Throughout the history of TPS, Dan & Mick have undertaken a series of comparisons of effects originally achieved by analog and physically moving components vs. their digital renditions. Take, for example, the Leslie cabinet and its stompbox counterparts. And who could forget the Binson Echorec or Echoplex taking on their digitally modelled renditions. This week, TPS was spring-loaded as Dan & Mick undertook a comparison of spring reverb units with some guitar pedal parallels.
As Dan highlighted at the outset, fans of iconic Fender amps with built-in spring reverb sections, like the Super Reverb, understand that these “have a sound all their own.” He continued, “The question is, if we don’t have that available is there a way we can get that sound in a pedal.” The experiment looked at large format pedals, like those from Carl Martin and Crazy Tube Circuits, housing real spring circuits. Of interest to most, however, might be the second phase of the comparison, which looked at how standard sized pedals using digital signal processing sounded in comparison to the real deal.
Here’s a take on three spring tank in a box attempts by Tone City, JHS, and J. Rockett.
Tone City’s Tiny Spring: Smallest of the Small Yet Springy, Warbly, and Resonant
Weighing in with just one knob and a two-digit price tag, the Tone City Tiny Spring is tough to beat on ease-of-use, value, and size. The question is, however, how does it sound?
After hearing Dan’s Tele riff around with the Tiny Spring, both gents noted the sound was definitely complex. There were hints of a welcome modulation in the slight ripple of the reverberating sound. Likewise, the sound seemed to also include a subtle slap-back delay of sorts. “It’s a cool sound, there’s nothing wrong with that sound,” exclaimed Mick, “however, it doesn’t sound like a spring reverb. It sounds like a digital reverb with a bit of modulation and delay on it.” Regardless of this outcome of Tone City’s attempt to take on the larger, complex character of vintage spring reverb tanks, Dan concluded “I really like it, as a sound.” Mick responded, “I actually think that sounds really cool. But I’d like to see more of a springy-ness to it without all that other stuff...It’s a digital sounding thing but I think it’s pretty good for that rock and roll sound.”
JHS Spring Tank Pedal: Double Barrel Blasts of Spring Reverberation
This pedal doubles up on its springability with two renditions of spring reverb tank’s side-by-side. The first behaves as a main reverb, with the second blended in to this making for a range of sounds from classic, tight springs to lucid reverb washes. These two tanks are mixed together by blend knobs. As Dan noted, this means “You set two overall effect levels.” Beyond this, shared “highs,” “[spring] length,” and “depth” knobs sculpt the scope of the reverb. The “boost” knob also allows for a bit of a push to the signal when the effect is engaged.
In comparison to the Super Reverb, Mick noted “there’s some high-end filtering going on there, the [JHS] is definitely rolling off some high-end.” The Fender tank had a bit of a brighter characteristic, making the JHS pedal perhaps reminiscent of warmer sounding tank reverbs. Which, as Mick noted, is not a criticism of the pedal, just an observation on the character of the reverberating sound created by Josh and crew over at JHS.
Finally, one of the assets of the JHS Spring Tank was its effects loop. As Dan noted, this means “you can affect the reverb only using a y-cable.” So, if you’d like to run a modulation pedal into the loop, only the reverberating sound would receive and mingle with that effect.
The final stompbox rendition of big spring sound was by J. Rockett, with a pedal whose name says it all. The Boing. First impressions? Mick: “Not bloomin’ bad at all! I would say out of all of them that seems to be the closest.” The Boing had a bright edge, a snap of a pre-delay, and a spiraling, spacy quality to it. While each of the digital contenders brought something of their own contribution to the experiment, Mick concluded that, “If you’ve got an amp with no reverb and you want a reverb pedal that sounds like a spring reverb, the Boing, with its one knob, is absolutely it for me.”
While that was the final thought, Mick qualified that, “I want to say that the [Tone City] Tiny Spring, even though it doesn’t sound like a spring reverb, is a cool sounding pedal. And, the [JHS] Spring Tank is likewise. It’s going to appeal to anybody who doesn’t want to take up a lot of space and who doesn’t like the high-end, sibilance thing that a lot of classic spring reverbs have.”
Regardless of your reverb needs—from tight snappy pings to otherworldly washes—stop in to our reverb pedal section over Riff City and we’ll help you set up the space just right.
TPS Episode Rig Rundown:
Guitars: Fender 60s Reverse Headstock Stratocaster, Fender Custom Shop 1963 Telecaster.
Amps: Fender Super Reverb (reissue).Pedals: D’Addario Pedal Tuner, ProAnalog Devices Manticore, Fulltone OCD, Carl Martin Headroom, Crazy Tube Circuits White Whale, Tone City Tiny Spring, JHS Spring Tank, J. Rockett Boing.