Catalinbread Topanga Spring Reverb Guitar Stompbox Pedal. Big wet and splashy. 60’s outboard spring reverb tank sound. Might be a “Surf Guitarists Dream.”
Catalinbread simple goal was to make a reverb pedal that functions just like an original real deal Fender outboard spring reverb unit. Well actually it is not so simple, but not so as many others have tried and only got so far. Catalinbread did not add extra knobs that would take away from the experience. They matched the controls that were on the original Fender Reverb units. They did extend some of controls in a positive way. I think they get as close as I have heard to an original tube spring reverb tank in a pedal.
From the Catalinbread website:
The outboard Fender 6G15 spring reverb unit is the sound of Surf guitar, Spaghetti Western and many other great guitar sounds from the sixties. Part of its magic, and how it differs from the internal spring reverb found in most Fender-style amps, is that it is run *in front* of the amp, causing the reverb signal to distort and sound more intense. Because there were additional knobs on the outboard units, you also have more control over the reverb qualities. The Dwell knob controlled how hard the springs were getting hit by the guitar signal. The Tone knob allowed the treble to be dialed back to just the right degree of brightness. It was also essentially a tube preamp, so it would color the sound going into the amp. All this added up to a very distinctive reverb sound with a lot of attitude and complex non-linearities that are hard to replicate. But we here at Catalinbread did just that! Besides giving you the classic three knob control compliment of the original, we’ve also added a great discrete preamp that you can control via the Volume knob for a healthy amount of great clean boost when you want it.
Our goal was simple make a reverb pedal that functions just like a real deal outboard spring reverb unit. We felt that adding more knobs for the sake of adding knobs would take away from the experience, so we kept it down to the controls that were on the actual units. We only added or extended controls that contributed to the experience in a positive way. The DWELL knob controls how much signal is going into and driving reverb springs. As on the original unit, cranking this knob up can cause clipping on the wet side due to the signal crashing the springs. Though it seems to imply reverb length (and sort of functions this way), this control is quite literally a volume knob for the springs.
The TONE knob allows you to roll off just the right amount of high end from only your wet signal. Roll this knob back if you want the reverb to appear to more distant and out of the way of your dry sound.
We took liberties with the MIX knob extending beyond the original reverb tank units because we wanted you to be able to make the Topanga 100% wet. Otherwise it is much like the knob on the tanks, allows you to balance between your wet and dry signals.
Original spring tank units had a big feel to them that encourage a lot of attitude from the musician playing through them. We asked ourselves, “how can we make the Topanga even bigger sounding?!” The only answer to that question was add a VOLUME knob that pushes the entire circuit! This is a modification that we have actually performed on the big tube tank units!
Being an old school effect, tank reverb units were invented before effects loops etc. Had the Topanga been invented before the spring tank units, players would have put the pedal in front of their amplifiers and as close to the front of their pedal boards. You should look at your Topanga as a sort of “pre-reverb” type pedal, putting only fuzz boxes in front of it allowing splash, crash, and drench everything downstream. If you have any experience with original tank units, you won’t have any problems finding your way around the Topanga.
So what does it sound like and why would you want another reverb? Well first of all, the reverb in your amp may sound great (mine does), but it does not have the controls of an outboard reverb tank or the Catalinbread Topanga pedal. The reverb sound from the Catalinbread Topanga sounds nothing like the reverbs in my amps. The Catalinbread Topanga also has a totally different sound then the two other reverb pedals I have, which are both pretty well regarded and awesome…. DigiTech Hardwire RV-7 and TC Electronics Hall of Fame Reverb pedals.
The sound of the Catalinbread Topanga is pretty close to an old Fender Tube Reverb Tank Unit that was used by Surf guitarist (and many others) for years. It can get very “drippy and wet” (think Ventures Pipeline or Dick Dale stuff) without the cost and hassle of a Tube reverb unit. Just love what comes out of this pedal.
The original vintage Fender Tube Reverb Tank Unit are pretty hard to find at a decent price and most always will need some work as most of the units date back to the early 1960s. Fender does make a decent reissue, but they are also pretty expensive. Roading one of these Fender Tube Reverb Tanks has some disadvantages as well. They are large and are subject to vibration… Dick Dale used to hang his from the rafters by a robe!