Echo Vs Reverb – What’s The Difference?

By Richard Pryn •  Updated: 09/02/22 •  7 min read

Determining the differences between echo and reverb can sometimes be difficult, especially when you don’t know what to look out for. 

Echo Vs Reverb - What's The Difference

Oftentimes, people end up using one over the other simply because of intuition or a hunch without any real knowledge of what each one does. 

However, mixing without a purpose or vision can be compared to building a house without any blueprints.

You’re going straight into a project without the necessary tools and equipment required, so while it may work you won’t be left with the best results. 

The same goes with mixing. You want to ensure that you’re putting both the echo and reverb in the best places for optimum performance. 

Therefore, in this article, we aim to compare the differences between an echo and reverberation; delving deeper into what each one is, how to produce a better sound mixer, as well as enhance your mastering process. 

Let’s get straight into it! 

What Is Reverb?

Reverb (short for reverberations) are sound reflections that are the result of sound waves bouncing off hard surfaces in all directions

Typically, you will hear reverberations in small, tight spaces, where the sound reflections can bounce from multiple surfaces at rapid speeds.

For instance, ever wondered why you sound so good when singing in the shower? Well, it’s because of reverberations! 

When playing live or recording music, the use of reverb provides colour and makes a song feel more lively. 

Reverbs are not only limited to small spaces. You will get reverb in any and all spaces because it is the sound of the sound waves bouncing around in all directions.

Because of this reverb can give your audio files all kinds of different characteristics depending on the type of space the sound waves are bouncing around in. 

Where Can We Hear Reverbs?

You’ll hear the reverb in tight spaces such as a small studio room, or, of course, the shower. However, you can also hear it is crowded places, gyms, or restaurants.

Since the sound mixes with other noises, it produces the same effect whereby short reflections are layered on top of one another.  

How To Treat Reverb?

When producing music, the reverb helps in creating space within a track. However, when recording speech, such as for podcasts, you’ll want to use acoustical foam to quiet a room. 

When reverb sounds are layered on speech alone, it can create a loud, distasteful mix. 

Is Reverb Just Delay?

Technically speaking, reverbs are similar to delays where you’re hearing different sound reflections at the same time, at best; a millisecond later. 

At simultaneous times, the original sound and the reflected sound will reach your ears. Typically, a delay will occur milliseconds after an original sound. 

Therefore, by nature, these two effects require different spaces when occurring. 

What Is Echo?

Echo is a repetition of sound, quieter, and more distinct, which is a result of sound bouncing back from a hard surface to the listener.

With an echo you will often hear the repetitions of the sound very clearly and distinctly, “HELLO…Hello…hello” for example.

This is generally performed when there is a large enough distance between the stated surface and the listener. 

Thus, what you will be left with is a sound that is produced after the original sound. 

Here, the distance is essential to achieve the specific echo effect desired.

Recording a mix in a large room with wide far away walls will reflect a longer echo, whereas, on the other hand, a smaller room with closer walls will produce a tighter echo effect. 

Where Can We Hear Echoes?

In real-life settings, echoes can be found all around us. 

Whether this is in a mountain or a cave, it’s safe to say that we’ve all, at least once, screamed into a distance and waited a couple of seconds to hear it back. 

This can be a desirable audio effect when used in music production and sonars, although it is not very desirable when used in telephone systems. 

When utilising modern DAWs, we can now replicate these natural echoes by using a plugin. 

How To Treat Echoes?

Soft surfaces can easily absorb sounds. 

Therefore, to reduce echo you will want to remove as many hard surfaces as possible before you begin recording your music. 

For ultimate sound absorption, try implementing soft surfaces in your area such as rugs and carpets for your floors. 

Another popular technique is to cover your hard walls with acoustic panels. Moreover, for the ceiling, try hanging acoustic clouds to offset these. 

Utilising these methods will ensure that you are only hearing the reflections you have intended or none at all. 

Is An Echo Just Like Reverb?

While an echo and reverb may be similar, they are not the same. Essentially, the latter produces a longer reflection of sound than the former. 

This is an essential distinction that should be kept in mind when producing audio mixes. 

The Differences Between Echoes and Reverbs?

Reverberation and Echo are very similar notions. Essentially, they both contain time-based audio effects which are the result of sound reflecting off hard surfaces. 

The difference between the two effects lies in time. 

While Echo produces a longer reflection of sounds from far, hard surfaces, reverb produces a shorter reflection time – otherwise known as reverberation time, reflecting from one hard surface to another around the listener. 

For example, if you were to record a sentence and then add an echo over it, you will hear the reflection once the original sentence has finished.

On the other hand, if you add reverb, you will hear the feedback almost immediately, without even finishing the first word. 

Therefore, as you can see, these effects aren’t too dissimilar from one another. However, knowing the difference between them is important.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which Is Better Echo or Reverb?

When looking at which effect you want to use, it is more important to look at the different purposes each one serves instead of which is better. 

Removing reverb from a mastered song and can feel the vastness and lack of space. Similarly, remove echo and you’ll feel the lack of dynamics in a song.

Do Echo and Reverb Have The Same Effect?

If you’re looking to create a feeling of vastness in a room, add reverb. This effect ensures more space for sounds to move around in, helping to unify various noises in tracks. 

Whereas, echo creates a more dynamic reaffirmation with quiet but audible repetitions of sound – coming full circle back to the listener’s ear. 

Although, when using echo, be aware of the reflection time since unbalanced noises can become annoying. 

When To Use Reverbs?

For more depth, use reverb. It produces a more smooth, continuous expansion of sound in a track, creating more vastness and making your song three-dimensional. 

When To Use Echoes?

At precise intervals, echoes are great for repeating sounds. To create a more dynamic track, or to simply reaffirm a particular aspect of a track, you should use echo. 

Echo Vs Reverb - What's The Difference (1)

Which One Should You Use When First Combining?

Generally, these two sound effects are placed in a position whereby they are ending the signal chain. Echo coming before the reverb. 

If you place reverb before the echo, you will be left with a muddy-sounding track as you are essentially echoing different layers of echoes.

Richard Pryn

Hey there. I am an award winning composer for movie trailers, including Bladerunner 2049, Diablo II, WandaVision, and loads more. I am the founder of The Trailer Music School where my aim is to teach everything I know about music composition, production, and generally being a functional human being. I podcast, blog, vlog and jog (sometimes). I also love coffee, nachos and self-improvement. I live with my wife, three kids and numerous pets. I am also known by my pseudonym, Richard Schrieber (it’s a long story).

Keep Reading