As recording mediums continue to get quieter and quieter, the age-old problem of tape hiss has all but disappeared. Digital effects and processors come close to emulating the sound of vintage microphones, compressors and effects, yet most ears still agree that there is nothing quite like the real thing. Sound Enhancements’s AccuVerb ($1,599) analog spring reverb is the real thing.
Product PointsApplications: Studio, live sound
Key Features: Tube-driven spring reverb; input controls; +4 dBu/-10 dBV operation
Contact: Sound Enhancements, Inc, 800-284-5172, 847-639-4646, Web Site
+ Dimensional reverb for certain instruments
– limited control of parameters
The Score: Though it does not have the flexibility to act as a studio’s sole reverb, the AccuVerb makes an excellent second or third reverberation box.
Sound Enhancements may not be a familiar name but the company’s spring reverb units are among the most recognizable in the world. Originally developed for the Hammond Organ back in the 1950s (so the sound of a large cathedral or theater could be simulated in a carpeted living room), the original spring reverb unit was four feet tall. At that point in time, size was not an issue since all Hammond organs included a large Tone Cabinet that contained the speakers and a reverb unit. As time passed, the reverb units became smaller and smaller and by the 1960s, Leo Fender decided they would be the perfect complement to his Fender guitar amps. Today, Sound Enhancements continues to manufacture spring reverb units for Fender, Peavey, Marshall and many other amplifier manufacturers. The Sound Enhancements product line also includes the Morley line of special effects pedals, stomp boxes and switches.
The Sound Enhancements AccuVerb is a two-rack-space, 15.1 inches deep, tube-driven spring reverb. The rear panel of the 15.3-pound box is equipped with two female XLR connectors that provide audio input and two male XLR connectors that provide output. Each of the four XLR connectors has a 1/4-inch TRS jack wired in parallel (unbalanced 1/4-inch plugs can be used without damaging the unit).
The front panel is equipped with two controls for input level (Channel 1 and 2). The push-pull potentiometer knobs can be pulled to add the dry signal to the output mix. LED VU meters above each input control provide a visual reference of input level.
The Source control balances between Channel 1 and Channel 2 for the reverb input. The Length control increases the decay time to determine “room length.” Pulling the length control (Pull Boost) creates a low-frequency boost.
The Width control determines the degree of separation between the two reverb outputs. Pulling the width control (Pull Bright) simulates a lower ceiling.
The Mix control determines the reverb output level. When that control is pulled, it determines the blend between the dry and reverb signals. Independent Channel 1 and 2 controls set the output level. LED VU meters above each output control provide a visual reference for output level. The Output Level Switch can be switched for +4 dBu operation or -10 dBV operation.
The AccuVerb manual is well written and offers several scenarios, which allows for quick setup in the most common situations.
I used the AccuVerb for several months and have found it to be an enchanting box. It is not for every mix, but when it works, it shines. The box’s controls are a bit quirky to operate at times – some of them being subtler than I would like – but it always sounds good.
Electric guitars are an excellent match with the AccuVerb. In most situations I found the box worked best with guitars when it was actually inserted in the channel. This allows the box to provide tube coloration to the guitar tone as well as the desired amount of reverb. The input level can be adjusted to determine how hard the tubes are hit and the output can be adjusted to maintain proper gain structure.
Horns are another fantastic match with the AccuVerb. The verb’s smooth tail is a perfect match for the timbre of brass and woodwinds. I did not have much luck using the AccuVerb with drums or percussion. The result was too bouncy or springy.
Although the AccuVerb essentially does only one thing, it does it really well. And it does it in a way unlike any digital box. Any studio or engineer looking for a quality reverb as well as a unique piece of gear should consider the Sound Enhancements AccuVerb.