’re capturing the ambience of a particularly sized and shaped space.
Plate: Next came plate reverb with the EMT 140 in 1957. Used a lot in the ‘60s and ‘70s, plate reverbs use a transducer to create vibrations across a large ‘plate’ of sheet metal. A pickup captures the vibrations as they bounce across the plate, and the result is output again as an audio signal. Plate reverb tends to be bright and clean-sounding, and it holds a special place in many producers hearts.
Spring: Uses a similar principle to that of plate reverb, but with a metal spring instead of a plate. A transducer at one end and a pickup at the other are used to create and then capture vibrations within the spring. Being compact and relatively cheap to manufacture, many guitar amp designs ended up incorporating a spring reverb unit. Spring reverb adds a distinctive metallic colouration to the sound, and in the days of classic rock ‘n’ roll it was known that you could shake the reverb cabinet while recording so that the springs clashed together for a properly unhinged sound. We wouldn’t recommend attempting this with a plugin version though 🙂
Digital: EMT built on the popularity of the EMT 140 plate reverb with another world first in 1976: the EMT 250 digital reverb unit. However, it was the arrival of the Lexicon 224 a couple of years later, followed up by the 480L in 1986, that took digital reverb into virtually every professional studio, and it’s the Lexicon name – and sound – which is now cemented in our minds as the archetypal digital reverb of the 1980s. Since then, we’ve also seen many highly-regarded and much-loved digital reverb units and guitar reverb effects boxes from the likes of Eventide, TC Electronic and Yamaha, such as the Eventide Space pedal, TC Electronic Reverb 4000 and most recently, the Bricasti M7 rack unit. Meanwhile, the awesome Strymon Big Sky has virtually taken over the world of guitar reverb.
The Difference Between Algorithmic And Convolution Reverb
Almost all reverb plugins (as well as hardware digital reverb units) use one of these two digital processing methods.
Algorithmic reverbs use calculations based on hypothetical rooms and other spaces to generate their reverb sounds. Generally this gives a sharper, more artificial sound, typified by most hardware digital reverbs of the last 30 years. This is not necessarily a bad thing though – as mentioned above, musically we’re not always after the most ‘natural’ sound, but the one that has the right ‘character’ for the track. Algorithmic reverbs also tend to be far lighter on the computer’s CPU than convolution reverb processing.
Convolution reverbs use pre-recorded samples of real rooms and spaces to build Impulse Response (IR) files of those spaces. The impulse response is then ‘convolved’ with the incoming audio signal you want to process, hence the name.
Convolution reverbs then, are generally far better at simulating real spaces than algorithmic reverbs – the downsides are that they also require significantly more CPU processing power to work, so you are more limited in terms of the number of instances of the plugin you can run simultaneously, and they often require a bit more work than algorithmic reverb to sit comfortably in a mix.
Recent Developments: Emulations & Future Reverb
In recent years, we’ve seen a surge in the popularity and innovation going into a new generation of algorithmic reverbs, often based to a greater or lesser extent on the Lexicon 224 and 480 digital hardware units as a gold standard. We’re also seeing progressively more accurate and accessible plate reverb emulations, often using the EMT 140 plate as the benchmark for having the most legendary mechanical plate reverb sound.
Happily though, it’s not all copies of hardware: we’re also starting to see a greater range of more unusual and forward-thinking reverb plugins, led in many ways by 2CAudio’s Aether and the Valhalla DSP range, but now also joined by a new wave of next-generation reverb plugins such as Waves H-Reverb, UVI SparkVerb and fabfilter’s Pro-R. With these, premium sound quality is a given and the focus for new and improved designs is now as much on usability, a fast and smooth workflow, and cleverly-implemented visual representations of the effect as you adjust the controls, so that you can sculpt your ambience with new levels of speed, precision and detail.
We’ve taken all these developments into account with our list below, check it out.
So now we know that choosing the right plugins for each job is crucial, and we’ve covered the basic differences between the types. Here’s our rundown of what we consider to be the very best reverb plugins, whatever your price range.
As before, we’ve covered every type of reverb and all price ranges with the categories, and included plenty of alternative choices for each category. There’s definitely something for everyone here.
Don’t forget: In the end, ‘best’ is highly subjective when it comes to reverb – there is a lot of choice out there, and picking a personal favourite is literally a lot like choosing a favourite colour.
