What better way to give your guitar, bass, vocals and drums that extra spatial, echoey sound than by adding a touch of reverb?
When in the studio, give your notes that sonic pink Floyd quality by adding larger room, church or even amphitheater ambiance to them. The difference in tone and feel is out of this world!
Reverb is the effect of waves bouncing off certain surfaces in a physical space. Have you noticed the difference between shouting in a hall or a cavern?
The larger the space, the longer and fuller the reverb you’re going to get. Most spaces will have some sort of reverb capability.
Each different space has a unique reverb signature and most of the time you don’t have a sufficient level of control over this reverb. In the studio, you can reproduce reverb through software, which gives you a larger degree of control over the levels.
But when you are using reverb software, you might have the control, but the sound of it might lack the natural tone that you desire. Reverb software uses algorithms to replicate that echoey sound, but if you have a keen ear, the slightly synthetic reverb could sound a bit flat.
To get that happy medium between increased control over your reverb while retaining the reverb that you can only get from bouncing sound in a physical space is by using hardware reverb racks.
These reverb racks utilize digital signaling technology (DSP) to approximate more natural, complex reverb effects. Using one of these units, you can expect to get a different reverb every single time!
But where can you find the very best hardware reverb rack units? What features and capabilities should a really good reverb unit have? How much can you be looking to spend on a decent reverb rack unit?
Well, musicians and engineers need not worry about not achieving that decent reverb for their recording, because we’ve compiled a list of some of the best, most versatile hardware reverb racks on the market.
We’ve also got a buyer’s guide that will help you outline some of the differences between hardware and software reverb, as well as some frequently asked questions.
OUR TOP PICK
Our first hardware reverb rack unit is one that can give the budding musician or record producer a wide palate for delay, modulation and dynamic algorithms.
A portable and lightweight unit, you can simply slot and plug in this unit with your existing studio set up and start playing with your settings immediately - introducing the Behringer Virtualizer High-Performance 3D Multi-Engine Effects Processor.
This unit utilizes real sound modeling to create a delay that cannot be imitated by your average synthetic software. It is adaptable for MIDI connectivity, so you can use it both in your home studio or your live setup.
This unit is very versatile when it comes to effects, suitable for simulating the sound of your existing amplifier, distortion as well as a whole host of other effects such as delay and pitch alteration.
It has a very clear sound quality, with over 71 algorithms to choose from on your soundboard.
- The sound quality on this machine is second-to-none, you can adapt it for numerous purposes, both inside and outside the studio.
- It is a very versatile unit, allowing you several reverb capabilities where you can control the sound and get as close as possible to those natural reverbs that you get on physical surfaces.
- You can combine over 11 different effects in one setting with this unit, meaning you can keep playing around until you get that effect that won’t be matched by anyone else.
- The real sound modeling gets you those diverse and interesting reverb effects that you’ll be able to reduce or increase at your leisure.
- It’s not the most luxurious of units, suitable for more mid-level professional players and engineers.
Next up, we have a particularly lavish piece of kit, with both stereo and mono functions, a processor that can channel a multitude of effects at a time and is powered efficiently by Lexicon’s DSP processors and algorithms.
This is a delay unit that is used only by the very best, both producers and musicians go to this unit for quality and reliability - introducing the Lexicon PCM92 Reverb Effects Processor.
This unit uses state-of-the-art DSP to create unique and natural-sounding reverb effects, with over 1200 factory presets, 28 delays and multi-effect capabilities. It comes with a foot control that will enable you to manipulate the input and output with just a simple press of your foot.
The Lexicon has a very unique tone that you won’t find anywhere else. You can increase or decrease the levels of your reverb in a way that won’t diminish this signature sound.
This is a lightweight piece of kit that can be transported from your studio to your live setting quickly and efficiently.
- This has a high-resolution display that will allow you to keep track of your sound manipulations clearly and accurately.
- There are plenty of presents and reverbs to choose from, so you can craft a sound that is uniquely yours. The broader the palate, the more colors you’ll be able to mix!
- This is great for users who are just starting to experiment with hardware reverb, as it has plenty of presets to get you off the ground with a very easy user interface that will help you navigate around them.
- This unit is often used by many professionals, which is a testament to its quality.
- The price - unfortunately with a high degree of quality comes a very high price tag. Perhaps this is a model that should only be reserved for those who really want to push the sonic qualities of their gear.
Our next hardware reverb rack unit is one that has encompassed a colossal amount of features in a very ergonomic setup.
You can install this one quickly and efficiently in your studio unit, playing with the wide variety of reverb and plenty of other styles of setting - introducing the TC Electronic DAW Controller.
You can get a lot out of this hardware reverb unit, including phaser, echo, chorus and delay. Mix and match to establish a signature sound that you’ll be able to save and use both live and in the studio. You’ll be able to use this in both your DAW, USB and MIDI controllers.
This unit contains a lot of presets from some of the world’s best sound technicians and musicians, so you can play with the production sounds from some of your favorite albums. You can also save your presets and store them on your USB for backup.
- The interface is simple to use, with a wide array of reverb options that will appeal to both amateurs and seasoned producers and players.
- If you are pushed for space in your current studio, then you won’t need to worry, this one comes in a compact size that will make it easy to install in your existing sound setup.
- You can adapt this system for DAW, USB and MIDI, resulting in a system that is versatile and can be used on many different boards from different eras.
- You can also use this for a whole host of other effects, mixing and matching your delay to create whole new sonic landscapes.
