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Posts Tagged ‘reverb’

bren-thumbs-upYesterday, I wrote an article about how my beloved Hardwire RV-7 Reverb had finally gone on the fritz, and I was going to try out the TC Electronic Hall of Fame Reverb, which I’ve had now for a few years, but hadn’t put on my pedal board. This wasn’t because I didn’t think it was good; in fact, I gave it pretty high marks in my original review back in 2013. But that was a studio test.

Testing in a controlled environment is one thing, but for me, gear doesn’t really reveal its true nature until I’ve used it live. The conditions are completely different than in a studio, and oftentimes I’ve found that something might sound great in the studio, but in a live performance situation, just doesn’t perform all that well, no matter how it is adjusted.

But as you can tell by the meme, that is definitely not the case with the Hall of Fame. In fact, it performed so well that it’s not leaving my acoustic board. Ever. Yeah, yeah, I know that there are awesome boutique reverbs out there. But when you dial in a great sound, irrespective of the pedal, you don’t mess with it. It’s like the saying in baseball: You don’t f$%k with a streak. If it works, you go with it.

Truth be told, I found a “magic” setting for the pedal, and not only did it meet the capability I expected it to have – that is, at least equivalent to my old RV-7 – it far exceeded my expectations. That setting didn’t make a lot of sense to me at first because I normally like to run a reverb at about 50-50 wet/dry with a short decay, and that’s how I initially set it up. And as opposed to using a spring setting, I’ve turned to using a Hall reverb. I had gotten used the natural subtlety of the RV-7, but the Hall of Fame Hall reverb is much wetter at the 50-50 level setting than the RV-7. It’s also slightly brighter in tone.

So here’s how I set it for my acoustic rig, which goes directly into the board: Hall effect; Tone at 11 am; FX Level at 10 am; Decay at 2:30-3 pm, which is about 70-75% of the sweep; and Pre-Delay set to short. That setting is a little unintuitive to me because of the long decay. But with the level kicked back, what it does is provide a nice tail in between notes, but with the lower FX Level, I retain my note clarity. The result is a subtle, expansive, and deep and rich tone. And though set to Hall, which you would expect to be super ambient, again, the lower FX Level ensures that I can hear all my notes up front, while the tails due to the Decay provide the lingering of the notes. It’s beautiful.

What was an even more pleasant surprise was how well it played with my other modulation pedals. I expected it to play nice with my Corona Chorus as that is another TC Electronic product. But I didn’t quite know how well it would play with my Mad Professor Deep Blue Delay. It played nice. Very nice. For some reason, my old RV-7 sat better in my chain in front of my delay (I know), but the Hall of Fame definitely belonged at the back, as the last pedal before my looper.

That I’ve had this pedal for almost four years and haven’t gigged with it is an absolute shame. I was so blown away by how it performed last night, and I even got several comments from both staff and patrons commenting on how good my guitar sounded. The Hall of Fame has definitely found a home!

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That feeling is a mixture of sadness and sickness. After many years, and literally, thousands of gigs, my trusty Hardwire RV-7 Reverb finally stopped working. I remember that before I got this pedal, I went through several reverbs before I finally found one that inspired me, and that was the RV-7. Built in partnership with Lexicon, the seven reverb models the pedal offered were unparalleled in my opinion.

What I loved about that particular reverb, which turned me off with so many others was its subtlety. Most other reverbs at the time were really in your face, even at low settings and with long pre-delays, and they sounded processed. But the RV-7 was completely different from all of them. I could get rich, deep tones out of it, but even at high settings, the reverb was “just there,” as if it was a natural component of my signal.

Subtlety in a reverb is very important to me because it can easily overpower the rest of the effects on a board. But the RV-7 played so well with the rest of my pedals. I’m going to miss it.

That said, I’m going to finally put the TC Electronic Hall of Fame reverb on my board tonight. I’ve had it for a couple of years, and I actually like this pedal quite a bit, but never got around to using it on a regular basis as I was happy with my RV-7. While I thought it was great, it wasn’t great enough to compel me to make a switch. I have high hopes. But if I can’t get it dialed in at tonight’s gig, I’m probably going to get the Digitech Polara Reverb, which is the next evolution of the RV-7.

I know, there are other alternatives out there, such as the Strymon Blue Sky. That’s a great reverb, and capable of incredible subtlety, but if memory serves, I just wasn’t all that inspired by its sound. As with anything, you go with what sounds and feels good to you, and you go with that which you are familiar; and as I’ve mentioned in the past, I had Lexicon reverb inserts on my PA board at my former church gig, and I loved them.