1) Best Free Reverb:
Togu Audio Line TAL-Reverb-II
The second iteration of TAL’s popular free reverb plugin, TAL-Reverb-II combines a classic plate reverb algorithm with a 3-band EQ section to allow you to sculpt the frequencies and colour of the reverb tail. With an attractive interface and just the right number of options for both quickly finding decent working settings and making a few finer adjustments, TAL-Reverb-II is a great reverb plugin for beginners or those simply looking to expand their existing reverb options.
We must also mention the TAL-Reverb-III, another free plate reverb plugin that strips the controls down further to a series of sliders, and the TAL-Reverb-4 which is a free standalone version of the reverb section from the TAL-Sampler plugin. Both of these are of course worth checking out, but to our mind the TAL-Reverb-II strikes the best balance of sound and control out of the bunch. More info and download here.
Also check out:
Our previous top choice in this category was the Variety Of Sound EpicVerb, and if you’re a fan of developer Bootsy’s other fantastic free plugins this should certainly find a place in your collection.
Smartelectronix Ambience was also mentioned and still holds it’s own as one of the best freeware algorithmic reverbs.
Despite having a GUI design that could best be described as “functional”, Freeverb3 is all about the sound and is undoubtedly another strong contender for best free reverb.
Voxengo OldSkoolVerb delivers a nice classic stereo reverb sound that is designed to blend well within a mix.
2) Best Convolution Reverb:
Audio Ease Altiverb 7
The established industry standard convolution reverb plugin. Convolution reverb uses Impulse Response (IR) files that contain the recorded reverberation characteristics of any space, from the inside of an oil drum to the Sydney Opera House, and applies those characteristics to the source material. A large part of what makes Altiverb so special is the attention to detail and the time and trouble taken by the Audio Ease team to put together the vast Altiverb IR library. Users also get access to new Impulse Responses as they are made available each month on the Audio Ease website.
The XL version also includes 5.1 surround reverb support and a TDM version for Pro Tools.
Available for MacOS: VST | AU | AAX | MAS | RTAS, and Windows: VST | AAX | RTAS.
HOFA Plugins IQ-Reverb sounds similarly fantastic to Altiverb and is a convolution reverb that can be controlled much like one of the classic algorithmic hardware units that it replicates with it’s IR library. IQ-Reverb has some great features in terms of how you can manipulate the IR files by reversing, timestretching etc. and includes a Position control where you can place the sound in left/right and front/back space. It doesn’t have as comprehensive a library of IRs as Altiverb, but you can import 3rd-party IR files so this won’t be a problem for any but the most demanding professional users. The real-time graphic representation is a cool and inspiring touch, although it can be a little heavy on computing resources as it redraws. Recommended.
Also check out:
There are plenty of great options now for experimenting with convolution reverb and Impulse Response files, including plugins from the standard libraries of many of the major DAWs. Special mention here must go to Logic Pro Space Designer, FL Studio Convolver, Convolution Reverb Pro in Ableton Live and Reaper Reaverb.
Some other top contenders are Waves IR-1 (discussed in more detail below), the newly updated Liquid Sonics Reverberate 2 and Knufinke SIR2. As mentioned above, there are free versions of these last two plugins, Liquid Sonics Reverberate LE and Knufinke SIR1.
While not technically a convolution reverb, Flux Ircam Verb V3 (and it’s streamlined Session version) is an algorithmic reverb that is designed to recreate real acoustic conditions with a convolution-style of accuracy. Going beyond the typical early and late reflections calculations of most algorithmic reverbs, this one includes an additional cluster parameter that determines what happens between the early reflections and conventional reverb tail. The result of a full 10 years of research by the Acoustic and Cognitive Spaces Team at the IRCAM R&D centre (next door to the Pompidou Centre in Paris), this is well worth checking out for sound designers, studio pros, and general reverb uber-nerds alike.
3) Best Reverb For Sound Design & FX:
Aether is unquestionably the sound designers algorithmic reverb plugin. It was 2CAudio’s debut plugin in 2009 and essentially set a new benchmark, being unmatched in terms of audio quality, scope and usability. Yes, it looks relatively complex and isn’t necessarily going to be a first choice for quickly setting up basic reverb sends for a typical mix (although of course it can do that with bells on). Where Aether really comes into it’s own is as the ultimate reverb for dramatically enhancing sound design, ambience and spot FX: hits, cinematic booms, club track-style swirls of shifting reverb clouds that can add a lot of extra movement, vibe and overall epic-ness to a track.
We must also mention the other two reverb plugins in the 2CAudio’s range, B2 and Breeze. B2 is a dual reverb and another interesting and top quality variation, using the expertise they’ve honed with Aether; while Breeze presents the same audio processing quality but in a streamlined format for simpler applications of reverb and a smaller CPU footprint. As a trio, these plugins complement each other perfectly, covering every ambience base.
