The Strymon BigSky Multidimensional Reverberator, to use its full name, is one of the most popular (and most expensive) boutique reverb pedals around at the moment, but does it deserve its popularity, and is it worth the money?
In this Strymon Big Sky review, we take a look and see how it stacks up for the studio player, for playing live, and also for the bedroom enthusiast.
The Strymon BigSky Reverb Pedal
It promises to compete on sound quality with expensive rack-mounted effects found in recording studios, while also bringing the ease-of use and flexibility of a guitar pedal. Bold claims indeed, but the BigSky delivers in spades.
So if you’re looking for a reverb pedal that can handle almost any situation you can throw at it, and you have the budget, this might just be your best choice. But if you just want a simple stompbox with just one or two common reverbs like spring or room, then you may find the Big Sky to be overkill.
- Several outstanding modes – shimmer, chorale and cloud being the most notable
- Easy to use
- The price! Its basically the most expensive reverb pedal on the market
- Bypass LED is awkward to see when playing live
- No USB connector
What’s in the box?
The first thing you see inside the tastefully simple box is the fold-out instruction manual (also available as a PDF download).
Aside from the pedal itself, you also get a 9v power supply unit, 4 adhesive rubber feet and a Strymon sticker.
Features and Benefits
- Hand crafted, studio-class reverb algorithms deliver lush, gorgeous, and musically inspiring reverb experiences
- Twelve reverb machines to choose from: Room, Hall, Plate, Spring, Swell, Bloom, Cloud, Chorale, Shimmer, Magneto, Nonlinear, Reflections
- Seven front-panel tone shaping knobs: Decay, Pre-Delay, Mix, Tone, Mod, Param 1, Param 2 (Param knobs assignable per preset)
- Additional menu parameters allow for easy customization of reverb sounds
- 300 easily accessible and namable presets
- Press-and-hold Infinite Sustain and Freeze functions, saveable per preset
- Spillover and Reverb Persist modes, saveable per preset
- Selectable Speaker Cabinet emulation for direct-to-PA gigs or recording applications
- Three rugged metal footswitches for preset selection and effect bypass
- LED display for preset info, reverb decay time, and extended parameter control
- Multi-color preset LEDs (green for active preset, amber for edited preset)
- Full MIDI implementation allows extended control for those with more complex rigs
- Sturdy and lightweight light blue anodized aluminum chassis, with laser-etched artwork
- Durable black anodized aluminum knobs
- Studio-grade audio input and output jacks
Inputs & Outputs
- Stereo input and output
- Expression pedal input with selectable control over any knob or combination of knobs, saveable per preset (also configurable as external tap input)
- MIDI input and output
- Included 9V center-negative power supply (300mA minimum required)
- Analog dry path for a zero latency dry signal that is never converted to digital
- Premium analog front end and output section
- Ultra low noise, high performance 24-bit 96kHz A/D and D/A converters
- 115dB typical signal to noise at 50% wet mix (120db at 100% dry mix, 109dB at 100% wet mix)
- 20Hz to 20kHz frequency response
- +8dBu maximum input level easily handles instrument and line signals
- Super high performance DSP in a compact form factor
- 32-bit floating point processing
- 366MHz SIMD SHARC processor core, capable of 2.4 Gigaflops peak performance
- True Bypass (electromechanical relay switching)
- High quality, tranparent Analog Buffered Bypass mode
- +/- 3dB Boost/Cut, saveable per preset
- Optional Kill Dry mode mutes dry signal, for use in parallel effects loops
- Dimensions: 6.75″ (171mm) wide, 5.1″ (130mm) deep
- Designed and Built in the USA
This versatile unit offers 12 different reverb algorithms, including:
This is great-sounding room reverb machine that ranges from subtle studio ambience to a spacious night club. It has the characteristic short reflections of a traditional room, but a long decay can really add to the size of the space.
Another quintessential reverb machine present in the BigSky is the Hall. Almost overlapping with the larger end of the Room, this allows you to create even bigger spaces. The Concert setting gives a warm, rich reverb while Arena brings expansive reverb the size of a stadium.
As you’d expect, the plate emulator onboard the BigSky is a faithful replication of the early analogue machines. Varying the plate sizes allows you to achieve some stunning, slow decaying plate reverb with no early reflections that plate reverbs are famous for.
SpringThe spring reverb machine on the BigSky is a real standout in terms of quality and flexibility. It’s a brilliant emulation of a classic analogue spring reverb tank, giving a wonderfully clean sound with plenty of options including Clean, Combo, Tube, Overdrive. The ability to deploy up to 3 separate springs is also a nice touch.
SwellMoving on to the more unconventional machines, the swell effect offers beautiful rolling textures with a touch of reverse added to the mix. An extra bonus is the fact that you can choose to apply this effect to the wet signal only, or both the wet and dry.
The Bloom machine generates a slow-attacking reverb that literally “blooms” around your signal, with a touch of modulation added to the tail.
CloudI was blown away by the lush, cinematic soundscapes I was able to create with the Cloud reverb machine, and it was really easy to get lost in the huge expanse of sound with long smooth decays and few reflections.
This seems to be a unique feature, and is probably my personal favourite of all the reverb machines on the Big Sky. The Chorale algorithm adds a gorgeous, almost vocal-sounding effect on the wet signal, similar to the “ooh’s” and “ahh’s” of a choir.
