Being a great guitar player probably means you have invested in some guitar pedals to take your instrument to a whole other level. Pedals are amazing as they give us the ability to add color, tone, texture, space, and a little bit of madness to our playing.
However, knowing the right kind of pedal to use can be tricky, especially for new players of the acoustic or electric guitar. There are three that stand out as being very similar that we are going to explore here. This is the reverb, delay, and echo effect pedals.
All of these tools can have a huge impact on the overall sound of your instrument, so it’s important to know the differences.
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Why It’s So Confusing…
There is a lot of confusion among guitarists about what the differences between these effects are. The thing that makes it so difficult to separate them is that each pedal can almost mimic the same effect as the other one. However, if you are using them correctly, they are completely different beasts, each with its own capabilities and attributes.
Below you will find an explanation of each effect and how you can tell the difference in the future.
The Classic Reverb
First of all, let’s look at reverb because it is probably the oldest effect for guitar out there.
Reverb is short for reverberation. If essentially copies the effect of the guitar signal that is being played out in a physical space. It does this to add warmth, texture, and space to the sound.
Let’s look at an example of this. Imagine playing your guitar hooked up to an amp in the middle of a dark cave. Play a note or strum a chord, and you will find that the sound bounces back to you.
It reverberates around the space, making it last longer. Any sound that you hear after playing a note like this is referred to as the tail. You’ll want to remember this term, as it’s very important when comparing the different types of reverb below.
Types of Reverb
There are a few types of reverb that you will more than likely come across time and time again. We’ve outlined these below.
- Spring reverb – Typically built into older amplifiers, this reverb plays a bit of signal through the back of the amp using a metal spring before it goes through to hit the speaker. In turn, this causes the spring to vibrate, which makes the sound’s tail extend out, giving it a characteristic close sound of reverberation.
- Plate reverb – This type of reverberation follows the same principle as the spring type except that the signal gets directed at a metal plate instead. The signal causes the plate to vibrate, giving it a longer tail depending on how large the plate is.
- Room reverb – With this one, you get pretty much what it says on the tin. Using room reverb means the effect copies the sound your guitar is making depending on the dimension and size of the room. No matter where you are playing – a church, the studio, or even a cave – the room reverb will reflect the sound you create back to you.
A particularly famous effect in the guitar world is the delay. Trying to explain what a delay effect is to a non-musician can be tricky because essentially, you are playing a note and then having that note repeated back to you.
The simple reason delay effects are so common is that they sound amazing. Delays have been used in many hit songs over the years, with the main purpose being to add color and thicken up the sound.
An example of a great song that uses delay techniques is ‘Where The Streets Have No Name’ by U2. Listen to the main guitar line, and you’ll soon find out what a delay effect is.
Most delay pedals will offer you a couple of mandatory settings. Typically these will be feedback and time. Time is the setting you use to dictate how long after you play a note or a chord that it repeats back to you. Feedback will tell the pedal how many times you want it to play.
Of course, there are plenty of other delay effects that come with more and more modern guitar pedals. Things like reverse delays and modulation all add in that extra creative potential every musician craves.
Finally, we have the echo effects. To put it in the simplest way possible, an echo is a juxtaposition of the delay and reverb effects we’ve explored above.
It gives you the space-expanding potential of the reverb and allows you to repeat notes like a delay. However, it can’t be classed as either of these effects and is one on its own.
With echo effects, you will generally be getting a thicker, darker, and shorter sound played back to you. This is because the echo effect is modelled on playing in old recording studios where this sound was achieved by repeating a section using tape.
Differences Between Reverb and Echo
Time and Space
Reverb and echo are both sound reflections, but they differ in the duration of the reflection. Reverb has a shorter duration with many fast reflections, while echo stays for a higher duration and has a shorter number of reflections. Reverb reflects from a nearby surface to another around the listener, while echo is a long reflection of sound on a far hard surface.
Reverb occurs in a room where sound waves bounce off walls, ceilings, and floors. The size of the room and the distance between the sound source and the walls affect the reverb time.
In contrast, echo occurs when sound waves reflect off a hard surface, such as a cliff, and return to the listener. The distance between the listener and the hard surface affects the echo time.
Reverb and echo also differ in the number of reflections. Reverb has many fast reflections, while echo has a shorter number of reflections. Reverb occurs when sound waves reflect off surfaces such as walls, ceilings, and floors, and the reflections blend together to create a diffuse sound field. In contrast, echo occurs when sound waves reflect off a single hard surface, such as a cliff, and return to the listener.
Volume and Depth
Reverb and echo also differ in volume and depth. Reverb creates a sense of depth and space in the sound, while echo creates a sense of distance and volume.
Reverb occurs when sound waves reflect off surfaces such as walls, ceilings, and floors, and the reflections blend together to create a diffuse sound field.
The sound is spread out and feels like it is coming from all directions. In contrast, echo occurs when sound waves reflect off a single hard surface, such as a cliff, and return to the listener. The sound is more focused and feels like it is coming from a specific direction.
