Reverb Pedal Shootout. Kind of girlie. I mean, I know “post-rock” is the new cool thing, and reverb is great for “post-rock”; but even the fact that we’re calling it “post-rock”, means that we’re bordering on the whole ‘hanging out with the ladies in the high school herd, listening to Alanis Morissette, while the rest of the guys play basketball” thing. Enter Andy Garcia. “I got him.” Shootout now automatically cooler. I mean, he Angus-Young-Rockstar-slid, saved a baby, and still shot the bad guy. Because of course, those are the types of things that really happened during Prohibition. So unrealistic…and so cool.
(By the way…true story, here…mentioning listening to Alanis Morissette was just too much for me, and my iTunes is now open. “How ’bout getting off of these antibiotics…” Yep. Maybe the problem here isn’t the reverb. Quick! Look at Andy Garcia again!)
So now that Andy Garcia has saved the masculinity of post-rock, reverb shootout time!
–Strymon Blue Sky
–Neunaber Wet (I refuse to capitalize that)
–Dr. Scientist Reverberator
–Morgan Shadow Verb
The Base Tone
Godin SD strat(ish)–>Matchless C30–>Celestion Blue mic’d
Other Pedals Used
–Damage Control Timeline
–MythFX Minotaur (yes, that’s what it’s called)
–Fryette Valvulator, as I am running through my board in this shootout in order to show the reaction of the verbs to other pedals
–The Neunaber and the Strymon will sell the easiest, so it’d be great not to like them.
–I’ve owned the Strymon before, and did not like it so much.
–The Dr. Scientist makes me want to sing “You…doin’ that thing you dooooo” every time I look at it. (Which is a good thing.)
–The Morgan lights up.
The Chapter Listing
The Shootout! With the battle cry, ‘Remember Andy Garcia!‘
The Last Pedal Standing
If you use a Strymon pedal, you’re cheating. Gone are the days of actually having to have knowledge of pedals and tone and gear to get a pedal to sound good. Just press the on switch. Okay, so there’s some tweaking required…I did adjust the high and low dampening controls to match my amp, but…I was blown away by this pedal. And yes, I did not like the one I had last year. More on that below. But, the Blue Sky, for ambient reverbs, was left standing over the others.
Honourable mention to the Neunaber Wet, which sounded absolutely fantastic. If it had spillover, it might have been a lot closer of a call.
For a simple classic spring reverb sound, last pedal standing was probably the Morgan. Not that the Strymon didn’t do this well, but there’s something special about what that Morgan adds.
The Detailed Results
–Morgan Shadow Fuzz
Fabulous. Incredible spring reverb; but doesn’t do much else. Although, with the verb all the way up, it’s ambient sounds were actually very surprising for a one-knob pedal built as just as spring reverb to throw in an amp’s effects loop. Hats off to this pedal.
On a technical note, I found out from Joe that this is a digital pedal. (That may matter to some folks, for good or for bad.) Also, it needs for than 100mA to run happily.
–Dr. Scientist Reverberator
Huh. Interesting sounds. I really did not like this pedal at first. I’ve owned his Tremolessence, and it’s my favorite ever tremolo. So I had high hopes on this one, and to be completely honest…this is the one I had made space on my board for. But the sounds were just…weird. Almost like a ring modulator in a cave. However, the more I played it and thought about it, if you’re into some of the odd, more off-the-beaten path sounds, this may be an awesome pedal for that. Especially if you have another pedal for more traditional reverb sounds.
Lastly, this pedal was very noisy on a 100mA outlet from the PP2+. It was a bit quieter on the 250mA outlet, and quieter still on a separate adapter. But overall, still the noisiest of the five. Also, changing the settings knob while the pedal is engaged results in not just a splash, but a huge splash. Frightens me. Now, it is possible that I got a bad one; and Dr. Scientist has great customer service. But from reading his site, I do believe this is just how the pedal is. So, definitely not for me, but might be the cool off-the-wall pedal some guitarists are looking for.
