Have we become greedy with our reverbs? A few years ago, if you wanted to add space to your live sound, you’d have to make do with the spring tank in your amp; now the average reverb pedal has algorithms for plates, halls, cathedrals, sci-fi caverns and the cupboard under the stairs in your uncle Derek’s house.
Originally launched as an exclusive for US retailer Sweetwater late last year, Keeley’s compact Omni Reverb is a tidy compromise for guitarists who want a bit of digital versatility, but without all the frilly bits: it has two controls and a three-way mode switch, plus a couple of internal slider switches… and that, in tweakage terms, is your lot. Those knobs at the top control the intensity of the effect and how long it hangs around for, while the sliders let you select true or buffered bypass and ‘wet only’ output for use in a parallel loop.
Sound-absorbing wall panels, stand-mounted reflection filters, old rugs nailed to doors… some of us spend a lot of time and money trying to get rid of room ambience. But as a subtle way of adding depth, it can be smoother than a juddery spring ’verb – and we’re hoping that’s the case here, as a room sound is the first of the Omni’s three modes.
Well, it’s as smooth as you care make it. With dwell set short and reverb level high, we’re not far from the clanging slapback effect of an uncarpeted garage; but at longer and less dense settings, it’s easy to get a more natural, pleasing decay. There’s a bit of added background hiss with it, but nothing truly irksome. Switching to spring mode, the same knob settings give much longer and livelier sounds, and the Omni certainly nails the splashiness of a real reverb tank. Nice stuff… but it’s the plate effect that really makes this an interesting pedal.
Right from the start, we know we’re dealing with a bigger and brighter kind of reverb now; and cranking both controls catapults us straight into the otherworldly realm of post-rock atmospherics. Notes hang around for weeks, and you can layer them to create swirling chord effects that sound beautifully immersive while, somehow, not swamping whatever you choose to play over the top. We’ve enjoyed playing around with this kind of reverb many times before, but rarely has it sounded quite so pretty and addictive.
The option to engage buffered bypass in order to let the decay trail away when you turn it off is welcome, as ever, but in the case of our review pedal, that does also mean a bit of reverb – and hiss – seeping into the dry sound. This is only a major issue with the level set self-indulgently high, though.
Keeley Electronics Omni Reverb
• DESCRIPTION Digital reverb pedal. Made in USA
• PRICE $129
• CONTROLS Dwell, level; room/spring/plate switch
• FEATURES Internal switches for true or buffered bypass (with trails) and wet-only output; powered by 9V mains supply or battery (not supplied)
• DIMENSIONS 111x67x47mm
• CONTACT Robert Keeley Engineering, www.robertkeeley.com