Posts Tagged ‘Reverb’

Marshall RF-1 Reflector

Sunday, February 15th, 2015

Marshall-RF1-Reflector

What is it?
Marshall FR-1 Reflector Reverb. Made in china around early 00’s.

Where all the dirt pedals in small metal series have board designs of their own, the digital ones are, well. Exactly what you’d expect from them. This fact makes the digital designs in this series the most dullest boards. This doesn’t mean that there is anything wrong with the pedals, it’s just that the boards give out a medium intensity meh-factor when you stumble across exactly the same board design in two or more separate effect models.

Marshall-RF1-Reflector-guts1

As for the Echohead i posted earlier, this one holds the same boards, same chips and same filtering and mixing. Meaning that the differences between the Reflector and the Echohead are in code, screen printing and label badge on the surface. The electronics are exactly the same. While the guts contribute to noticeable meh, this still doesn’t mean there anything wrong with the design.

Marshall-RF1-Reflector-guts2

But since the Texas Instruments DSP, Atmel and BSI controllers are in place with crystal oscillator for the clock, i find very little to say about this unit from the electronic point of view. Sure. I could repeat everything i stated on the Echohead post, but there is very little point in that.

Marshall-RF1-Reflector-guts3

Besides, the design is complex and since it shares the same principles as all the other digital effect with its switching, buffering, AD/DA and so on, there’s not much to say. The real topic rises when we start playing. Electronically and by box design, this is what it is supposed to be. A solid chinese made Marshall box. Even though the pedal is pretty much the same as Echohead, the code and the modes are great. As with Echohead, the basic controls are level, or mix, followed by damping and reverb time. There is stereo output and even a place for expression pedal (which i haven’t tried with this one yet). Then, the six modes…

How does it sound?
Here’s the thing. These modes do not disappoint. Hall, plate, room and two slightly different spring modelling modes are good. Decent amount of hifi is present, but not enough to reveal the horrid truth of those too high resolution rack mount reverbs. Those rack mount units are useful for vocals and possibly drum tracks, but for guitar use, too high resolution does not sound right. This can be explained by guitar’s frequency bandwidth isn’t the same as for the instruments mentioned above. Too high resolution usually results in too bright and sharp tone. With this pedal, the brightness is in perfect balance with your guitar’s tone. Sure, the digital versus spring tank. We could discuss this for hours and still end up by saying both are good. Digital will never be able to act as the actual springs, but the effect with this and similar digital reverbs  will suffice to almost everyone. But wait a minute. There’s one more mode we didn’t cover. The reverse. I’m not going to say a lot about it, but it is fun to have a pedal with reverse reverb.

Digitech XDV Digiverb

Sunday, January 25th, 2015

Digitech-XDV-Digiverb

What is it?
Digitech XDV Digiverb from X-series. Made in china around mid-00’s.

Hmm. Something familiar? Digitech X-series doesn’t fail to disappoint. At the top of the price list for the series, the reverb and the delay are usable units with decent set of features. Actually, these units take on Boss and other mass produced units for a tight match while still being a lot lower on the price tag. But here’s the thing. While other big brands have designed their units from ground up, solely for the purpose they serve, the Digitech units are, well. Digitech units. Once we open up the bottom plate we’ll see what’s going on. Yup. The board is the same we saw on previous X-series posts.

Digitech-XDV-Digiverb-guts1

And it doesn’t change once we flip the board over. The circuit is the same, with inclusion of that ISSI-chip which isn’t present on most units. But the rest of the layout and electronic design is the same.  I just noticed the cutouts on the bottom right. If you look closely, you’ll see the connctors there. That must be a connection that reminds me of PCI connections found in computers. I’m fairly certain that is used to send in the data to determine which effect the pedals will be. So in general, the effect is made with AudioDNA DSP, an Atmel chip and an ISSI-chip.

Digitech-XDV-Digiverb-guts2

I said earlier that the effect is feature packed. It is. With mix control to dime in the desired wet/dry level, EQ control to set the amount of highs and decay time control, the these three would offer decent basic setup for any reverb. But then we have seven modes that all have their own reverb tone. The modes are like straight from your standard rack mount reverb units, room, plate, hall, church, gated, reverse and spring. I’d call that a decent set of features. And these modes do resemble what they are trying to model. Quite well too.

