The Top 10 Reverb Pedals For Blues
In the quest for quality tones, I think guitarists often overlook reverb pedals. Instead they favour overdrive and boost pedals. These are important – and you can find some of my top recommendations for overdrive pedals here. But if you really want a killer blues tone, you need to add a reverb pedal to your rig.
As is so often the case with guitar gear – when it comes to reverb pedals, there are an endless number of choices out there. Navigating the vast array of pedals out there and buying wisely can be difficult. So here I’ve shortlisted some of the best reverb pedals for the blues. These will add depth and thickness to your tone. They also offer a whole range of different reverb options for those of you are playing different styles that require greater versatility.
So, without further ado – here are 10 of the best reverb pedals out there for the blues:
The original TC Electronic Hall of Fame is one of the best all round and most popular reverb pedals on the market. It features 10 different modes, along with a decay, FX level and tone knob for tweaking your sound.
The second iteration of the pedal – the TC Electronic Hall of Fame 2 has taken all of these great features, and added 2 additional features worthy of note. The first of these is the option to add an octave pitch shift to the shimmer reverb. Not a must have for straight blues, but a cool feature if you want to recreate the psychedelic sounds of guitarists like Robin Trower or Jimi Hendrix.
The second feature is the newly added ‘Mash’ button. This acts very much like an expression pedal and increases the intensity of your chosen effect, depending on the amount of pressure you apply to the button.
Arguably though, the coolest feature is the ‘Tone Print’ App that you can download with the pedal. This gives you access to a huge bank of presets that you can easily download. Many of these have been created by professional guitarists, including bluesmen like Kirk Fletcher, Josh Smith and Ariel Posen. Finally, at only $150/£120, this pedal is also brilliant value.
The Strymon Big Sky is generally regarded as setting the standard by which other reverb pedals are measured. It has 12 different reverb types – from the standard ‘hall’ and ‘plate’ through to the less familiar ‘magneto’ and ‘shimmer’. The pedal has 300 presets and countless options for further tweaking.
If you are playing straight blues and are looking to add a bit of depth to your sound, then the Big Sky might be overkill. It is unlikely that you will use even a fraction of the 300 presets. But if you are playing alternative styles – or if you really want to invest in a high quality reverb pedal – then the Strymon Big Sky is a brilliant choice.
At $688/£433, the Big Sky is one of the most expensive reverb pedals on the market. But it is also one of the highest quality. So if you’re looking for high quality tones and are happy to pay more, the Big Sky is a great investment.
On the opposite end of the spectrum is the Electro Harmonix Holy Grail Nano. If simplicity is what you look for in your gear, then this is the reverb pedal for you. It has 3 modes – spring, hall and flerb, which is a combination of Flanger and Reverb. It also has just one dial to control the level of the reverb in the mix.
This makes it a great choice if you are playing straight blues and have no interest in the more spacey sounds offered by some of the other pedals listed here. It is also a great pedal if you want an ‘always on’ reverb sound. You can just dial in the level of reverb you want and forget about the pedal.
The Holy Grail Nano isn’t one of the most versatile reverb pedals out there. But if you want a no frills pedal that is perfect for the blues, then you can’t go wrong with the Holy Grail Nano. It is also a brilliant choice if you want a great pedal but you don’t want to break the bank. At around $150/£115, it is one of the best value reverb pedals available on the market.
The MXR M300 is a great choice if you want a variety of different features, and also value simplicity. The pedal comes with 6 different settings. These range from subtle and bluesy spring reverb through to ‘pad reverb’. This latter effect combines sub-octave and octave-up with a synth style modulation effect for some pretty interesting sounds.
You can adjust which of these 6 settings you want to use by pressing the ‘tone’ button down. This makes the MXR M300 a great pedal for gigging. Rather than having to kneel down and manually adjust your sound, you can just use your foot to click through the bank of reverbs.
In addition to this, the pedal has an output that allows you to connect it to a separate expression pedal. This again is very useful for gigging, as you can use the expression pedal to adjust the amount of reverb during different parts of a song.
The M300 doesn’t boast all of the same features as some of the other pedals listed here. But at $170/£190, it is one of the best reverb pedals out there if you are looking for a great sounding and reliable pedal, that doesn’t cost the earth.
Boss have long had a reputation for building high quality and budget friendly guitar pedals. And the RV-6 is no exception. As with many of the other reverb pedals listed here, the RV-6 has a variety of different settings. These range from the standard plate and spring reverbs, through to more ‘spacey’ reverbs on the dynamic and shimmer settings.
There is also the addition of a delay button, which allows you to add delay on top of your reverb. Although heavy amounts of delay rarely feature in the blues, adding a small amount will add depth and sustain to your sound. It’s a great trick if you want to emulate the sound of players like Gary Moore or Joe Bonamassa.
At around $150/135, the RV-6 is one of the most budget friendly reverb pedals on the market. If you favour quality and simplicity as well as a sturdy build (for travelling or gigging) then the Boss RV-6 will make a great addition to your board.
If you want a reverb pedal with lots of features, but you don’t want to splash out for a Strymon Big Sky, then the Cathedral Stereo is the reverb pedal for you.
