The 10 Best Reverb Plugins In The World

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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 the mysterious pro sound.

UPDATED FOR 2014: This post now features the best and most recent reverb developments!

But, as a great writer once said, 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.

Confused yet? Before we get to the Best 10, check out this quick primer on the key aspects and features that apply to all reverb plugins:

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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, 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. I wouldn’t recommend attempting this with a plugin version though :)


Algorithm vs. Convolution

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 are also far lighter on the computer’s CPU than…

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 only major downside is 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.

In recent years, we’ve seen a resurgence in the popularity and innovation going into a new crop of algorithmic reverbs: lower CPU overhead is one aspect of this, but perhaps more important is the ease and speed with which you can get musical results – somewhat counterintuitively – with more artificial reverb.


The 10 Best Reverb Plugins – The List

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 most of the categories.  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.”

Anyway, here’s our two-pennies worth…

1) Best Free Reverb:

Variety Of Sound EpicVerb

Variety Of Sound EpicVerb
Not a brand new plugin by any means, but in my view the best free all-rounder, this algorithmic stereo reverb features a handy switch between two general settings – “reverb” or “ambience”. It also features six Early Reflection types, so you’re covered for the typical Hall, Plate and Room models, as well as a couple of echo FX models. Smooth and characterful sound: Developer Bootsy does it again!
More info here, download here.

Also check out:

Smartelectronix / Magnus Ambience

Magnus Ambience
Featured in my original list, I would still struggle to find a much better freeware algorithmic reverb.

More info and download here.


2) Best Convolution Reverb:

Audio Ease Altiverb 7

Altiverb 7
The established daddy of all reverb plugins, and something of an industry standard. No, it’s not cheap, yes you need a powerful computer to run it… but the sound and flexibility it affords is generally well worth it. The XL version also includes surround reverb and a TDM version for Pro Tools.

More info here.

Also check out the free convolution alternatives:

Altiverb uses it’s own proprietary format for it’s Impulse Response files, but there are many places to acquire free IRs to play with, and here are two great free plugins for loading them into:

Liquid Sonics Reverberate LE

Liquid Sonics Reverberate LE

More info and download here.

Knufinke SIR1

Knufinke SIR1

More info & download here.


3) Best Reverb For Sound Design & FX:

2CAudio Aether

2CAudio Aether

A few people mentioned how they missed Aether from my original list, so here it is! I’ve been using this one a lot more recently, having cottoned on to what many people have known for ages: the sheer number of controls seem intimidating and pretty over-the-top  for most straightforward mix applications, but where Aether really comes into it’s own is as the ultimate reverb for enhancing sound design 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.

More info here.

Also check out:

Eventide Blackhole

Eventide Blackhole

Blackhole is based on an algorithm from Eventide’s hardware processors and guitar stomp boxes, and is basically designed purely for sound design and effects creation, rather than having any pretense of trying to offer a bit of everything to cover all the bases. Plus it’s the only reverb I know of that seems to be designed for ‘performing’ reverb changes, with a ribbon strip for super-easy real-time morphing between different configurations. Best reverb for live performance/DJing, anyone?!

My bet is we’ll see a lot more of this style of plugin in the near future.

BUY NOW via Zzounds.com.


4) Best Bundled / Series Reverb:

Waves Renaissance Reverb

Waves Rennaisance Reverb
Some of the most useful reverbs are parts of bundles or series of plugins that work really well together.  As I mentioned previously, the Renaissance Reverb is my  personal go-to reverb, as are quite a few of the other Waves plugins. 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.

BUY NOW via Waves.

Also check these out from the Waves bundles:

Waves TrueVerb

Waves TrueVerb
Another Waves reverb plugin, but this one is more of a room emulator than a conventional reverb like the Renaissance Reverb. Together, they’re an excellent combination.

BUY NOW via Waves.

Waves IR1

Waves IR1

The 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 I 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.

BUY NOW via Waves.


5) Best Reverb With NASA-Inspired Interface:

ValhallaDSP Room and Shimmer

ValhallaDSP ValhallaRoom

There’s a familiar cycle that people go through when they first encounter ValhallaDSP plugins. Step 1: Smirk at the oversized, toy-like interface. Step 2: Listen to the presets and tweak the controls to taste, turning that smirk into a big, satisfied grin. Step 3: Realise how quickly and easily you were able to make those adjustments, thanks to the ‘ridiculous’ interface that is in fact “influenced by NASA Human Interface specifications & the Swiss School of graphic design”, and marvel at the sound you can get for a mere $50.

Lots more info here.

Also check out:

 ValhallaDSP Shimmer

ValhallaDSP Shimmer ValhallaRoom is very versatile on it’s own, but to bring the 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 sound design-y elements.

More info here.

Audio Damage Eos

Before founding ValhallaDSP, plugin designer Sean Costello was the man behind Audio Damage’s reverb plugin Eos, which featured in my original list.

More info here.