Wow. Some of the best ambient sounds ever. Can actually double as a slow gear, a delay for swells, and that ambient sound you just couldn’t get anywhere else. I’m actually holding out for what exists in my mind as the upcoming Wet 2, with stereo outs, spillover, and a shimmer option.
The website for this pedal says that its decay is different than any other reverb pedal. Which is usually just sales talk. But it really is; and I think that comes through in the video. Kind of in a class of its own as far as sound goes.
Okay, seriously. For 50 bucks new? This thing really, really held its own. Granted, I’ve owned it for a while and only used the modes I knew to be good in this shootout, but still. The shimmer does fritz out a bit on the bassier frequencies, but it’s actually a cool effect for some layers. Not nearly as lush sounding as the Wet or the Strymon, but I’d actually own this over the Dr. Scientist and a lot of other verb pedals I’ve tried.
It is a little bit noisy, and does convert your dry signal using AD/DA converters. The Dr. Scientist, Strymon, and Wet do not. From what Joe said, I think the Morgan does, but yikes…it does it really well! So with the Behringer, you probably want to run it in a parallel looper for the best dynamic results. But again, very impressed with this Behringer…except for the noise. That’s what inspired this shootout in the first place, as on extreme settings which I’ve been using lately in recordings, the noise floor is pretty high. Also, a weird thing I just noticed when using it outside a loop: with the spillover switch engaged, the mix knob works even when the pedal is off. So if you have spillover on, and you’re using this full mix, you have no guitar sound when you turn the pedal off. Very odd. But, for the price, you do get a great sounding reverb; just a couple things you have to work around.
–Strymon Blue Sky
So. It’s not really a secret that I owned one of these pedals last year when they first came out, and sold it within the hour. Or rather, it was a secret for about a year, as Strymon are great people, were very gracious to me in the months after my original Timeline demo’s first went up on youtube, and I did not want to post a bad review. But eventually, it got out. However, here’s what made me try it again: Strymon is the only company actually listening to what the players want. It’s the only reverb out there that has this much tweakability, stereo outs, shimmer, an auxiliary preset, spillover, an analog dry path, and a great noise/signal ratio. So as my musical needs began to change towards needing more reverb in current projects, I figured that even if it still sounded like I remembered it to, it might just be worth it.
And it did not sound like I remembered it to. It sounded like love.
I’ve outlined possible scenario’s for why the first Blue Sky I owned did not sound good:
A) I got a bad one. Unlikely, but always possible.
B) I’m an idiot. Likely, and not only always possible, but also quite plausible.
C) My cables were plugged in opposite of the direction their positively charged ions naturally want to flow. (That’s definitely not it.)
D) Ear fatigue. (I don’t know…I hear every tonal mistake ever, blamed on this; so figured I’d give it a shot.)
Actually, as much as all of those I guess could have happened, the real reason is more than likely that I had originally wanted the Strymon’s shimmer mode to replace my POG/RV3 tandem for shimmer in order to free up some board space. As such, I had an idea in my head of what the Blue Sky would sound like. And it did not sound like that. But because of that preconceived sound, I probably couldn’t get past it enough to hear what it actually sounded like. Now, a year later, I know that if I want that dirty/weird/cool POG/RV3 shimmer sound, I need to go back to my POG/RV3. But my reverb needs have changed enough to where now I can actually use what the Strymon sounds like to my advantage, even though it doesn’t replace the sound of the POG and RV3. I know; much more boring explanation. The truth is usually way less exciting than anything else. So let’s go with directional cables.
But the Blue Sky…possibly the perfect reverb. And you’re cheating if you use one. In actuality, that cheating may be a great thing, as we can then once again focus on actually making music, rather than tone. Not that focusing on tone is bad, but you know that feeling when you finally dial in everything to sound just as you wish, and you can then just happily use your tone to help you create great music? That’s what the Blue Sky is like.
So, whichever one of these pedals sounds best to you, go get one; and then use it to tell stories with beautiful music.