The different types and methods, and I’ll also explain the most important parameters. I’ll mostly be talking about the kinds you will be using when mixing and what is available as plugins.
Digital Reverb Technology
There are two ways of creating a reverb effect in the digital world, by using mathematical calculations to create a sense of space, which is called algorithmic. And, by creating an impulse response, a snapshot of a real space, and applying that to the sound, which is called convolution.
Reverb is essentially a series of delayed signals, and algorithmic reverbs work pretty well to recreate this. Most reverb plugins, stomp boxes, and racks are algorithmic style.
When you want really realistic reverb, then convolution can not be beat. To create an impulse response the creator goes into a room and records the sound of a starter pistol going off and the natural reverb of the room.
The recordings are then deconvolved in software which is removing the sound of the starter pistol from the recording, leaving only the reverb.
Sine wave sweeps can also be used for the impulse creation. This is a more accurate way of creating reverb because it also captures the character of the room, and the way different frequencies react in the room.
The same process can be used to create impulse responses of speaker cabinets, guitar amps, vintage rack gear or basically anything that can make a sound.
Analog Reverb Types
In the analog world there are a few other ways, most of which will not be available to the home studio musician, except for their recreations in plug-ins. Analog reverbs come in three flavors—plate, spring, and chamber.
Invented in 1957 by EMT of Germany, the plate reverb consist of a thin metal plate suspended in a 4-foot by 8-foot sound proofed enclosure. A transducer similar to the voice-coil of a cone loudspeaker is mounted on the plate to cause it to vibrate. Multiple reflections from the edges of the plate are picked up by two (for stereo) microphone-like transducers. Reverb time is varied by a damping pad which can be pressed against the plate thus absorbing its energy more quickly.
This is what a plate reverb sounds like: platereverb.mp3
A spring reverb system uses a transducer at one end of a spring and a pickup at the other, similar to those used in plate reverbs, to create and capture vibrations within a metal spring. You find these in many guitar amps, but they were also available as stand alone effect boxes. They were a lot smaller than plate reverbs and cost a lot less.
This is a spring reverb: springverb.mp3
The first reverb effects used a real physical space as a natural echo chamber. A loudspeaker would play the sound, and then a microphone would pick it up again, including the effects of reverb. Although this is still a common technique, it requires a dedicated soundproofed room, and varying the reverb time is difficult.
This is a chamber: Chamber.mp3
These three types of reverb are all available in digital form in addition to a few other styles simulating real spaces, and others not found in nature.