The pedal comes with 8 different reverb modes. There are also 6 knobs that allow you to tailor the sound of each of the reverb modes. You can alter the blend, how quickly the reverb decays, and also the time it takes for the reverb to bloom.
This last feature is particularly useful for the blues. It allows you to programme a subtle slap-back sound that will add thickness to your tone. It’s a ‘trick’ used by a number of blues guitarists, including modern British bluesman Matt Schofield.
Once you’ve dialled in the perfect sound, you can save it on the pedal as a preset and easily recall it whenever you like. At around $300/£200 – the Cathedral Stereo isn’t one of the cheapest reverb pedals out there. But it does provide a genuinely affordable alternative to the Strymon Big Sky and other reverb pedals that come with a lot of features and tone shaping controls.
Fender have long been famous for the quality of their reverb. In fact it was their early amps – like the Super Reverb, Deluxe Reverb and Twin Reverb that set the standard for the effect. It is perhaps because of this, that until now Fender haven’t placed too much emphasis on building their own reverb pedals.
The only exception to this was the Fender 63′ pedal, which they brought out in collaboration with Boss. It initially proved very popular with blues guitarists, but was then discontinued.
The good news, is that Fender have since introduced the Marine Layered Reverb as an upgrade. Unlike some of the. other pedals here, the Marine Layer emphasises vintage tones. So rather than having a whole number of different reverb types, this pedal has just 3 – hall, spring and ‘special’.
Each of these reverb settings has 3 variations that you can control using a toggle switch. There is also a ‘filter’ toggle that allows you to adjust the amount of treble for any of the settings. This is a great feature for the blues, where subtle changes in the warmth or brightness of your sound make a big difference.
Where spacey and ethereal reverb sounds are concerned, this pedal doesn’t get quite extreme as some of the others listed here. But if you’re mostly playing straight blues then don’t let this put you off. At $170/£105 it offers a lot of value for money and is a great pedal to add to your rig.
If you want the quality of a pedal like the Strymon Big Sky, but have little interest in modern reverb sounds, then the Strymon Flint could be a great choice. This is a 2 in 1 Reverb and Tremolo pedal built to emulate the features of American made amps of the 1960s and 70s.
The focus of this pedal – arguably even more so than the Fender Marine Layer Reverb – is on vintage tones. There are 3 tremolo settings and another 3 reverb settings. All of these are linked with a particular year, during which that style of reverb or tremolo came to eminence.
All of these individual sounds can be controlled by the various dials on the pedal. This, in addition to the fact that you can run each side of the pedal independently or at the same time, gives you a whole range of different tonal possibilities.
As tends to be the case with Strymon pedals, the Flint doesn’t come cheap. At $390/£299, it is one of the most expensive reverb pedals listed here. But if you are looking for high quality vintage reverb, and appreciate the bonus of the tremolo, then it will make an amazing addition to your rig.
The Digitech Polara sits in the mix as a quality reverb pedal that favours functionality over extra frills or features. It comes with all of the reverb sounds you might expect – including spring, hall and plate. On the other end of the spectrum, it also has the ‘Halo’ reverb. This features cascading octaves within the reverb to add an ethereal sound to your playing.
Visually, the Polara is one of the coolest looking reverb pedals on the market. It will look amazing on any pedal board. So if you care about the aesthetics of your pedal board, then you can’t go wrong with the Polara.
As a nice bonus, it also comes with a stomp lock knob guard. This fits neatly over the pedal and keeps the knobs in place, making it a good choice if you’re gigging and don’t want to worry about losing your desired settings.
At $145/£95, and given the scope of its features, the Polara is one of the most competitively priced reverb pedals on the market. So it’s a great choice if you are looking for a decent reverb pedal but are a little more budget conscious.
As the name suggests, the pedal has 11 different types of reverb – making it one of the most versatile pedals in this list. Many of these reverbs also have extra ‘voices’ that can be accessed using the ‘mode’ button. These can all be adjusted using the tone, level and time controls. So you certainly aren’t short of choice or tone shaping options.
Admittedly, many of the reverb effects found in the Oceans 11 are too extreme for the blues. But if you play alternative styles or want the option of more spacey sounds, then the Oceans 11 is a solid option.
This is particularly the case if you are slightly more budget conscious. At around $200/£135, the Oceans 11 is great value. With the wide array of settings and the quality of its reverb, the Oceans 11 offers more bang for your buck than many of the other pedals listed here.
Some Closing Thoughts…
Well there we have it – 10 of the best reverb pedals out there for blues.
As noted above, many of these pedals have features beyond the scope of what is required for the blues. So if like me you are pretty much exclusively playing the blues, then some of these pedals are going to be overkill. In which case, I would recommend opting for one of the simpler pedals in this list. The Holy Grail Nano, Marine Layer Reverb, or the Strymon Flint would all make a brilliant addition to your rig. They will add thickness and depth to your sound and will vastly improve your blues tone.
Conversely, if you are playing alternative styles of music in addition to the blues, it is worth looking at one of the more complex reverb pedals listed here. These all feature high quality vintage reverb perfect for the blues, as well as added features that will only serve to enhance your rig.
So, if you feel like your tone has been missing something, give one of these pedals a go. When used properly, they will help you get that bit closer to those beautiful blues tones you have in mind.
Good luck – and if you have any questions, just pop them in the comments below!