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In this article, we look at one of the most popular and commonly used spatial effects: reverb.
This list should serve as an excellent starting point to help you narrow down some of the most revered boutique reverb pedals on the market.
Keep in mind that each boutique reverb pedal will have its own set of unique characteristics, and “best” is obviously subjective based on your own preferences and sonic needs!
Diffused reflections and slower-building density are the hallmarks of this beautiful and versatile reverb. The Concert size is well-balanced, spacious and warm, while the Arena size is huge, enveloping and booming.
Strymon pedals are the holy grail of high-end pedals, period. They’re the industry-standard for boutique and high-quality pedals, with many of their pedals including many studio-quality effects in a single device. The BigSky is one of their most famous, and it’s a dream pedal for many reverb enthusiasts. Let’s first talk about the specs and features of this pedal.
The size of the pedal is less than 5 by 7 inches. The pedal uses a 333MHz Share DSP, which has powerful 32-bit floating-point processing.
The Strymon BigSky comes with 12 different settings – standard reverb effects like room, hall, plate, spring, and other cool effects like swell, bloom, cloud, chorale, shimmer, magneto, nonlinear, and reflections.
On the machine, there are 7 control knobs for parameters – decay, pre-delay, mix, tone, parameter 1, parameter 2, and modulation.
Moreover, it has the ability to save up to 300 presets.
These presets are available in three banks. They also come with stereo inputs and outputs, expression pedal input, and MIDI in and out.
Reverb sound and overall quality of the BigSky is easily comparable to high-end studio racks. It operates like a multi-effects pedal, but mainly just for reverb. And even though it’s a digital pedal, the special effects like swell, bloom, or cloud sound surprisingly “analog”.
The Strymon BigSky is perfect for both recording and performing, and for guitarists who need a large variety of the highest quality reverbs on-the-go. Although the price isn’t as expensive as a studio rack, it’s still definitely on the higher end for a guitar pedal.
Bright LED screen and easy-to-use system with three banks and 7 knobs.
12 different reverb settings from standard effects to special effects.
As the name suggests, the Meris Mercury 7 is a pedal for creating gorgeous sci-fi and space sounds. The reverb ranges from a straightforward natural reverb to cosmic chaos. The pedal is initially inspired by the 1982 Blade Runner soundtrack, and it’s capable of creating soundscapes from movies like Interstellar.
The Mercury 7 has two main modes – “Ultra Plate” mode and “Cathedra” mode. “Ultra Plate” creates natural reverb sounds and “Cathedra” creates more space-like reverb sounds. There are limitless ways you can go from these two settings. One of the things that the Mercury 7 does so well is it gives users absolute control of the effect.
The pedal comes with 6 knobs – space decay, modulate, mix, lo-frequency, pitch vector, and hi-frequency. It also has an alt mode that allows you to really explore a new dimension of sound when you turn it on. If you want to save any sounds, Mercury 7 has 16 preset options and you also get mono and stereo input and output options. You can also hook it up to through MIDI or connect an expression pedal for controlling the swells.
This pedal can be described as a whole new instrument of its own. From just a simple reverb sound to dark dystopian chaos, there’s a lot to explore here. It’s one of those pedals that you can spend hours and hours playing around with.
6 highly effective controls.
Ultra Plate mode and Cathedra mode.
Gorgeous ambient and sci-fi sounds.
Up to 16 preset options.
Might be overkill if you’re just looking for something simple.
This pedal is described as a “multi-texture” reverb, which is somewhat unusual. Walrus Audio Slo has many sonic texture options across three modes: dark, rise, and dream.
Dark mode makes use of pitch shifting, adding ambience that is shifted an octave down for a bigger and darker sound. The Rise mode uses an auto-swelling effect and Dream adds a whole extra layer of lush reverb to your sound and comes with a latch/freeze function.
Walrus Audio Slo comes with separate bypass and sustain buttons. The sustain button can be very handy for making “frozen” ambient textures. There are also three modulation modes – “Sine”, “Warp”, and “Sink”. Each mode in this pedal has a lot of character, you really start to get a feel for how they shape the sound in their own unique ways.
