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Reverb VS Delay/ Echo: The Difference + When To Use Them!!

Are reverb and delay & echo all the same? What's the difference? We reveal all...

The ‘Reverb VS Delay/ Echo’ debate is not uncommon amongst guitarists.

If anything, it’s an common argument. One that impacts both beginners & the hardest of hardcore guitarists. As any pedal enthusiast will know, both these effects have a rightful place on your pedalboard, it’s just when/ how they’re used, which tends to be the source of controversy.

And that’s because as much as these guitar effects are often dubbed as ‘the same’, they’re actually anything but; reverb & delay are in fact two sides of the same coin. Similar in function, yet completely different once you unpick them. Nevertheless, both are considered vital aspects of any professional pedalboard. To not integrate at least one of these pedals into your setup puts you at a SERIOUS disadvantage!! Pretty much all the greats – from Hendrix & Gilmour to Rodgers & Van Halen – used at lest one of these pedals to make music.

So with that in mind, what’s the best use for reverb or delay pedals? And why are they so commonly confused? Keep reading to find out…

After something specific about the difference between reverb, delay & echo pedals? Or just curious whether reverb or delay would work best with your setup? Dive into the menu below to get all the answers you need FAST…

reverb pedal sat on a table

NOTE: Curious about all sorts of pedals for your guitar? Jump into our full-fat rundown of the Best Guitar Pedals OF ALL Time!

The difference between reverb & delay is quite subtle, yet when you hear both effects side by side, it’s pretty easy to tell them apart. The confusion between these two effects, come back to this…

Both reverb & delay are a form of echo… yet they’re not the same.

In simple terms, reverb is echo that’s created by sound bouncing back off a close surface, while delay is the direct opposite. An echo from sound that’s been projected from afar. To get a better idea of the differences between reverb & delay, jump into the video demonstrations of each effect below…

Reverb pedals & how they sound…

On a sound chart, you can spot reverb by what it does to the wave pattern.

Reverb pedals make your sound that bit more ‘busy’. They do this by extending out sound waves to give you an extra fade effect at the end of each note. So while a guitar without a reverb pedal will sound sharp & punchy, add a reverb pedal & everything becomes a lot softer. An effect that (especially if you’re a fast player) can really come in handy.

Add reverb to a fast paced guitar solo & you’ll build up a real nice blanket of undertones as each note fades out. An easy way to give your sound that bit extra body & thickness.

Delay/ Echo pedals & how they sound…

Put delay pedals on a sound chart & you’ll see a lot of spikes.

That’s because where reverb pedals soften existing notes, delay pedals add in extra echos (i.e. replay each note multiple times). Something that helps to create a real sense of space, & is why delay pedals are the ‘go-to’ for guitarists who’re looking to make their sound that bit more 3 dimensional. Use delay on your pedalboard & it’s super easy to slide small pockets of echo in to your tone.

A valuable tool to have, especially if you’re trying to recreate that ‘BIG’ concert-like sound from your bedroom or home studio.

delay pedals for sale

How to use reverb pedals

There’s a whole ream of possible uses for a reverb pedal, however here’s 3 that we think reverb works super well for…

  • Thickening your sound – Because of how reverb works to elongate each note, it’s very easy to build up a blanket of underlying sound. An easy way to mould your guitar tone so that it has that bit extra body & depth.
  • Softening a guitar’s presence – If you’re in a band or playing alongside a vocalist, reverb can be another great way to dial down the overall harshness of your guitar tone. A factor to bear in mind if you don’t want to overpower others in your band. Remember: balance is key.
  • Adding atmosphere – As far as creating atmosphere goes, reverb does a great job. Part of the reason why it’s not just a common guitar effect, but also a popular vocal effect too! Using a reverb pedal, you can do a lot to lift your tone & make it sound that bit less ‘stock’.

NOTE: Like the sound of reverb? Check out our rundown of the Top Reverb Pedals.

How to use delay pedals…

There’s no end of uses for delay pedals, however here’s 3 uses of delay that we think are really effective…

  • Add extra pockets of echo – Tweak the settings on your delay pedal, & you can extend the length of the delay to make certain pockets of sound reappear as an echo a few seconds later. Especially useful if you’re trying to inject that extra rhythm into a chorus!
  • Create a sense of space – If you want to give listeners the feel that your music is being performed in a grand venue (eg. a concert hall), then delay can help you imitate those big/ wide acoustics. An easy hack to give your recording that bit more atmosphere – just one of the reason why delay is a such a common effect throughout Rock & Metal music.
  • Add impact – Arguably one of the best uses of delay is to draw attention to specific notes/ chords. If for instance you want a certain sound to remain more prominent, then adding delay would be an easy way to make it pop.

NOTE: Looking to buy a delay pedal? Jump into our rundown of the Best Delay Pedals.

Enjoy this rundown of the Reverb VS Delay VS Echo debate, & eager for more? Don’t miss out on all our latest Reviews Of Guitar Pedals, as well as our Knowledge On Music Production. Recently we’ve also done rundowns of the Best Wah Wah Pedals + the Top Distortion Pedals, which may also be a good read.

the knobs on a delay pedal

Or if you’re interested to learn even more about the difference between reverb, delay & echo, keep reading & we’ll answer even more of your burning questions…

Whether delay or reverb is better really all depends on you & your music. So before buying either effects pedals, here’s a few factors to consider…

  • Your genre – Really analyse the music in your genre & you’ll soon see that certain genres rely on specific sounds & tones. So while you could be a guitarist for both a Rock & Pop band, the type of effects that’d work best will likely differ; delay is far more Rock orientated if you ask us. Either way, genre is an easy way to gauge whether reverb or delay is the best choice for you & your music.
  • Other effects/ pedals you use – It’s worth noting that not all effects pedals work well together. Therefore, while reverb & delay may seem like a good idea on the surface, they may not actually be the best choice if you consider the other pedals you have on your board.
  • Type of atmosphere – Guitar effects pedals are all about creating atmosphere & fine-tuning your sound. It’s this which is why reverb & delay may be (or may not be) the way to go. Depending on the type of music you create & your personal style of play, such pedals may/ may not even be necessary.

You can use reverb & delay together.

In fact, they make for quite the good combo. Music producers in particular choose to use both these effects in tandem. For instance, they might add reverb to certain guitar notes, while also adding delay to a certain part of a song’s vocals. Although if you’re purely a guitarist & playing to create 1 single signal, then you’d typically do so less often.

Across all the different sounds in a song, reverb & delay can be used an awful lot. However to apply both to the same instrument at the same time, can require a fair bit of practice to get right.

FYI: Some delay pedals even come with reverb features built-in & vice versa. Pretty much proof that delay & reverb DO go well together & are both effects worth experimenting with.

It’s important to remember that not all reverb is the same; it comes in 3 distinct types…

  • Natural reverb – These are most often what you think of when you hear the term reverb. A natural reverb is a sound made from the reflections you get from a physical space/ arena. Something that means you can record a violin in a vocal booth, yet make it sound like it was recorded in a concert hall. Very clever!!
  • Mechanical reverb – Much as they sound, these reverbs aren’t emulations of any sort. They’re physical, & made by running reverb through a physical box. A common example being spring reverb, which is made by audio being transmitted through a physical spring.
  • Digital reverb – These sorts of reverbs are those made with a digital plugin or a piece of software. And the great thing is that there are some digital reverbs which you simply cannot create in real life. A great example being ambient reverb.

NOTE: Want to know even more about reverb? Jump into our rundown of all the various Types Of Reverb.