6) All-Round Pro-Level Algorithmic Reverb:

Lexicon PCM Native Reverb Bundle

Lexicon PCM Native Reverb BundleI rather facetiously put this reverb collection in it’s own category of Most Expensive Reverbs last time, but since then the pricing has dropped considerably so it’s now a much better deal, and a realistic proposition for small-studio producers (and not just larger facilities looking to replace their existing hardware, which is probably who these were initially targeted at). So enough about that, at the end of the day these are pretty much the best algorithmic reverb plugins you can get commercially – the sort that everyone else looks to as a benchmark.

(In fact, it’s worth noting here that ValhallaDSP’s Room, mentioned above, has been touted as a budget alternative, for it’s ability to get pretty close to the fabled Lexicon sound).

BUY NOW via Amazon.

Also check out:

ArtsAcoustic Reverb (‘AAR’)

AAR

I couldn’t not mention ARR this time around, and this seems like the most appropriate category. Many producers swear by this one, which was designed specifically with the purpose of delivering flexible and convolution-rivalling reverb, whilst also keeping CPU overhead to a minimum.

It achieves those goals, and while not as flash or as characterful as the Lexicons (an unfair comparison perhaps), it does the job at a significantly lower price. [Correction: I originally quoted the Christmas discount price of $130; the normal price is $189.]

More info here.

Wave Arts MasterVerb 5

Wave Arts MasterVerb 5

Another excellent professional algorthmic reverb, that holds it’s own amongst some classy competition.

More info here.


7) Best Vintage Or ‘Character’ Reverb:

Softube TSAR-1 

Softube TSAR-1

Several of the plugins on this list could slot into this category (including the UA EMT 140 Classic Plate reverb here), 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.

More info here.
Also check out:

112dB Redline Reverb

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.

More info here.

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8) Best Reverb Bundle Under $100:

IK Multimedia Classik Studio Reverb (‘CSR’)

IK Multimedia Classic Studio Reverb

Featuring four reverb plugins, covering Plate, Hall, Room and Inverse types, CSR is a one-stop shop for many producers and guitar players. 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 – and it does have an awesome, ‘classic’ 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.

BUY NOW via Amazon.


9) The Unsung Heroes:

Your Sequencer’s Reverb

Everything I said last time about not overlooking your host DAWs bundled plugins is even more true than before, as the DAW developers continue to cram as much quality as possible into their offering in order to get ahead of the competition, in a massively competitive market. Which is great news for us producers really…

The best things about using the reverb plugins supplied with your sequencer 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 more efficiently within their host program, having been optimized for that, than a third-party plugin might.

Special mention here goes to FL Studio (which has become uber-popular in the last few years, for good reason), and the bundled Fruity Convolver plugin.


10) Best ‘Price-To-Sound Ratio’ Reverb:

D16 Toraverb

D16 Toraverb

Would also be a contender in a ‘Best Reverb For EDM’ category, as D16 are perhaps best known for their software versions of classic drum machines and the TB-303. Toraverb doesn’t try and cover everything – it’s not Aether – but what it does do is generate lush, ‘punchy’-sounding reverb that is just what you need for all kinds of modern and electronic music. What you get for about $35 is just insanely good!

BUY NOW via Pluginboutique.


That wraps up the best reverb plugins in the world today. I know a lot of people found the original list useful, and I’m hoping this update will provide you with a definitive outlook on the state of reverb in 2014. As always, leave your comments, thoughts and suggestions below.

And if you found this post useful, you’ll probably also be interested in this:

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62 Comments

  1. Acoostic Zoo Recording Studio on

    Real Glad you added space designer. :) put a smile on my face. Great write up btw. I enjoyed reading it. What about this fairly new reverb Aether that’s all the rave on the net atm? Any thoughts/experiences? I love VSS3 by tc electronics and offcourse the Lexicon PCM Native Bundle.

    Josef Horhay
    Mixing Engineer
    http://www.acoosticzoo.com

    • Hey Dave C, thanks for the links – I havn’t tried any Acustica stuff yet, will get on it!
      I just spent far more time than I should have browsing the rhythm in mind blog – I wish I could design my own plugins and sounds as simply as this guy seems to… :)

  2. Hey George, fantastic article. I was wondering if you have any suggestions for a good vintage spring-verb plug? Everything I’ve tried seems inauthentic. Looking for something that represents an Orban spring, or something like that.

    Excellent writing man, really looking forward to there being more to come.

    Cheers

    • Hey tuned in, thanks for the comments – yeah, there definitely is a shortage of good-sounding spring reverb plugins around.
      I would suggest a couple of things: first, try the SIR reverb that I mention up top, and go to Noisevault where you can find a great selection of free IR files for download. In the ‘Springs’ folder, you’ll find a IR file from an Orban 111b Dual Spring…
      If that’s not doing it for you, experiment with putting extra effects inserts on your reverb send channel – or in English, don’t use reverb clean, but put it through EQ’s, distortion, tremolo or other modulation effects. You can get much more subtle sounds and variations this way, which may go some way to achieving that ‘vintage’, ever-changing sound.

  3. You should write more on this topic. Just one quick word of advice, please check your page load time. It took me a little while to load.

