The joys of spring: Buyers guide and reviews of the latest spring reverb guitar pedals in 20189
A big part of many of the classic sounds of 60’s surf and pop / rock guitar bands was a splashy spring ‘verb.
Originally developed for Hammond Organs, these once giant mechanical analog reverb units have reduced in size over the years since first being added to guitar amps, and can now be found in both analog and digital reverb pedals.
Here’s our run down of the best spring reverb pedals available today.
The Top 8 Spring Reverb Pedals We Review In This Article
- Catalinbread Topanga
- Subdecay Super Spring Theory
- Mojo Hand FX Dewdrop Reverb
- J Rockett Audio Designs Boing Spring Reverb
- JHS Pedals Spring Tank Reverb
Mini Spring Reverb
Real / Analog Spring Reverb Pedals
The best digital spring reverb pedals
Most digital spring pedals become less believable at higher decay settings, but thanks to the high-quality SPV-1 chip, this is not a problem in the Topanga, which delivers an awesome drippy spring for that vintage sound.
It’s a very well-built unit and includes the familiar tone, mix and dwell knobs found on the real unit, with the volume knob adding a touch of that “valve” tone. With a “hidden” mod mode that adds a subtle modulation / chorus-type sound and a cool retro surf-style paint finish, the Topanga hits the sweet spot of quality, flexibility, simplicity, portability and value.
Subdecay Super Spring Theory
Runner-up: 4.5 stars
Similar to the Topanga, the Super Spring Theory is a digital recreation of the Fender 6G15 blackface amp unit, and as its driven by the same chip it does a similarly good job at delivering a range of vintage wet surfy sounds and tube-like dynamics and tones.
It offers more options (including a room reverb) and a little more control than the Topanga, with separate controls for the wet and dry signals and a trails option similar to a buffered bypass.
It’s this extra complexity that means we prefer the Topanga, but if you want great sounding spring reverb with more room to shape the sound, this pedal might just edge it for you. 4.5 stars.
Mojo Hand FX Dewdrop Reverb
The Dewdrop is a very good spring reverb pedal, balancing versatility and usability, and comprising just the three standard knobs you’d expect.
It provides a range of reverb from subtle ambience right through to a drenched out splashy wetness.
However, while it does sound pretty awesome, many people report an unwanted mod-style effect present in the reverb tails that you just can’t dial out so if you’re looking for true surf and rockabilly tones then the Dewdrop probably isn’t for you.
J Rockett Audio Designs Boing Spring Reverb
Designed as a simple, one-knob recreation of classic fender deluxe reverb, the Boing from J Rockett Audio is as simple as you can get. Its reverb sounds are high-quality, and it’s simplicity is ideal if you don’t want to be dialling in different reverb sounds very often, but it just lacks the flexibility of the Topanga. Some people also note that it can be little noisy, which might not make it a good option for playing live despite the ease of use.
JHS Pedals Spring Tank Reverb
The Spring Tank Reverb from JHS Pedals is a versatile spring reverb pedal with a few cool additions that make it stand out from the others.
It features two controllable channels so you can easily switch between two different ‘verb tones at the flick of a switch, and also features an FX loop-in jack which allows you to add additional effects to the wet signal only, leaving the dry signal untouched.
Its reverb quality just wasn’t quite up to the same standard as the Super Spring Theory, but if you need two channels, or like to experiment then maybe this will scratch your itch.
The Best Spring Reverb Mini Pedals
Wampler Mini Faux Spring Reverb
Best Mini: 4.5 stars
Brian Wampler has a reputation for building top-quality pedals and the Mini Faux Spring is no exception, doing a great job of emulating the classic fender sound that so many guitarists are looking for.
When he decided to reboot his Faux Spring pedal, he kept all of the good stuff from the original but listened to his customers, adding the extra drippiness they begged for along with several other suggestions to improve the pedal.
He also shrunk it down into the mini faux spring pedal.
The Best Analog Spring Reverb Pedals
Carl Martin Headroom Spring Reverb
Best Real Spring: 3.5 stars
As it contains a real 3-spring Accutronics tank, it’s much bigger than the digital pedals we’ve reviewed so it may be a little less pedalboard-friendly.
We also found it still lacking in the classic “drip” sound as the springs are still smaller than those found in most amps.
That said its simple, well built, sounds good and offers two channels that you can dial in separately.
Unless you absolutely must have a reverb pedal with real springs, most people tend to favour a good digital reverb pedal like the Topanga or Super Spring Theory.
Danelectro DSR-1 Spring King Reverb
Similar to the Headroom, the DSR-1 from Danelectro has a real spring tank inside, making it quite a large unit. Aside from its cool, retro styling and kickplate (for that “thunderstorm” effect), we prefer the Carl Martin in a straight shootout between the two real analogue options, even though the DSR-1 is basically the cheapest real spring pedal on the market.
Spring Reverb Buyer's Guide
To really choose the right spring reverb, it helps to understand a little more about what it is, how it’s made, and what to look out for.
What is Reverb?
Reverb is defined the persistence of sound after the sound is produced. When a sound is reflected back off from various objects in a space (including each wall, and any other objects), the sound reflections are still audible. This is reverberation (or reverb).
Why use reverb?
Reverb is one of the most common effects used in modern music, and is often added to guitars, drums, vocals and other instruments to add specific ambience or to recreate the sound of a given space, especially when recording or playing in rooms that don’t have a lot of natural reverb. This adds depth and “fullness” to the sound and generally improves the tone. It’s why singing in the shower makes you sound that little bit better.
