As I do practically every Friday night, I did my solo acoustic gig last night. Normally, I use a PedalTrain Nano board on which I put my modulation effects so I don’t have to lug around a big board. But because I re-wired my main board (shown above) and had to use the 5-plug extension that I use on the Nano (didn’t have enough time this week to get a replacement), I lugged my main board to the gig. As an aside, during summertime, I play in the middle of a fairly busy area at the Stanford Shopping Center in Palo Alto, CA, and even though my area is partially roped off, it was funny yesterday to watch people’s reactions to my board, with all the different colors, but also pretty cool, as there were a few obvious gear sluts who passed by and saw all the boo-teek bling on my board and looked at me with knowing smiles. Must’ve been fellow TGP members. But I digress…
Anyway, what I was absolutely loving last night was my ToneCandy Spring Fever. Tone-wise, I’ve never heard a pedal so closely simulate a spring reverb tank. It’s absolutely uncanny the reverb sound that the Spring Fever produces. But it’s also absolutely finicky with power supplies. But admittedly, I’ve had a bit of a love/hate relationship with that pedal ever since I got it. If you don’t match it with a power supply that it “likes,” it’ll hiss. It’s also sensitive to dirty power sources. Oy-vay! The weird thing is that it hated my Dunlop DC Brick, but since I re-wired my board and power it with a simple 1-Spot, it somehow likes it. Go figure. The 1-Spot is not regulated like the DC Brick, but for some reason, the Spring Fever works great with it. Oh well, mine is not to question; mine is to simply appreciate and enjoy the goodness this pedal produces. One thing I also discovered last night is that the Spring Fever takes awhile to “warm up;” like 20-30 minutes of being switched on. When it’s cold, switching it on and off will cause a bit of a pop. But once it’s warm, it’s absolutely silent. As far as last night was concerned though, I was loving it so much that I simply kept it on all night (I played for 5 hours with only two breaks), and adjusted the amount of reverb as needed.
Now I don’t want to paint a bad picture of this pedal. Although I discussed its idiosyncrasies above, and those could be construed as negatives, they’re not negative enough – especially once I found a power supply that it likes – to make me poo-poo the pedal. Now that I’ve worked through the issues, I don’t think I’m going to ever get rid of it. I actually had it up for sale on CraigsList, but have since removed the listing because last night made me a total believer in this pedal, which brings me to the crux of this article.
Reverb is an interesting effect. As Doug Doppler puts it, reverb adds a bit of “grease” or smoothness to your tone when used sparingly. But setting it is tricky. Add too much and it makes your guitar sound like it’s in a cavern with sound bouncing all over the place, turning your tone to mush; add too little, and it’s like you’re not adding anything. But dialing in just the right amount into your signal provides a certain smoothness and a subtle touch of reflectivity that seems to make your tone float in the air. Plus, that reflective quality gives the perception of your volume being louder as there’s seems to be more presence. That’s the “grease” as your tone seems to just slide right out of your amp as if on greasy skids.
And there’s a lot to be said about an analog circuit versus a digital. The Spring Fever utilizes an analog circuit. What has always struck me about it is that it just seems to have so much more sonic content than the digital versions I’ve used. For instance, I have another fantastic reverb in the Hardwire RV-7 Reverb. But having done a side-by-side comparison between the two, the Hardwire’s digital spring – Lexicon model, no less – is lifeless compared to the Spring Fever’s. That said, I don’t use the spring setting on the RV-7. I love the RV-7 for its hall and plate reverb settings, of which I have found no match. But for spring, ain’t nothin’ mo bettah than the Spring Fever, save an actual long-spring reverb tank.
Yeah, I can get Dick Dale surf with the Spring Fever, but I use it mainly for “grease.” When I want a more expansive, ambient tone, I’ll kick in the Mad Professor Deep Blue Delay. With the Spring Fever set for grease, I can use the DBD with the Spring Fever on, and not produce mush.
So you might be wondering at this point – since I’ve mentioned it a few times – how the hell do I get a “grease” setting? The bottom line is that it boils down to personal preference. However, for me, it’s the point just short of where the reverb feeds back, producing that familiar reverb “bounce.” But just before that point, at least how I perceive it, my tone is more expansive but it doesn’t reverberate a lot or “bounce.” Kind of hard to explain. It’s a setting that while you’re playing, you don’t really notice it. But if you turn it off, you know something is missing. The effect is similar to using an aural enhancer like the BBE Sonic Stomp, or even using mild compression. You don’t really hear what it does while you’re playing, but you know when it’s off. That’s the nature of adding reverb “grease.”
I have to admit that it took me a long time to find that point – like a few gigs till I got it dialed in. And that’s with any reverb that I used. It was a bit easier to dial in the Spring Fever as you only have Reverb (Dwell) and Mix. It took me longer to dial in the RV-7 to the grease point because it has Level, Decay and Liveliness, plus different reverb voicings. But once I got the settings to the grease point, I just keep the reverb on all the time.
When I need more reverb, I just turn up the mix. But usually, what I really want is more ambiance, so I kick in my Mad Professore Deep Blue Delay. I think that’s the reason for me keeping the reverb sound subtle. When I want a more ambient tone, I lean towards a more haunting color. To me, a delay does that much better than just adding more reverb. And set for “grease,” the reverb’s touch of reflectivity really enhances the delay, which is also why I run it after the delay. It’s all about the grease…