We’ll see how it goes with the Hall of Fame tonight. You can’t go wrong with TC equipment, but then it all depends on the sound…

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…and a few others to consider

I know, I know… A lot of people wouldn’t ever think about doing this, but I’ve used them for years, and actually got the inspiration from one of the greatest acoustic guitarists – in my humble opinion – who ever walked planet Earth: Michael Hedges. While he mainly used a chorus pedal, it gave me the idea that I could take advantage of the interesting sonic layers I could add to my sound. Note that these aren’t hard and fast rules, but for me, I don’t go to a gig without them. And also note that this assumes you’re plugging your guitar into a board or an amp of sorts.

Reverb

A lot of acoustic amps have onboard reverb, but I’ve found that they’re not quite as good as a dedicated pedal that I can tweak. My favorite reverb pedals that I use are the DigiTech Hardwire RV-7 Reverb and the TC Electronics Hall of Fame Reverb. The RV-7 is no longer in production and I’ve had it for several years, but it’s awesome. Apparently, the DigiTech Polara builds on DigiTech’s use of Lexicon reverb models. Lexicon reverbs are the tops, and I’ve used them on pedals and sound boards for years. As far as the Hall of Fame reverb, it’s an absolutely solid reverb pedal, though admittedly, it sits on my electric board. This pedal is cool because it has TC Electronic’s TonePrint capability that allows you to download saved tweaks from their site. I’ve used it, but I tend to like where I set my reverb, so I don’t use it too much.

Chorus

Frankly, I couldn’t live without this in my live gigs. I never use it really heavy – even for electric guitar – but it can add depth and shimmer to your plugged-in tone. Frankly, you have to play a lot of these to find the right kind of sound for you. But my go-to chorus pedals are as follows (in order of use): TC Electronic Corona Chorus, BOSS CE-2 Chorus (vintage MIJ black-label – and I only use it in my home studio now because it’s so rare), Homebrew Electronics THC (discontinued, but the warmest, most liquid chorus I’ve ever heard). The Corona is my workhorse chorus pedal that I use for both acoustic and electric. There’s really something about this particular pedal that I just dig. It’s actually a very subtle chorus, and that suits me just fine because I don’t ever want a pedal to dominate my sound. I usually just set it in the standard setting. I keep it at about 10 o’clock for level; I set “speed” at about the same, and depth about 2pm. Then depending on where I’m plugged in, I’ll adjust the tone to where I perceive it to be balanced with the rest of my signal chain.

I actually also have a BOSS  CE-5, but that sits in my spares drawer just in case one goes down. It’s decent, but it’s not a CE-2, which is a pretty special sound. You can still get CE-2’s used. But you’ll want to get one in excellent to mint condition.

Analog Delay

I’m making an important distinction here mainly because I’ve never been able to get a satisfactory sound with a digital delay with my acoustic. And to tell the truth, while I’ve had several digital delays in the past, I now only use my Vox Time Machine for digital delay. But even that doesn’t get used much. Instead, I have two mainstays that I use pretty regularly. First is my Mad Professor Deep Blue Delay (hand-wired). Whew! I paid a pretty penny for that (USD $325 new) but there’s a less-expensive PCB board version that sounds incredibly good as well. In any case, I use this pedal mainly for acoustic. To me, it has this other-worldly sound that I just can’t get enough of when I’m playing my acoustic through it. It works great with my electric rig as well, but I tend to prefer my MXR Carbon Copy for that. For some reason, the Carbon Copy has an awesome mojo in my electric signal chain. I just love it. It doesn’t have the depth of the Deep Blue, but that’s not really what I’m after when I’m playing electric guitar. I just like to add some ambiance to my solos. Got that from Tommy Shaw of Stix.

Other Pedals To Consider

I use the following pedals depending upon the venue I’m playing.

Compressor/Sustainer – My go-to is the Maxon CP101 Compressor. I usually use this if the venue I’m playing doesn’t have an onboard compressor and/or the venue has really high ceilings, and I need my band to be pretty narrow to cut through the ambient noise.

Acoustic Enhancer – I use the BBE Sonic Stomp, and again, I use it mainly for wide-open areas. This is particularly useful for when I’m playing with other acoustic guitars and am doing a lot of solos. I typically use it to add some high-end shimmer – but sparingly, otherwise I risk sounding “tinny.”

Vibe – I know what you might be saying, “Really?!!!” For me, this is a “mood” type of pedal. I don’t use it much, but when I want to get a pulsating, modulated tone, there’s nothing but vibe that’ll do. And for me, my vibe of choice is the Voodoo Labs MicroVibe.

Of course, you don’t really “need” any of these. And if I were to choose just one, I’d probably go with a good reverb pedal first. There’s nothing like adding a little “grease” to your sound than with some subtle reverb. The next would be delay, then chorus. But I should say that in my solo acoustic gigs, my chorus pedal is always on. I have a very subtle setting that I use that really pleases me, so I just keep it on all the time. But in its absence, I’d choose a delay over that.

