Reverb plugins can simulate large acoustic spaces - sometimes historical, sometimes completely invented - and they can also emulate "classic" reverb devices spanning from the echo chambers of the 1950s to present day outboard hardware. Over the years, reverbs used on recordings have evolved from the simple use of well-designed concert halls to use of the aforementioned echo chambers, and beyond to metal reverb plates, echo springs, digital reverbs and impulse response (IR) simulators.

Just as every large hall has its own characteristic sound, so does each reverb device. Studio engineers want the latest and greatest gear available for their mix sessions and sometimes it's as simple as a "lo-fi cheap & dirty' reverb sound that gets the job done. Thanks to plugin technology, today's engineers have virtual access to concert halls worldwide plus a virtual rack filled with classic reverb units. Many mix engineers that have owned classic reverb units now use plugin versions instead, preferring their ease of use within DAW sessions and perfect recall of session settings over their notoriously difficult-to-repair vintage counterparts.

Here is how the Gearslutz community voted on our recent plugin reverb poll!


FIRST PLACE


ValhallaDSP VintageVerb

ValhallaDSP VintageVerb


ValhallaDSP's Vintage Verb (or just "VVV") is a crafty piece of software that captured the hearts and minds of the Gearslutz community from its initial release in 2012. VVV is a vibe-rich plugin that comes with fifteen different reverberation options that can deliver basically any classic reverb mode - from metallic-resonant plates to luscious and everlasting halls, and more. Besides all the reverb modes it also features an interesting "Color" parameter based on "decades" (1970s, 80s and so on) which determines the bandwidth and modulation of the processed signal and thus if the resulting sound is brighter or darker. Along with the modes and colors it also features controls over the crucial aspects of reverb such as damping, modulation, early/late reflection amounts, shape and tone, and as with all ValhallaDSP plugins, VVV displays a very clean and uncluttered NASA-inspired interface. Speaking of brand-wide features, ValhallaDSP's uses a neat preset system, which allows users to easily share their settings through a simple copy/paste operation, and we know that there are many presets shared within threads on the Gearslutz forums, including some from the creator and reverb boffin Sean Costello himself. Besides the sheer sonic greatness and immense ease of use, the other defining aspect about VVV (and all ValhallaDSP plugins) is the extremely inviting price tag of just $50 USD, which makes it a must-own tool for anyone considering expanding their arsenal of reverb plugins. A no-brainer, really!




SECOND PLACE


Lexicon PCM Native Reverb Bundle

Lexicon PCM Native Reverb Bundle


Released back in 2009, this is one of the best cases of software that's here to stay, and even though they’re not 1:1 emulations of any particular existing reverb it’s safe to say that the PCM Native Reverb bundle greatly honors the legacy and sonic expectation of the Lexicon brand. The PCM Bundle brought the sought-after 'Lexicon sound' to our computers with seven plugins covering many of its classic algorithms, each of them with its own set of controls that allow for very deep tweaks. They're also packed with a good number of presets to instantly deliver those awesome touches of Lexicon reverb that we love so much. The PCM bundle gained instant popularity when it was released but the high price tag definitely made it unreachable to some, and even if comparatively speaking it costs a fraction of a PCM96 it still cost more than most could afford. Fortunately that situation has remedied itself in quite dramatic fashion and nowadays the bundle is way more affordable than it used to be, which shows that Lexicon is paying attention to the changes in the plugin landscape and has adjusted their strategy accordingly, making this excellent set of tools even more accessible and popular than ever.




THIRD PLACE


ValhallaDSP ValhallaRoom

ValhallaDSP ValhallaRoom


It’s safe to say that when “reverb” is the subject ValhallaDSP has earned its place in the conversation. If first place wasn’t enough, Sean Costello has also secured third place on our list with his Valhalla Room (or VRoom) plugin, which is another excellent and capable reverb under the ValhallaDSP brand. While VVV focus on "vibey" and tone-rich sounds, VRoom offers a clean and precise take on reverberation, with more controls over each aspect of early and late reflections. VRoom features twelve types of reverbs ranging from small to huge sounding, and although its initial purpose was a focus on the more natural sounding side of room reverberation, somewhere along the way it got updated with more options and algorithms. Some of those algorithms, such as the "LV-426" and "Nostromus" are as pure sci-fi as their name suggests. The recognizably brand-wide interface, preset system and very friendly price tag are also present, making VRoom an extremely enticing option for the budget-savvy but with zero sacrifice in quality.




