Boss FRV-1 ’63 Fender Reverb vs Mr Springgy by Lee Jackson Metaltronix

In the digital modeling corner we have the Boss FRV-1 ’63 Fender Reverb pedal–the latest in a series of collaborations between Boss and Fender. Boasting a textured old-school-brown finish, vintage-style graphics, and three controls that mirror those found on the original device–Mixer, Tone, and Dwell–the FRV-1 employs Boss’ COSM (Composite Object Sound Modeling) technology to recreate the sound of audio signals routed through tube circuitry and springs in a metal pan.

In the opposite corner, sporting an elegant black finish, modern graphics, and a sleek single-knob design, Lee Jackson’s Mr. Springgy is an entirely analog device that is essentially a modified version of a Belton reverb pan replacement module that Jackson had a hand in developing. The actual circuitry is concealed from view and kept secret by Jackson. Our contestant is a revised version of Mr. Springgy (the original was introduced in 2007), which does away with the reverb level trim pot found inside the earliest units, and adds a Wet Only option that switches the Main output to reverb only and routes the dry sound to a second output for quasi-stereo operation using two amps, or when inserting Mr. Springgy into an amp’s parallel effects loop. (You can also get a wet/dry split from the Main output by using a cable with a TRS connector on one end and two mono plugs on the other.)

Most of my testing was done playing a PRS Custom 24 guitar through a Rivera Venus 6 amplifier, with the pedals patched between the two, and also in the amp’s serial effects loop. Additionally, I routed the speaker output of the amp into a Palmer DI and my studio monitoring system to really focus in on the sound. Then, I double-checked my results using various guitars and amps, including a vintage Fender Super Reverb. I was listening for overall sound quality, responsiveness to playing dynamics, compatibility with both amp and pedal distortion, and–most importantly–fidelity to the vintage Fender Reverb sound.

First off, both of these pedals were extremely quiet in operation. They hissed a bit when cranked way up, but never at levels even approaching the noise generated by an actual tube reverb. Second, I didn’t experience any level or tone sucking with either pedal and it could even be argued that they enhanced the overall sound by increasing dynamic response and bringing out additional harmonics (though that is obviously a more subjective judgment, and results varied depending on which guitars and amps were used). Finally, both pedals functioned reasonably well when patched into the Venus 6’s effects loop, though not surprisingly, there were some level-matching issues, and in both cases I preferred the sound they made in front of the amp’s input. In case you’re wondering, neither the FRV-1 or Mr. Springgy are true bypass designs, but neither was the original Fender 6G15.

When it came to nailing the Fender Reverb sound, the FRV-1 definitely had the edge, more or less faithfully recreating that unit’s characteristic sproinginess and splash. If anything, there was a little too much splash on tap, with a slightly harsh high end on some settings, making the versatile Mixer and Tone controls invaluable for crafting just the right blend. The Dwell control was similarly versatile, ranging from zero reverb to a relatively long and smooth decay–though even when maxed the decay was shorter than that of the spring reverb in the Venus 6 or Super Reverb amps. With its Tone control rolled back to about ten o’clock to compensate for edginess, the FRV-1 also sounded quite good with various distortion pedals and amp distortion (when used in the effects loop).

Although Mr. Springgy sounds considerably less like a Fender Reverb than the FRV-1, it has a very smooth, robust, and pleasing sound that some players may prefer. There’s just the right amount of fullness to provide depth without submerging your sound, the affected frequencies are nicely equalized, and the fixed decay time is perfect for all but the splash-happiest apps. The Mix knob sweeps a useful range, from dry to drenched–and if you desire just verb you can activate the aforementioned internal Wet Only switch or go with the TRS “Y” cable option. Mr. Springgy also plays very well with others, and sounds wonderful with distortion, whether from a pedal or an amp.

The Boss FRV-1 sounds more like the standalone Fender Reverb than Mr. Springgy, making it the winner of our competition–but in terms of a head-to-head general competition it was a draw. Both pedals sound a lot like the best spring reverb pedal (Mr. Springgy coming closer to, say, a Demeter RVB-1), and which works best for a specific player will be more a matter of personal taste than sonic superiority. And if you can’t decide, no worries, as they are priced so reasonably that you can simply buy both.

