19 November 2013

Pedal Effects: TC Electronics Hall of Fame Reverb


Note: this is an article published around August / 2011 in my old Spanish version of this blog and, that I am revisiting here, in English.

The reverberation effect maybe was create to fix a "historical error".
In early times, musical recording where made by using a couple of mics, to get the stereo sound on the room, to be recorder in some tape system.
The issue with that method was that the whole band should work as a precision clock.
The smallest error would force to the whole band to record everything again and, recording sessions are expensive and time consuming.
Also, these kind of recordings were able to catch other unwanted noises that were present in the room without no one having noticed them but, you know, is surprisingly what mics can catch!.

With the born of multi-tape systems, also born the idea to record separately every instrument in a track so, this would let you to record again just the track of the instrument that failed during performance.
But, since the new recording was made without the rest of band, the ambience sound of the recorded track, didn't matched the ambience sound of rest of tracks.

So, there was the need to completely isolate each instrument from the rest.
For this, separated recording rooms were prepared and, acoustically treated to remove some sonical aberrations, as "comb effect", "room modes", etc. That lead to create "dry rooms" (where you can clap and have no echo feedback).

And all that was nice to isolate instruments and to focus just on the parts that failed before. That speeded up the workstream of recording tasks. But, the big drawback is that dry sounds doesn't like to human hearing. Together with the original source of sound, we need to hear the complex echoes that are being generated while the original source starts to bounce against the several objects it finds while traveling. This is key for us to clearly identify distance and direction of the original source. This was key for a hunters specie, as ours.

If in real world we can see vocals in a first line, with keyboards and guitars in a second and, drums and bass guitar in a third line, in a dry recording everything comes to a first line, going from a "3D picture" to a "2D picture".

So, we were successfull by isolating the instrument from the rest but, to that recording all the right spatial information was missed so, engineers started to test artificial ways to restore the ambience to push every instrument back to the line in that 3D representation of sound.

First reverberations were made as Reverberation Rooms, were they reproduced the dry sound and, they recorded again the reverberated sound produced in such a room. This is a complex reverberation information that depends basically on dimensions and material of the room. Have you ever seen a ROOM reverberation effect in any pedal or rack effect?. Then, you know what it means, now.

Fender made some boxes full of springs in their amps. The signal was sent to a springs unit. A tube was increasing the power of the signal to create some vibration on those strings and, the results of such a vibration was mixed with the original signal. This is the type of reverberation known as SPRING reverberation.

In studios, a new way of reverberation was used, by means of a series of metallic plates to generate such a reverberation, which delivered brighter echoes. This reverberation types is known as PLATE reverberation.

The in-depth study of spaces, how echos are being generated, mixed and spread, which frequencies are being reinforced or dimmed and many other variables, were key for a new reverberation approach and, we can see some emulations of the reverberation characteristics that can be found in certain spaces, like stadium, cathedral, bath room , cave and, anything else a sound designer was interested on.

That spacial emulation was evoluting to a impulses reverberation. For this, a signal is sent in a certain real space and, how the signal evolutes in time is being recorded in many variables at same time, creating an impulse file. This "sonic fingerprint" is being used to modify any other signal and, in that way, results seem to be closer to real world.
The big issue with impulse reverberation is the kind of algorithms that are needed for an accurate representation of the original impulse and, that means a lot of processor resources, what makes this kind of plugins really heavy for a PC.

The amp's reverberation (springs) is one of the typical effects that a guitarist uses but, such an effect is switched out when recording the guitar and, later, studio quality reverberations will be added to guitars track, by example.

Therefore, a reverberation pedal should be of help to us if our amp hasn't such an effect and, if we are playing with our band or alone with some backing track.
Usually, in a live performance, our sound goes thru a good mixing desk and, it's possible that the engineer will choose its own rack effects for that task.

Currently, I've go a Line6 Verbzilla that sounds with a certain "digititis" and, that doesn't fully convinces me. I am running it in front of the amp (the Night Train hasn't FX loop, by example) and, specially combined with gain pedals.

In studio world, reverberations from TC Electronics have a big reputation (specially those coming with their system 6000). As I already decided to go for a Flashback (delay) pedal, I wanted to test their Hall of Fame, as well.

And, this is all about this article. I will give my impressions will testing this pedal effect.

TC Electronic Hall of Fame Reverb


This pedal comes in a very small cardboard box, very "marketed" with serigrhapy.
Inside, the pedal, a user's manual (well, a DIN A2 sheet in several languages), some ads, a TC Electronics sticker and a USB cable.

The pedal has an unsealed battery inside so, you can choose to install that battery or to feed the pedal with son AC adaptor.

To open the pedal is really easy. The whole bottom plate is removed with the help of a big centered screw, with an slot where you can fit any coin so, you don't need a screwdrive for this.

Inside, the complete circuit is hidden by a metallic cover and, just the battery slot and, a micro-switch with two switches is visible.


