No sound occurs in the real world without reverb. It allows our ears to decode how close up or far away sound is, how large the space around it is and the materials the space is made up of. In a mix, we have creative license of how we use and abuse reverb to place sounds in a space, either re-creating the real world or something new entirely with creative applications of the effect. Either way, it’s one of the most important parts of our mix.
Not only are there many different types of reverb, once we move inside the box, there are hundreds of virtual models – everything from cheap spring reverbs to cavernous convolutions, recreating some of world’s most famous spaces. We narrowed it down to our top 10 reverb plugins every producer needs to consider for their mix. Don’t agree or have something to add? Stick your suggestion in the comments!
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UAD AMS RMX16
The AMS RMX16 is perhaps most famous for the Phil Collins tom fill which features in ‘In The Air Tonight’ but it’s capable of much more than gated reverb. It offers a number of algorithms which can be considered as different sonic personalities. While all of these are unique, there’s a continuity to what the RMX16 brings to mixing, which is a particularly musical feel; the Ambience plug-in shimmers with beautiful top end, the Plates are vocal treatment classics whilst the Non-Lin algorithm has found favour with more artists than Phil Collins alone, working as a ‘sustaining’ and reinforcing influence on percussive sources aplenty. UAD’s emulation is pleasingly precise, capturing the spirit and sound of the hardware beautifully.
SparkVerb combines some unusual features with some classics but its inclusion here isn’t due to any gimmickry, but rather because it offers a combination of great sound and huge, unexpected flexibility. As you’d hope, it provides an impressive array of reverb-shaping parameters, including independent control over High and Low Decay times but its most notable feature is that all of its presets are available via a ‘Preset Voyager’ mode, which lets you morph between preset parameter positions to create new hybrids. So, if you want a subtle plate and an endless vapour-like wash to meet halfway, you can make that happen. You can even go further and create entirely ‘random’ treatments by clicking a dice icon and testing your luck. Imaginative, creative and flexible.
Lexicon PCM Native Reverb Bundle
Lexicon’s name as a provider of high-quality studio reverb is second to none, forged over years of ground-breaking digital technology. Until the release of the Native Reverb bundle, this was tied to hardware however, so a suite featuring each of Lexicon’s classic algorithms hosted separately is a joy. If you’re a film composer, the Hall, Concert Hall and Random Hall will all appeal, whereas the Plate reverb is a pop mix engineer’s go-to option and the Rooms are particularly great for drum ambience. The word ‘classic’ isn’t an over-exaggeration when describing these effects, which are more affordable now than they were when first released.
AudioEase Altiverb 7
Altiverb remains the definitive Convolution Reverb, providing you with the opportunity to pass your sounds through impulse responses from a large and expandable collection of physical spaces. For the uninitiated, Impulse Responses provide the physical DNA of a specific space, usually captured with sine tone sweeps to produce a reverb tail through which you can then pass any sound.
Altiverb’s list of Impulse Responses grows all the time, with halls, rooms, churches and other spaces tailored for musical purposes and a collection of ‘alternative’ enclosures too – including plane cockpits, car interiors and assorted rooms – for post-production. In particular, its ability to place sounds in a specific on-stage position is hugely useful.
Plate reverbs take their names from their ‘physical properties’ and the German-designed EMT140 is perhaps the definitive classic of the genre. To use the original hardware, input signals are channelled into a transducer which is attached to a metal plate which vibrates and resonates. These resonances are captured by microphones, passed through onboard EQ controls and fed back to your mixing desk. You’ll be delighted to hear that UAD’s clone takes the hassle and vast expense away, leaving you with a great-sounding emulation which effortlessly lifts any mix element and works beautifully across a broad range of sound sources.
Logic Pro Space Designer
Like Altiverb, this convolution plug-in features a bucket-load of impulse responses to let you tailor input signals to specific musical spaces. But it squeezes onto the list here as many of these are warped, unusual and creatively inspiring and – better yet – Space Designer lets you load any audio file as an impulse response quickly and easily. So you can use a vocal sample as a quasi-reverb if you like, opening up all kinds of leftfield sound design possibilities. It also features Volume, Filter and Density Envelope shaping, its own EQ and an instant ‘Reverse’ function to turn impulse responses around.
The classic design of this plug-in is matched by its sound, which offers huge flexibility despite what appears – at first glance – a sparse feature set. Capable of echoing classic units of yesteryear, more contemporary digital reverbs and plenty more in between, Tsar-1 offers an especially pleasing level of control over Early Reflections, making its ‘Studio’ presets wonderful enhancers of character and presence in drum sounds, particularly. That said, its Lexicon 224 emulations are pretty ear-catching too.
Don’t be put off by the fact that its GUI resembles a diagram of your geography homework back when you were studying volcanoes and lava flow, IQ-Reverb is as unique in sound as it is in appearance. It combines convolution technology with the classic sound of vintage hardware processors. Among its many features are onboard positioning, gating and tone control functions to add more detail and precision to your treatments. It offers an extended library of impulse responses of both ‘real’ spaces and vintage reverb units but is also flexible enough to import external impulse response files too.
Waves Renaissance Reverb
This is a workhorse reverb but don’t be alarmed if that doesn’t sound like the sexiest description; it’s capable of wonderful sounding results. Its key is flexibility – with 12 reverb types, precise control over multiple parameters, independent level controls for Early Reflections, Reverb level and Dry balance, careful tone shaping and plenty more besides, Renaissance Reverb helps you shape space around the sounds in your mix carefully. However, its musicality is what propels it onto the list, as this quality shines, regardless of whether you’re looking for subtle Plate effects around a vocal, or a more front-and-centre Hall treatment for orchestral mixing.
IK Multimedia Classik Studio Reverb
IK Multimedia’s bundle contains four separate processors – Plate, Hall, Room and Inverse, all of which feature their own ‘skin’ to provide parameters designed to help you shape the right reverb for your track’s requirements. Each algorithm is musical in sound and slots readily into the mix, whether you’re looking for classic treatments or something more leftfield (in which case head straight to the ‘Inverse’ plug-in). For newcomers, ‘Easy’ mode provides a stripped-back interface of key parameters but don’t be fooled into thinking this is a ‘junior’ reverb bundle as, particularly in ‘Advanced Mode’, the feature set and sound are both capable of excellent results. This bundle is also great value for money if you’re operating on a tighter budget.
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Editor’s Note: This is an old article and things have moved on considerably since the original publication date 🙂
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