And as I mentioned above, there are no hard and fast rules, but having literally played thousands of gigs over the last 35 years, I’m banking on my experience to at least get you started.

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HOF_REVERB

TC Electronic Hall of Fame Reverb

Summary: This is a super-versatile reverb that gives you tons of flexibility with reverb tones, whether you want to add a little “grease” or slather on the ‘verb thick and soupy.

Pros: 10 presets plus it’s TonePrint enabled to give you virtually limitless reverb sounds.

Cons: Can sound a bit monotonous between presets – very spring-reverby – but adjusting the decay and level fixes that easily.

Price: $149.00 Street

Features:

  • TonePrint Enabled
  • Short/Long Pre-delay toggle
  • 10 reverb types
  • Stereo in & out
  • True Bypass
  • Analog-Dry-Through
  • Decay, Tone and Level controls
  • Easy battery access
  • Small footprint
  • High-quality components
  • Road-ready design

Tone Bone Rating: 4.75 ~ Once I sat down with the pedal for a few hours in my studio, I fell in love with it! This is is a great reverb pedal that can provide lots of different reverb options if you’re willing to explore its capabilities. Believe me, it’s totally worth it!

I’ve been using my ToneCandy Spring Reverb for my solo acoustic gigs for the past couple of years. Hands down, there is no better spring reverb simulator pedal on the market. But one drawback of the pedal is that it is extremely sensitive to the power supply used with it. If it doesn’t like it, it’s noisy. Up until recently, I didn’t have a problem with its finicky behavior, as I had a power supply that worked just fine with it. But a couple of months ago, the OneSpot power supply that I was using with my acoustic board went on the fritz, and for some reason, the Spring Fever doesn’t like the new one, and the pedal would produce a very low-level, high-pitched buzz. I could filter it out a little bit with EQ and signal padding on my Fishman SoloAmp, but plugged into the restaurant’s board, the sound was noticeable.

Frustrated by that, I remembered that I had the Hall of Fame reverb in my box of toys. I had gotten it months ago from TC Electronic for review, and though I had written a “First Impressions” article on the Hall of Fame, I hadn’t gotten around to doing a formal review of the pedal. So the other day before my gig, I pulled it out, hooked it up and started tweaking knobs to really see what it could do. After about a half-hour of playing around with it, I was kicking myself for not putting it on my board sooner. Back in August of last year when I first got the pedal, I actually gigged with it a few times; both in my solo acoustic gig and my church band. But I had only used the “Hall” and “Spring” settings, which I did find to be superb. But my formal test revealed a certain character of the pedal that I hadn’t noticed before. It really took setting it up in my studio to discover its subtleties.

Fit and Finish

What can I say? TC gear is always rock-solid and gig ready, and the Hall of Fame is no exception. The footswitch is solid, and provides nice tactile feedback when activating or deactivating the pedal. The knobs sweep smoothly and the pots have good resistance. I do not like loose-feeling pots, it feels cheap. But that’s certainly not the case with the Hall of Fame reverb.

I dig the low-profile, small footprint enclosure. And while the pedal is light in weight, it just feel solid and well-constructed. Again, this is a trait of TC Electronic gear.

How It Sounds

I don’t do surf or real ambient stuff very often, so typically I like to use a reverb to add a little grease or provide a little expansiveness, and the Hall of Fame Reverb does this swimmingly well. I recorded some clips below. All clips were recorded with my Slash L Katie May plugged into the Hall of Fame, which in turn was plugged straight into my VHT Special 6 with a Jensen Jet Electric Lightning (even for a 10″ speaker, it produces a nice bottom end).

The first clip starts out with a dry, then moves from Room to Hall to Church. Level and Decay are both set at noon. This was a test to see how the reverb provides what I call “distance;” that is, just as in real life, as you move to a larger and larger room, the guitar moves further away, and the sound bouncing off the walls provides depth.

The next three clips are my favorites that I used in my last three gigs:

AMB – Level 100% Wet, Decay 3pm

This is by far my favorite setting for acoustic guitar plugged directly into a PA. As the name implies, “AMB” stands for ambient, and it is meant to simulate room ambiance, but not actual reverberation off the walls of a room. As such, it’s a very subtle reverb with an extremely quick decay. It adds just a touch of grease to smooth out the signal. Combined with my Yamaha APX900’s ART pre-amp system, I get a very natural sound. And unless I’m playing a song that requires a bigger room sound, the pedal is set to AMB for 95% of the songs I play.

Room – Level 10am, Decay 1pm

This next one is great with a chorus pedal set to real warm, then used for slower, finger-picked songs

Church – Level 2pm, Decay 10am

When I first started playing around with this setting, I didn’t like it much. I’ve never been much into cathedral settings. But slathering on the wetness level while shortening the decay, makes for a very useful super-ambient sound that I actually used for a few songs over the past few days. It works real well.

Overall Impression

This is definitely a keeper. I love that it is true bypass, so switching it on and off doesn’t produce an audible a signal pop. And owing to its pedigree, this is a great pedal that can easily find a home any board. Of course, as sort of a Swiss Army Knife type of reverb, it could never substitute a real spring or plate reverb or something like a ToneCandy SpringFever. But to add a bit of grease and providing different reverb sounds, the Hall of Fame reverb performs wonderfully and it does it at a price that’s very affordable, and that’s always a good thing!

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If you’re like me and you’ve played a lot of reverb pedals (I’ve got 4 – though I only use two actively), then your reaction to the Hall of Fame might be similar to my own: “Ho-hum, another reverb pedal…” That’s how it was for me when I received the eval unit from TC Electronics. And despite having a choice of TC pedals to review, and my general attitude towards reverb pedals, I still chose to review this one because I was curious about how different it could be. Also, I wanted to compare it to my mainstay DigiTech Hardwire RV-7 Reverb.

I’ve used this pedal in four gigs since I got it, and I have to say that I’m impressed. A VERY cool feature that the Hall of Fame has that other reverb pedals I’ve used don’t have is the pre-delay switch. You have two settings: short and long. The pre-delay is the time between the dry sound and when the reverb kicks in. With a short delay time, the reverb kicks in pretty quickly, but that can sometimes create a really muddy sound. With a longer pre-delay, the reverb takes longer to kick in, so your tone is much more “in-your-face.”

This is one feature that is absolutely fantastic, and the one that I think sets this pedal apart from other mainstream reverb pedals. The gigs I played using this pedal were all acoustic. Most of the time I play fingerstyle, so note separation is very important to me. With a long pre-delay, every note I play comes through, and the reverb doesn’t become apparent until I have a pause in my playing. Very powerful function indeed!

As far as the reverb sounds themselves are concerned, they’re quite nice, and the pedal itself is dead-quiet. I placed the pedal in front of my amp and in the loop and it worked flawlessly in both positions, though admittedly, and especially with acoustic guitar, I prefer it in front of the amp.

In any case, I’ll be gigging with it a couple of more times this weekend, and I may even bring it to the recording studio for the sessions I’ll be recording. Stay tuned!

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Greasing Your Sound

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…

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ToneCandy Spring Fever Reverb

Summary: Just about the sweetest spring reverb pedal I’ve ever heard, plus the pedal sports a nice, transparent clean booster that you can even use on its own!

Pros: I’ve heard simulated spring reverbs before, and they’ve been nice, but not THIS nice! Supposedly modeled after the original BOSS spring reverb sound, but takes it way ahead!

Cons: Very very pricey for a just a reverb with boost. Also, doesn’t run on batteries

Features:

  • Volume knob acts as a transparent clean boost
  • Reverb knob acts as a “dwell.”
  • Mix knob controls the amount of wet/dry signal (this is a very nice feature)
  • True bypass
  • All analog except for the simulation chip
  • Can do the full range of spring reverb from adding a tinge of grease to heavy surf.

Price: $275 Street

Tone Bone Score: 4.5 ~ I was completely blown away by the sound of this pedal, but the price completely scared me away. If cost isn’t an in issue for you, you’ll find none better than this!

Being friends with guys at a music shop can be incredibly useful, since they’ll show off their new stock; plus, knowing that I may buy it if they show it to me, they don’t hesitate to show it off. 🙂 Luckily, I usually have enough self-control to not buy most of the stuff they demonstrate.

I have to admit, though, that I was VERY tempted to get this pedal because I haven’t heard one like it – ever! It can slather on the ‘verb quite nicely and note clarity is retained at any setting along the reverb knob sweep. Obviously ToneCandy figured out some great values for pre-delay and trail. I just couldn’t get over how great it sounded with chord progressions and single note picking!

In fact, A/B’ing it with a Fender Deluxe Reverb Reissue just blew me away! It sounded even better than an actual spring reverb! Fender spring reverb, at least to me, is the gold standard in spring reverb, and for a pedal to sound even better than that, well, needless to say, that made a compelling case to get this reverb pedal. Add to that a completely transparent boost, and you’ve got a great pedal that you can put at the end of your signal chain and get all sorts of usage out of it! I could feel the GAS really starting to build up.

Then I asked the price, and my eyes bulged! At $275 for the pedal, that made my GAS go away pretty quickly. If price wasn’t an issue for me, I’d totally go for this pedal, but unfortunately, at that price, I started thinking, “I could get a couple of decent pedals, or even a nice Squier for close to that price.”

Needless to say, I didn’t get the pedal, though I do have to applaud ToneCandy for coming up with a fantastic spring reverb tone. Maybe if I can find one used in the future for a lower price I’ll get it. But for now, I’ll just gaze at it in the glass case when I go to the shop…

Here’s a sound sample:

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