The Differences Between Delay, Reverb and Echo Effects on Guitar

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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.

Getting Confused

There is a lot of confusion among guitarists about what the differences between these three 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

reverb vs echo

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.

Delay Effects

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.

Echo Effects

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 modeled on playing in old recording studios where this sound was achieved by repeating a section using tape.

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

For this concern, we’ve made a very detail comparison for reverb and delay effects.  Also made sure you read this if you wonder about the position of reverb and delay in guitar effect chain.

In Summary

Each of the effects we’ve looked at here take their own place in the history of music. All of 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.

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