ShimmerAnother very well regarded reverb effect is the Shimmer, which adds a beautiful, tunable pitch shift to your wet signal. There’s also a lot of flexibility here, with the ability to shift up and down a full octave, and in 5ths, with plenty of other options to boot.
The Magneto is almost a delay/reverb combo, with lots of clear echoes in the late reflections. A really cool option if you don’t own a separate delay pedal, or another alternative sound if you do.
This is another standout algorithm in the BigSky. It features almost a half dozen separate shapes, and combines a reverse reverb with slight echoes, delays and swirling, swishing effects in the tail. It’s difficult to describe and you really need to hear it for yourself, but it’s another of our favourites.
In terms of sonic flavor, the Reflections reverb is similar to the Room machine. However it’s a completely different algorithm which allows you precise control over the position of the amp within the space. It can be quite complex, but if you’re prepared to invest the time to experiment, you can be rewarded with a very realistic and intimate ambience.
Cab emulatorThe cab filter is a really neat addition that emulates a the sound of playing through a speaker cabinet, adding a warmth and richness to your tone when plugged in direct to a PA or DAW. The only minor drawback is that this really dictates that your BigSky needs to be the last pedal in your signal chain to avoid muddying the rest of your effects. This is only an issue if you like to experiment with different signal chain configurations and are playing direct.
MIDIAs you’d expect, the BigSky is equipped with Full MIDI implementation that allows full remote control which can be essential for recording or playing live, especially for those with complex complex setups.
Expression PedalThe BigSky also comes with an expression pedal input for even more control over your effects. You can use any one of three pedal types (Strymon MiniSwitch, Strymon Multiswitch, or standard TRS expression) for selectable control over any combination of knobs, saveable per preset, or external tap, bank, and preset selection.
Infinite sustain / freezeThe infinite sustain setting allows your reverb signal to never decay, adding a rich, warm background to your sound that never fades, while the freeze mode allows you to play new notes over the top of that sustain, without adding any more to the mix. There’s also Spillover and Reverb Persist modes, both saveable per preset. Reverb persist ensures your reverb spills over rather than cutting straight out when the effect is bypassed.
Strymon LibrarianThe Strymon Librarian is an open source library that allows you to organize and back-up your presets for ease of access – No more needing to write down those settings for that awesome tone you made. Hooks up to your laptop / computer via a MIDI-to-USB interface (which unfortunately you’ll need to buy separately) and is really easy to use. It’s both Mac and PC compatible, which is helpful. We were disappointed to find that you can’t download presets that have been created by other artists (which is a popular feature on a lot of effects pedals these days), but its a minor complaint.
Don’t just take our word for it…Scouring the internet, we can see that there are plenty more people who share our positive views of this excellent reverb pedal.
Strymon BigSky Alternatives
Comparing these pedals is a bit like comparing supercars. There are always fanboys (and girls) on either side, but the differences are subtle and it generally comes down to personal taste.
Strymon BigSky Vs Eventide Space
The Eventide Space has a bigger range of ambient effects than the BigSky, including its famous Blackhole setting giving off a spooky infinite reverb that you feel like you could get lost in. It’s also possibly a little more tricky to tweak on the fly, but not by much and we noticed that the bypass seems slower to engage.
In general, we found the Space seems to have a smoother, darker, almost alien sound, while the BigSky feels brighter, more lush, and a little “choral”. If you’re into experimenting with darker, alien sounds, then this might be the pedal for you. But both are excellent pedals and we know of many guitarists that have both in their rigs.
Strymon BigSky Vs Empress Effects Reverb
The Empress Effects Reverb pedal is the new pretender to the title of “best reverb pedal ever”, and has quickly gained a huge following thanks to some cool advantages over the BigSky.
The main selling point seems to be that Empress are continually updating the onboard software and adding new effects, which could give it a much longer lifespan. It’s also a little smaller and more compact, making it more portable, leaving more room on your pedalboard.
The range and quality of effects on the Empress are similar to the BigSky, including an awesome sounding stereo cab emulator, with the Empress adding a couple of new effects – “Ghost”, and the delicious sounding “Beer”.
Add these to the fact that it’s slightly cheaper than the BigSky, you can see why it’s quickly become so popular among many guitarists looking for big, versatile reverb. The main downside is that the lack of a screen can make it more tricky to edit and tweak, which can especially be an issue when playing live.
- Effects are regularly updated
- More compact than the BigSky
- Great Stereo cab emulator
- Ghost and Beer modes are unique to the Empress
- The Empress lacks a display, making it more difficult to tweak on the fly
Strymon BigSky Vs Source Audio Ventris SA262 Dual Reverb
Another option you might consider is the SA262 Dual Reverb from Source Audio. When compared with the BigSky, we found that the SA262 tends to excel at the more traditional analogue reverbs effects like Spring, Plate, Room and Hall so if you’re looking for the most faithful replication of those sounds, then this might be your best choice.
The SA262 also offers Tremolo and LoFi settings which aren’t present in the BigSky, but lacks the Cloud and Bloom effects of the BigSky. Overall, it probably comes down to which effects types are most important to you, and which interface you prefer.
- Great for traditional analogue effects
- Includes tremolo and Lo-Fi modes
- Cheaper than the BigSky
Things to consider before buying a Reverb Pedal
In our reverb pedal buying guide, we explained that there are a few things you need to look out for. In simple terms, it all boils down to four things – simplicity, flexibility, budget, and quality but there are some other things to bear in mind too: