Stanley FX Abbey Road Reverb Stand-Alone Pedal

Synchro

The artist formerly known as: Synchro
Staff member
Jun 2, 2008
26,399
Tucson
Today, I took delivery of a Stanley FX, Abbey Road Reverb pedal. For some time now, I’ve sung the praises of the Stanley FX Blue Nebula, which has a number of delay emulations, and includes a model of the Abbey Road studio’s EMT 140 plate reverb. A lot of great signals have been fed into those plate units, and a lot of great sounds have come out of them. This emulation, in and of itself, is a good reason to buy a Blue Nebula, not to mention emulations of any number of European delay device emulations, an Echoplex emulation and an RE-301 emulation, all packaged with a four stage JFET preamp, But, if you just want reverb, this little pedal will do the trick.

The pedal is in a mini enclosure, takes up little real estate on the old pedalboard, and thrives in 9 VDC, center negative, just like almost every pedal on earth. The controls are Decay, Reverb (mix) and Damping. The Reverb control works about the same as any other reverb mix control. The Decay and Damping controls work together, to tailor the effect, and allow a great deal of control over the nature of the effect. In this pedal, the decay basically controls tne duration of the echo. Turning it up would be analogous to the natural echo of a larger room, while turning it down would be a tighter echo. The Damping control lets you use a longer decay, without sinking into a bottomless pit of reverberation. To me, the combination of these controls add greatly to the adaptability of the pedal.

When talking about reverb and echo pedals, we find ourselves in a world of emulations of emulations. It wasn’t all that long ago that literal echo chambers were the only way to achieve reverb. That meant tying up space in a building, and echo chambers were affordable to larger studios, for the most part. Motown, sort of beat the system by using the attic space of their building as an echo chamber, but the opposite extreme was Capital Records famed building, which was designed and built with echo chambers as part of the plan. Well into the ‘60s, echo chambers were a big part of any studio’s reputation.

The EMT 140 has been said to be the first reverb emulation, in the studio world. (I can’t attest to the veracity of this, but it sounds quite reasonable.) Coming along in the late ‘50s, these units brought reverb into reach for smaller studios, and the sound of an EMT 140 was part of many recordings, for many years, and even to this day.

It’s a fair question to ask if emulations of emulations are worthy of our attention, but my ears tell me yes. At the time of this writing, I have somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 pedals that include reverb, plus a Fender Tube Reverb tank, and I have to say that the emulations in these pedals stand up well. These very from the well-like sound of the reverb in my Boss RE-20, to the crisp response on tne Catalinbread Topanga spring reverb, with lots of sounds in between, but none of these are losers, and all of them have their own set of strengths. Unfortunately, many of these pedals don’t seem to scale down well, so getting a moderate reverb that doesn’t sound washed out can be a challenge.

The Abbey Road pedal seems to have a handle on that, and is capable of effectively delivering reverb which ranges from a subtle studio reverb effect to a Bakersfield effect, to a somewhat drippy Surf reverb, to some ambient sounds where you are awash in reverb that decays very slowly. For my purposes, the subtle effect is more impressive than any other trait, because that can give you the sound common to many recordings, where reverb was a light seasoning.

Overall, this little pedal had earned its place on my board, and it will be on, much of the time.
 

Synchro

The artist formerly known as: Synchro
Staff member
Jun 2, 2008
26,399
Tucson
To the best of my knowledge, it’s the same effect, and same parameters of adjustment. The only thing lacking is tne JFET preamp of the Nebula, which is a wonder to behold. But this stands up quite well, as a stand-alone pedal.

From what I understand, Stanley FX put a lot of work into this emulation, and I believe that they had an earlier reverb-only pedal, in a larger form factor enclosure, that used the same emulation. This new line of “Dinky” pedals seems to be a repackaging, using small DSPs which allow the pedal to be extremely lightweight and compact.

I have been reading about the EMT 140, here, and learning a bit about the intricacies. These were groundbreaking units, and definitely part of the sonic environment throughout the ‘60s, and going forward. Plate reverb was somewhat foundational to the growth of the recording industry, allowing studios to be built without the architectural considerations of an actual echo chamber. It would be interesting had James Burke done a Connections programming about the recording industry, because just the connections and dependencies required to create plate reverb would have spanned the history of metallurgy. The episode could end at Abbey Road studios, with the Beatles‘ A Day In The Life, which sounds, to my ear, like a musical infomercial for plate reverb.
 