How does it sound?
Not bad. Like any pristine sounding rack mount reverb in a small form factor. And since you can get these used for reasonable prices, the bang for buck ratio is very nice indeed. The quality of the tone is also on par with the rack mount units. And thus, the lack of personality and notable level of boringness steps in. Works fine and sounds decent. Usable for your home recordings. This could even be used as a master reverb through mixer send/return loops. I doubt that many would notice any tonal difference between this unit and any low to mid priced Lexicon rack unit. Good sounds in from a boring digital circuit. You bet the article for XDD Digidelay will be shorter than this. After all these two are in fact the same pedal with different code burned in them.

Boss RV-5 Digital Reverb

Thursday, January 1st, 2015

Boss-RV5

What is it?
Boss RV-5 Digital Reverb. Made in taiwan, june 2008.

So the Boss RV-reverb line keeps getting duller as it goes further. Can’t help but to compare this to RV-2, which was ground breaking pedal in many ways. First off, the RV-2 was the first compact digital reverb ever produced. Second, the design had some real ingenuity in it. RV-2 has gained its status with its impressive, hard work from the design department, while making things that previously were impossible, possible. Sure it was costly effect to produce. So it was replaced with RV-3, which offered more options by having delay settings. Delays are just simplified reverbs without the vast number of stacked repeats, so adding delay modes wasn’t too big of a deal. It did add to versatility a lot, but while it gained high number of supporters, it still couldn’t touch the original RV-2’s status. Apparently RV-3 got too expensive to manufacture as well and it got replaced by RV-5 in 2002. RV-5 was apparent attempt to recreate the feel of original RV-2, instead of clinging on to multi effect-like feel that was the thing with RV-3.

Opening the box up shows a side of the board that makes me wonder if they were attempting a Guinness world record for number of vias on a compact pedal with a single PCB.

Boss-RV5-guts1

The other side shows couple of dual opamps for buffering and mixing, but the effect itself is just a Boss branded DSP chip. Also note the two crystal clocks. Even though this looks like an elaborate and neat design, the same DSP is circulating for other Boss effects too. Which means that the pedal is pretty much the same as twenty or more other pedals in the series.  Only the code for the DSP is different. The thing that gives me the only real feeling about the board is the “Cheer Time” text on the silk screen layer of the PCB.

Boss-RV5-guts2

As the features go, there are six modes of reverb, including digital modelling of spring, plate, hall, gate and room reverbs. Sixth mode is “modulate” which adds a sort of  chorusey feel to the reverb. Other controls are E. Level, which mixes the clean signal with processed one. Tone, which can be used to cut some highs so user can try to mimic more vintage sounding units. And finally Time, which sets the decay time for each mode. This unit is also built for stereo in and out, so it has more uses on the studio desk than many others that are simply meant to be run with a guitar.

The frequencies are kept well in tact, so this reverb works quite well with all the instruments. We could call it full range device. Not sure if that is too official term, but since it’s not cutting your lows or highs to audible degree..

How does it sound?
Like all Hi-Fi digital reverbs. Even though it gets the job done with flying colors, the amount of lacking personality and individualism is higher than on most tasteless and scentless sounding pedals. All the way to the degree where i would go so far and call it boring. While it is one of the most boring guitar reverbs i’ve ever played with, it’s not that bad. Where the digital design was still rocking in its cradle when the RV-2 was released, that also meant that the deficiencies in that unit turned out to be the strong parts. RV-2 is not a supr dull Hi-Fi device, but great reverberator for folks who want to sound like themselves by adding certain rough edge to their sound. RV-5 does not give you any edge. It works as a reverb and it works well. It has no personality and it has no edge. But it works. In reality, this unit will serve a lot better as a vocal reverb used in the inserts of a mixing console than what it can do with a guitar.

More modern technology doesn’t always add to to better sound.