On its sides, it has a couple of inputs and outputs so, it works in real stereo.
In the upper side, there is some USB port, that will allow to update the user bank (called Toneprint) and, an iput for a 9V adaptor.

Rest of controls lay over the frontal side and, are as follow:

Fx level
It's the volume of the wet (effect) signal. The amount of processed signal that is added to the original signal, which goes directly to output without processing.

Time of decay of the revereration effect, that is, how long is the effect respect to the original sound.

Allows to modify the overal tone of the reverberation effect.

Reverb Type Selector
Allows you to choose between 11 distinctive reverberation effects, which will be described below.

A toggle micro-switch allows you to choose between 2 different types of pre-delay. Up is a short pre-delay. Down, a long pre-delay.
Time between direct and indirect reflections.

Pedal switch
Switches the effect on and off.


Reverberation types

This unit includes 10 different types of reverberation. Following the order seen on the selector, these are the algorithms.

Corresponds to the very first reverberation type used in studios, as discussed in the introduction.
Is about an small room, where most of reflexions are being absorved by soft materials, being the sound reflected mainly by walls and windows.

Wide and diffuse reverberation. Like a big hall but, it adds somewhat an accoustic character to the sound. Very useful for percusive sounds.

Typical amp spring reverberation.

Studio plates reverberation type. Bright and diffuse.
Very useful as a clean reverberation for guitar.

It uses a gate to cutoff the decay in reverberation tails.
Broadly used in studios for snare and kick in '80s.

Reverberation modulated with a vibrato effect.

Dirty and low quality reverberation effect. For very special uses.

The kind of echoes you can hear in a bathroom. Strong effect.

Ambience reverberation. Very short and, simulates a very natural space. Very useful to give just a bit of ambience to dry recordings, with a very close mic.

Cathedral simulation. Wide and diffuse and, emulates the echoes procudes with tight objects of different size that you could find inside a church.

This is a user writable bank.
If you download the proper software from TC Electronics site and, you use the USB cable that comes with such a pedal, you can overwrite the stock algorithm with any kind of reverberation effect you like. You have complete control over every parameter.
You can, as well, download one of the professional Toneprint files that some people already designed.

Fine tuning the reverberation effect

Once you choose the type of reverberation, you should fine tune the sound, controlling tails with Decay knob.

You can drastically change the effect with that Pre-Delay switch, for any type. This switch controls the time between the direct and indirect reflexions. The greater the pre-delay time, the closer it sounds (more "in your face"), because early direct reflexions mean closer walls.

Bypass y Kill-Dry modes

As we mentioned, when removing the bottom cover, there is a small micro-switch with two switches.
One of them controls if the pedals should work as True Bypass or Buffered Bypass.

When the virtual length of the cable from guitar to amp is long enough, there is clear lost in tone and, the chain can benefit of a buffer at the beginning and the end of the chain. But, to activate a buffer before vintage pedals like wah and fuzz can be worst than leave that tone as is. So, you should try how it works in your case.

When we activate the Buffered Bypass mode we can, also, to remove the original (dry) signal in the output of this pedal. This is useful if you are using this pedal inside a Parallel FX Loop in your amp.

My impresions

My main interest on this pedal was to cover the lack of reverberation that some of my amps have and, therefore, I was more interested in to use it in a conventional mode, without excentitries.
Because of this, I think there are videos enough in Youtube that you can check and, I wasn't thinking on doing one by myself, because I think I couldn't add anything else.

So I was trying the different options to finally choose that one that better worked in my case.

To me, the sound has some digitits that its more clear while playing the guitar alone. Some settings, where the level of effect is high and the decay is long, show that digital artiffacts, which are more clear during the attack phase of the sound (where you could even hear some kind of chask) and, during the release phase (some metallic touch).

As discussed, those artiffact are usual in digital pedals and, you can hear them more or less depending on the quality of its converters and signal processors.

But, once the sound is being integrated in the mix, it's excellent!.
I've tested it with some backing tracts and that digitits sensation disapears (it also helps to reduce the amount of effect or the decay time) and, the sound is, overall, very satisfactory.

I went for every reverberation type and, in my opinion, the guitar sounds better with not so wide reverberations, defined and not so long.
For a classic sound, the SPRING type gives us the typical amp reverberation sound.
The PLATE type is more bright and helps to clean the sound.

Wide reverberations, as CATH or HALL, seem to push the sound of the guitar to the back and, can be of interest for more ambiental sounds.

Compared to the Line6 Verbzilla, the Hall of Fame seems to work better and, very specially under distortion, where the Verbzilla goes dark and confuse.

Esentially, this pedal brings you 10 different modes of reverberation and, each one is very distinctive of the rest and has some specific application, which gives a great versatility to it.
While the SPRING mode is the one closer to amp's reverberations, it hasn't the warm character of the real deal, sounding to me more metallic but, I recognize that, once in the mix, the results are really good.

I was combining thsi pedal with the rest of the pedal board, getting a great sound (barely studio-alike) and, it work really good together with the TC Electronics Flashback Delay (already reviewed in a previous article).

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