Ricochet

Senior Gretsch-Talker
Nov 13, 2009
22,266
Monkey Island
To the best of my knowledge, it’s the same effect, and same parameters of adjustment. The only thing lacking is tne JFET preamp of the Nebula, which is a wonder to behold. But this stands up quite well, as a stand-alone pedal.

From what I understand, Stanley FX put a lot of work into this emulation, and I believe that they had an earlier reverb-only pedal, in a larger form factor enclosure, that used the same emulation. This new line of “Dinky” pedals seems to be a repackaging, using small DSPs which allow the pedal to be extremely lightweight and compact.
Tnx.

AFAIK Stanley FX actually did very little in regards to the echo emulation. They make use of the exact same algorithms as used in the old eTap2HW as programmed by Peter "Piet" Verbruggen. The eTap2HW was offered as a DIY kit by Newtone(A modest Dutch online FX DIY community which I used to frequent)
The kit made it to a guy in the UK who added automation. Then another guy who was buddies with the previous guy, and also in the UK, saw the potential and started Stanley FX.
They did rework the original Fetzer Valve pre-amp, much to the approval of Verbruggen.
 

Synchro

The artist formerly known as: Synchro
Staff member
Jun 2, 2008
26,399
Tucson
I know that at least some of the emulations have been changed, fairly recently, but I don’t know who programmed them. The Blue Nebula preamp is a work of art.
 

GuitarPhil

Electromatic
May 20, 2018
17
Northern Ireland
Tnx.

AFAIK Stanley FX actually did very little in regards to the echo emulation. They make use of the exact same algorithms as used in the old eTap2HW as programmed by Peter "Piet" Verbruggen. The eTap2HW was offered as a DIY kit by Newtone(A modest Dutch online FX DIY community which I used to frequent)
The kit made it to a guy in the UK who added automation. Then another guy who was buddies with the previous guy, and also in the UK, saw the potential and started Stanley FX.
They did rework the original Fetzer Valve pre-amp, much to the approval of Verbruggen.
I have to contradict your 'knowledge' here Ricochet! Perhaps a little history of the developments that brought us to the present state would be helpful?

The current Version 5 emulations of the echo, reverb and other programs in the Blue Nebula (BN) have all had literally 1000's of hours of development by the Blue Nebula team, consisting of Steve Mitchell, Mick Taylor and myself with Piet's approval and support. Steve and Mick are the main DSP coders and I am responsible for the Firmware and the supporting Librarian and Firmware Updater apps for Windows and macOS. Steve and Mick also designed the wonderful 4-JFET preamp. It sounds so good that we even included a "PREAMP ONLY" (no echo) patch in the BN's 60+ factory patches!

Piet's hardware design for the eTap2hw came out in that DIY kit form that Ricochet mentions and I built two of those kits for myself and I became the "guy in the UK who added automation" :cool: I was interested in turning my original 'automated eTap2hw' into a proper pedal and somehow 'met up' in cyberspace via one of the Shadow Music forums with Piet, Steve and Mick who was already building pedals under his StanleyFX brand. The result of our collaboration became the Blue Nebula - we're not quite sure how it got the name but IIRC it's my fault!

The first release of the BN was Version 3.0 and that was basically the same code that Piet had written for his eTap2hw. As I mentioned Mick Taylor was already running StanleyFX and, with Piet's approval, he had previously designed, built and marketed a compact pedal version of the eTap2hw. Mick has subsequently evolved that design into the Baby Blue (BB) which is essentially a Blue Nebula with 8 emulations rather than the BN's 16, and without the display or ability to edit, store and recall patches that are a major plus for the BN design.

Since then the emulations have been more or less completely re-written twice, first to Version 4.0 and then to the current Version 5.0. The original BN hardware can easily be updated over USB to the latest Version 5.10 Firmware and the Version 5 emulations using the Firmware Updater and Librarian apps that can be downloaded free.

