In the modern music game reverb is one of the most versatile and widely used audio effect at a producer’s disposal. It is used on just about all any type of instrument and is the key to helping your music sound natural, big and full of life. With today’s plug ins and multi effect processors you are confronted with an arsenal of different types of reverbs whether it be your natural rooms and halls, or man-made reverbs such as springs and plates. The only problem is that if you don't know what each type does and what it’s good for you can find yourself being lost in a sea of pre-sets without really knowing which to go for. So, what is the difference between each type of reverb? and what are they all good for?
Hall reverbs are a type of reverb that imitates the environment of a large hall such as a concert hall or opera house. This type of reverb uses super long decay times to replicate the huge size of these halls. This type of reverb is excellent for thickening instruments and adding space within a mix, its common to see this type of reverb on instruments such as strings or pads, but I personally also use them to create a massive sound such as on a vocal in the chorus or on piano's just before a drop. Something to keep in mind is that this kind of reverb can make a sound really dramatic so think about your song structure and where about in your song you want things to sound huge and dramatic. As with everything is life reverbs also have down sides to them, in this case the thick, layered sound that hall reverbs create can also leave your sound feeling muddy and washed out if you overuse them. To Get around this my common rule of thumb is to only have 1 or 2 sounds at a time with this type of reverb on and to make sure that the dry / wet is set quite low so that the reverberations don't overpower the original sound, but obviously these rules of thumb are only a guide and aren't set in stone so don't take it as law. get creative with this type of reverb to create drama in your mix.
Chamber reverbs are similar to hall reverbs in which they replicate the sound of a room but in this case the rooms are much smaller and the rooms they usually replicate are things such as bathrooms or reverb chambers that you would find at some top studios. They have been designed to closely imitate the sound of a reverb chamber that were used by studio's back in the day. these Chamber reverbs deliver a similar sound to the hall reverbs but are a lot less dramatic. They deliver a nice ambient, layered reverb effect without the super long delay times and massive feeling. In my experience this type of reverb is useful on just about all instruments but be aware that similar down sides apply here as in the hall reverbs. Overusing this type of reverb will leave a mix sounding muddy and a lot of the time the reflections heard from these chambers can be quite intense and distracting from the mix itself so make sure to use it subtly. On the other hand, though, these reverbs deliver an extra sense of clarity which helps to protect the sound from feeling washed out like it would with a hall reverb but because of this you won’t get the massive sound that the hall reverbs provide.
This type of reverb is probably the most common and most natural, Room reverbs are designed to replicate an average room and sound most like the natural ambience we are used to hearing in the real world. These types of reverb help to provide a natural ambience and colour to your instruments. They are incredibly useful as they are easy to fit inconspicuously in your mix so that you can give your instruments a natural space and ambience without anyone really knowing about it. These reverbs are the bricks and mortar of the reverb world and will be the key element to getting your mix to sound cohesive and will help to glue instruments to each other to make a better sounding mix.
unlike hall, chamber and room reverbs, plate reverbs don’t try to replicate the sound of a real-world acoustic space instead it the first type of artificial reverb that we will look at today. We will save you all the sciency bit and explain that in essence a plate reverb is a type of reverb that uses vibrations passed through a sheet of metal that produces a thick and warm reverb effect. This type of reverb is fantastic for adding a unique character to vocals and snares that if used right can create a breath-taking warm character. Other uses also include acoustic and electric guitars and on some occasions piano's and keys.
Spring reverbs work in a similar way to plate reverbs by using vibrations passed through a metal but in this case instead of a sheet of metal it’s a spring. This the second type of man-made reverb so it won’t replicate the sound of a room or hall, but it does have its own place in music. Spring reverbs are most commonly found in guitar amplifiers due to their small size compared to a plate reverb. They tend to provide a bright, clean sound that will add a sense of life to your instrument. Spring reverbs are in most guitar amps for a reason, they sound incredible on any type of guitar sound. I strongly recommend using this on guitar tracks, but it can also be very useful on keys and piano instruments when used right.
When to use them?
Picking the right reverb for the task is largely down to the context it will be used in. Before applying any type of reverb to a sound think about what effect you are wanting a to achieve with the reverb. for instance, if I was wanting a massive dramatic effect to add to a vocal in the drop section of a track, I may look at hall or chamber reverbs. If I was wanting a smaller intimate / natural sound I may employ both a plate and a room reverb.
Also, before you go into the world of reverbs make sure you find a reverb plug in that you trust and take some time to learn what each parameter on it does. This will help massively as I often find myself with an amazing pre-set that sounds incredible but slight adjustments to things like pre delay may be needed to get the full potential out of the sound.