I love electro-mechanical reverbs. I've owned several plate reverbs and currently have a Hamptone-customized EMT 140 along with two different Demeter Real Reverb units [Tape Op #21, #109]. I use these all the time and love the uniqueness of real hardware and rich tones. My pal Chris Benson builds some of the best tube instrument amplifiers out of his shop in Portland, and now he's introduced his first piece of rack-mount gear, the Studio Tall Bird stereo tube-powered spring reverb. There aren't a lot of features, which suits me fine. The Input gain control can be used to set typical levels, or the tubes and spring can be driven a bit for a more obscured reverb tone, and the Output can make sure you're not blowing out the next stage of your signal chain. Bass and Treble control wide, mellow EQ slopes on the spring's output. The unit is set up for wet only output, which I am more than happy about (I'd use my console to submix Studio Tall Bird with a source if needed during tracking). The I/O of the spring is all transformer balanced, though the 1/4-inch TRS connectors on the rear might mislead some guitar players into plugging in (buy Benson's Tall Bird guitar spring reverb for that). Note that these two reverb channels may share the main audio controls, but that they do not share signal paths, so separate sends can be routed through the Studio Tall Bird for more flexibility and some mono reverb fun.

Chris claims that he was gonna build a plate reverb, but that once he built out the prototype of this unit he felt he didn't need a plate. I see what he means. While his Tall Bird for instruments uses shorter springs, and sounds great for that purpose, the Studio Tall Bird uses longer springs inside and has a much longer, deeper dwell; reminding me of a plate to some degree. In some cases, like on short, staccato sounds that only needed a small ambience, this reverb was too much. But on many sources - like Rhodes electric piano, guitar solos, and synth pads - the Studio Tall Bird was awesome, lending a deep blanket of reverb to the sounds. I also liked it tucked way in the back behind some mono, un-doubled, electric rhythm guitar that needed a slight widening in a mix. I've been using the Studio Tall Bird on almost all my mix sessions since Chris Benson dropped mine off, and now I have to pay him for it. You wouldn't think I'd simply return something this cool, do you?

Tape Op is a bi-monthly magazine devoted to the art of record making.

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