Regards, Phil.
 

Synchro

The artist formerly known as: Synchro
Staff member
Jun 2, 2008
26,399
Tucson
I have to contradict your 'knowledge' here Ricochet! Perhaps a little history of the developments that brought us to the present state would be helpful?

The current Version 5 emulations of the echo, reverb and other programs in the Blue Nebula (BN) have all had literally 1000's of hours of development by the Blue Nebula team, consisting of Steve Mitchell, Mick Taylor and myself with Piet's approval and support. Steve and Mick are the main DSP coders and I am responsible for the Firmware and the supporting Librarian and Firmware Updater apps for Windows and macOS. Steve and Mick also designed the wonderful 4-JFET preamp. It sounds so good that we even included a "PREAMP ONLY" (no echo) patch in the BN's 60+ factory patches!

Piet's hardware design for the eTap2hw came out in that DIY kit form that Ricochet mentions and I built two of those kits for myself and I became the "guy in the UK who added automation" :cool: I was interested in turning my original 'automated eTap2hw' into a proper pedal and somehow 'met up' in cyberspace via one of the Shadow Music forums with Piet, Steve and Mick who was already building pedals under his StanleyFX brand. The result of our collaboration became the Blue Nebula - we're not quite sure how it got the name but IIRC it's my fault!

The first release of the BN was Version 3.0 and that was basically the same code that Piet had written for his eTap2hw. As I mentioned Mick Taylor was already running StanleyFX and, with Piet's approval, he had previously designed, built and marketed a compact pedal version of the eTap2hw. Mick has subsequently evolved that design into the Baby Blue (BB) which is essentially a Blue Nebula with 8 emulations rather than the BN's 16, and without the display or ability to edit, store and recall patches that are a major plus for the BN design.

Since then the emulations have been more or less completely re-written twice, first to Version 4.0 and then to the current Version 5.0. The original BN hardware can easily be updated over USB to the latest Version 5.10 Firmware and the Version 5 emulations using the Firmware Updater and Librarian apps that can be downloaded free.

Regards, Phil.
Phil,

As Marco Polo once said: long time, no sea. :)

Thanks for clarifying that.

Pedals have changed a lot, and as I am fond of repeating, many modern pedals are identical, except for the DSP programming and the artwork. Being, basically, a systems man, I tend to think in terms of block diagrams. If you go back to a classic pedal, such as the Phase 90, it was an input buffer, the effect circuitry and an output buffer. (For all of you buffer haters, I hate to have to inform you of this, but when your True Bypass pedal is engaged, you are playing through a buffer.)

So, going back to the early ‘70s, pedals were developed in dimly lit rooms, by sweaty dudes, with a pile of transistors, caps, resistors, etc. It’s basic electronics, applied to signal modification. If an effects company wanted to copy a competitor’s product, they crept over to the music store, wear8mg dark glasses and a trench coat, bought the pedal they wanted to copy, and then made a replica. Copying a circuit is pretty much fair play, unless there is some true innovation that is patentable and not found in prior art. How many Tube Screamer clones are there? The last I heard, it’s about equal to the number of atoms in the Universe, and no one can sue you for making a Tube Screamer clone, painting it green, and selling all you can, unless you call it a Tube Screamer, in which case lawyers will pick you apart like a carrion bird.

So, flash forward to now, and pedals still have the same basic block diagram, an input buffer, tne effect circuitry, and an output buffer. However, the effect circuitry might very well be a DSP, which processes the wet signal, while the dry signal is routed around the DSP and then the two signals are combined, sent to the output buffer, and you smile, and post a Happy New Pedal Day thread, just like I did with this thread.

But the DSP pedals tend to be pretty similar, which is an on/off switch, a Level control (preamp), a Tone control (wet signal treble cut), a Mix (wet signal to dry signal) and some parameter, such as speed or depth of the effect. There are a lot of four knob pedals out there, and my contention is that many of these are hardware identical, but vary in DSP programming and artwork. Actually, TC Electronic has done wonders in this arena with the Plethora.

A Blue Nebula is a DSP based pedal, and to the best of my understanding, uses the same Spin DSP that my Catalinbread Topanga uses, but there are substantial differences between the BN and most DSP pedals. The BN is, in my opinion, the melding of three things.