More info here.
Also check out:
The Eventide Blackhole plugin is based in part on Eventide’s hardware processors and Space reverb guitar pedal. It’s another great choice for sound design and spontaneous effects creation, with a ribbon strip for super-easy real-time morphing between different reverb settings. Best reverb for live performance/DJing, anyone?!
The most recent addition to Waves‘ excellent “Hybrid” series of plugins is Waves H-Reverb, which specialises in versatility and speed, always critical attributes when you’re working on more out-there ideas and wanting to try out different and /or extreme changes in sound quickly and easily.
UVI SparkVerb features a cool coloured frequency graph that illustrates which areas of the frequency spectrum will generate reverb from the sound being processed. Independent Hi and Lo Decay controls allow you to set different reverb tail lengths for high and low frequencies, and through one of the three core algorithms – Lo-Fi, Bright and Dark – you can introduce a range of subtle modulations to further colour and characterize the reverb ambience. You can also select presets with SparkVerb’s Preset Voyager window, which gives you a constellation of potential reverb settings laid out over a navigation-style grid. Overall a great combination of sound and interface design, and very nice to use.
Valhalla Shimmer is an obvious candidate whenever you’re looking to achieve huge, enveloping, quality reverb ambience. The new-look eaReckon EAReverb 2 is another reverb that also offers something different to the norm with style and flexibility.
We must give an honourable mention to CamelSpace: since it’s creator Camel Audio has been snapped up by Apple it’s no longer supported, but we guess/hope it will eventually pop up again in some form, possibly as a native plugin for Logic Pro.
4) Best Bundled / Series Reverb:
Some of the most useful reverbs are a part of bundles or series of plugins that work really well together or share common features and workflows. FabFilter’s Pro-R is certainly on of these, featuring the by-now familiar format of an animated waveform graph (that doubles as a very useful spectrum analyser for making precise adjustments), over which you can create as many nodes as you need on the coloured frequency and reverb parameter curves to shape the effect with a level of efficiency and elegance that can make other interfaces feel a bit clunky by comparison. Highly recommended, especially if you’re familiar with other FabFilter plugins – and an ideal introduction if you’re not.
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Waves offer a range of streamlined and/or specialised reverb plugins throughout their various bundles. A former favourite on this list, Waves Renaissance Reverb obviously still holds up sonically and in terms of CPU hit, and some may prefer it’s no-nonsense interface to the flashier upstarts mentioned above. A well balanced reverb in terms of overall sound, versatility and interface/usability, with simple but effective graphic EQs for quick shaping of the reverb return signal – great for efficiently slotting the sound into a busy mix without adding clutter or low-frequency mush.
Waves TrueVerb is more of a room emulator than a conventional reverb like the Renaissance Reverb. Together, they’re an excellent combination.
Waves IR1 is a convolution reverb, with some great presets that are based on many famous venues and spaces from around the world. So if you want to hear what your music would sound like in the Sydney Opera House or at legendary NY punk rock club CBGBs, this is the reverb for you.
As far as we know, the IR1 is also unique for it’s parametric controls, whereby you can plot your settings on the interface display in the same way as you would on a parametric EQ.
The IK Multimedia Classik Studio Reverb (‘CSR’) bundle is a one-stop reverb shop for many producers and guitar players, featuring four reverb plugins, covering Plate, Hall, Room and Inverse types. Each module can work in either Easy of Advanced mode: Easy for when you just want to get something down fast with the minimum of fuss; Advanced when you want to spend more time finessing the perfect sound. Which of course also means it’s perfect for beginners, who can gradually get to grips with the more advanced parameters at their own pace.
Sonnox Oxford Reverb is included in the high-end and highly regarded Sonnox (or “Sony Oxford”) range of mix plugins. We should also mention iZotope Ozone’s Reverb module as a solid “bundled” reverb that you could easily overlook when perusing your plugin list. Finally, Acustica Audio Nebula Pro 3.5 of course includes a range of classic reverb unit emulations within it’s expansive library.
5) Best Streamlined Reverb:
Quite often you don’t need the most complex and processor-intensive plugin for mix processing tasks, and the best solution will be something that keeps the audio quality high while stripping the controls and parameters down to a well-honed essence. This sums up Valhalla’s VintageVerb, which follows up the well-regarded Room and Shimmer reverb plugins with an interface that cycles through 3 different colour schemes depending on which of the three Colour modes is selected: 1970s, 1980s, or the pleasingly specific/nonspecific “NOW”.
