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12 of the Best Compact Reverb Pedals

Alexander PedalsAmbient EffectsBossChase Bliss AudioDigital ReverbDigiTechDr ScientistEarthQuaker DevicesElectro-HarmonixMad ProfessorMXRNeunaberPlate ReverbRack Style ReverbReverbReverb WorkstationShimmer ReverbSpacey ReverbSpring ReverbTC ElectronicWalrus Audio+-
2018GPX12CompactReverbPedals700-min.jpg

It seems that 2018 has very significantly been a Year of and for Reverb - with half of these featured recent additions to the category. I have rarely seen as well coordinated a campaign as for the very recent Chase Bliss Audio Dark World launch - which has somewhat overshadowed the slightly earlier release of Dr Scientist’s long-awaited Atmosphere. We’ve also seen Neunaber’s second incarnation of the Immerse, two very highly versatile 11-mode pedals from Electro-Harmonix and Mad Professor, and a properly Spacey Reverb from Alexander Pedals.

 

I personally own 3 Stereo Reverb Workstations - in order of acquisition - Strymon BigSky, Boss RV-500 and Source Audio Ventris - the latter two which do dual parallel/serial effects much like the CBA Dark World does - but in Stereo. Even though the Stereo TC Electronics Hall of Fame 2 is fairly recently released (last year) - it’s kind of showing its age already compared to some of the newer developments.

 

For me of course Stereo is a must for my rig, but I’m still excited by a number of these, and obviously a massive fan of both Chase Bliss Audio and Dr Scientist in particular. I feel Dr Scientist’s Atmosphere is a proper Reverb Workstation just in a very compact chassis - but it really could do with stereo outputs. I feel the choices have never been broader - the selection here goes from a very reasonable £90 for the TCE HOF2 to £359 for the Dr Scientist Atmosphere, and the CBA Dark World just a tenner short of that.

 

A number of these pedals now offer presets - some more than others - and is well typified by The Atmosphere in calling its Modes ’Patches’ as you can save your preferences for each one and easily scroll between. TCE HOF2’s TonePrint functionality and MASH footswitch also makes it something of a contender, even though it does not do the Reverb stacking which my RV-500, Ventris and the CBA Dark World do so well.

 

Some of these pedals offer an enormous degree of flexibility - while EQD’s ever popular Afterneath gives you maximum variety out of one singularly smart algorithm. On a fleeting initial overview - my favourites are the Chase Bliss Dark World, Dr Scientist Atmosphere and TC Electronic Hall of Fame 2, but I would not discount the EHX Oceans 11 or Neunaber Immerse MKII as they offer up excellent possibilities too. There are no really weak ones here just different degrees of spectacular.

 

These are all favourites of mine, and can all generate great Reverb sounds - it really depends on exactly what you’re looking for, what your own rig requires and how deep your wallet is. If you like the look of the Dark World you may be a touch late for the first batch which I believe is now pretty much sold out already.

 

Even though none of these would replace my existing trio of reverbs, and my most likely next addition to the collection is the GFI System Specular Tempus - the Dark World in particular has something which draws me in - I may try to accommodate it in some way eventually - here’s hoping a few more of these will be stereo by then!

 

Pedals are listed alphabetically by brand:


Alexander Space Race Reverberation - £199

It seems a long time since its release in time for Summer NAMM at the end of June - so much has happened since - this almost seems positively old-fashioned now! In reality, Alexander's NEO Range goes from strength to strength with multiple voicings/modes, secondary/alt parameters and onboard presets. So you have in essence 8 controls here for the 6 presets offered which makes this a very decent all-rounder reverb with some obvious spacey leanings. I was more excited by its sibling - the multi-modulation Wavelength - albeit both those do seem somewhat old-fashioned thinking compared to the brand new Atmosphere and Dark World - but then again - they're only half the price.

 

The 6 included modes are as follows:

  1. Modulate (Modulated Chamber)
  2. Spring
  3. LoFi
  4. Plate
  5. Analog
  6. Shimmer

Boss RV-6 Reverb (Stereo)- £113

Summer NAMM 2015 seems a very long time ago now. Obviously we have some more recent multi-modulation workshop style pedals like the RV-500 and GT-1000. I still think we're probably due another update here soon, as TCE Hall of Fame 2 was beginning to make this look a touch antiquated last year, and this year's models put it further in the shade. That set it's a decent robust performer - with all that usual Boss reliability, and you do get 8 very decent modes for your moderate outlay:

  1. Modulate
  2. Spring
  3. Plate
  4. Hall
  5. Room
  6. Dynamic
  7. Shimmer
  8. Reverb + Delay

Chase Bliss Audio Dark World Reverb - £349

Even though Dr Scientist's Atmosphere has more potential individual possibilities via its 16 'Patches' and 8 controls - I still feel that Joel Korte's latest is something of a revelation in this sector. The smart split into Dark and Regular (World) modes and the incredible way you can combine and control them makes this my frontrunner in this pack. 6 modes, 6 controls, dual footswitches, 18 dip-switches and 2 presets make this one hell of a reverb chameleon. And you pretty much get Tom Majeski Cooper FX's much sought-after 'Generation Loss' in the 'Mod' mode onboard - plus the ability to combine that with Robert Keeley's Hall, Plate or Spring - for some truly next-world sci-fi effects. I love everything about this pedal bar its lack of stereo outs.

  1. Modulate
  2. Shimmer
  3. Black
  4. Hall
  5. Plate
  6. Spring

DigiTech Polara Reverb (Stereo) - £104

Polara's 7 modes were pretty impressive within the company this pedal was launched into, but things have moved on quickly in the interim, and on a price-to-feature ratio etc. I can't see this properly competing against the more powerful TCE Hall of Fame 2. It does still though have variations of the world-famous Lexicon Studio Reverbs onboard, so there is quality to be found here. It's just that there are far smarter and more capable reverbs available nowadays.

  1. Modulated
  2. Halo
  3. Hall
  4. Spring
  5. Room
  6. Plate
  7. Reverse

Dr Scientist Atmosphere Reverb - £359

I've been following this one from the earliest developments - nearly a couple of years now it feels like. And this feels genuinely like a proper Reverb Workstation in its most practical compact enclosure. With dual footswtiches, LCD colour screen, 16 user-tweakable and saveable Patches, and 8 hands-on controls - this is almost everything I could have imagined it to be. Alas no stereo outputs, and no algorithm combining - which I think will be the essential take-away of 2018. This is the most expensive of those pedals featured here, and the enormous feature set covered justifies its price-point. It is however, not quite up with my Strymon Big Sky, Boss RV-500 or Source Audio Ventris. And even though somewhat lesser in many regards, I feel that Chase Bliss Audio's Dark World has somewhat overshadowed it in targeting that sort of demographic with slightly more ingenuity. It is nevertheless a fantastic reverb library and sounds as good as you would expect of Dr Scientist.

  1. Spring
  2. Hall
  3. Octave (Up/Down/Mix)
  4. Rotary
  5. Plate
  6. Smear
  7. Vibro (Pitch Vibrato)
  8. Gated
  9. Swell
  10. Filter
  11. Mod FX (Flanger/Chorus/Tremolo/RingMod)
  12. React (Dynamic Fills Reverb)
  13. Aether (Reverse Delay/Reverb +/- Phaser)
  14. Room
  15. Alias (Sample Rate Reducing)
  16. Pitch (Constantly Rising/Falling Pitch Reverb)

Earthquaker Devices Afterneath Reverb V2 - £219

This is easily the simplest pedal featured here - having really just the one algorithm which though is pretty highly tweakable via its 6 controls. This ever popular ethereal and other-worldly sounding reverb is as if you just took one flavour off the CBA Dark World. It has that beautiful eerie spacey quality about it, but does not offer anywhere near the versatility of the other pedals here. Yes it's sort of a one-trick pony, but it's a really great trick, as is born out by how many of these are featured on pedalboards. I fear that the Dark World though is going to appeal to all those same players and offer them quite a bit more, albeit for quite a bit more - so horses for courses as always.


Electro-Harmonix Oceans 11 Reverb - £127

This pedal has been appearing on many a critics' 'Best of 2018' lists, and justifiably so in many ways - with some really great takes on the classics - including a really stellar Spring Reverb algorithm. Yet compared to a few of the newer ones, its thinking is still somewhat primitive. If you're looking for a really decent all-rounder mono reverb workstation, then this is a as good a shout as any, at a very reasonable price.

  1. Hall
  2. Spring
  3. Plate
  4. Revers (Reverse)
  5. Echo (Reverb + Delay)
  6. Trem (Reverb + Tremolo)
  7. Mod (Modulated)
  8. Dyna (Dynamic Reverb - Swell/Gate/Duck)
  9. Auto-Inf (Auto Infinite Reverb - cascading washes)
  10. Shim (Shimmer)
  11. Poly (Polyphonic Pitch-Shifting Reverb)

Mad Professor Kosmos Reverb - £199

I feel that this pedal is short of one or two controls - which is why it needs so many alternative versions of the same sort of effect, as there is only one 'Control' knob to tweak the key parameters of that algorithm. As with all of Mad Professor pedals - everything here sounds great - and the mix of momentary / feedback on the footswitch is some pretty smart engineering. Yet it is somewhat outpaced by the Oceans 11 and Hall of Fame 2 each in their own way.

