Test Drive: The Strymon Flint Reverb/Tremolo

Discussion in 'Guitar & Gear Reviews' started by Synchro, Apr 13, 2019.

  1. Synchro

    Synchro The artist formerly known as: Synchro Staff Member

    Jun 2, 2008
    Tucson
    Admin Post
    The Strymon Flint

    As an effect-pedal minimalist, I find my interests confined mostly to reverb, delay, tremolo and perhaps a bit of chorus. With this in mind, I am always looking for the next holy grail of reverb in a pedal. (For the record, I have a Fender tank, but don’t use it at the short duration gigs we tend to play.)

    The Strymon Flint appealed to me because it combined some serious reverb emulations with several flavors of tremolo, namely Harmonic Tremolo, Bias Varying Tremolo and the Blackface Optically Coupled tremolo. The reverbs offered on the Flint are a ‘60s reverb (think Blackface amp) a ‘70s plate emulation and an ‘80s rack reverb. The two functions, Reverb and Tremolo, are controlled by separate foot-switches.

    So, how does it sound?

    For the record, my test guitar was a Japanese made Fender Jazzcaster hybrid with a P-90 in the neck and a Telecaster bridge pickup. For the Surf sounds, I used the ultra twangy bridge pickup. For most of the other tests I selected both pickups, except for a brief foray into the ultra mellow sound of the neck pickup, just so I could see how the reverb functioned for the mellow stuff.

    Overall, both the reverb and the tremolo sounded as good as any pedal I’ve ever heard, but the news was not all positive. Please, read on:

    Reverb

    My first task was to go for a strong Surf sound. With the ‘60s reverb selected and the mix turned high, I got a Surfish sound, but it was not the sound of a dripping reverb tank. It was more along the lines of a Blackface Fender amp’s onboard reverb. It was a solid sound, a very decent sound, but the “drip” of a reverb tank pushed this pedal to its limits. I could make it drip, but I couldn’t make it drip to the extent of a real tank, or to the extent of my Catalinbread Topanga.

    But, as long as we are talking about the spring reverb emulation, I think it’s only fair to talk about the strengths of this pedal. It is an excellent tool for a Blackface flavored reverb emulation. Buck Owens & Don Rich, countless Country, Pop and Rock songs from the ‘60s and even Instrumental Rock, such as the Ventures are all sounds within easy reach of this pedal. However, the intense drip of hardcore Surf, the Astronauts or Dick Dale (RIP) is not to be found in the Flint.

    The ‘70s plate Reverb was good, a bit more clearly voiced than the ‘60s emulation. This is the sound of many ‘70s hits. It’s smoother and less hard-edged than the spring reverb that had dominated the prior decade. It’s a good sound, a versatile sound and a useful sound, but it’s not the star player of this pedal.

    The ‘80s Rack Reverb emulation is not much different than the ‘70s Plate emulation, but to my ears it was somewhat stronger, somewhat clearer. If I owned this pedal, I would probably use the ‘80s Rack Reverb emulation most of the time. I don’t see it as a sound which favors any particular musical genre. It’s more on the order of a studio reverb. It’s one of the best reverbs I have ever heard.

    One thing I will say for all of the emulations on the Flint is that they are controllable. Set the Decay control to keep things orderly and you will find yourself with a very useful, very serviceable pedal.

    The only thing I will say which could be considered even slightly negative is that this is not the reverb I would choose were I looking for a hardcore Surf sound. While you can get close to a Surf sound, and it’s certainly Surfy enough to satisfy the casual audience, the reverb of this pedal is unlikely to satisfy a Surf player hoping to capture the drip and excitement of a 6G15 Fender tank. I wouldn’t characterize this as a flaw, but it is a limitation which must be recognized. If you are a Surf player, try before you buy.

    Tremolo

    Now the tremolo side, and it’s a straightforward story. No matter which I chose, there was no volume loss, and the tremolo emulations seemed not to color the sound character. Three choices, ‘61 Harmonic, ‘63 Tube (bias varying) and ‘65 Optical. The Harmonic tremolo is one of the better I’ve heard. It seems to avoid the seasickness-inducing effect that I’ve heard on some other products. Harmonic Tremolo is not my personal favorite, but I find this emulation easy to like.

    The Bias Varying Tremolo emulation appealed to my tastes, much as the real thing does. It’s a throbbing, insistent tremolo which adds texture without adding any undesirable artifacts. By far, this is my favorite of the three.

    The Optically Coupled Tremolo emulation is very much like the Blackface tremolo sound of the ‘60s. By nature, this is a choppier sound than the Bias Varying Tremolo. It is a sound you might have heard in later ‘60s recordings. It’s also insistent, but I wouldn’t call it a throbbing tremolo. The ramp of volume change is much steeper, the sound more intense.

    Strymon did their homework on all of these emulations. I can’t criticize any of the three.

    Of course, the Reverbs and Tremolos can be used simultaneously. It’s possible to reverse the order, tremolo before or after reverb, and this can be a useful tool in its own right. While my test was not to this depth, what I did find was that using both effects at the same time is a painless process. There were no volume problems, no unpleasant surprises. Once again, with regard to the integration of these two effects, Strymon did their homework and delivered a very viable product.

