Times have changed and studios more and more often start using virtual reverb. Yet, some musicians and bands still prefer real reverb: they find places with interesting reverb and record there.

My question is: How good is the quality of a virtual reverb compared to a real one?

  • 4
    I think the premise of your question is flawed. Unless you consider plates and chambers to be "real", then non-"real" reverb has been used on the majority of recordings since the late 60s. Even if you consider plates and chambers "real", then digital reverbs dominated the 1980s, and today you are certainly hearing a large number of convolution reverbs (a digital modeling process). Some people go old school with a plate reverb. Only rarely are natural spaces used, although actually more often now than in the period of the 70s through the 90s, I would say. Jan 24 '17 at 6:08
  • One of the ways that acoustic spaces are used more often today is via the Internet. There's the famous Silophone and the less famous Tank-FX online acoustic space reverb processing services. Jan 24 '17 at 6:13
  • Why do you consider those to be non-real? Jan 24 '17 at 6:17
  • I didn't say whether I consider them to be real or not. I don't know what you consider to be real or not. Even if you consider plates and chambers "real", they are not currently very popular reverb sources. Digital reverbs from Lexicon and Eventide and convolution reverbs from... pretty much everyone, currently dominate reverb processing. Some genres might have more acoustic space or plate/chamber/spring/hose reverbs used, but I wouldn't say those are the norm. Jan 24 '17 at 6:19

You hear virtual digital and convolution reverbs all the time. They sound good enough that tracks and albums that use them go multi-platinum and win Grammy awards every year. Modern sound design for film and TV relies on convolution reverbs to create convincing spaces, especially when dialog is replaced. That's why ADR sounds so much better now than it did in the 70s and 80s. I myself have re-created the interior of an SUV using a convolution reverb for a short film.

You probably hardly ever hear reverb that is not created digitally in major studio releases. So you know very well what it sounds like - you're hearing digital reverb almost every time you listen to music or watch a movie or a TV show.


In my book, 'real' reverb is when musicians are recorded, almost certainly all at once, in a concert hall or other space. They aren't close-miced, a stereo pair is placed so as to capture the whole thing, instruments and room. (In modern practice, there will probably be some spot-micing as well as the main stereo pair. But the reverb comes from the room, not from any contrived devcice.) I doubt many 'bands' record in this way. Orchestras and other acoustic ensembles, yes.

Then there's 'artificial' reverb. Originally a room containing loudspeaker and microphone. Then perhaps a plate or spring with transducers at each end. Or the plate/spring could be replaced by an electronic delay line. Now more likely to be a computer simulation. All these methods have their own sound. I don't really put the 'room containing loudspeaker and microphone' method in any special category.

What's best? Best at what? Sounding like it's recorded at Carnegie Hall? Or best at enhancing today's style of ultra-seperated multi-tracked and processed recording? Not better, just different.

It's a pity, though, how rarely we hear real stereo - as distinct from pan-potted mono - these days, especially in popular music recordings. There's a special magic in a three-dimensional 'stereo image' which is worth experiencing.

  • “… a stereo pair is placed so as to capture the whole thing, instruments and room.” This is how I casually record in my jam space, and it’s amazing how well it captures everything, even the drums have separation between pieces on either side of the kit.
    – wabisabied
    Apr 17 '20 at 18:07

Maybe "natural reverb" vs "digitally added reverb" is a better way of formulating it, to avoid people digressing over "what's real" ?

I suppose one of the advantages of using natural reverb is simply logistics: it's simply practical for a situation like a choir where the choir master for example can try out different dispositions of people in the room until they like the result. Same to any other situation where you have an ensemble of musicians/singers and an artist director that knows what they want. It's instant feedback!

Of course you'd still need someone to figure out how to record it, but compare that to recording one instrument at the time, then spending hours editing it in a computer later, trying things and re-listening, until you get something your ears appreciate.

Both have pros and cons, one could think of it as a different "user interface" for obtaining essentially the same goal.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.