EQ Magazine (September 2001)
By Emile Menasche
Reverb Worth Springing For
The modern digital reverb is a monument to the concept of tweaking. You can create virtual spaces of precise detail, adjusting room size, materials, shape, and other characteristics – all the way down to the density of the dog hair on the carpet, it seems. And that’s great. But, there’s also something nice about working with a less analytical mindset. The Demeter RV-1 Real Reverb, a high-class dual-tank spring reverb, offers a distinct sound in a user-friendly package that encourages you to grab and go.
If you think of a spring reverb as something that goes “boing,” in the night, you’ll be impressed with the Real Reverb’s flexibility and quality sound. It employs two 6-spring Accutronics reverb tanks; one is designed for short decay (1.5 seconds long); the second for long decay (3.5 seconds).
A unique routing scheme lets you take full advantage of the Real Reverb’s dual nature. The single rackspace unit is a two-channel device, but its signal flow differs from typical stereo processors that offer mirrored left and right channels. By default, Channel 1 feeds the short tank, Channel 2 the long tank, and each tank feeds its own mono output. But, a front panel Input Link switch lets you combine the signal at both inputs and feed the summed signal to both tanks, while the Output Link switch lets you route the signal of both tanks to both outputs.
This lets you use the Real Reverb in a number of ways: You can run it in dual-mono on two independent signals: you can run a single source into both reverb tanks and pan the output of each tank to spread the reverb out over the stereo field; you can run a single source to both tanks and bring their combined output back in mono; and you can feed a stereo source to both tanks, summing the reverb to mono.
Each channel offers a handful of controls, including Input, Mix, and Output knobs, plus a phase switch and highpass filter switch. There’s also a handy overload LED to tell you when you’re driving the inputs too hard. By adjusting the output level and mix of the individual channels, you can dial up some richly complex ambiences. Unlike a conventional reverb where you think in terms of hard numbers such as pre-delay time, diffusion amount, and early reflection balance, finding the right sound with the Real Reverb is more a matter of moving the knobs and trusting your ears.
We’ve come to think of reverb as a stereo effect, but the Demeter can be as effective in mono as it is in stereo. You can get some killer effects by panning the reverberant signal in opposition to the source, or simply running both source and reverb dead center.
Springing Into Action
The Real Reverb maintains the integrity of the original signal path extremely well, so you can strap it in as an insert effect without destroying your core tone. But, if you operate it in a send/return configuration, you can use your mixer’s pan control to add dimension to the relationship between source and reverb. This technique is especially effective when you’re using the box in one of the mono output modes. For a recent mix, I used the Real Reverb to enhance a fuzzed guitar riff that sounded somewhat thin. Simply EQing the riff caused other problems (such as conflict with the bass). The nature of the arrangement called for the fuzz guitar to be panned hard left – it sounded cool, but threw the mix out of balance. I sent the guitar to the Demeter’s Channel 1 input, linked the two channels, and panned the reverb 75% right. The reverb added dimension and fattened up the sound enough to balance the mix, without burying the riff and taking away its impact.
I also got very good results using the short reverb on bass, which yielded some nice, deep, dub sounds. The short, long, and combined reverb settings were effective on vocals, synth, and sampled instruments, such as horn and electric piano. The Real Reverb’s decay has the kind of smooth bloom you’d associate with a very nice plate, but without that metallic “clang” that many digitally emulated plates seem to have. There’s less of the edge and reflection than you’d get from a room reverb. Think of it like this: instead of creating space, the Real Reverb creates dimension.
Percussion was the one source that gave away that the Demeter’s inside were made of springs. Drums made the reverb go “boing,” though you could mitigate this by patching a gate with a slow attack between the drums and the reverb’s inputs, taking the edge away from the attack. The highpass filter is effective at tuning out some of the rumble that can characterize a typical spring reverb, while the phase reverse switch adds another dimension to the sound – it’s especially effective when the two reverbs are summed.
Demeter is known for building high-end gear, and the Real Reverb has the feel of quality. It’s housed in a rugged metal chassis; it offers both XLR and 1/4-inch TRS balanced inputs and outputs, and the components, from the custom-built transformer to the high-quality amplifiers, are designed for maximum headroom, frequency response, and noise rejection.
There are a couple of things worth noting, however: While the Real Reverb can be extremely quiet, you should be careful where you place it in your studio. In my tests, unbalanced connections resulted in noise; mounting the Real Reverb near a computer monitor is also a no-no, as the unit is susceptible to EMF interference. Finally, the test unit had a slightly loose connection on the input to the Channel 1 reverb tank that caused occasional cutouts in the signal. The tanks housed inside the chassis are moving parts that are connected to wire – treat the unit with care.
Overall though, the Real Reverb’s claim to fame is its unique sound. It’s tempting to call this unit a vintage throwback, but that would be misleading. Spring reverb technology may be old school, but the Demeter’s flexibility and rich tone make it relevant for any number of musical styles, and useful both in the studio and as part of a live rig. If you’re looking for an alternative to digital reverb, you owe it to yourself to give the Real Reverb an audition.
Summary: With its simple interface, flexible routing, and rich tone, the Demeter Real Reverb provides a juicy alterative to digital reverberation at an affordable price.
Strengths: Excellent sound. Quality construction. Ease of use.
Weaknesses: Susceptible to EMF interference. Doesn’t handle percussion as well it does other sources.
Specs and Features
Signal Path: Analog
Inputs: (2) 1/4-inch TRS balanced, (2) XLR balanced (10k ohms)
Outputs: (2) 1/4-inch TRS balanced, (2) XLR balanced (10 ohms)
Maximum output: +28 dBv
Reverb: (2) 6-spring Accutronics tanks, internally mounted
Channels: (2) Short Decay (1.5 seconds); Long Decay (3.5 seconds)
Channel Features: Input, Output, Mix, Phase Reverse, Hi-Pass Filter, overload LED
Mode Controls: Input Stereo/Link switch; Output Stereo/Link switch
Dimensions: Single Rack Space
S/N ratio: >90 dB
Frequency Response: 20 Hz-20 kHz
THD: > 0.1 %