Electro-Harmonix Cathedral stereo reverb

Boring multi-effect reverb pedals are a thing of the past with the introduction of the Cathedral from Electro-Harmonix. Its eight modes and truly innovative “infinite” reverb function make the potential for lush soundscapes and textures truly endless. Let’s take a look at the Cathedral’s various modes.

The Spring and Accu Spring settings are taken from the company’s Holy Grail reverb pedal, both allowing you to blend wet and dry as well as tone depending on the sound you’re after. The Hall setting allows you to set the reverb decay to exactly what you need as well as adjust the spacial perspective. Similarly the Room and Plate settings offer the same versatility, but give the effect of a smaller-sounding space.

 

The Cathedral’s reverse mode allows you to produce a reverse reverb effect for each note, allowing you to control the amount of time between the attack and the fade-in of the reverse effect. The Grail Flerb setting is again taken from the Holy Grail, allowing you to control the flanger modulation and resonance, which would be fixed on the Holy Grail. The Echo setting transforms the pedal into a digital effect, allowing you to tap or dial in the delay time.

Truly, the most irresistible feature I found is the Infinite reverb switch, allowing you to play over a never-ending reverb wash without adding to or changing it. It should also be mentioned that like many other Electro-Harmonix effects, the preset mode allows you to save a setting for any one of the eight modes, easily accessible through the unit’s toggle switch. The Cathedral is by far the best multi-effect reverb pedal I’ve come across so far. Highly recommended.

Mann, Alan

Roland Cube 80GX

The flagship of Roland’s new Cube line, the 80GX features Clean , Lead, and Solo channels in a compact format with 80 watts of solid-state power driving a single 12″ speaker. Simple enough, but wait, there’s much more. Not only is the Cube 80GX a well-equipped combo for live gigs and recording, it also can function as an interface via its iCube link for using music apps on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch (interface cable is included). The amp’s utility factor also expands when you download the free Cube Jam app that plays songs from your library and minus-one jam tracks, allows parts to be slowed clown (while staying in pitch), and also lets you record using the 80GX’s amps and effects.

For an amp with so many features, the Cube 80GX is quite easy to use. Buttons on the top panel select channels, and from there it’s a snap to add effects or make EQ adjustments. The clean sounds are excellent, and you can zone right in on that classic “Jazz Chorus” response or expand it in other ways by adding reverb (the vintage-style spring and studio-style plate settings both sound clear and reflective in their own distinct ways), delay like top delay pedal (the Tap function is highly useful), or one of the modulation effects, such as flanger or smooth, pulsing tremolo like the best tremolo pedal. Thanks to the well-voiced 3-band EQ, I found it easy to get good clean tones with humbucker and single-coil guitars.

The Cube 80GX’s well-implemented tones carry over to the lead channel where you have a wide selection of COSM amp models to choose from. There’s even an Acoustic model, which can pinch-hit for an amplified flat-top if you need that sound. For classic tube tones, there are a lot of ways to roll here, as the selector knob rotates between Fender-like sounds (Black Panel, DLX Reverb, Tweed) and janglier tones (as in Brit Combo), to the increasingly heavy artillery that you can deploy on the Classic Stack, Metal, R-Fier, and Extreme settings. The third channel, Solo, is a programmable function that can be configured with any of the amps and effects (as well as EQ and volume settings) for instant switching into whatever kind of sound you might want to preset–from ultra clean to heavily effected to super sustaining.

We tested the Cube 80GX with the optional GA-FC foot-controller ($119 street), which switches channels and activates effects, and even has two expression pedal inputs for controlling gain and volume settings. A switcher is a pretty essential item for live performing, so it would be nice if Roland shipped the Cube GX amps with even a basic unit that could simply toggle the channels and turn the effects on and off.

The Cube 80GX (which has the exact same features as the 40-watt Cube 40GX and just a couple more than the 20-watt Cube 20GX) could be a great choice for working players who need one amp that can cover a lot of bases and also function as an interface with iOS devices for practice, jamming, etc. The new Cube models also strut a clean and purposeful look with their metal grilles, rugged corner protectors, and block-style logos, all of which will help to make them an attractive option for a lot of players.