Reverb is something we like to call ‘musical MSG’—it just makes everything sound that much better. And when your amp’s onboard reverb doesn’t cut it, there are hundreds of pedals to pick from. The problem is settling on the best reverb pedal for your needs.
Do you use reverb to enhance your tone or as an effect unto itself? Are you a virtuoso looking for depth in your solos or a shoegazer who absolutely must have reverse reverb? Whatever your needs are, you’ll find a stompbox here—they’re in no particular order—to fit them.
1Electro-Harmonix Cathedral Stereo Reverb
For intermediate players keen on experimenting
While not nearly as powerful as the big boys—we’re looking at you, Strymon BigSky—the EHX Cathedral manages to pack in eight very tweakable reverb types. It’s a stompbox ideal for players who primarily use reverb as a finishing touch but who still want the flexibility of dialing in out-of-this-world ambient sounds.
- Versatile and with enough depth for most guitarists
- Has the sought-after reverse reverb and the Holy Grail’s Flerb
- Tap tempo-enabled and has an infinite latch switch
- Save one preset for each mode
- Stereo inputs and outputs
- Retails for about $220
If an Eventide unit feels too intimidating and a Boss too basic, the Cathedral settles into that neat nook in-between. It has eight reverb types: two springs, hall, room, plate, reverse, Grail Flerb (a flanger-reverb hybrid) and echo (pretty much a short delay).
And where the Cathedral excels is in the bevy of straightforward controls to shape your tone. You can control the blend, reverb time, pre-delay of up to two seconds, feedback, and damping/tone. That last parameter is particularly useful—it can take your, say, hall reverb from an ominous wash all the way to a bright sparkle.
While the spring ’verbs, hall, room and plate are solid emulators, the stand-out modes on the Cathedral are reverse and Flerb. The latter due only to its uniqueness, and the former because you can deploy it to add depth to solos or, with a fully wet mix via the “Blend” knob, nail a believable ambient drone tone.
Pro tip: Chain a gain pedal into the reverse reverb with its feedback close to max, and you’ll have furious oscillations worthy of the noisiest shoegaze band. Or crank the “Reverb Time” knob all the way up, and you’ll be able to layer oceans of sounds on top of one another. You can also engage this effect temporarily by holding on to the tap tempo switch.
For pros who want power, depth and musicality
It’s the big one. Part of the ‘triumvirate’ of performance reverb units alongside the Eventide Space and Empress Reverb, the Strymon BigSky is everything you can ask for in a ’verb box. Yes, it’s expensive. But for a stompbox-sized, studio-grade reverb that sounds as lucid as analog tanks or actual rooms, you’re getting your dollar’s worth—and then some.
- Has every reverb type you need (and don’t need)
- Sweet, musical replications of analog reverbs and spaces
- Powerful tone-shaping controls
- Save up to 300 presets
- Stereo and MIDI inputs and outputs
- Retails for $479
The iconic blue box is a household name for one reason: doing everything you could think of with reverb. It’s a product of years of research. The folks over at Strymon donned their lab coats and unearthed decades’ worth of physical reverb units, research papers, algorithms and other science-y stuff that culminated in the BigSky.
That doesn’t mean the BigSky sounds sterile. Far from it. All of its 12 reverb machines are cherished for their musicality, whether it’s short spring ‘boings,’ angelic shimmers or the majestic swells of the Cloud mode. Even the Chorale mode, which adds uncanny choir voices to your notes, sings ever so sweetly. And if you’re a sucker for reverse reverb, the BigSky packs in three types of ‘backwards’ trails.
If the multitude of knobs prove anything, it’s that the BigSky is as powerful as it is versatile. While it isn’t as editable as the Eventide Space, the Strymon scores points for its ease of use in relation to the Space. The usual decay, pre-delay, mix, tone and modulation parameters are right on the enclosure, with a pair of assignable knobs for your tone-tweaking pleasure. And with the ability to save up to 300 presets, the sky’s the limit with this pedal.
3Free the Tone Ambi Space AS-1R
For detailed, natural digital ’verbs
Free the Tone has been making waves for its no-nonsense pedals that issue out pristine, as-they-should-be tones. And the Japanese brand’s reverb unit, the Ambi Space AS-1R, does exactly that. What it lacks in features it more than makes up for with stunning, studio-grade reproductions of the four common reverb types.