In terms of control knobs, you get five distinct parameters to play with – decay, filter, mix, X, and depth. The filter knob can be used to control the EQ and the X knob is designed to control the mode-specific parameters.
There are also a few cool hidden features on this pedal. For example, if you press and hold the bypass button, you’ll get a burst of reverb until it’s released. You’ll find a few more of these throughout the Slo and it adds another exciting element to getting to know this pedal. Overall, Walrus Audio Slo is a very unique and gorgeous boutique reverb pedal that you can use to create your dream soundscape.
Unique modes and sounds – great for spacey ambient effects.
Dark, Rise, Dream modes, and three modulation modes.
Five essential but characteristic controls
Hidden features on the pedal.
Relatively affordable for a boutique pedal.
Too specifically geared towards soundscapes to serve as a general reverb pedal.
No conventional reverb types like spring or hall reverb.
Greenhouse Deity Reverb is a versatile, feature-packed reverb pedal with colorful artwork. It’s certainly a type of reverb pedal that boutique pedal collectors will want to get their hands on, due to its unique design and features. Greenhouse describes it as an “immersive ambient pedal with a carefully selected palette of secondary effects.”
The Deity is divided into three main modes – “Natural”, “Sentient”, and “Ethereal”. The “Natural” mode provides a really solid foundational reverb and it’s a room/hall reverb with an option for rotating room effect. The “Sentient” mode is an immersive reverb with a modulation effect, which is a cross between a filter and tremolo. The cool part here is you can control the modulation with playing dynamics and with the LFO controls on the pedal.
Lastly, the “Ethereal” mode provides a heavenly shimmer-like reverb with choir-like octaves. You can easily set the volume of each octave to vary the sound even further. This pedal has a good mix of traditional reverb like room reverb, to Greenhouse’s own signature reverb sounds that can’t be easily found elsewhere. So you can use this pedal both as a normal reverb pedal and as a tool for experimentation and creation.
The four control knobs perform a variety of different functions depending on the context. For example, the tone control also acts as a depth control, and you can also use it to shift everything down an octave. The pre-delay knob also doubles as an “octave up” control, and the other two knobs control decay and mix. The Diety’s footswitch can be used for choosing between true bypass or buffered bypass with trails, meaning the reverb sound will continue even when the pedal is turned off.
Overall, the Greenhouse Deity Reverb is an eye-catching pedal that strikes an excellent balance between traditional reverb types and more experimental ambient effects typical to “boutique” pedals.
Amazing mix between traditional reverb and unique signature reverb sounds.
The four control knobs can be used to control other features on the pedal.
Source Audio Ventris is a serious competitor to Strymon‘s BigSky – it’s very versatile with multiple effect types, connectable to phone/computer for further tweaking, and something that stands out above the rest is the ability to run two reverbs at the same time.
With all this in mind, the really crazy part is that it’s actually cheaper than the BigSky by about $100.
The Ventris has 12 different reverb engines, comprised of common reverb types like room and hall, and a bunch of special effect reverbs like lo-fi, shimmer, and swell. With all this variety, this pedal can be used for sculpting the best rock, pop, and blues tones but can also be used for creating experimental and ambient sounds.
It also comes with MIDI functions and you can save up to 128 presets using the external MIDI controls. There’s also a second ‘option’ footswitch, which you can use for certain tap and hold functions for various reverb settings.
The highlight of the Source Audio Ventris is its dual reverb function. You can run two totally independent reverb settings/engines in parallel, cascading, or one by one. You can set this with a three-way switch below the “Control 2” knob. This function brings about a crazy amount of extra combinations and sounds that will go way beyond your imagination. And what’s more is you can make all your detailed adjustments on Source Audio’s Neuro Editor software via your phone or computer.
On the board itself, you get four knobs – wet/dry mix, decay time, pre-delay, and tone. You can pretty much do most of the tweaking with these controls alone. Plus you get a total of 8 presets and various combinations that you can access straight from the board.
The Source Audio Ventris Dual Reverb is a serious contender for the best all-around boutique reverb pedal alongside Strymon‘s BigSky.