EHX Holy Stain

Saturday, September 13th, 2014

EHX-HolyStain

What is it?
Electro Harmonix Holy Stain from XO series.Made in united states in 2010(ish).

Once again. Put a pedal, any pedal, for sale with a broken switch and a price tag around 20% of a new unit. You bet i’ll be there, bombing your email and throwing the little money i have against the computer screen. This was one of those. Simply swapped the defected 3PDT bypass switch and did a little cleaning. Unit works as it should. Or at least close to it.

Checking out the insides shows a DSP based big board. All done in current, dull EHX manner. I’m guessing the drive/fuzz/distortion is done with transistors and the rest is digital. It’s sort of like a modern hybrid.

EHX-HolyStain-guts

Let’s talk about the features a bit. To begin with, the Holy Stain looks like a cross breed between a Muff and a Holy Grail Reverb, with a few added extras. The main stomp switch is our bypass that sets the overall effect on and off. The basic side is controlled by two rotary switches, a tone control and a volume control. The first rotary selects between clean, fuzz or drive modes. The second selects overall tone color between bright, dark and warm. Tone control acts pretty much like the one on big muff pedals and volume is rather self-explanatory. All that is used to set the base tone.

Then we have the rest. Foot switch selects the digital effect mode between room reverb, hall reverb, a pitch shifter and a tremolo. These four modes share the two controls for all of them, the mix and amount. Mix sets the blend of this extra effect against the clean/fuzz/drive tone coming from the first part. The amount acts as a decay time setting for both reverbs. It also sets the frequency of the pitch shifter mode and the rate of the tremolo. Amount can be rocked with a external expression pedal, which makes the tremolo mode a lot more interesting and the pitch shifter to have similar features to a Whammy.

Limited, but still quite a set of features. These usually come pretty cheap, even as new. But if you think about the features and compare them to what you actually use – or want to use. For me, i would probably gone for separate drive and effects sections with a stomp to engage/disengage the effects other than the drive side. Sure there is notable amount of outside the box thinking when the designer has set the features, but…

How does it sound?
I’ll start with the good and go on about the bad a bit later. The Fuzz mode is actually good with its crisp lead sounds. On fuzz mode, the color settings are usable too, even though i tend to leave it on warm. Both reverbs are ok too, with a slight note explained further…

Off to the bad. First off, to me (yup, may be heresy, but i’m talking about my taste) the clean and drive modes are just bad. First thing that comes to mind is the horrible distortion section found in Digitech RP6 multi-effect. Color and tone controls won’t save those, no matter what. Other reason why the RP6 pops up to mind is the latency. All the digital effect modes are fine if you have your mix control below 35% mark. Higher than that, the guitar signal has already gone out of the speakers before the verbs/shifter/tremolo even think about touching the signal. Similar digital lag as heard on RP6.

One very good mode with almost usable multi-effect section – if you keep the mix down enough for it to work right. Otherwise… no.

Boss RV-3 Digital Reverb/Delay

Tuesday, August 19th, 2014

Boss-RV3

What is it?
Boss RV-3 Digital Reverb/Delay from compact series, made  in taiwan. Serial number on grey label points to june 1991. But since the units were apparently manufactured from 1994 to 2002 and the label was changed from pink to grey in early 1999, i think it’s safe to assume this follows similar error on serials as early taiwanese HH-2 Heavy Metals – being a decade off. This would mean that this unit is really manufactured in june 2001. Which makes a lot more sense.

RV-3 is a second generation of Boss digital reverb pedals. Sharing the color with the ground breaking RV-2, but housed in standard compact pedal sizes enclosure. As it’s predecessor, the full blown SMD design was expected. Where the RV-2 had two boards stacked the RV-3 has only one. It is as tightly packed on both sides though. The circuit footprint is way smaller and the features are doubled. Who doesn’t like to live in the future.

Boss-RV3-guts1

There’s a schematic up at FIS, if you’re interested. It shows pretty standard buffering and mixing with simple splitting for the stereo outputs. The digital part creating the reverb behind the mixing is pretty complex. Apparently the same digital setup can be programmed to do other things in addition to reverberation. The schem has “PS-3” printed on it, so my guess is that they have been using the same board for these two different effects. Maybe even more pedals share the same DSP architechture.

