Fender Reverb Unit 1961, “Reverb Tank”

Are Reverb Pedals Worth It ? The Complete Guide

 Effects in music are a powerful tool to give life and personality to any composition. Among these effects, reverb stands out for its ability to immerse the listener in an imaginary space, adding depth and ambience to any sound. Reverb pedals, in particular, have played a crucial role in the setup of musicians around the world. In this article, we’ll explore the history of reverb pedals, analyze some classic models, and evaluate whether they really deserve a place in your musical equipment.

Fender Reverb Unit 1961, “Reverb Tank”

So Are Reverb Pedals Worth It?

The key question is whether reverb pedals really deserve a place in your musical setup. The answer depends largely on your musical style, your sonic preferences and your needs. If you’re looking to enrich your performances with a spacious and enveloping ambience, reverb pedals are an excellent choice. They also offer the flexibility to adjust the amount and type of reverb depending on the song and context.

However, it’s important to keep in mind that the quality of the pedal and its ability to integrate into your rig can vary. Some musicians find that the reverb built into amps and modeling effects is sufficient for their needs. On the other hand, if you’re looking for precise control over your sound and a wide range of reverb options, dedicated pedals can be a worthwhile investment.

Lexicon 224, 1978, first digital reverb unit

Lexicon 224, 1978, first digital reverb unit

Brief History Of Reverb Pedals

The history of reverb is linked to the need to recreate the acoustic experience of natural spaces in controlled environments. During early recordings in the 1920s, producers and musicians noticed how sounds were reflected and mixed in different spaces, resulting in reverberation. Churches, cathedrals and concert halls were the first places to experiment with natural reverberation, often influencing musical composition to take advantage of these effects.

The next step in the evolution of reverb was the invention of reverb plates. In 1930, Laurens Hammond and John M. Hanert created the first electromechanical reverb unit, known as the “Hammond Organ.” It used a set of suspended metal springs to simulate reverberation. This approach was expanded by engineers such as D.E. Cavanagh, who developed the famous EMT 140 plate reverb in 1957, which became a key tool in music production.

The 1950s marked a significant change in music and recording technology. Recording studios became laboratories for sonic experimentation, and musicians began to look for ways to capture reverberation in their recordings. The EMT 140 and other similar devices became staples in studios around the world, allowing musicians to give depth and breadth to their recordings.

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As the 1960s approached, the demand for reverb grew in all areas of music. So it was that in 1961, Fender released the Fender Reverb Unit, one of the first reverb pedals. This device used spring springs to simulate reverb. The Fender Reverb Unit opened the door to a new era of sonic possibilities for musicians of all genres.

CLASSIC MODELS 1960 – 1990

BOSS Digital Reverb RV-2, 1985

BOSS Digital Reverb RV-2, 1985

The seed of the reverb was planted in the 1960s, when music experienced a creative renaissance. In 1961, Fender released its legendary Fender Reverb Unit, a device that used spring-loaded tubes to replicate the acoustics of wide-open spaces. Rock, psychedelic rock, and especially surf-rock musicians adopted this effect to enliven their guitars with an ambience that evoked beaches and oceans, making it a hallmark of their guitar sound.

As the decade progressed, a change in the way reverb was applied emerged. The Electro-Harmonix Holy Grail, introduced in 1973, ushered in the digital era. This compact pedal offered classic reverb sounds, but with the advantage of digital technology, making it more accessible and versatile.

The 1970s saw a tireless search for new sounds. Electro-Harmonix introduced the Electric Mistress Flanger/Filter Matrix in 1975, which combined reverb with chorus and flanger effects. This pedal opened up a world of possibilities for musicians looking for unique and daring sounds.

In 1978, Lexicon introduced the Model 224, one of the first digital reverb processors in rack format. Although it was not a pedal per se, its impact was significant, laying the groundwork for future innovations. At the same time, the Electro-Harmonix Deluxe Memory Man offered reverb, delay and chorus in a single pedal, allowing musicians to experiment with a range of enriching effects.

The 1980s brought with it a technological revolution in reverb pedals. Eventide released the SP2016 in 1982, a stereo reverb processor that set new standards in quality and customization. Although it was not a pedal per se, its influence was profound, influencing the design of future pedals and processors.

In 1985, Boss introduced the Digital Reverb RV-2, combining digital reverb and delay in a compact pedal. This pedal paved the way for the era of digital reverb pedals, which marked the decade with versatile sounds and creative options.

