The best reverb ever? You ask that questions and get so many different answers. There is iconic outboard gear as the Lexicon, emulations of legendary boxes like the EMT and plugINs with a ton of different algorithms and convolution types. Depending on the result the best reverb also may vary, as there is no one stop shop for all situations, at least in my opinion.
Before we get hands on the plugins, I want you to give a short overview about the history of reverberation – some background info.
Room / Hall / Chamber
The first reverb effects were done with a technique you would call „worldizing“. The principle behind this is that the source sound would be playbacked by a loudspeaker and a microphone would pick up the sound with the needed reverb. This technique of reverberation is still used today, to ensure a realistic sound. It is also used to record impulse responses for convolution reverbs.
After this, plate reverbs came to this world. Plate reverbs use a transducer to create vibrations across a large plate of sheet metal. A microphone picks up the vibration and converts it to an audio signal. A plate reverb tends to be bright and clean-sounding.
This kind of reverb uses a similiar principle as the plate reverb, but with a metal spring instead of a plate. It is more compact and cheaper than the plate reverb, so you will find some of them in old studios. The plate reverb sounds metallic and was used for many classic rock productions.
Algorithm and Convolution
Generally you can say, that algorithmic reverbs generate their sound by calculation. This means their reverb tails not always sound very natural, which hasn’t to be necessarily bad. Though algorithmic reverbs are also far lighter on the computer’s cpu.
Convolution reverbs use impulse responses which were recorded in rooms by playing back a sweep over loudspeakers, which sends out a broad range of frequencies. This signal is being used and is „convoled“ with the original signal.
It is difficult to compare reverbs just based audio, because you won’t be able to set same rooms and exact parameters on different plugins. So when you listen to the files below, I want you to just pay attention to the shape and the general sound of the reverb. I tested the reverbs with different material and respectively two presets.
UA EMT 140 ($199)
The EMT 140 plate reverb is a classic plate reverb which was released in 1957. Universal Audio took it up and created an emulation of this reverb. The UA EMT 140 creates a clean sound and comes with a basic amount of controls. If you want a warm, not too harsh reverb, try it! Although only Universal Audio user can use this particular plugin, there are some other emulations of the original EMT140 like the Softube TSAR-1.
UA Lexicon 224 ($349)
This reverb was one of the first digital reverbs, released in 1978. Not as a plugin, but as hardware. It is an algorithmic based plugin, but it takes some time, until you get familiar with its sliders and buttons. I think this reverb sounds digital and a bit oldschool! For some material, this is the best reverb, but I don’t think it’s an allrounder. And if you just need a good reverb, there are some cheaper alternatives. This reverb was also emulated by Native Instrument with the RC24. Vintage!
Waves TrueVerb ($150)
With it’s graphic interface, TrueVerb is easy to understand and at the same time a really versatile plugin with a solid sound. It sounds very natural and is a good tool if you want to generate realistic-sounding rooms. Also the reverse function is awesome, when you want to create a revers reverb. A standard in all my sessions. Still!
Valhalla Room ($50)
If it comes to realistic spaces, Valhalla Room is the opposite of this. Valhalla can produce interesting effects, which can be a nice partner for sound design and hyper-real rooms. The sound itself is good, caused by its modern algorithms. But when you compare it with more expensive plugins, I think you will hear the difference in the details and resolution. If you consider the price, I think the guys from Valhalla did a great job, though!
Overloud Breverb 2 ($179)
I haven’t heard of Overloud before, but when I tested Breverb 2 I asked myself, why not?! Breverb 2 really sounds great and has a gentle, warm touch. I think that you can use this reverb for almost everything. You will get a classic and modern sound out of it and can be used even in postproduction. A real tip! Is this the One Stop Shop?
2CAudio Aether ($250)
A big amount of functions comes with this plugin and it will take some time until you get into every parameter, but this will result into a big amount of variety. It contains a a lot of presets, so you will be able to set up your needed sound really fast. But somehow I was not blown away by the sound of this reverb. In my opinion it sounds harsh (yes you can damp it) and a little bit artificial, but this resulted in a very large feel.
Waves H-Reverb ($349)
H-Reverb is a pretty new reverb by Waves. I personally think that it has a rich sound and it still sounds natural if you use it with a long tail. The interface is clear and you will understand the parameters fast. The plugin is not cheap, but I think it’s more than worth it. For more info check our review! I am a FAN!
UVI SparkVerb ($199)
The SparkVerb is a modern one and I personally like the look and feel of the plugin. A visual feedback helps to set up the wanted sound and a special preset voyager is a fresh difference to other plugins. SparkVerb sounds clean and smooth at the same time and gives you a basic amount of settings, without overdoing it.
Now it’s up to you which Reverb suits best for your DAW and which you like best personally. I personally like a clean natural sounding Reverb the most…so..What is your favorite REVERB?