    And that is where I will end it. The Strymon Flint is a very competent product, which delivers upon all that it promises. Reverb, and to a lesser extent, Tremolo, are core effects which are used in many sorts of music. The Strymon Flint will serve the needs of almost all players and deliver reliable, competent and controllable effects to its users. Beyond the familiar spring reverb which most of us know well, it delivers two other reverbs which add something new to our pallet. For my purposes, these might be the most valuable feature of the pedal. They bring some relatively expensive reverbs into the realm of the average player. That ‘80s Rack Reverb emulation is one of the best reverbs I’ve ever heard.
     
    Wozob, Henry, pmac11 and 3 others like this.
  2. blueruins

    blueruins Country Gent

    May 28, 2013
    Savannah, GA
    Thanks Synchro. I’ve thought about adding this pedal as well.
    To be fair to Strymon, I don’t believe it’s been marketed as an outboard Fender Reverb simulation. They are pretty clear that it’s meant to replicate the sound of an onboard Fender spring Reverb.
    As you say...that won’t cut it in all applications for most hard core surf reverb junkies. That is an important distinction.
     
    Henry likes this.
  3. Synchro

    Synchro The artist formerly known as: Synchro Staff Member

    Jun 2, 2008
    Tucson
    Admin Post
    They do refer to it as “the classic ’60s Spring Tank Reverb” (text taken directly from Strymon’s website), so I can’t let them entirely off the hook. However, not every classic ’60s Spring Tank Reverb user was cranking their tank up to the levels that were common in Surf music. It’s a very good spring emulation, and will not disappoint most players, but for Surf purists, I’d recommend the Catalinbread Topanga, EHX Ocean’s 11 or the JHS spring reverb pedal.
     
    blueruins likes this.
  4. Bertotti

    Bertotti Country Gent

    Jul 20, 2017
    South Dakota
    Quite like the one Strymon pedal I have, they have good products maybe not for everyone and some take a bit of tweaking to really dig into but there is great tone in there.
     
  5. Henry

    Henry Gretschified

    Apr 9, 2014
    Petaluma
    Great review. I own one and agree with everything you say. But from a less-experienced perspective.
     
  6. Wozob

    Wozob Country Gent

    Jul 6, 2014
    The Netherlands
    Thanks for the review. I looked into the Flint for a while, but as I already had the Semaphore and Pareidolia tremolo from Catalinbread I just went for the Topanga. It serves me well.
     
  7. Ricochet

    Ricochet Gretschified

    Nov 13, 2009
    Monkey Island
    Good sounds. Seems a convenient pedal if all you use is a trem and verb. But you're bound to fall out of love with one side of the pedal, and then what?
     
  8. TSims1

    TSims1 Friend of Fred

    Jun 18, 2013
    Atlanta
    Agreed. I would never buy this pedal(I have and use one)for a vintage flavored reverb pedal. It isn’t. But if you take THAT off the table, you are left with a delicious reverb maker.

    Don’t forget about the hidden settings either.......that Tremolo side offers a wonderful boost if you wish. You can even turn the Tremolo off completely and use that button ONLY as a boost. Very convenient.


    I will say as good as the reverbs are.........Neunaber stills holds the crown for ‘verb beauty imo. I bought the Flint basically for pedalboard real estate reasons........having a trem, verb, and boost all in one pedal was what swayed me.
     
    Ricochet likes this.
  9. TSims1

    TSims1 Friend of Fred

    Jun 18, 2013
    Atlanta


    Oh.......easy! Then you just buy more stuff!!! ;)
     
    Ricochet likes this.
  10. Synchro

    Synchro The artist formerly known as: Synchro Staff Member

    Jun 2, 2008
    Tucson
    Admin Post
    Tony,

    Which Neunaber, the Immerse of the Wet?
     
  11. Synchro

    Synchro The artist formerly known as: Synchro Staff Member

    Jun 2, 2008
    Tucson
    Admin Post
    It’s definitely a good pedal, no question about that. It’s just not necessarily going to satisfy someone looking for the drip sound from a tank.

    It’s hard to beat the Topanga.
    I’m afraid that would be the case with me.
     
  12. TSims1

    TSims1 Friend of Fred

    Jun 18, 2013
    Atlanta

    You know, I’m not sure......I had the Expanse with EXP which afforded me the entire Neunaber library.........that’s the way to go btw.....
     
  13. Ricochet

    Ricochet Gretschified

    Nov 13, 2009
    Monkey Island
    Depends...

    The Expanse/EXP has the entire Neunaber FX library. The DSP engine is relatively old, making it very unlikely there'll be new algorithms or updates.

    The Immerse should be thought of as a "best of" all the Reverb algorithms from the Expanse series, with maybe an algo bonus thrown in. It can not be programmed, there is no input for expression etc.

    The Immerse MK2 Reverb uses a more powerfull DSP engine with updated algos.
     
  14. Synchro

    Synchro The artist formerly known as: Synchro Staff Member

    Jun 2, 2008
    Tucson
    Admin Post
    Ok, makes sense. The Immerse Mk II seemed pretty interesting.
     
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