The Best Type of Reverb for Vocals

I recently did an overview on the different types of reverb used in mixing. They all boiled down to three major categories: room/space, plate, and spring. Room reverbs in particular encompass the most sub-genres if you will, as simulating different sized rooms convey very different effects when it comes to reverb. Different types of instruments are best suited for different types of reverbs, but what about vocals? Let’s identify the best type of reverb for vocals.

The Best Type of Reverb for Vocals

best type of reverb for vocals

While room based reverbs are great on vocals (I talk about as much in my tutorial on the best reverb settings for vocals), if I can only pick one type of reverb for vocals as the best, I’d recommend a plate reverb, and specifically Valhalla Plate.

plate reverb

As I explained in my overview of what is plate reverb, this is a type of reverb which doesn’t simulate an organic sound found in nature.

This is an artificially constructed sound of reverb. Plate reverb plugins like the aforementioned Valhalla Plate model the miked up captured sound of vibrations sent through a large metallic plate.

The result is a relatively clean and brighter favoring reflected sound. This makes it great whenever you want to add some depth without the heaviness and warmth you normally get with reverb. Incidentally it works very well as a snare reverb, as well.

Here are the settings I love for my go-to plate based vocal reverb in Valhalla Plate:

valhalla plate vocal

As always, place this reverb on its own Aux/Return track (as opposed to an insert on the track itself) with the mix set to 100%.

Then you simply blend in the amount of the plate you want on each vocal track. This saves processing, not to mention it gives every vocal a sense of cohesion as they all sound like they’re coming from the same space.

This sounds a lot more natural than say you were using different types of reverbs on other vocals or just different settings on each one.

Roughly 1 second in decay is a relatively short tail so it doesn’t step on the toes of the next vocal line (though you can adjust this relative to your song’s tempo.

The “Mode” feature allows you to choose from a dozen types of metal, some sounding darker or brighter than others. “Steel” is relatively neutral or better said in the middle of the spectrum.

I also use the EQ dials to sculpt the sound of the reverb further. Note that these are not exactly low and high pass filters but more like the controls on a semi-parametric EQ.

You can use these to cut or boost a low shelf or a high shelf below or above those points you set, respectively.

You’ll have to follow the reverb with a dedicated EQ if you want to use the Abbey Road Reverb Trick which essentially just means low and high passing the reverb signal itself to keep it cleaner and stay out of the way of and contrast with the dry vocal better.

Speaking of Abbey Road reverb, you might also check out the Waves made Abbey Road Reverb Plates which simulate the actual plates they use in Abbey Road:

abbey road reverb plates

Back to the Valhalla Plate, I like its relatively clean sound from these settings to the point that I even add back in a little boost below 740Hz on the reverb itself and cut lower than I would filter out completely with the Abbey Road Reverb trick, this time at 4200Hz.

Experiment with these settings if you have this particular plugin as it also depends on the vocalist with some timbres of vocals benefiting from more top or low end in that reverb.

Lastly, note there’s a little reverb pre-delay (25ms) to help that initial transient punch of the dry vocal cut through, and I have the width set around 100% to get the full spectrum of the stereo field covered.

Try blending in these settings on a plate reverb into your vocal alongside a second send which features a second plate or a room reverb with a longer delay like I describe in the best reverb settings for vocals. In that case, I may reduce the width on this reverb, or do so while automating it back up during the chorus.

Using a second reverb allows you to keep one muted or at a lower level until the chorus hits when you unmute or automate its level up.

This allows that vocal to contrast with the preceding part, not to mention gives you some extra depth and presence on that chorus vocal to get it sitting just right when the instrumental is peaking behind it.

When I’m working on a relatively drier or faster song or I just don’t want as much production, this single plate reverb is all I need to add just a touch of depth and size to my vocal. Simply turn the send dial up until you can just hear the difference between the effect on or off, and you’re good.

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