Building A Plate Reverb On The Cheap

For those who don’t spend their free time creating music with experimental audio effects, a plate reverb is essentially a speaker. It just happens to be, by design, a rather poor one. Rather than using a paper cone for a diaphragm like a traditional speaker, the plate reverb uses as you might guess, a metal plate. As the plate vibrates along with the source audio, a set of piezoelectric pickups convert that to an output. The end result is that audio fed into the plate reverb comes out with a nice echo effect.

But despite their relative simplicity, a plate reverb costs thousands of dollars. They’re so expensive that the majority of people just emulate the effect in software. But it doesn’t have to be that way. [Sammartino] and an audio engineer friend recently came up with a detailed guide for building a plate reverb that cost about 10% of commercially available models.

The construction is fairly simple. A wooden frame is built, and eight hooks are installed around the edges. The plate is suspended between these hooks using guitar strings, which holds it tight but with enough give to vibrate along with the tunes. Another board is attached across the center of the frame to support the electronics: a transducer to vibrate the plate, and two piezo pickups to convert that to an audio signal, and a couple jacks and some wiring to tie it all together.

For a different take on the DIY plate reverb, check out this one we covered all the way back in 2013. If you’re in the market for something a bit larger, we’ve got you covered there as well.

12 thoughts on “Building A Plate Reverb On The Cheap

  1. I had the great good fortune to have worked at a facility that had a couple of the original EMT plate reverbs. These had quite substantial steel frames, and there was no use of coil springs or similar; the suspension clips were hi-tensile bolts with hooks going direct from holes on the plate edge to the steel frame. The required tension was high (I once read some joke instructions that said the right tension was to tighten til the clip breaks then back off a half-turn). This extreme tension is important to give the plate it’s “sheen” or brightness of the reverb sound. There was also a plate damper: a sheet of dense particleboard that could be moved towards or away from the steel plate to influence the overall decay time.

    Given the quality of today’s software reverbs, it’s hard to imagine wanting to mess with plates again, except out of nostalgia…or hacking.

      1. Years ago I saw one of those come off the stack, hit the edge of the stage and land amongst the crew. It was their own fault, they hadn’t secured it properly. But it did make some really cool sounds until the leads pulled loose :)

  2. I have never heard a plate reverb that did not sound like a plate reverb. Traditional spring reverb units also have their own unique sound. Back in the analog days there was one reverb, a torsion spring reverb built by AKG. It was the BX-20 and it was the only reverb back in the day that really sounded natural. It also had s servo controlled damper so you could control the reverb time to some extent. Very cool piece of engineering from the “good old days”.

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