These are my 4 favorite Spring Reverb pedals at the moment. There are other types of reverb (plate, hall, ambient, just to name a few) but here I’m only talking about spring reverb.
1. Boss FRV-1 ’63 Fender Spring Reverb
The Boss FRV-1’s brown color scheme is meant to evoke the tweed-type look of the device it is meant to emulate…the ’63 outboard Fender Tube Reverb. The outboard Fender Reverb tank is a classic tube-powered stand-alone effect that essentially has it’s own preamp stage. It’s not a true bypass effect or one where your dry signal necessarily comes through unscathed – and the same goes for the Boss FRV-1.
If you’re looking for a pedal that has that authentic surf reverb “drip”, this is the one. If you’re looking for a pedal that gets out of control and shrill at higher settings – just like the real outboard Fender unit – this is also the one.
To use it more like an amp’s built-in spring reverb, remember the following settings: mix 25%, tone 25%, and dwell 75%.
Depending on your gear, turning the tone up to 50-60% and the mix up to 40% will get into some very bright splashy surfy reverb that’s itching for Dick Dale licks.
Bottom line: The Boss FRV-1 is perhaps the most authentic pedal to emulate an outboard spring tank, with all the real deal’s imperfections. And with the tone and mix dialed back, you get some very authentic and warm amp reverb.
2. SolidGoldFX Surf Rider III
The Surf Rider III is an extremely well designed spring reverb pedal. My understanding is that it is built, in part, using the “Belton” reverb component. However, having heard many implementations of the “Belton” digital reverb in other pedals and even in some amps, the Surf Rider’s implementation is far superior and far more authentic.
The Surf Rider has a boost plus an expression pedal input you can use to swell your reverb on the fly. It also has a 3-way selector switch that sounds like it changes the size of the spring that is emulated.
The Surf Rider sounds great at most all settings. Even with the tone all the way up, it doesn’t really get shrill. And I believe your dry tone remains true.
In terms of surf reverb “drip”, the Surf Rider does a better job than most spring reverb pedals, but it’s drip is still more akin to a slap-back echo than the watery drip from an outboard spring tank.
Bottom line: The Surf Rider III is perhaps the most adjustable spring reverb pedal you can find, and it always sounds musical and pleasing, if you don’t need splashy authentic reverb “drip”.
3. Zoom G1on
The Zoom G1on is a small multi-effects unit with a lot of features. While I wouldn’t normally mention it as a typical pedal board addition, the G1on comes with an incredible spring reverb emulation called “Spring63” that can be dialed in very much like a real 1963 outboard Fender Spring Reverb tank. It can be overpowering and splashy for surf or dialed down like a warm built-in amp’s reverb.
Bottom line: The Zoom G1on is a little box that does most everything and is a lot more complicated than your average pedal, but don’t let that deter you from one of the very best outboard spring reverb tank emulations out there.
4. Catalinbread Topanga
The Topanga is a well designed spring reverb pedal that is simple to use and sounds authentic. It maintains your dry tone and is true bypass – unlike a real outboard spring reverb tank – but that can be a good thing depending on your needs.
The Topanga does a reasonably good job at emulating an outboard spring tank and a great job at emulating an amp’s built-in spring reverb. The Topanga can do a great job with surf and overdriven surf tones, but it doesn’t have the most authentic “drip”. It has more of a slap-back echo. It is my understanding that the Topanga is built using a “Spin” chip which is a DSP chip used by some other pedals as well.
Bottom line: The Topanga is a pleasing and authentic spring reverb pedal, if you don’t need the most authentic reverb “drip”.