4 - Relab LX480

Relab LX480 Complete

Relab LX480 Complete


Relab's LX480 closely follows a "certain hardware unit" that is considered in some circles to be the most acclaimed digital reverb ever made, present on a myriad of records since its introduction in the 1980s. Relab took their time and took advantage of a prolonged development stage and first delivered a "lite" version of the plugin with the sole 'Random Hall' algorithm, which seemed to pay off in the end and enabled this small Danish company to deliver a stunning piece of full-featured software in the end. Relab’s aim was a 1:1 emulation that thoroughly covers every aspect of the original hardware, including all reverb modes, modulation. Even the the iconic remote control and simulated digital converters were transposed to the plugin. The LX480 also adds some extra goodies in the way of stereo manipulation, additional ER delay lines, more filters and a sampling resolution up to 96kHz. Partnered with the behemoth Slate Digital for distribution, Relab's LX480 is also accessible through a subscription service but those who may rightfully wish to own this amazing reverb plugin can still buy a license outright it at a very reasonable price - getting all the fun of an original 480L and none of the outrageous maintenance costs.



5 - Universal Audio EMT 140

Universal Audio EMT 140 Classic Plate Reverberator Plug-In

Universal Audio EMT 140 Classic Plate Reverberator Plug-In


The UAD EMT 140 is a recreation of the EMT’s legendary German reverb of the late 1950s, a huge and heavy set of resonant metal plates weighing over 500 pounds. UAD has gone to great depths to analyze and model all the sonic characteristics and researched three distinct EMT 140 units from The Plant Studios in Sausalito, California. Their plugin offers those variations featuring two models from the classic hardware with historic components and one model which has been modified with modern Martech electronics. It also emulates the high-shelf and mechanical decay controls of the real units and as a plugin it features a convenient wet/dry blend control and a specifiable pre-delay from 0 to 250ms. UAD’s Herculean modeling efforts were fully endorsed by EMT Studiotechnik GmbH and the quality work has definitely paid off as the UAD EMT 140 gets mentioned in nearly every plate reverb plugin discussion since its introduction over six years ago, which is no surprise given how well executed and polished Universal Audio’s plugins always are. If you own a UAD card, this is the one to have.



6 - Exponential Audio PhoenixVerb

Exponential Audio PhoenixVerb Stereo Reverb

Exponential Audio PhoenixVerb Stereo Reverb


Former Lexicon designer Michael Carnes makes his way onto our list with his new company Exponential Audio and its excellent PhoenixVerb, a plugin that features a ‘polymorphic’ algorithm that can emulate basically any kind of reverb you can think of, and does so without any undesirable artifacts. PhoenixVerb sounds very natural and is great for more organic and ‘clean’ reverberation. The controls are divided to control the reverb attack, tail and early reflections separately and there are five filter options to tame each of those sections, which gives it a ton of flexibility and makes it a particularly excellent choice for sound design and post production. A good and helpful 'keyword-based' preset browser filled with a hefty number of settings assists users getting familiarized with all the controls of this excellent plugin. Carnes has been designing high-end reverbs for years and this is certainly the pinnacle of his work - check it out! Surround version also available.



7 - Acon Digital Verberate

Acon Digital Verberate

Acon Digital Verberate


Acon Digital’s entry on our list aims to produce life-like reverberation with the Verberate plugin, a reverb that puts a simple but effective feature set at the fore and a clean and intuitive interface to boot. It all begins with the 'Early Reflections' Mode, which boasts eleven kinds of reverbs, from rooms and plates to halls and chambers and even an ‘outdoor’ setting. Then there are the usual reverb parameters to control time, size, pre-delay and modulation. Finally at the back end there’s a three-band frequency control for the decay and an output EQ to shape and sculpt the resulting sound. Verberate sounds very clean, with well-defined early reflections and dense reverb tails. Overall this is a very realistic reverb, which can suit sound design, music or post-production equally well. With a very affordable price tag it’s certainly a must try.