Don’t be misled by the name, VintageVerb is not a throwback but a thoroughly modern summation of all the best bits of algorithmic reverb past and present, and hits the sweet-spot between versatility, ease of use (the NASA-inspired interface designs are helpful here), value for money and sonic results at least as well as any other plugin on our list. Valhalla effects have become staples in most producers toolboxes, with good reason. More info here.
The earlier ValhallaRoom is still very versatile on it’s own, and to bring more instant epic-ness to your sounds you might also want Shimmer, which is specifically designed to create large, smooth-sounding tails for booms, trailer hits and other more ambient elements. More info here.
Also check out:
Before founding ValhallaDSP, plugin designer Sean Costello was the man behind Audio Damage’s reverb plugin Eos, which featured in my original list. 2CAudio Breeze strips down the complexities Aether to provide a plugin more suited to simpler tasks while maintaining the audio quality.
Exponential Audio PhoenixVerb is a newer reverb plugin from the creator of none other than the Lexicon PCM Native Bundle, so is certainly worth checking out. For simple, low-CPU tasks, PSP EasyVerb is made for the job.
6) Best Algorithmic/Digital Hardware Reverb Emulation:
Lexicon PCM Native Reverb Bundle
We could virtually fill an entire category highlighting emulations of famed Lexicon hardware reverb units, with particular attention to the 224 and 480 models. However, this official software bundle version from Lexicon themselves uses the algorithms and presets from the more modern PCM96 hardware unit (the PCM series was originally conceived as a more streamlined live reverb option compared to the cumbersome 480L). While still the benchmark for “that Lexicon sound” in a native plugin format, there is now some real competition, and if you’re in the market for a Lexicon-style reverb, which you consider to be the best will likely be based on a range of factors including price, format and interface style, as there is so little to choose between the sound of the top contenders.
The ReLab LX480 is a favourite of many producers, undercutting the Lexicon PCM on price. It is also now included in the growing array of high-end plugins available in the Mix/Master/FX subscription bundles from Slate Digital. Universal Audio always deliver authenticity and incredible sound with their hardware emulations, and their take on Lexicon reverb with the UAD Lexicon 224 doesn’t disappoint, although of course you will need one of their DSP hardware units to support it. Native Instruments teamed with Softube for the RC24 and RC48 “Reverb Classics”, which are available individually but also of course included in the Komplete 10 bundle.
Also check out:
The recently released PSP 2445 features emulations of the EMT 244 and 245 units, offering a welcome variation on classic digital reverb sounds beyond the Lexicons.
ValhallaDSP Room could already get remarkably close to the fabled Lexicon sound. With VintageVerb, which focuses more specifically on taking direct inspiration from the classic hardware with it’s nine algorithms, you get by far the best value Lexicon-style plugin.
Many producers swear by ArtsAcoustic Reverb (‘AAR’), which was designed specifically with the purpose of delivering flexible algorithmic reverb that rivals convolution realism, whilst also keeping CPU overhead to a minimum.
Wave Arts MasterVerb 5 is another excellent professional algorithmic reverb, that holds it’s own amongst some classy competition.
7) Best Vintage Or ‘Character’ Reverb:
Several of the plugins on this list could arguably lay claim to this category, but special mention has to go to Softube’s TSAR-1. A point worth noting about the TSAR-1 is that, unlike the UA EMT 140 Plate for example, it’s not a straight ’emulation’ of any one piece of celebrated vintage gear. Rather, it takes the common characteristics of much of the best-loved classics, and brings them all together with a highly useable, somehow ‘authentic’ sound (if that’s not an oxymoron?), and a very cool interface. The best of all worlds, and perhaps an example of where more plugin designers will (hopefully) go in the future.
Also check out:
We’ve mentioned UAD reverbs in the digital reverb and plate reverb emulation categories, but we must also touch on the UAD EMT 250, their version of the very first electronic reverberator, and the UAD AMS Neve RMX16. The RMX16 plugin features the nine reverb programs of the original, the most famous being the Nonlin program that helped create the unmistakable 80’s gated reverb drum sound as used by Phil Collins and many more.
112dB Redline Reverb is not a vintage-style plugin exactly, but this reverb has as much character and warmth as anything out there. Maybe it’s because 112dB seem so good at bringing the warmth in general, with their very tube-sounding compressor, limiter and preamp plugins also being highly regarded. Developed by Martijn Zwartjes, who used to work at Native Instruments, the Redline Reverb’s first incarnations were the Rev-6 and Space Master ensembles for NI’s Reaktor.