Modern reverb units often go beyond replicating natural spaces and ambience, producing some really “out there” effects.
How to get a good reverb sound
Back in the early days of sound recording, reverb was generated either by placing guitar amps and microphones in special rooms or chambers of varying sizes, or by using mechanical reverbs such as plates or springs.
While these more traditional methods are still used in high-end professional recording studios, they’re impractical and expensive for everyday use. Luckily these days guitarists of all abilities have access to a wide range of options built into their amps, or in the form of analogue or digital reverb pedals.
The earliest form of portable reverb, was produced using springs.
What is Spring Reverb?
There are two types of spring reverb – analogue and digital. Analogue spring is created using real mechanical equipment, while it can also be reproduced digitally with electronic circuitry.
Real or analog spring reverbs are relatively inexpensive portable units that use two or three Springs of different diameter held under tension between two transducers.
An electric guitar signal is sent into a set of magnets and transducers, passed along the springs, back through the output transducer. This causes the springs to vibrate, creating their own signal and mimicking the many different sound reflections you’d get from a natural space. This signal is then mixed back with the original dry signal and, hey presto, reverb!
What does Spring Reverb Sound Like?
Although it was designed to mimic natural spaces, spring reverbs have an unmistakable sound. Squashy, springy, boingy, and even splashy are words that are often used to describe it.
Watch this video to hear a comparison of spring vs plate, hall and room reverbs.
Blues: John Mayer “Slow dancing in a burning room”
Surf rock: Dick Dale “Misirlou”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-y3h9p_c5-M
Dub: King Tubby “Dub you can feel”
Vintage pop: The Ventures “Walk don’t run”
A brief history of spring reverbIn 1935 Laurens Hammond started selling his now-famous Hammond organs to the public, but he needed a way to recreate the enormous room-filling sounds that people were used to hearing from organs. He discovered a device created by Bell Labs to simulate the delay of a long-distance phone call, which he was able to adapt over time to produce the perfect reverb effect he was looking for. That device containing magnets, transducers, and two springs (immersed in non-evaporating oil) was basically a much larger version of the compact spring reverb tank found in many guitar amps and pedals today. Over time these units added a third spring (which tends to produce a more natural sounding reverb effect), dispensed with the oil and and eventually became compact enough to fit within a guitar amp. Although not technically an amp, the first spring reverb unit for guitarists was Fender’s 6G15 released in 1961. Ampeg, Marshall, Peavey and others all followed suit and began producing amps with integrated reverb, and within just a few years they were common place. In 1976, EMT introduced the world’s first digital reverb unit, paving the way for the many modern effects units on the market today.
Things to consider before you buy a spring reverb pedalBasically, all spring reverb pedals are trying to recreate or emulate the classic 60’s fender reverb amp sound. Of course, the best way to achieve that sound is to actually buy the amp, but they are expensive, selling for upwards of $1000 if you’re lucky enough to find one for sale in the first place. Naturally, purists will insist that nothing less than a high-quality amp with an analogue spring reverb tank will do, as it’s been difficult to replicate mechanical spring reverb in a digital pedal. However, technology is improving all the time and many guitarists are perfectly happy to take advantage of the practicality and affordability of a pedal.
1. What reverb sound you’re looking forAs this is a run down of the best spring reverb pedals in our opinion, we’re going to assume you’re looking for the classic squishy surf sound of the 60’s. All of the pedals in this review offer excellent spring effects. They may or may not have other onboard modes, but we’re less concerned with those here.
2. Real springs or digital?If you’re not going to shell out $1000 for an amp, then your first choice boils down to the type of pedal you want:
- An analogue pedal with a real spring reverb mechanism
- A digital reverb pedal
3. QualityThere are two main factors to consider when it comes to the quality of an effects pedal:
- Sound quality – how good does the reverb effect sound, and whether the dry signal is affected
- Build quality – as you’ll likely be stepping on it a lot and dialling in those knobs to find the right tone for the song, you want a pedal that’s rugged in construction and built to last for years.
4. Simplicity vs flexibilityThe more knobs a pedal has, the more control it provides over the shape of the effect, but this can make it more difficult to switch between sounds if you can even remember the settings. Many reverb pedals come with multiple reverb types, adding to the complexity.
5. Size and portabilityMore knobs and switches usually also means a bigger, heavier unit. So too does having real springs. Your needs here will depend on amount of space you have on your pedalboard (assuming you use one), and whether you want to be transporting your pedal around to gigs and rehearsals.
6. PriceWe’ve covered pedals in a range of prices in this review, so you’ll surely find the best spring reverb pedal for your budget. That’s the basics covered, but for a more in-depth guide on what to look out for, see our buyers guide to reverb pedals.
So, What Is The Best Spring Reverb Pedal?
In our opinion, the best spring reverb pedal is the Catalinbread Topanga thanks to its excellent spring sounds that faithfully recreate the classic fender drippiness and simplicity in operation that make it a breeze to dial in. It’s small enough to fit on all but the most overcrowded of pedalboards, yet is built like a tank and will stand up to years of stomping. On top of that, we love its retro styling.
If you want a little more flexibility, the Super Spring Theory comes a very close second and is a very capable spring pedal with high-quality sound.
If size and / or budget is an issue, then we’d go for the Wampler Mini Faux Spring as its tiny form factor and low price make it a real bargain.