8 - Exponential Audio R2

Exponential Audio R2 Stereo Reverb

Exponential Audio R2 Stereo Reverb


Reverb wizard Michael Carnes strikes the list again with his superb R2 plugin. R2 should not be taken as a 'lesser' version of PhoenixVerb, however, as it definitely stands on its own merit. R2 is a slightly different proposal and leans more to the 'musical' side of the mix whereas PhoenixVerb would make for a more 'real' sounding acoustic space generator, so one complements the other nicely. Interface-wise, R2 shares the same elegant simplicity of PhoenixVerb but it’s even easier to use since there are fewer controls to deal with, enabling a very slick and efficient workflow where it doesn't take hours to set up a nice sounding reverb. R2's character is prominent and colourful, making it an excellent option for dense and lush reverbs that are great for music mixes. R2 also features chorus and gate functions which are particularly useful and extend its use considerably, making it a great option for anyone looking out for a characterful reverb for their productions. Surround version also available.



9 - Universal Audio AKG BX 20

Universal Audio AKG BX 20 Spring Reverb Plug-In

Universal Audio AKG BX 20 Spring Reverb Plug-In


Another good throwback to the sheer physicality of the first era of artificial reverb units - perhaps not as dramatic as 500 pounds of metal but a physical reverberator nonetheless - the UAD AKG BX 20 revives the iconic spring reverb of the 1960s with its thick and warm sound. The AKG BX 20 is a true classic 'reference sound' when it comes to spring reverb. UAD analyzed a mint-condition unit belonging to acclaimed producer Jon Brion to deliver the best possible emulation, and they combined both convolution and algorithmic reverb techniques to create something that won AKG's stamp of approval. The UAD AKG BX 20 closely follows the original's mechanical and acoustic characteristics and features the two simulated reverb tanks of its namesake but additionally adds the possibility of combining the two for more stereo image options (yet it can still operate as a mono unit if that's what you need). UAD has once again taken full advantage of the plugin format to add useful features such as wet/dry balance, direct signal, muting and a low cut filter - all making the plugin as convenient as it should be to use. Another huge hit for Universal Audio and one that will likely stand the test of time to be a go-to choice when spring reverb plugins are required.



10 - Audio Ease Altiverb 7

Audio Ease Altiverb 7

Audio Ease Altiverb 7


Our list wouldn't be complete without a plugin entirely based on convolution impulse response techniques, and our members think there is none better than Audio Ease's Altiverb and it's immense library of thousands of superbly recorded impulse responses. There is simply no other reverb out there that brings what Altiverb delivers in terms of real-world ambiences: including concert halls, cathedrals, a mosque, the actual Taj Mahal, an Egyptian tomb, a wooden shack in the middle of nowhere, Wembley Stadium, many recording studio live rooms and echo chambers and many hardware reverbs and effects from the past - whew! Audio Ease is on a never-ending process of expanding the impulse response library too, which means more IRs can be added all the time. Needless to say, the impulse library itself is a sound designer’s dream come true and also extremely useful for creative music producers and mixing engineers. In order to take full advantage such a glorious catalogue of spaces you need an accurate convolution engine filled with a wealthy number of controls over the sound plus a great browser to manage so many possibilities and Altiverb delivers there too, delivering one of the finest reverb experiences available, and the next best thing to flying thousands of miles all over the world to record. Surround version also available.



Closing thoughts

The nominated reverbs cover a great cross-section of reverb styles and technologies, with many plugins being mentioned. It is a diverse, well-populated and competitive market with plenty of reverb sounds for all needs, tastes and budgets, but we live in amazing times when some of the top choices are only fifty bucks. There is very little excuse not to at least demo all of these fine products and see which ones are best for you - then tell us all about your experiences where they will reverberate around our forum forever!