Spring reverbs

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The guts of an Accutronics spring reverb tank

Unlike plate reverb and tape echo, where the EMT 140 and Roland Space Echo respectively are widely considered to be the definitive examples of their kind, spring reverb has always been a more complex category with a range of different options appealing to producers with different priorities. As a result, this is the only hardware entry on our list where we’re taking a totally non-committal approach and refusing to pick a specific model. The truth is, most spring reverbs are useful in some way, whether it’s a cleaner, more hi-fi model for treating vocals or, at the opposite end of the scale, a dirt-cheap effect for adding gritty character to individual drum hits.

Spring reverbs work in a very similar way to plates: a transducer excites one or more metal springs which reverberate in sympathy with the incoming audio signal. The vibrations are captured at the other end of the springs by a pickup, converting the mechanical action back into an electrical signal.

As a result of their relatively simplistic design, spring reverbs typically sound exactly as their name might suggest: metallic, twangy and, er… springy, for want of a better word. Higher quality models such as the AKG BX series and Bandive Great British Spring offer a slightly slicker, less lo-fi sound.

Springs have historically been one of the cheapest construction techniques employed to create reverb effects, and hence you’ll find spring reverbs in a lot of guitar amps and budget effects units. Don’t write off the cheaper units. Dub pioneer King Tubby used the Fisher SpaceXpander, a valve-based unit originally designed for use in cars. The Beastie Boys used the Pioneer SR-202W, a unit designed for home hi-fi applications.

spring reverbs typically sound exactly as their name might suggest

Spring reverbs work well for most sound sources but each model will take a different approach to get the optimal results. Springs don’t tend to be particularly versatile; you’re almost forced to work with the sound of your chosen model and decide what type of instrument or track it works well on. Luckily, for those of us looking for a more versatile alternative, there are some decent software options. We like Softube’s reasonably priced Spring Reverb plugin. It’s a great starting point to see if you’re into the sound of springs.

25th June, 2014

Comments

  • Excuse me but where is the Midiverb II at? What kind of dance music producer has a room for a plate reverb.

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  • Lumping the Space Echo in with reverbs seems to be pushing it a bit. It’s a great unit, but…

    Also worth mentioning are the dirt-cheap plugins from ValhallaDSP (which borrow a lot of techniques from both Lexicon and Eventide), and the more expensive ones from 2CAudio.

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  • makes me laugh how people always get so mad at these features. guys, they’re just attack’s choices. if you don’t agree, write down your own list on a piece of paper and look at that instead. it’s hardly as if it’s some kind of official ranking, plus there’s a lot more to read here than just the names of 10 reverbs. maybe if you read it you’d realise they actually mentioned the midiverb AND the fact that most people don’t have room for a plate so should buy the plugin instead.

    eric, i kind of agree with your point on the space echo but they are absolutely awesome for reverb as well as delay effects. even the delays are so messy and organic that it isn’t really delay as most people think of it these days. i got to borrow one off a friend for a while and what i actually liked it most for was a short reverb-style effect on vocal samples.

    i also agree that the valhalla reverbs are excellent

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  • This is an unusually random feature from Attack…so few of these devices are really relevant to dance music eg the Lexicon 224…or EMT 140 (a vintage plate!)…’Acoustic space’ followed by a Bricasti! Its just all over the place…and honestly is that really relevant for dance music producers?

    Here is my list:
    2cAudio Aether
    Valhalla Vintage Verb
    Valhalla Shimmer
    Relab 480
    Eventide Black Hole pedal
    Strymon Big Sky pedal
    Eventide H3000 Rack unit
    Roland Space Echo vintage delay

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  • Strymon Bluesky should’ve been in there

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