- Does the basic stuff very well
- Two more experimental modes: Cave and Serene
- Extremely easy to use
- Save up to four presets
- Stereo inputs and outputs, and MIDI input
- Retails for under $400
Despite its Moog-esque graphics, the Ambi Space is proudly digital, based on a 32-bit DSP. It’s responsible for the stompbox’s six musical, jaw-dropping algorithms: spring, plate, room, hall, and the unique modes of Cave and Serene.
The first four modes are the reverb equivalent of the best burger you’ve ever wolfed down. Not the most exciting or ‘chef-y’ meal, but there’s gold to be found in doing something so simple so well. These four modes are some of the most non-intrusive, natural-sounding we’ve come across in pedal format, from the subtle nuances of the plate ’verb to the lush hall.
And the reflections on this thing are nothing short of amazing—you’ll be able to hear distinct individual reflections rather than a drone-y wash, even if it’s only a single note ringing. The Ambi Space also reacts quite well to your playing: Hit the strings hard for splashy sounds, or pluck them gently for a mellower wash.
Cave and Serene are as far left of field as the Ambi Space strays. But by no means is this as off-the-charts as an EarthQuaker Devices machine. The former adds a dark shimmer to your playing by way of early reflections that bounce off the crags of imaginary caverns, while the latter is the most blissful or ‘ambient’ mode on the stompbox.
4TC Electronic Hall of Fame 2 Reverb
For value hunters
It’s hard to top the value this little stompbox brings to your rig. For $150, the Hall of Fame 2 provides a mix of traditional and experimental sounds, as well as deep customization and programming options via TC Electronic’s TonePrint app. It’s time to whip out your laptop and get tinkering.
- Lots of features in a pedalboard-friendly enclosure
- Design your personalized reverb via TonePrint
- Bypass footswitch doubles up as an expression pedal
- Stereo inputs and outputs
- Retails for under $150
The fire hydrant-red pedal handles the regular hall, room, spring and plate reverbs well. However, it sounds neither as natural as the Free the Tone Ambi Space nor as varied as the Neunaber Immerse. But for that price tag and the level of customization it affords, the Hall of Fame 2 can’t be beat.
Besides the garden variety algorithms, the pedal has four weirder ones: Church, Shim, Mod and Lofi. Church is capable of creating immersive, organ-like echoes, while Shim is TC Electronic’s take on the sought-after shimmer ’verb. Take note, though: You’re only able to tweak each reverb’s level, tone and decay, with another switch to toggle between a short and long pre-delay of up to three seconds.
This pedal’s stand-out feature has to be the MASH technology, which effectively puts an expression pedal into the footswitch. Pressure sensors under the footswitch control the “Level” knob, letting you create dynamic tones as you hold down the switch with varying levels of force. So a low-key hall sound, for instance, escalates into a dramatically lusher tone the harder you stomp down.
If the stock algorithms on the Hall of Fame 2 aren’t enough to please your ears, hook the pedal up to your computer and fire up TC Electronic’s TonePrint app. It allows you to create or download presets and port them over to your stompbox, which allows you to save up to three TonePrint sounds.
5Electro-Harmonix Holy Grail
For ‘fire-and-forget’ players
For beginners or players who use reverb as a garnish rather than the main ingredient, the Electro-Harmonix Holy Grail is all you really need. And like any good garnish, this diminutive box will elevate your tone from pedestrian to professional. It’s affordable, sweet-sounding and incredibly easy to use, but there’s not a lot going on in terms of features.
- Straightforward usability with just one knob
- Very small footprint
- Has the sought-after Flerb mode
- Retails for about $120
Simplicity is at the crux of this iconic pedal. There are only three modes and one knob to control your wet/dry mix. Spring is your typical drippy simulation of classic analog units, hall is a lush, spacious mode that doesn’t stray too far left-field, and Flerb is EHX’s signature flanger-reverb combination.
So if your amp’s onboard reverb doesn’t quite cut the mustard, slather on the Holy Grail’s instead. You’ll find that its subtlety—and compact size—makes it effective as an ‘always-on’ pedal to have on your board. That the Holy Grail only clocks in at $120 makes having one even more of a no-brainer.
For those who want a versatile workhorse
You can’t have a list of reverbs without mentioning Boss’ classic RV series. The RV-2 made its debut in 1987 as the world’s first digital reverb stompbox, and three decades later, the sixth edition of the pedal still flies the Boss flag high. Like the original, the RV-6 is affordable, unfussy and produces very usable tones.