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The 1990s cemented the presence of reverb pedals in music. Models like the Line 6 DL4 and Boss RV-3 combined delay and reverb, offering a palette of enveloping effects. These pedals became essential companions for musicians seeking experimental and atmospheric sounds, and laid the foundation for the future of effect pedals and especially reverb.


1. Electro-Harmonix Holy Grail

Electro Harmonix Holy Grail V-1 Model

The Electro-Harmonix Holy Grail is a pioneer in the modern era of reverb pedals. Released in 1996, this compact pedal brought the classic sound of spring and plate reverbs into the hands of musicians of all genres. Its simple yet effective design captured the essence of vintage reverb in an affordable and accessible format.

2. Strymon BigSky

The Strymon BigSky is an example of how modern technology can transform the world of guitar effects. This pedal, released in 2014, offers an impressive range of reverb algorithms that capture the essence of real spaces. From concert halls to ethereal landscapes, the BigSky is a toolbox for creating immersive sonic environments.

3. Boss RV-6

The Boss brand is synonymous with durability and quality, and the Boss RV-6 is no exception. This pedal, released in 2015, offers a wide variety of reverbs from classic to modern. Its “Shimmer” function adds an extra dimension to the sound, creating a heavenly, ethereal effect.

4. EarthQuaker Devices Afterneath

For musicians looking for a more experimental approach to reverb, the EarthQuaker Devices Afterneath is an intriguing choice. This pedal, released in 2014, offers a “spectral” reverb that creates an ambient and enriching sound. Its eclectic design and intuitive controls make it ideal for those who want to explore new sonic horizons.

5. Eventide Space

The Eventide Space is a jewel in the crown of reverb pedals. Released in 2011, this pedal is a laboratory of reverberant sounds. It offers a wide range of algorithms and parameters to sculpt the perfect ambience, from spatial reverbs to unique sonic textures.


Let’s talk a little bit about the types of reverb that all these pedals simulate, and their characteristics

Spring Reverb

  • Spring Reverb

One of the first reverb types to be introduced to the pedal world was the spring reverb. Inspired by the reverb plates used in recording studios, this type of reverb uses a set of metal springs to create natural reverberations. It was popularized by the Fender Twin Reverb amplifier in the 1960s and has been a favorite among blues, rock and surf musicians ever since. Spring reverb provides a distinctive, warm sound that evokes the feeling of playing in a large open space.

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Plate Reverb

Plate reverb is another classic type of reverb that has found its way into pedals. Like its recording studio counterpart, plate reverb uses a metal plate to create reverberations. This type of reverb is known for its smooth, crystalline sound, which adds a sense of space without overwhelming the original tone. It is often used in genres such as jazz and country music, where clarity and texture are crucial.

Room and Large Venue Reverb

As technology advanced, reverb pedals began to incorporate digital algorithms to simulate different types of spaces. Room and large space reverbs emulate the acoustics of larger venues, such as auditoriums and cathedrals. These pedals offer a more expansive and deeper reverb, suitable for creating cinematic atmospheres and epic soundscapes. They are popular with musicians looking to give their performances an extra dimension.

Modulated Effects Reverb

Innovation led to the creation of modulated effects reverb pedals, which add an extra layer of complexity and texture to the sound. These pedals introduce elements such as chorus and tremolo to the reverb, resulting in an ethereal and enveloping sound. Experimental musicians and musicians in genres such as shoegaze have adopted these pedals to create unique and evocative soundscapes.

Impulse Reverb

The most recent advances in technology have given rise to impulse reverb pedals, also known as IR (Impulse Response). These pedals use impulse response recordings of real spaces to recreate their acoustics. This allows musicians to experiment with the reverberation of iconic venues such as concert halls and famous recording studios. Impulse reverb pedals offer impressive fidelity and exceptional versatility.

Final Thoughts

Ultimately, reverb pedals have evolved significantly since their inception in recording studios. They offer an affordable and effective way to add depth and ambience to your music. From classic models that defined their sound to modern options that open up new creative possibilities, reverb pedals deserve serious consideration for those looking to expand their sonic palette.

In short, reverb pedals have a special place in the world of musical effects. While their relevance may vary depending on your needs and personal preferences, their ability to transform sound and transport listeners into unique sonic spaces is undeniable. Whether you’re a guitarist, keyboardist, or player of any other instrument, reverb can add a magical touch to your music.

Ultimately, the question is not whether reverb pedals are worthwhile, but how they can enrich and elevate your music to new heights.

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