Alright, so what more can I say about SpringAge before I actually have to condense my thoughts and put them forward in a review? Well, a comment on its versatility as a reverb for more general use, and a couple more comments on how it stacks up to some other commercial verbs I’ve had experience with.
I’ve found a lot of applications for this in situations I would not normally use spring reverb. At the moment I am loving the sound with a couple high gain (analog pedal distortion) sounds. I normally would never want to use spring reverb with high-gain, it just conventionally doesn’t sound “right” to me. But by rolling down the “Boingy” control and using both EQ bands in “shelving” mode to sort of narrow down the frequencies of the reverb, it retains a lot of the nice character of a spring reverb for guitar without being so abrasive on high-gain the transients. The cool thing is that the same patch works really well for transitioning from low to high gain sounds, and with the lower gain stuff, digging in to the strings actually does still give some nice drippy sound. I suppose the compression and distortion of the higher gain sounds helps to sort of suppress the transients in the first place so there’s not as much signal difference to hit it hard with and get that “boing” sound going on in the first place.
For more conventional usage it’s just dead simple and extremely flexible. With the much less compressed cleaner tone, you still get some nice classic spring sound and feel (if you’re a fan of spring reverb, you know what I mean; if not, think of it as somewhat similar to an algorithmic reverb with a particularly interesting pre-delay behavior due to the way that springs that are already providing reverb sound when you feed more, high intensity signal into them).
For direct comparison, it’s definitely more flexible than Softube’s reverb. Softube’s reverb has a very nice sound to it, though. Going from memory I recall it being a stand-out effect. It is a cool, sophisticated, very old-school inspired model that gives you an interesting sound. I don’t think that SpringAge replaces Softube’s Spring Reverb plugin. It’s still got a really cool sound of its own. Someone at KVR described it as “lo-fi,” and I think that’s pretty fair, it does have a very vintage sound to it. Of the two of them, SpringAge is way more flexible, and with judicious usage of the parameters you’ve got control of you can get it to sound pretty close to that more vintage spring tank sound (picking the right reverb model to start with, then adjusting the immediate parameters to taste, then fooling with the preamp and the EQ to tune the sound). So while SpringAge does have the sound qualities and flexibility to get within the Softube reverb’s sound, you can’t really get Softube’s spring reverb to not sound like it does. Still, in its arena, if you are going for that more “lo-fi” classic Accutronics 3-spring tank, the Softube Reverb may sound better. Like many Softube products, it doesn’t reach for a lot of features, it just does one thing, and does it well. Still, that SpringAge can get up in its face pretty well and bring a lot of the same nice sound qualities is a nice compliment for SpringAge, I think.
The other Accutronics simulator, GSi Type4, Ineed to spend more time with to really feel it out on its own. However, I can comment on it compared to SpringAge, having spent some time putting them head to head. Type4 didn’t “wow” me at first the way that SpringAge did, but there is still a lot going on under the hood with it and I think it deserves focused attention to grasp what it brings to the table. GSi is not a joke of a company by ANY means – they are small and their products are affordable, but they are competitive in sound quality. My initial impression, though, is that SpringAge sounds… better, really, than Type4. Type4 has its own sound, but it is more in direct competition, sonically, with SpringAge – it’s got range, it can do vintage or modern sounds thanks to the parameters it focuses on, it’s got control over the highs and the lows. It is good. But… Anywhere SpringAge and Type4 overlap, sonically, SpringAge sounds better to my ears. There are places Type4 goes that SpringAge doesn’t, but there are places they share, and those shared places are more in SpringAge’s corner. Luckily for GSi there is lots of space where they aren’t overlapping and as such Type4 remains a good, useful tool that isn’t deprecated by the newer and more sophisticated SpringAge, but direct comparisons on “overlapping” sounds do not flatter Type4 over SpringAge.
Try them all yourself, of course, they all have good demo periods and you can get a sense of it all pretty easily. None of them have technical problems, so it really comes down to subjective impressions of the sound, and how much you value the specific tool set that each offers. You will need an iLok for Softube, though, so take that into consideration.
It’s just a really nice overdrive pedal. It’s highly affordable and does a cool trick. It’s somewhat related to the Tubescreamer, but far less so than the Digitech Screamin’ Blues is related to the BOSS BD-2. The neatest thing about the Tubescreamer-like (but not exactly) Bad Monkey is probably the active Bass control. It’s a separate part of the circuit, not a conventional tone stack, and in my opinion shows off the smart engineers behind Digitech’s products. One of the things that makes the Tubescreamer kind of divisive even though it’s a highly usable and popular pedal is the fact that it has a really substantial midrange push and a fairly sharp roll-off in the bass frequencies. The active bass control on this pedal, though, lets you dial the low frequencies in much more than a conventional Tubescreamer. Its actual distortion character – the nature of its clipping – is good, not super exceptional really but good and therefore useful. It has enough gain on tap to work as an overdrive on its own, and it even has the unsophisticated but “workable” Mixer output to save the day if you end up blowing up your amp or something. The fact that it’s a highly affordable pedal is just icing on the cake.
Anyway, I’ll have more to say about it later on. I’m writing the Screamin’ Blues review right now. I think that the more of these that I write about, the more I “get” what Digitech is going for with the product line.