First off, we start with the middle of the sandwich cookie, the DSP. Spin DSPs are not unusual, but like any DSP, they will sound as good as their programming. The various .hex files that come loaded on the BN represent some very competent programming. The RE-301 emulation is fantastic, the various Shadows patches are spot on, and this couldn’t happen unless the emulations were accurate. That Abbey Reverb emulation is like nothing I’ve ever heard. I’m not a DSP programmer, but I have heard that Reverb is one of the most challenging things to model in a DSP, and what paltry little I have been exposed to DSP programming bears this out. Reverb is much more complex than plain echo.

One layer of the cookie is the preamp. Every pedal has some sort of preamp, even if it’s a only a unity gain buffer. Preamps are a fact of life, but it’s not simply about boosting the signal level. Any device can only work with the signal it receives, and preamps are primarily about matching the signal to the device that will be handling that signal.

So, using a familiar example, the Roland RE-301 was almost as famous for its preamp as it was for its function as a tape delay. Twenty years earlier, the Fender 6G15 sat in front of amplifiers and the boosted signal level pushed the front end of the fashionable Dual Showman of the time and made the amp act differently. (Cue the obligatory Classic Surf Music soundclip.)

Most pedals have no control over the boost, or perhaps a level control, which essentially controls gain of the entire preamp. On my Catalinbread Topanga, the level control basically controls the signal level, coming out of the pedal. If you have buffered bypass selected, the level control is effective, even if the pedal is switched off.

On the BN, the preamp is a bit more complex. It had four stages, and three controls, Gain, Pre and Master. You could set this up to overdrive, but that’s not really the purpose. Instead, by balancing the controls (which is easy), the harmonic spectrum becomes richer. It’s not designed to beat up the grid of your amp’s first preamp stage, but instead to hand your amp an interesting signal.

But there is one other facet of a pedal, and that is the ergonomics. By ergonomics, I mean the interface between human and machine. Ok, no one is going to get carpal tunnel syndrome because of the shape of a knob on a pedal; or if they do, they need to get out of the house more often, but having a usable pedal is a complex proposition.

The Phase 90 was great, one knob, and an on/off switch. My Boss CE-2W chorus has two knobs, speed and depth. This is good, but has some built-in limitations. Also it points up a distinction that is easily overlooked, studio effects, as opposed to live performance effects.

This is where I find the greatest value in the Blue Nebula. When I play live, I clip right along, and frequently there are only a few seconds between songs. The audience doesn’t want to see me bent over, twisting knobs, and I don’t like bending down, on stage, while holding an expensive guitar.
 

Ricochet

Senior Gretsch-Talker
Nov 13, 2009
22,266
Monkey Island
I have to contradict your 'knowledge' here Ricochet! Perhaps a little history of the developments that brought us to the present state would be helpful?

The current Version 5 emulations of the echo, reverb and other programs in the Blue Nebula (BN) have all had literally 1000's of hours of development by the Blue Nebula team, consisting of Steve Mitchell, Mick Taylor and myself with Piet's approval and support. Steve and Mick are the main DSP coders and I am responsible for the Firmware and the supporting Librarian and Firmware Updater apps for Windows and macOS. Steve and Mick also designed the wonderful 4-JFET preamp. It sounds so good that we even included a "PREAMP ONLY" (no echo) patch in the BN's 60+ factory patches!

Piet's hardware design for the eTap2hw came out in that DIY kit form that Ricochet mentions and I built two of those kits for myself and I became the "guy in the UK who added automation" :cool: I was interested in turning my original 'automated eTap2hw' into a proper pedal and somehow 'met up' in cyberspace via one of the Shadow Music forums with Piet, Steve and Mick who was already building pedals under his StanleyFX brand. The result of our collaboration became the Blue Nebula - we're not quite sure how it got the name but IIRC it's my fault!

The first release of the BN was Version 3.0 and that was basically the same code that Piet had written for his eTap2hw. As I mentioned Mick Taylor was already running StanleyFX and, with Piet's approval, he had previously designed, built and marketed a compact pedal version of the eTap2hw. Mick has subsequently evolved that design into the Baby Blue (BB) which is essentially a Blue Nebula with 8 emulations rather than the BN's 16, and without the display or ability to edit, store and recall patches that are a major plus for the BN design.

