Guitar players love the effect of reverb. It adds emotion, ambiance, and the illusion of hearing guitar tones from small to vast open spaces.
However, many guitar players ask Is it better to use your amp’s reverb or the reverb from a stompbox pedal? I mean is one better than the other?
With these questions in mind, this post will take a look at both pedals and amp reverb comparing sound and versatility. By the end of this post, you will understand more about both types of reverb and which option is better for you.
First, here is my short answer before we dive deeper!
Is amp reverb better than pedal reverb?
Amplifier reverb is considered more natural and pure especially from valve amplifiers but has limited tone controls. In contrast, most guitar effect pedals produce digital reverb but considered more versatile.
In essence, a pedal reverb replicates the sound of naturally created reverb. If you calculated the equation of a 100’x 100’ room, you could mathematically understand what the reverberation would sound like and recreate it.
Especially now, in the digital era of music, huge technological advancements make different reverb options available to us. You can replicate from a small tilled room with lots of reflections to a gigantic cathedral with a dark atmosphere… all in one small pedal!
That is the main thing a pedal reverb has going on for itself. The amount of versatility you get from a pedal is much more so than the reverb from an amp. This holds even truer when you are able to understand and control the parameters a reverb pedal has.
The most common parameters you’ll find in a reverb are the following: FX Level, Decay, and Pre-Delay Time.
FX Level is the amount of reverb you want the dry signal to have. The relation you see is usually dry/wet. The drier the signal, the less noticeable the reverb will be (used to create a room sound or just some space for your guitar to sit in). Conversely, the wetter the signal, the more present will the reverb be (used to create huge sounds or ambient atmospheres).
Decay refers to the amount of time it will take for the reverb’s sound to disappear. Longer decays will indicate bigger rooms such as concert halls or auditoriums. Shorter decays indicate smaller rooms.
Pre-Delay Time is the interval between the dry signal and the wet signal. This gives you an indication of the space between your guitar and the reflecting surface it reacts upon. One of the main uses of pre-delay is to create a bit of separation between the dry and wet signals to avoid the reverb from drowning out the original signal. This will give you a clearer sound.
Using Pedal Reverb Pros & Cons
- A lot of versatility in your tonal options
- Adjustable parameters that allow you to create unique sounds
- Some pedal reverbs give you the option to save multiple presets-more dynamics when playing.
- Sound fidelity can be a bit lower than analog reverb
Amplifier reverb can come in the way of a built-in reverb creator (usually springs) within the amp. If the amp is digital, then it functions very similarly to a reverb pedal, where emulations were created to resemble halls, chambers, or rooms.
Valve/Tube Amplifier Reverb
The most used reverb on valve/tube amps and the most associated reverb to the guitar is the spring reverb. In 1963, Fender included metallic springs on their Vibroverb model. By then, springs and plates were already used to create reverb in recordings but no one had incorporated a spring into an amp.
Since then, most amps out there that have a natural reverb will have a spring-type of reverb. This makes the spring reverb sound closely bonded to the electric guitar. It is also important to mention that Fender became the absolute masters in spring reverb, which is why they are one of the most sought out amps.
Spring reverb is actually quite difficult to capture and replicate digitally. This is one of the main reasons why you would favor a valve/tube amp reverb over a pedal. However, there are some pretty good reverb pedals out there and I wouldn’t buy an amp based on how well the reverb performs. I personally favor reverb pedals due to their versatility.
Solid-State & Digital Amp Reverb
Solid-State and Digital Amp reverbs are very similar to pedal reverbs. They are replications of natural reverb and can have multiple types included. The great thing is that the amp already includes the reverb and might be a good starting point to experiment with it.
The main downsides are that for the most part, their sound quality is a bit lower than the one of a specifically designated reverb pedal. The parameters you can adjust will also be more limited than in a reverb pedal (depending on the pedal, of course)
Using Amp Reverb Pros & Cons
- Vintage-sounding, organic tones in a tube/valve spring reverb
- Already included in an amp, no extra cost
- Good starting point towards reverb experimentation
- Not a lot of control over the reverb’s parameters
- No versatility, only one type o reverb
- Can’t be replaced for another type of reverb (like a plate reverb)
Do I Need a Reverb Pedal if my Amp Has Reverb?
This is not a yes or no answer, it depends on your needs and where you stand in your development as a guitarist. First and foremost, amp reverbs are good reverbs (especially spring-type reverbs on tube amps). They are simple to use and give you a balanced sound without having to do much.
However, as I’ve mentioned before versatility and flexibility play a huge role in determining whether you want/need a reverb pedal or not. Having multiple reverb types such as spring, plate, hall, room, chamber, etc… gives you a myriad of sonic choices that can heavily expand your style.
Having said this, it will also depend on how much you are willing to spend on a reverb pedal. There are many great, inexpensive reverb pedals that can be a good enough upgrade for you. I would personally recommend getting a higher-end reverb pedal with lots of reverb types and parameters to adjust. This will also enable you to better understand how reverb works and how to use it to your advantage.
My personal opinion is the following, reverb is an important tool and a reverb pedal is a great acquisition. However, a good overdrive/distortion pedal or a delay pedal can be as important. I would recommend you take a look at where you think your sound is “weakest” and upgrade that aspect of your tone. Amp reverb can certainly do the job in the meantime.
Are all Reverb Pedals Digital?
For the most part, yes. If we take a look into some of the best, most sought out reverb pedals we can see that they are all digital. Pedals such as the Strymon BigSky, the Electro Harmonix Oceans 11, or the TC Electronic Hall of Fame 2 are all digital.
There are some really good analog reverb pedals and I would recommend taking a look into some of the spring-type reverbs out there since they are the hardest to properly replicate. I would take a look at the Spaceman Orion or Danelectro’s Spring King Reverb for true spring reverbs.
Finally, I’d take a look into Keeley Caverns Delay-Reverb V2 for a multi-effect pedal with very interesting sounds. These pedals are designed for someone to change their sound in a more aggressive way, rather than just adding depth to their already created sound.
Reverb is one of the most important and used effects in music. This holds even truer for guitar players who can create lush atmospheres with multiple types of reverbs.
If you are interested in diving into the deep, majestic world of reverb, I’d definitely recommend getting a reverb pedal. If your interest goes more into adding effects, overdrive, fuzz, or distortion to your sound, the amp’s reverb will do just fine ;)es more into adding effects, overdrive, fuzz, or distortion to your sound, the amp’s reverb will do just fine 😉