  4. Hosea Glavin on

    Hey there! Someone in my Facebook group shared this site with us so I came to look it over. I’m definitely enjoying the information. I’m book-marking and will be tweeting this to my followers! Excellent blog and great style and design.

  5. Wesly Snipes on

    It is almost unbeliveable that there is no even mentioned the most natural sounding reverb software 2CAudio Aether.
    Aether outperforms all those reverbs in definition and smoothness with possibilities to render offline with unheard quality yet on the PC DAW’s. http://www.2CAudio.com

  6. Since you listed a few IR library sources, I thought to mention a free resource called the Open Impulse Response Library ( http://irlibrary.org ). Currently, it has over 220 IR files for free download. And the cool thing is, it’s open so anyone can upload their IR files. This might also mean that the IR files might not be the best quality. But like with anything in music “quality” is in the ear of the beholder :)

  7. You have forgot the best plugin,its the Realverb 5.1 from Kind of Loud,its the best Surroundreverb for Protools ever!

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  9. I would like to mention Tone 2′s Warmverb as one worth checking out, that and Camelspace are my favourite 2 plug ins .

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  12. Now you can remove the lexicon from the category of most expensive reverb :)

    Well, don’t know if their prices drop is a promo or will stand.

    BTW, I missed CSR and Valhala on this list!

  13. One of my all time favorites which I think has been discontinued for years is Sonic Timeworks Reverb. It sound so smooth on vocals and individual tracks.

    • Yes it’s a shame they’re no longer supporting anything other than their EQ plugin, it appears – was it the ReverbX you’re thinking of? I know it was a favourite for quite a few people.
      What do you use now instead?

  14. I always held Epicverb and Ambience to be the top free reverbs too, but lately Freeverb3 has dethroned them in my opinion.

  15. Very nice and useful article. Thank you very much!
    And just to let you know, Minimal System Instruments are about to release a great looking plugin: Dreamscape – Reverb and space generator. I hope it will sound as good as it looks.

  16. Valhala became one of the my favorites. I need to test Waves Renaiscensse a bit more. And D16 plugins are in a promo on jrrshop. Man, how many things for a comment :)

    I acquired your reverb guide. I really liked it a lot.

    • Hi Walter, really glad you’ve got into the Reverb and Compression Guides. Thanks for the support!

  17. I can’t believe that the ReLab LX480 complete is not on this list! Really? Have you heard it at all? Lots of us have chosen this plug over the Lexicon PCM system. I have a LOT of the reverbs that are on your list (above) and only the Lexicon gives this one a run for its money in sheer quality and detail. It’s simply beautiful…

  18. Thank you for a great article and giving some great insights to a new producer. I would be interested in your opinion on the ReLab that Neil Wright mentioned as it is a lot cheaper than the Lexicon.
    All the best
    Tim

  19. I’d put LiquidSonics ‘Reverberate’ over most of these, and they do a free ‘LE’ version.

    I’d also suggest Variety Of Sound’s (Bootsy’s) ‘EpicVerb’ as the best free algorithmic

    • Hi Ryan, I believe the Powercore DSP is discontinued now (I guess in favour of the System 6000 hardware?), but it appears you can still get the plugins for it, and VSS3 for TDM. I tend to concentrate here (for the most part) on the things that don’t require additional hardware/DSP, in favour of the best ‘pure’ software plugins. But definitely worth a mention, thanks!

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  21. the best reverb ever has been Wizooverb W2, by far, but because of that, M-audio bought it and made it secretly the new pro tools native reverb, shhh don´t tell anyone.
    So if you turn to have it forget about looking somewhere else, use it and listen.

    • Thanks Dhruva, it’s also a good example of why it’s generally a mistake to overlook the plugins that come bundled with most DAWs – many of them would have been created or developed, somewhere along the line, by really good designers who have also had a hand in more ‘glamorous’ third-party plugins.

  22. Also of note are the Softube ‘Reverb Classics’ made for Native Instruments aka. RC24 and RC48. Two great re-imaginings of popular Lexicon 220 and 480L Hall units. Really liking those!

  23. Hi there. You should check out Silverspike’s two reverb plugins. They have the reverb plugin Reverb.it, and the more expensive room simulator R2. They are some of the smoothest reverbs I have used. I am not a pro at all, but I edit all of my high school’s jazz band performances at home. I use Reverb.it to add some space to a room that had dead acoustics.

  24. What about East West’s Spaces? Have you tried that one? It sounds like they put a lot of effort into it and I’m curious how it stacks up with some of your others.

  25. Just to say thanks! Perfect categories, fun to read and exactly the summary I was looking for. Please write more like this!

  26. So many good free algorithmic reverbs these days, I particularly like JB OmniVerb – just sounds good without much tweaking. Also Kjearhas Classic Reverb (I know it’s not spelled right!) is a good, quick workhorse for light lifting. And for Reaper users, I’ve found Reaverberate (not Reaverb, which is a convolution reverb) rarely gets mentioned, but the latest version is quite good and doesn’t suffer from a lot of the artifacts of previous versions.

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