To reduce reverb in a room, sound absorption materials such as acoustic panels, acoustical foam, carpets, rugs, and tiles can be used. Soft surfaces absorb sound waves, reducing the number of reflections and the reverb time. In contrast, to enhance echo, a hard surface can be used to reflect sound waves back to the listener.
Reverb and echo are both sound reflections, but they differ in duration, number of reflections, volume, and depth.
Reverb creates a diffuse sound field that spreads out from all directions, while echo creates a focused sound field that feels like it is coming from a specific direction.
Understanding the differences between reverb and echo is essential for sound engineers, musicians, and anyone who wants to create high-quality sound.
Applications of Reverb and Echo
As we have learned, reverb and echo are two distinct audio effects that can be used to add depth and character to any sound recording. Let’s take a closer look at the various applications of these effects in different fields.
In music production, reverb and echo are commonly used to create a sense of space and depth in a recording. Reverb can be used to simulate the sound of a concert hall or a large room, while echo can be used to create a dynamic reaffirmation with quiet but audible repetitions of sound.
For example, when recording a vocal track, we can use reverb to fill out the sound and make it more pleasurable to listen to. On the other hand, when recording a guitar solo, we can use echo to create interesting effects and add a sense of movement to the sound.
In live sound, reverb and echo can be used to enhance the overall sound quality of a performance. Reverb can be used to add depth and warmth to a sound, while echo can be used to create interesting effects and add excitement to a performance.
For example, in a concert hall, natural echo can be used to create a sense of space and depth in the sound. In a smaller venue, digital reverb can be used to simulate the sound of a larger space. Delay effects can also be used to create interesting rhythmic patterns and add movement to the sound.
Podcasting and Voiceovers
In podcasting and voiceovers, reverb and echo can be used to add depth and character to the sound. Reverb can be used to fill out the sound and make it more pleasurable to listen to, while echo can be used to create interesting effects and add excitement to the sound.
For example, when recording a podcast, we can use reverb to create a sense of space and depth in the sound. When recording a voiceover, we can use echo to create interesting effects and add a sense of movement to the sound.
Sound Effects and Foley
In sound effects and foley, reverb and echo can be used to create a sense of space and depth in the sound. Reverb can be used to simulate the sound of a large room or a concert hall, while echo can be used to create interesting effects and add excitement to the sound.
For example, when creating the sound of a thunderstorm, we can use echo to create the sound of thunder rumbling in the distance. When creating the sound of footsteps in a large room, we can use reverb to create a sense of space and depth in the sound.
Overall, reverb and echo are powerful audio effects that can be used to add depth and character to any sound recording. By understanding the applications of these effects in different fields, we can use them to create more engaging and immersive sound experiences.
Choosing Between Reverb and Echo
When it comes to choosing between reverb and echo, there are several design considerations and use case scenarios to keep in mind. In this section, we will explore these factors to help you make an informed decision.
The first consideration when choosing between reverb and echo is the desired effect. Reverb is ideal for creating a sense of space and depth, while echo is better suited for creating a sense of repetition and delay. Another consideration is the duration of the effect. Reverb tends to have a longer duration than echo, making it more suitable for creating sustained sounds.
The acoustic environment is also a critical factor. Reverb is more effective in larger spaces, such as concert halls, while echo is more effective in smaller spaces, such as recording studios. Additionally, the type of reverb or echo effect can affect the overall sound. Plate reverb and spring reverb, for example, have different characteristics and are better suited for different types of music.
Use Case Scenarios
Reverb and echo can be used in a variety of scenarios. In restaurants and crowded places, reverb can help create a sense of spaciousness and prevent sound from becoming too overwhelming. In small spaces, echo can help create a sense of depth and make the space feel larger than it is.
In a gym or other fitness environment, reverb can help create a sense of energy and excitement. In vast environments, such as canyons, echo can be used to create a sense of grandeur and awe.
When recording music, the type of reverb or echo used can affect the overall sound of the recording. Halls, plates, and concert halls all have different characteristics and can be used to achieve different effects.
Differences and Similarities Between Reverb and Echo
- Echo effects can mimic delays, but they are limited to lower repeat rates and tonal differences.
- Reverb effects can pass for echo sounds, but without the amount of control, you could get for a dedicated echo effect pedal.
- All three of these effects can be used to mimic one another, showing just how similar they are.
- Reverb and echo effects can be used to create the same sound as a room reverb effect.
Reverb vs Delay Effect
We’ve made a very detailed comparison of reverb and delay effects. Also made sure you read this if you wonder about the position of reverb and delay in guitar effect chain.
Each of the effects we’ve looked at here takes its own place in the history of music. These can be valuable tools in the arsenal of any guitar player. You can do some research and look into the best pedals for creating these types of effects. Having a dedicated pedal to each effect gives you much more potential and tonal capabilities than using one to do the job of all three.