  1. Plate
  2. Room
  3. Spring
  4. Hall
  5. Shimmer 1 (Control = Duck Depth)
  6. Shimmer 2 (Control = Duck Depth)
  7. Shimmer 3 (Control = Ratio)
  8. Room + Slapback Delay
  9. Room + Multihead Delay
  10. Swell 1 (Momentary)
  11. Swell 2 (Momentary, Control = Speed of Rise)

MXR M300 Reverb - £220

For a while I thought this a pretty cool Reverb pedal - yet it lacks stereo, and has rather few controls and variables overall compared to most of these others. You do though see his fairly commonly paired with a Carbon Copy, and for those wanting a simpler take on Reverb this is still a strong contender, while I feel there are more clever alernatives generally available nowadays, and for significantly better pricing.

  1. Room
  2. Epic
  3. Plate
  4. Spring
  5. Modulate
  6. Pad

Neunaber Immerse Reverberator MKII (Stereo) - £259

This latest iteration of what was the runaway success 'Immerse' has rather been swept up in the wake of The Atmosphere and Dark World - the Immerse's one major advantage that keeps it in contention though is its stereo ins and outs. Yet in that category I still feel that the Hall of Fame 2 overall has more to offer - at a considerably lower premium.

  1. W3T
  2. Plate
  3. Hall
  4. Spring
  5. Sustain
  6. Echo
  7. Downtune
  8. Shimmer

TC Electronic Hall of Fame 2 (Stereo) - £90

This has barely been out a year yet, and it's already showing some signs of age - only really in the area of edgy algorithms and ability for combinations. That said, the TonePrint feature allows you to create the most incredibly detailed of algorithms or download existing masterpieces into those 3 slots - and we have stereo ins and outs. The major thing missing for me actually is the lack of onboard presets. A second footswtich would allow you to cycle though those and make this pedal really useful (for me that is).

  1. Room
  2. Hall
  3. Spring
  4. Plate
  5. Church
  6. Shimmer
  7. Modulate
  8. LoFi
  9. TonePrint 1 (default = Shimmer + Vibrato)
  10. TonePrint 2 (default = Cathedral + Flanger)
  11. TonePrint 3 (default = Momentary - Church + TroChorus)

Walrus Audio Fathom Reverb - £192

I'm a sucker for dual-footswtich pedals, and this is a really cool take on reverb with a couple of interesting algorithms and a couple of classic ones. Like most on this page for me at least it's been somewhat overshadowed by The Atmosphere and the Dark World - sure it's only around half of those in price, but they are so much more compelling to me somehow.

  1. Hall
  2. Plate
  3. Lo-Fi
  4. Sonar (Reverb + High & Low Octaves)

Final Thoughts and Favourites

Because I rock a stereo rig and already have 3 fantastic Reverb Workstations on-tap - the Strymon BigSky, Boss RV-500 and Source Audio Ventris - none of these are really particularly suitable for my needs. Even then there are 2 here that I'm really impressed with - the two new boys - the Chase Bliss Audio Dark World and Dr Scientist The Atmosphere. Part of me also really likes TCE's HOF2 as a junior fall-back. Yet there is really only one winner for me here - and that has to be the fantastic and innovative Dark World. Even though it is just Mono - I still feel I will get it eventually, although I'm not really sure how I would accommodate it in my chain - possibly as a sometime alternative for the Eventide H9.

 

As to what might suit your own particular purposes then there's plenty on offer here. Of the Stereo ones the newer Immerse and HOF2 stand out, for the Mono ones - the Oceans 11 was looking pretty good until The Atmosphere and Dark World arrived. If you're into more vanilla Reverbs and want the most capable at this size - then that's likely The Atmosphere. If you're into the more quirky side of things I can't see how / why you would want anything other than the Dark World. I feel that despite a number of successes to date - this will go on to become Joel Korte's most popular pedal by some distance. I would still want to see a stereo version of this. I know the Mooer Ocean Machine does some interestingly quirky things, and both my RV-500 and Ventris are capable of sort of similar things - I just really want those Dark-side algorithms though!

 

So in the end no surprises really - even though we have 12 pretty great reverbs here, it's all about the 1 for me!

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