Since then the emulations have been more or less completely re-written twice, first to Version 4.0 and then to the current Version 5.0. The original BN hardware can easily be updated over USB to the latest Version 5.10 Firmware and the Version 5 emulations using the Firmware Updater and Librarian apps that can be downloaded free.

Regards, Phil.

Tnx for setting me straight Phil. You are the guy!
 

Synchro

The artist formerly known as: Synchro
Staff member
Jun 2, 2008
26,399
Tucson
I probably should elaborate on this thought: “This is where I find the greatest value in the Blue Nebula. When I play live, I clip right along, and frequently there are only a few seconds between songs. The audience doesn’t want to see me bent over, twisting knobs, and I don’t like bending down, on stage, while holding an expensive guitar.”

Using footswitches to choose a patch, I can place the patches in order, name them for the respective songs I use them on, and just click up to the next song. I have my effects and my setlist, all in one.
 

mister rain

Synchromatic
Apr 23, 2020
803
new orleans
Phil,

As Marco Polo once said: long time, no sea. :)

Thanks for clarifying that.

Pedals have changed a lot, and as I am fond of repeating, many modern pedals are identical, except for the DSP programming and the artwork. Being, basically, a systems man, I tend to think in terms of block diagrams. If you go back to a classic pedal, such as the Phase 90, it was an input buffer, the effect circuitry and an output buffer. (For all of you buffer haters, I hate to have to inform you of this, but when your True Bypass pedal is engaged, you are playing through a buffer.)

So, going back to the early ‘70s, pedals were developed in dimly lit rooms, by sweaty dudes, with a pile of transistors, caps, resistors, etc. It’s basic electronics, applied to signal modification. If an effects company wanted to copy a competitor’s product, they crept over to the music store, wear8mg dark glasses and a trench coat, bought the pedal they wanted to copy, and then made a replica. Copying a circuit is pretty much fair play, unless there is some true innovation that is patentable and not found in prior art. How many Tube Screamer clones are there? The last I heard, it’s about equal to the number of atoms in the Universe, and no one can sue you for making a Tube Screamer clone, painting it green, and selling all you can, unless you call it a Tube Screamer, in which case lawyers will pick you apart like a carrion bird.

So, flash forward to now, and pedals still have the same basic block diagram, an input buffer, tne effect circuitry, and an output buffer. However, the effect circuitry might very well be a DSP, which processes the wet signal, while the dry signal is routed around the DSP and then the two signals are combined, sent to the output buffer, and you smile, and post a Happy New Pedal Day thread, just like I did with this thread.

But the DSP pedals tend to be pretty similar, which is an on/off switch, a Level control (preamp), a Tone control (wet signal treble cut), a Mix (wet signal to dry signal) and some parameter, such as speed or depth of the effect. There are a lot of four knob pedals out there, and my contention is that many of these are hardware identical, but vary in DSP programming and artwork. Actually, TC Electronic has done wonders in this arena with the Plethora.

A Blue Nebula is a DSP based pedal, and to the best of my understanding, uses the same Spin DSP that my Catalinbread Topanga uses, but there are substantial differences between the BN and most DSP pedals. The BN is, in my opinion, the melding of three things.

First off, we start with the middle of the sandwich cookie, the DSP. Spin DSPs are not unusual, but like any DSP, they will sound as good as their programming. The various .hex files that come loaded on the BN represent some very competent programming. The RE-301 emulation is fantastic, the various Shadows patches are spot on, and this couldn’t happen unless the emulations were accurate. That Abbey Reverb emulation is like nothing I’ve ever heard. I’m not a DSP programmer, but I have heard that Reverb is one of the most challenging things to model in a DSP, and what paltry little I have been exposed to DSP programming bears this out. Reverb is much more complex than plain echo.

One layer of the cookie is the preamp. Every pedal has some sort of preamp, even if it’s a only a unity gain buffer. Preamps are a fact of life, but it’s not simply about boosting the signal level. Any device can only work with the signal it receives, and preamps are primarily about matching the signal to the device that will be handling that signal.