- Eight versatile reverb modes, including a decent shimmer
- Stereo inputs and outputs
- Retails for under $150
Unlike the similarly priced EHX Holy Grail, the RV-6 should be treated more like an effect proper rather than a tone supplement. It does solid emulations of spring, hall, plate and room ’verbs, but modes such as Modulate, Shimmer and +Delay take the stompbox into wilder territories.
And the RV-6 is competent in all those departments. Traditional sounds come across as natural and lush, particularly the spring mode, while the other effects offer a neat peek—read: gateway drug—into the stranger universe of big box units. Take the shimmer mode, for instance. The octave-up effect is harsher than the one on, say, the Strymon. Yet it gives most players the potential and platform for sonic exploration.
There are only three tone-shaping controls: mix, tone and time, the latter of which controls reverb time and not pre-delay. Which is perhaps the only shortcoming of the RV-6—you can’t dive in and tweak the individual modes with a level of precision that other units afford.
7EarthQuaker Devices Transmisser
For the adventurous
Sometimes, ‘pleasant’ just doesn’t cut it. When you’re tired of the usual vintage-inspired springs, here’s a stompbox from the mad scientists over at EarthQuaker Devices to banish your reverb fatigue. The Transmisser evokes soundtracks from imaginary sci-fi flicks and lurid nightmares—think sounds from John Hurt and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop.
- A singular, interactive stompbox that suits noiseniks
- Has an inbuilt filter and modulation to warp the reverb
- Fun to tinker around with
- Retails for $229
The Transmisser is a modulated reverb with an extremely long decay that’s then fed into a resonant filter. But knowing the science behind the pedal is, to us, irrelevant. Because this little fella conjures magic.
The truth is, the ‘reverb’ section on the pedal isn’t very editable—you can only control its time and tone. It’s the “Freq,” “Warp” and “Rate” knobs, and their interplay, that define the Transmisser. “Freq” controls the frequency of the pedal’s resonant filter (it behaves very differently depending on the note or chord you’re playing), while “Rate” handles the speed at which the entire pedal modulates. And “Warp” is a system-wide ‘slew’ control that affects the filter and modulation.
Tweaking those latter three knobs and changing the notes you’re playing will elicit washes, gurgles and swoops that can go from gossamer to haunting to sheer obliteration. And because most of this will involve you getting down on your knees to twist dials, the Transmisser is perhaps best suited for the bedroom and studio—or at a noise gig.
8Eventide Space Reverb Pedal
For control freaks
Here’s one for the innovators and explorers looking to venture into the unknown—but who also want to be able to decide every step of the journey. Eventide’s Space, the priciest (and most difficult-to-use) pedal on our list, is renowned for its line-up of otherworldly sound effects and deep programmability that will appease the fussiest of musicians.
- 12 reverb algorithms
- Powerful tone-shaping controls
- Can pull up dozens of artist presets, from Sigur Rós to Vernon Reid
- Save up to 100 presets
- Stereo and MIDI inputs and outputs
- Retails for $499
If you’re a technophobe, a beginner with large-format stompboxes or someone who just needs a basic hall sound, look elsewhere. The Space is capable of issuing out every single reverb imaginable (and unimaginable), based around 12 algorithms, from the typical to the infamous BlackHole.
But first, the basics. Which the Space doesn’t just do well—it gives you an obsessive amount of control over them. In room mode, for instance, you can tweak the room size, the mix of early reflections you want, the diffusion of said reflections, and three EQ controls. And that’s not even mentioning the ‘regular’ parameters, such as blend, decay, pre-delay and modulation.
Perhaps the best example of the Space’s microscopic attention to detail is in its spring mode. You can adjust the number of virtual springs (down to the decimal point, mind you) and the tension of those springs. Compare this to the BigSky’s spring mode, which lets you choose between one and three springs. Eventide’s spring also comes with tremolo, whose intensity and speed you can toy around with.
Then we arrive at its impressive list of unorthodox reverbs. The trademark BlackHole algorithm is one of the more beloved modes on the Space; it takes hall reverb one step further with an ethereal shimmer. And with the decay prolonged and wetness set to full, it’s capable of eerie, dystopian sounds plucked from an android’s electric nightmares. Or Vangelis. And MangleVerb adds a flanger-ed wobble to dry guitar notes, which pairs well with overdrive, to leave a subtly overdriven echo behind your notes.
The Space also comes with creative mash-ups of classic reverbs, including ModEchoVerb, a cocktail that creates a lush, spine-tingling trail to even the simplest of lead lines. And of course, every in-built effect is reconfigurable to produce all sorts of sounds.