- Some users have complained that this does not have the build quality of some of the more dynamic reverb machines.
Our next hardware reverb rack unit processes both reverb and multi-effects, meaning you can operate your reverb with another effect on a dual-engine basis.
With the separate engines, you can give this one a heavy workload and it won’t struggle to output your effects - introducing the TC Electronic M-350 Reverb and Effects Processor.
This reverb rack is for perfect use in a live setting, enabling you to create those soaring delay notes, coupling it up with an additional delay effect to mimic the sounds of atmospheric bands like Pink Floyd and Sigur Ros.
It has a hefty power supply or 100-240V, so you can be sure that it won’t let you down during a solo.
- The twin-engine function means that you can get a lot more effects processed, allowing you to become proficient with numerous channels.
- There are upwards of 15 different reverb effects and 15 multi-effects, giving you a very wide range of effect combinations that you can utilize either live or in the studio.
- You can adapt this in several ways to your existing pedalboard, with digital and MIDI input/outputs.
- The price - this is one of the more affordable units on our list, making it the perfect unit for beginners who want something easy to set up and plenty of options when it comes to combining effects.
- It does have less of an ability to combine certain effects, which will be a major setback for guitarists or engineers who want to combine different sounds.
Our final hardware pedal is a stalwart of the recording and musician community, coming as both reverb and a multi-effect processor.
It is loaded with 600 factory presets, catering to both sound recordists, producers and filmmakers who want to achieve that extra sonic clarity and originality to their soundtracks - introducing TC Electronic M3000 Studio Reverb Processor.
The most appealing facet for this unit for reverb enthusiasts is the dual engine and the virtual space simulation technology that will replicate the real-time, real-space sounds of reverberation with stunning accuracy.
You can switch between reverb and multi-effects processing without it eating up too much processor power.
- It has a total of 600 factory presents, giving you plenty of sonic colors to choose from in your journey towards attaining that unique sound.
- The VSS contains algorithms that will accurately replicate the reverb you get from numerous types of surface - with different results every time!
- This unit has 4 handy buttons that will allow you to recall your last 4 presets at just one touch. This is particularly useful when you’re using it in a live setting.
- The price - this is another unit that might be particularly pricey for the newcomer. If you’re looking for just a machine to generate reverb when you’re on the stage, you might want to opt for a simple effects pedal.
Best Hardware Reverb Rack Units Buying Guide
When it comes to purchasing a hardware reverb rack unit, you'll need to be aware of the sound you want to achieve as well as what setting you’ll be using your reverb unit in.
What Do Hardware Reverb Units Do?
Hardware units use algorithms to approximate the reverb that you might hear coming off a real surface.
You can set your hardware to replicate any number of spaces including ‘room’, ‘hall’ and ‘church’. These are usually done with spring and plate reverb approximations.
You can also get reverb plugins that operate on the same algorithm-based principles, even modeling themselves on the design of the hardware reverb units. These plugins employ what is called convolution processing.
Convolution processing is when reverb is simulated using recordings of physical spaces to give the impression of genuine reverberation. This type of processing is generally considered to be the closest approximation of real-life reverb sound.
Generally speaking, record producers tend to prefer the warmer tones that come from a hardware reverb unit, although you will find yourself having far less control over these. It all depends on what you will prefer from your reverb process: control or realism.
Natural Sound Quality
This is why most people purchase a hardware reverb unit: the superior sound and tone quality.
If you are recording an acoustic instrument such as guitar or vocals, you will probably want a more natural sound from your reverb generator.
With acoustic instruments you want to replicate the ambient sound that would be picked up from a real-world setting, giving you that extra relaxing ambiance from the quieter notes.
However, those who might be working with a harsher amplified guitar who might want to get a bit more creative with their tones might not prefer this more simplistic and natural method.
Older reverb units have been described as having a grainy sound, which might not be ideal if technical excellence is what you’re striving for.
However, even this grainy quality can give your recording that uniqueness that a lot of musicians strive for. Often you might have to sacrifice this technical perfection for something that little bit different.
Frequently Asked Questions
Which Is Better: Hardware Or Software Reverb?
It all depends on the type of sound you want from your instrument. If you’re looking for that more ‘real-world’ sound from your drums or acoustic instrument, then you’ll certainly want to shell out for a hardware unit.
However, remember that these hardware units are more expensive than software. Hardware might not be the desired route if you are experimenting or looking to record demos. They are usually reserved for expensive studios for professional musicians to record.
However, software for reverb is a lot better than it used to be, allowing you to get that desired natural delay sound with the added control of the software presets. You can even create reverbs that are not present in a ‘natural environment’, such as a reverse delay.
What Types Of Reverb Are Available?
There are a few basic types of reverb that are specifically designed to be used with certain instruments.
Here are a few of the most commonly used reverbs and what they are most suitable for:
- Room ambiance - rooms come in all different sizes and have various imperfections, which is what draws recording artists to them. Who doesn’t want that unique sound of a drum set recorded in a garage? Room reverb gives the impression of intimacy.
- Chamber reverb - a giant chamber sound can give your instrument that epic quality, although often you won’t be able to afford the real estate needed to record in an abandoned church!
- Plate reverb - this kind of reverb uses metal plates to create a much smoother reverb tail, which is great for recordings with a clean sound.
- Non-linear reverb - this is very much like it sounds, rather than tail out towards the end, this kind of reverb might even increase before dissipating. This is ideal for experimental or ambient tracks where you want an uncategorizable sound.
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