12 Reverb engines – common reverbs to special effects.
Can run two reverb channels at the same time.
Comes with MIDI & USB inputs and expression pedal option.
The Talisman reproduces the lush, natural-sounding magic of a 7' x 4' vintage plate reverb in a tour-friendly pedal format. To do so faithfully, Catalinbread included the studio-style side-chain effects that made the original units so useful and natural-sounding.
This pedal by Catalinbread is modeled on one of the original reverb machines: the EMT 140 Plate Reverb. Making its debut in 1957, it was the first plate reverb and was absolutely enormous in size.
Catalinbread sat down with an original EMT 140 Plate Reverb and made a small pedalboard size version that is 479.99% smaller in size than the original (according to the brand).
Many of the pedals we have looked at are versatile digital reverb pedals, but the Catalinbread Talisman Plate Reverb is a genuine analog pedal that is focused on producing the best plate reverb sound possible.
The Talisman comes with 5 knobs – mix, high pass, time, pre-delay, and volume. Its design is appealing but simple. One of the advantages of this pedal is that they clearly spent a lot of time trying to preserve the original dry signal of the guitar.
With many digital reverb pedals, the original dry signal is often altered or overwhelmed by the reverb effect. But the Talisman pedal puts the dry signal in front of the sound and ‘cushions’ it with vintage-sounding reverb. By doing this, the pedal does not alter or overwhelm the original sound.
With many digital reverb pedals, the effect leaves a trail when the reverb goes away. But with the Talisman, the result is a clean-cut and beautiful plate reverb sound.
Another neat detail is the high pass filter. With this knob, you can cut the low frequencies of the reverb, which can get muddy and interfere with your guitar tone.
Digitech’s Polara is another superb reverb pedal that is built around a studio-grade Lexicon reverb unit. Because Digitech has access to so many high-quality effects, you can be sure that this small pedal will provide you with superb reverb sounds.
The pedal is a great mix of classic and extreme – with room, plate, reverse, modulated, halo, hall, and spring options. They each sound amazing and do a wonderful job of adding a dense atmosphere to whatever is run through it.
Other unique reverb sounds like reverse, modulated, and halo can really get extreme – perfect for experimental sounds and ambient noises.
Other than that, the pedal has a simple design with four controls – reverb type, level, liveliness, and decay. You’ll also find options for true bypass and buffered bypass. All in all, the Digitech Polara is a versatile and simple reverb pedal at an affordable price.
Simple design with four knobs.
Built around a high-quality Lexicon reverb.
Good mix of classic reverb sounds and more extreme reverb.
We saved the weirdest pedal for last. Death By Audio Reverberation Machine is definitely not your do-it-all Swiss Army knife but rather a big and unconventional reverb pedal. The advantage of this pedal is that it’s not based on any old spring or plate reverb – there’s literally nothing quite like it.
The Reverberation Machine comes with two very unique modes – bright “shimmering” mode and dark “cavernous” mode.
The “shimmering” mode adds high-pitch, intense reverberations to the overall mix, creating an extremely satisfying bright sound. Conversely, the dark “cavernous” setting creates a dark, wet, mysterious sound.
The pedal has a one-of-a-kind visual design that goes perfectly with the sound it produces. In terms of the aesthetic, it’s reminiscent of Electro-Harmonix guitar pedals. It has three knobs – volume, gain, and verb. The volume knob controls the master output of the pedal while the verb knob controls how much reverb will be blended into the overall output.
The highlight and most unique feature of this pedal is the ‘Altitude” control knob. The Altitude control is essentially a gain knob but when you turn it up it adds a fuzz-like distortion sound to the reverb. It works amazingly well with both reverb settings though I personally prefer it with the dark cavernous mode.
Without the gain on the dark mode, you get this creepy, dark, and almost haunting effect. But with the gain, it quickly becomes a heavy, badass reverb sound!
Although it only has two modes, the Death by Audio Reverberation Machine offers versatile and super unique sounds. Death by Audio always challenges our ways of thinking about pedals, and the Reverberation Machine is the perfect example of that.