In the previous Pro Audio series article, we covered some of the most common types of audio effects. If you aren’t already familiar with terms like delay, echo, and reverb, you might want to read that article before diving in here.
In this article, I’ll share some of my favorite plugins for delay, echo, and reverb along with a free option for each type. Also, keep in mind that most modern DAWs usually ship with at least one or two options for delay and reverb effects, so it’s probably a good idea that you explore those for the purpose of comparing them against these third-party plugins.
This is not meant to be an exhaustive list, but the plugins you’ll read about below are some of my personal favorites and cover various budgets, from free to expensive.
The Best Delay & Echo Plugins
Waves H-Delay ($59.99)
H-Delay by Waves is a versatile and affordable delay plugin that provides a wide range of delay effects including filtering, flanging, phasing, slap-back echo, ping-pong delay, and more. Nothing too fancy here, but you’ll have no trouble getting interesting sounds out of H-Delay, and it won’t break the bank.
Soundtoys Echoboy ($199)
Echoboy by Soundtoys is arguably the most capable delay plugin on this list. With Echoboy, not only do you get a great sounding delay plugin with plenty of control over various settings, but Soundtoys has done a great job, including 30 built-in styles modeled on real, vintage gear.
IK Multimedia Tape Echo ($79.99)
Tape Echo by IK Multimedia is a recreation of the classic Echoplex EP3 tape delay. The plugin emulates all of the imperfections you’d expect when using the real thing, including tape hiss, wow, flutter, and electrical noise.
Overloud ECHOSON ($79)
ECHOSON by Overloud is my favorite plugin in this category. Based on the legendary Binson Echorec, ECHOSON recreates the sound of a magnetic drum delay, which offers a unique sound compared to more common tape-based delays. The sound of the Binson Echorec was made prominent by Pink Floyd in the 70s. Once you learn the nuances of ECHOSON, you can get some very interesting and unique sounds. Highly recommend!
Fabfilter Timeless 2 ($129)
Fabfilter is known for having intuitive, forward-thinking interfaces and Timeless 2 is no exception. Its beautiful design is a great complement to its high-quality classic tape delay emulation. You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who speaks negatively about Fabfilter Timeless 2.
Valhalla FreqEcho (FREE)
FreqEcho by Valhalla is a completely free plugin featuring bode-style frequency shifting and analog echo emulation. Valhalla makes great sounding plugins, and FreqEcho is capable of creating effects from subtle chorusing and double tracking to runaway echos. Sure, it’s not as complex as the others on this list, but it sounds great and is really easy to use.
Delay Plugin Roundup
While any of these delay plugins would be a great addition to your effects library, my personal favorite is the Overloud ECHOSON. In my opinion, it offers the most unique sound and a warm analog tone. If you’re just getting acquainted with delay and echo, the free FreqEcho from Valhalla is a great way to learn how different settings produce certain sounds.
The Best Reverb Plugins
Audioease Altiverb ($595)
For those who have the budget, Altiverb by Audioease provides an incredibly large library of high-quality convolution reverb options. From epic concert halls to samples of classic and vintage gear, Altiverb is probably the most complete reverb and effects package available on the market. Some of the gear that is offered with Altiverb include classic reverbs like the Lexicon 480 and 224, along with the AMS RMX 16, EMT 240, and much more. It’s a pricey piece of software but offers tons of value.
Valhalla Room ($50)
At $50, Valhalla Room is the least expensive reverb plugin on this list, but don’t let that fool you. It sounds great and the user interface and presets make it easy to dial in a great sounding reverb quickly. Valhalla Room features 12 different algorithms, from tight ambient rooms to deep space reverbs.
UAD EMT 140 ($199)
UAD plugins are widely considered to be the cream of the crop, and the UAD EMT 140 is no exception. With three plates to choose from and a variety of other parameters you can modify, the EMT 140 is a spot-on recreation of the iconic plate reverb. The only caveat is that you’ll need UAD hardware of some kind to run this plugin or any of the others on this list by Universal Audio.
UAD AKG BX 20 ($199)
If you already have UAD hardware that can run UAD plugins, the AKG BX 20 is quite possibly my favorite reverb. It is an authentic recreation of the famed 1960s spring reverb unit from AKG and it does not disappoint. It is incredibly lush, dark, and dense in a way that only spring reverbs are.
Slate Verbsuite Classics ($149)
Verbsuite Classics by LiquidSonics and Slate Digital offers a tremendous value. You can either purchase it and own it for life for $149, or get it through the Slate Digital All Access monthly subscription for $14.99, which also gets you a ton of other plugins from Slate. With Verbsuite Classics, you get spot-on recreations of multiple studio standards, including Lexicon, AMS, Bricasti and more. There are also expansion packs that provide Eventide H3000 and H3500 patches. My favorite is the Canyon preset. If I could only have one reverb plugin, this might be it. Try the demo and you’ll see why I think it’s a great value.
If you’re ready to move beyond your DAW’s built-in reverb plugins but aren’t ready to spend cash on a new one just yet, give TAL-Reverb-4 a try. It’s free, sounds good, and offers a nice reverb reminiscent of an 80s-style plate.
Reverb Plugin Roundup
Whether you’re on a strict budget or feel like going on a plugin shopping spree, there is an option for you within this shortlist of reverb plugins. The value of the Valhalla stuff can’t be overstated. For 50 bucks, it’ll be pretty difficult to find a better sounding reverb that you own for life. If you want to explore a wider range of classic and vintage sounds, I would suggest demoing the Slate Verbsuite Classics — whether you decided to pay for it and own it for life or use their subscription service to access it, you really can’t go wrong. I personally love it for the Bricasti M7 sounds and the fact that it has a bunch of Eventide H3000 patches available in an expansion pack (included free if you subscribe). Altiverb is great but expensive by comparison, and while the UAD EMT 140 and AKG BX 20 do sound awesome, I’d argue that the Verbsuite and Valhalla options just give you so much bang for your back that they are hard to pass up.
Now that I’ve shared some of my favorite delay, echo, and reverb plugins, I recommend doing some of your own hands-on research and downloading the demos that are available. You may discover that your favorite reverb is the one that’s already included as part of your DAW, or you might succumb to the addicting nature of plugin hunting. Either way, the best way to figure out what works for you is to download the demos, twist some virtual knobs, and listen to what resonates with you the most—and have fun, it’s supposed to be fun!
If you have other favorite delay or reverb plugins that didn’t make my list, feel free to share them in the comments so other readers can check them out too.
In the next article, I’ll offer my favorite plugins for Chorus, Distortion, and Compression.
Previous Pro Audio Articles:
- Pro Audio: Your First Home Studio (Part I)
- Pro Audio: Your First Home Studio (Part II)
- Pro Audio: How to Choose the Best Computer for Music Production
- Pro Audio: Comparing the Best DAW Software Options for Recording
- Pro Audio: How to Choose the Best Audio Interface For Your Needs
- Pro Audio: Microphones 101
- Pro Audio: Microphone Recommendations for Recording Vocals
- Pro Audio: Best Microphones for Recording Acoustic Guitar
- Pro Audio: Understanding Basic Acoustics in Your Home Studio (Part I)
- Pro Audio: Understanding Basic Acoustics in Your Home Studio (Part II)
- Pro Audio: Five Essential Audio Effects