So, using a familiar example, the Roland RE-301 was almost as famous for its preamp as it was for its function as a tape delay. Twenty years earlier, the Fender 6G15 sat in front of amplifiers and the boosted signal level pushed the front end of the fashionable Dual Showman of the time and made the amp act differently. (Cue the obligatory Classic Surf Music soundclip.)

Most pedals have no control over the boost, or perhaps a level control, which essentially controls gain of the entire preamp. On my Catalinbread Topanga, the level control basically controls the signal level, coming out of the pedal. If you have buffered bypass selected, the level control is effective, even if the pedal is switched off.

On the BN, the preamp is a bit more complex. It had four stages, and three controls, Gain, Pre and Master. You could set this up to overdrive, but that’s not really the purpose. Instead, by balancing the controls (which is easy), the harmonic spectrum becomes richer. It’s not designed to beat up the grid of your amp’s first preamp stage, but instead to hand your amp an interesting signal.

But there is one other facet of a pedal, and that is the ergonomics. By ergonomics, I mean the interface between human and machine. Ok, no one is going to get carpal tunnel syndrome because of the shape of a knob on a pedal; or if they do, they need to get out of the house more often, but having a usable pedal is a complex proposition.

The Phase 90 was great, one knob, and an on/off switch. My Boss CE-2W chorus has two knobs, speed and depth. This is good, but has some built-in limitations. Also it points up a distinction that is easily overlooked, studio effects, as opposed to live performance effects.

This is where I find the greatest value in the Blue Nebula. When I play live, I clip right along, and frequently there are only a few seconds between songs. The audience doesn’t want to see me bent over, twisting knobs, and I don’t like bending down, on stage, while holding an expensive guitar.
dag nab it, you’ve made me want one.

expensive pedal gas. whee!
 

Synchro

The artist formerly known as: Synchro
Staff member
Jun 2, 2008
26,399
Tucson
dag nab it, you’ve made me want one.

expensive pedal gas. whee!
It’s an amazing tool. I’ve done more than a few gigs with just the BN and a Spring Reverb pedal, for when I wanted 6G15 sounds. If you name your patches for the song (you can name the same patch to several song names), and place these in order, you have your set list, right on your pedalboard. If you have a song which uses an effect not on the BN, you can just use the preamp only patch, and then switch in a different pedal.

If you want to go deeper, you can actually change the effects in the pedal. There is a reverb + flanger, reverb + phaser, etc. Basically, it’s a full-blown effects processor, packaged as a pedal.
 

mister rain

Synchromatic
Apr 23, 2020
803
new orleans
It’s an amazing tool. I’ve done more than a few gigs with just the BN and a Spring Reverb pedal, for when I wanted 6G15 sounds. If you name your patches for the song (you can name the same patch to several song names), and place these in order, you have your set list, right on your pedalboard. If you have a song which uses an effect not on the BN, you can just use the preamp only patch, and then switch in a different pedal.

If you want to go deeper, you can actually change the effects in the pedal. There is a reverb + flanger, reverb + phaser, etc. Basically, it’s a full-blown effects processor, packaged as a pedal.
that’s what scares me. i probably never NEED a flanger etc anymore - i feel like i burnt myself out on swirly through the 90s and early aughts - but it wouldn’t hurt to have the option?

honestly, between my ab763’s tank and my dod rubberneck and jam delay llama extreme delays, with a surfybear tank for extra, i certainly don’t need an BN. if i played out though…
 

Synchro

The artist formerly known as: Synchro
Staff member
Jun 2, 2008
26,399
Tucson
Basically, this is about tape echo emulations. It’s as close as most of us will get to the classic tape echos and magnetic drum echoes, including some from Europe. It has an excellent Plate Reverb, Reverb + Tremolo and a nice Chorus. So, basically, 13 types of echo, the three effects I just mentioned, or you can change some of the effects among the last 8. The first 8 can be changed, but then the built-in, hard-coded patches wouldn’t be accurate anymore.

Or, you can just take it out of the box, and enjoy 13 echoes, some reverb, tremolo and chorus.
 


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