Boss-RV3-guts2

Board design is very modern looking. There are 11 reverb and delay modes with reasonable controls over the main parameters. Mix control for all modes. Time and feedback controls for the delays and reverb time with tone to control the high end damping of the reverbs.

How does it sound?
Very good with lots and lots of usable modes and the stereo output also adds to the usability. The digital signature that usually takes the edge off from so many designs is practically nonexistent. It’s not harsh sounding but a lot closer to natural. There’s even a feel of the expensive rack mount effects present. Wouldn’t call it “warm” or analog-like, but still pretty good. Most negativity comes from standard Boss facelessness. Not too personal and not the greatest pedal ever made – but still. Very very good. And this will see use as it’ll suit many situations of use, easily.

Danelectro DJ-4 Corned Beef Reverb

Tuesday, May 6th, 2014

DJ4-CornedBeef

What is it?
Danelectro DJ-4 Corned Beef reverb from Mini series. Made in chine around mid 00s.

Mini reverb? Idea sound solid. As i was closing in at finishing off my Mini collection, there was very little i could do but acquire one. There are many digital reverb designs around and usually their circuit footprint is relatively close the one of Spinosaurus. So either Danelectro had done the impossible by squeezing a reverb design in a box of this size, or there must be some pitfall in there. Opening the bottom plate shows that bottom PCB  houses only the electronic bypass switching components. Have they managed to cram a digital reverb design to the smaller top board?

DJ4-CornedBeef-guts1

No. They have not. Checking the top board shows PT2399S. I had a gut feeling about this, mainly due to low price of these units. Usually reverbs of any kind are expensive – even the ones that are from those low end series of many big brands. This sort of explains everything. Sadly, Corned Beef is not a true reverb in anywhere else but the marketing spiel.

DJ4-CornedBeef-guts2

So the “reverb” is in fact a fixed delay that is made to mimic reverb sounds with short feedback and delay time. It may not be a true reverb, but it’s still a nicely designed PT2399-based SMD board. Controls do not control the reverb characteristics at all. There are simply mix and hi-cut knobs. Mix is obviously mixing the “reverbed” signal in with the clean and the high-cut seems to be a simple low pass filter with roll-off point controlled by a pot.

I could be a lot more disappointed. Cheap price is one factor that keeps the depression away. I think Dano wouldn’t have gotten away with charging real digital reverb prices for this one. I do think this is the closest to a reverb you can get with a single PT2399. Points for that. However, i’d rather call this one a pseudo-reverb…

How does it sound?
True. It sounds a bit reverbish, but not much. However, it’s not eve remotely close to any of the real digital reverbs around. Anyone familiar with the PT2399 sound can probably spot it being used just by hearing what it sounds like. As a short delay-like pedal, this could be useful. As a reverb? Nope. You need to cough up those bigger bucks for an unit to satisfy that need.

Danelectro DSR-1 Spring King

Thursday, March 20th, 2014

DSR1-SpringKing

What is it?
Danelectro DSR-1 Spring King spring reverb. Made in china around 1998.

Pedals using real spring tanks inside them seem to be quite rare. There are tons of different digital variations that try to emulate the original spring sound from many brands around. The biggest reason for the absence of springs inside any pedals must be the size. The length of the springs affect their sound and anything shorter than 20cm will most likely be too short of a reverb. So this time i wasn’t surprised that the circuit board itself was quite small inside the massive box. And it is with all SMD construction. Taking a closer look at the SMD ICs, there’s a PT2399 digital delay/echo chip in there. So, to compensate the shortish spring length, the design is a hybrid – utilizing a digital delay chip to get clear slap back effect in addition to analog spring sound. The three controls take care of the attenuating and slight boosting overall sound with the Volume control. The Tone seems to boost highs when maxed and the Reverb is a mixer control that blends the digital chip and the spring unit with the signal.