8) Best Plate / Spring Mechanical Reverb Emulation:
UAD EMT 140
Much like Lexicon being the king of digital algorithmic reverb, the EMT 140 reverb unit represents the pinnacle of the physical plate reverb sound. This large hardware unit was originally released by German phonograph manufacturers Elektro-Mess-Technik (EMT) in 1957, and quickly became a studio favourite, remaining in production for a further 25 years. Up until that point, the only reverb options for producers were to use spring reverb units (only really suitable for guitars), or to record or re-record tracks in an appropriately reverberant room, hall or custom-built chamber (inconvenient and/or expensive). The EMT 140 literally revolutionised studio reverb, not only offering a new level of convenience (a 7′ long, 600lbs box was of course considered amazingly convenient, relatively, at this time; imagine what a 1950’s engineer would make of plugin reverb..!), but also doing it with extreme style, providing the kind of lush, thick and diffuse reverb sound that is still revered today for it’s warmth and musicality.
Once again, Universal Audio nail it with the UAD EMT 140 Classic Plate Reverberator, an incredibly faithful emulation that is based on the combined emulation of three different original EMT 140’s.
Also check out:
Even if you don’t have UAD DSP hardware, there are still some equally great-sounding options for native plugin users. Waves Abbey Road Plates is the obvious first choice, while Valhalla DSP ValhallaPlate is also a classy option.
On the spring reverb front, Softube Spring Reverb is arguably the best spring reverb plugin available and is a huge amount of fun to use. There is also the more recent release of the UAD AKG BX 20. For lower budgets, we’d certainly also recommend the PSP SpringBox. Also not forgetting the CSR Plate Reverb in the IK Multimedia Classik Studio Reverb bundle.
9) Best Unsung Hero Reverb:
Your DAW’s Reverb
DAW developers continue to cram as much quality and processor diversity as possible into their offerings in order to get or stay ahead of the competition in a crowded market. This is great news for us producers, as the processors and effects now bundled with most DAWs as standard are not just stripped down versions or nominal, low-grade offerings merely there to fill out the spec sheet – they’re often at least as good as the third-party options (and in fact are sometimes based on acquired former third-party designs).
The best things about using the reverb plugins supplied with your DAW are that a) you don’t have to pay more, and you’re getting the most out of the investment you’ve already made, and b) they are likely to run that bit more efficiently within their host program than a third-party plugin might, having been optimized purely for that platform.
We’ve already mentioned some of the standout convolution reverb plugins bundled with DAWs, such as Logic Pro Space Designer, Ableton Max For Live Convolution Reverb Pro and FL Studio Convolver. There is also the Pro Tools native Reverb One, apparently based on the old favourite Wizooverb W2, as well as Avid ReVibe II. These are just a handful, but we’re pretty sure your DAW will have something to at least get started with too.
10) Best Reverb For Electronic Music:
D16 are perhaps best known for their software versions of classic drum machines and the TB-303. Toraverb generates lush but suitably gritty, ‘punchy’-sounding reverb that is just what you need for all kinds of modern music.
For electronic music production, you generally want a healthy selection from all of the different categories mentioned above – there is obviously a big crossover here with sound design/FX-style reverbs, for example – but there are also some plugins that are undeniably essential for producers of electronic and dance music. D16 Toraverb stands apart in this respect, for its ability to cover all the bases with style, relative simplicity and ease of use, and the way it can be called on for everything from vibey classic plate or spring emulations to more out-there, sound design-oriented, abstract textures.
Also check out:
Valhalla DSP’s VintageVerb and Shimmer; and 2CAudio Aether and B2 are both no-brainers here.
Exponential Audio, creators of the Phoenix Reverb mentioned earlier, have also recently brought out a hardware controller plugin for the Bricasti M7 digital reverb unit. Bricasti was founded by ex-Lexicon engineers and the M7 is something of a modern classic. Although there are impulse response files available for emulating the M7 sound, to our knowledge it has yet to be directly emulated in pure software form, so this plugin “front-end” interface for controlling the rack unit is currently the closest we have come, and is certainly an interesting development for reverb aficionados.
Beyond the reverb plugins we’ve already discussed, the excellent Soundtoys EchoBoy delay plugin may seem a left-field choice but does great atmospheric reverb, and should at any rate be in any space-obsessed producers arsenal – see more about this one in our 10 Best Delay Plugins In The World article.
That wraps up the best reverb plugins in the world today. As always, our aim is to provide you with a definitive and above all useful overview of your reverb plugin options in 2017, so that you can try out the ones that pique your interest and choose the very best and most appropriate tools for your productions. As always, leave your comments, thoughts and suggestions below!
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