Gigging musicians are going to love this rugged black box thanks to its two operating modes: Preset and Play. The former lets you use the footswitches to rotate between sounds you’ve created and stored. And the latter offers real-time performance options, such as HotSwitching to a second set of parameters for creative improvisations on the fly and tapping in a tempo to adjust a delay.
A few players will claim the pedal’s sounds themselves aren’t as lush or natural as those in the BigSky. But once you get past the steep learning curve of the unit—and the manual’s 50-plus pages—you’ll find that this Space is the final frontier.
9Neunaber Immerse Reverberator
For those who prize depth and simplicity
The Neunaber Immerse is made for players who prefer their effects served on a plate. The folks at Neunaber have concocted eight reverbs to perfection, with a carefully assigned range of tweakable parameters to get the most out of the sounds they’ve prepared for you.
- Straightforward usability
- Gorgeous ‘regular’ sounds and off-the-charts ambient ones
- Multi-purpose dial mapped to adjust single aspects of reverbs
- Stereo inputs and outputs
- Retails for $229
Everything you can do with the Immerse is laid out for you to see. The tiny text printed on its HR Giger-esque enclosure details its sounds and the adjustments you can make for each. You won’t find secret settings hidden under the hood, and neither can you mix and match reverbs into new effects. Just eight algorithms, including two shimmer modes.
That’s not to say this is a boring pedal. Neunaber’s no-gimmicks approach ensures it nails the fundamentals while giving you the potential to conjure a few otherworldly ambient sounds. Most of the latter comes from the multi-purpose knob, whose function changes depending on the mode you’re on. For instance, the dial is mapped to modulation when you’re on hall mode, giving your notes resonant trails as eerie as you like it.
Likewise, the multi-purpose dial adds another dimension to the special reverbs that are begging for experimentation. On either one of the two shimmer modes, for instance, the knob controls the amount of shimmer present—crank it all the way clockwise and you’ll hear angels sing.
In addition to the basic parameters, the stompbox offers two important toggles: a “Kill Dry” switch and a “Trail” switch, which are fairly self-explanatory. And finally, a pair of stereo inputs and outputs ensure the Immerse is far more versatile than its pedalboard-friendly size suggests.
For guitarists who want lots of sounds in a familiar format
It may lack the LCD screen of other big boxes, yet the Empress Reverb is part of the ‘holy trinity’ of reverb stompboxes alongside the Strymon and Eventide. That’s because the Reverb does it all: It has a bucketload of natural-sounding algorithms, the ability to save dozens of presets, and it offers lots of tone-tweaking depth.
- 12 algorithm types with many coming in two or three variations, for a total of 24 stock ’verbs
- Easy to use for guitarists of all levels
- Save up to 35 presets
- Stereo inputs and outputs, and with MIDI connectivity if you buy a separate box
- Retails for $449
The Reverb offers 12 algorithms from the well-established to the downright bizarre. Many of these algorithms come in multiple variations, leaving you with 24 stock sounds to experiment with. For instance, hall and plate come in two voices apiece, while there are three reverse sounds at your feet: with decay, reverse and stop, and reverse delay. But your only clue to what sub-mode you’re on? The colors of the LED on the top-left of the box.
The sounds themselves—both traditional and experimental—are musical, natural and as sweet as Strymon’s. The BigSky, however, edges out the Reverb in terms of versatility. And that’s largely because where the BigSky has two assignable knobs, the Reverb has two multi-purpose dials (“Thing 1” and “Thing 2”) that are hard-coded to the parameters of the sub-mode you’re in. Y’know, like a regular guitar pedal.
Take the Triggered Swell variation of the Ambient Swell algorithm, for example. It removes the attack of the note and applies a fade-in to create those space-y, film soundtrack sounds. On this sub-mode, the “Thing” knobs govern swell length and modulation—so turning them up enlarges your dilations into an ocean of sound.
The craziest algorithm on the Reverb is “Beer,” which unfortunately has nothing to do with the beverage. It’s where Empress crammed in two ’verbs that don’t fit anywhere else: Glitch creates eight-bit-like artifacts, while gated reverb does exactly what it says on the tin.
And although we appreciate the straightforwardness and simplicity of the Reverb, the lack of a screen can be slightly iffy. Especially when you’re playing live and trying to recall a preset or remember whether the green LED on Lofi mode refers to a warbly reverb or the gritty one. Ultimately, though, the Empress Reverb is a very usable stompbox for guitarists who want power and depth but are reluctant to fiddle around too much with dials.