DSR1-SpringKing-guts1

If i wouldn’t have taken a look at the chips, i would have expected this to be all analog design. So the overall “meh” was a bit of a letdown. Nevertheless, it is a good and clever design. And it does have the springs in there, which do affect the reverbed sound. But no. It is not 100% analog spring reverb. The springs are Accutronics/Belton BS3AB2C1E, a “tank” with three springs.

DSR1-SpringKing-guts2

There’s also one more, very cool, but simple feature. The kick pad. While it’s not connected to anything, it’s simply a rubber pad glued on the top of the enclosure. Kicking it or stomping on it makes the box naturally shake. Which leads to the tank shaking and giving out the uncontrollable spring action – like heard on many surf records. Nice feature in addition to quite unique and, like i already said, clever design.

Modding the PT2399 part for fully controllable delay in addition to springs should be doable. But. I think i’ll keep the unit as it is.

How does it sound?
Good. Very good. At first i would not have noticed the digital delay that was present. So i was already patting myself on the back for an amazing deal of the analog spring reverb pedal. So the disappointment may be biasing me a bit. Without that fact i would have probably declared this unit the greatest sounding gift from the Danelectro catalog ever produced. But that aside, the sound is definitely wet enough and the controls are sufficient. Very nice, big box.

Boss RV-2 Digital Reverb

Friday, March 7th, 2014

Boss-RV2

What is it?
Boss RV-2 Digital Reverb. Made in japan, 1987.

Got the unit in a bag of crap i bought from one local guy. The unit was missing a bottom plate altogether and it was not in working condition. Checked the insides around for a while and there were just couple of loose wires coming from the jacks to the board. Soldered those back to their places and got it running. The missing bottom plate was another issue. Where was i to acquire a grey label Boss bottom plate? Nowhere. But i had an old japanese DD-3 with burned chip in a  spare parts box, so i scavenged the plate from that one. It is with blue label and from around 1988, so it’s not the closest possible match, but it’ll have to suffice.

This is likely to be the very first digital reverb in a compact pedal form ever. With all the features of professional rack mount units included, it’s bound to be quite complex design.

Boss-RV2-guts1

I may have written about filled boards before, but this one takes the grand price. The boards are made with tiniest SMD-components and the design still had no  chance of fitting in a standard Boss enclosure. Didn’t notice it at first. But yes. The box is slightly taller than the standard boxes. Apparently, the taller box is used only in PSM-5 and RV-2. PSM-5 needs the taller box because of the jacks at where the knobs normally are. This one however.. Needs all the possible space to house the boards. All the other designs fit in the standard one.

These pictures do not cover the detail of two stacked boards too well, but that’s how it’s made. With two massively crowded, two-sided boards bonded together. More as a detail, even the digital chips are Boss-branded. This must have been pretty expensive thing to manufacture…

Boss-RV2-guts2

Quick googling around didn’t give out a schematic, but i’d like to see one – just to see if i could understand anything of it.. All in all, this is the most complex design in such a small enclosure i’ve ever seen. The board design has more components on it than your 90’s PC motherboard. And it’s still nothing more than a reverb unit, mimicking a full fledged rack mount monster. The features easily trump most of the modern table top units. Six modes from plate to gate, to room, to hall and panned reverbs. All with adjustable time from 0.2 to 10 seconds. Then there’s the pre-EQ control for tuning the frequency range that we want to reverberate. And mix control, of course. Overall, very controllable.

Boss-RV2-guts3

It does surprise me that the current market value of these units is not higher. First of all, these were only made in japan for less than a year and a half, from 1987 to 1988. Second, the engineering is more than just respectable. Third…

How does it sound?
It doesn’t sound bad at all. Sure, it may not last too many rounds in the same cage with high-end brand rack mounted studio reverbs.. But then again. This is just a tiny pedal from Boss’ compact series and it’s meant to be used with a guitar. As a guitar effect? Just beautiful from small ambient plate to massive, wettter-than-ever surf reverberation. Good controls, good overall feel and sound. Where some (or be exact, most) Boss compact pedals leave me with no feelings at all, this one is not one of them. It’s versatile and usable pedal. And on top of that it is an important piece of stompbox history. So.. If you have a grey label bottom plate laying around without a pedal, drop me a line…