Reverb, we all know the word. A sound effect so common it is now on just about every recording and every live performance. It adds plenty to the overall sound and creates an atmosphere.
In our in-depth Electro Harmonix Oceans 11 Review, we are going to explore the design ideas and sound creation possibilities of this quality pedal and find out if it is one of the best reverb pedals currently on the market.
But first, let’s make sure we all know what we’re talking about…
What is reverb?
Have you ever walked through a cold and empty hall that has a stone floor and bare walls, and heard the sound of your footsteps? That is reverb. Reverb is the result of sound waves bouncing off of surfaces. The reflection combines both the original sound and the reflected sound.
Now, you might be thinking we are describing an echo. And you’d be partially correct. An echo is a single sound wave reflecting off of a surface farther than 50 feet away. Whereas reverberation is the reflection of multiple sound waves from multiple nearby surfaces.
When was it first used?
The song ‘Peg of My Heart’ by the Harmonicats gave us a somewhat reverberated sound in 1947.
Plate Reverb was invented in Germany in the late 50s by EMT. It became a good way to produce reverb in a studio but totally impractical for use in a live performance.
Spring Reverb came from the Hammond Organ Company, and by the 1960s, it became a practical effect. Fender included it on their original Twin Reverb amps from 1962.
Reverb as we know it now…
The “standard reverb” arrived in the shape of a practical foot pedal courtesy of the American manufacturer DOD in 1985 with their FX45. This was quickly followed by the Arion SRV1. Then the first digital compact reverb came with the Boss RV-2 pedal in 1987, and Reverb was in the hands of musicians. The rest is history.
But, before we get into the ins-and-outs of one of the best digital reverb pedals, let’s remind ourselves a little about Electro Harmonix.
Founded in 1968 in New York by what looked like a “crazy, wild-eyed scientist” named Mike Matthews, they have become a huge contributor to guitar sounds. They seem to have a developmental philosophy. Make pedals that range from lush sounding greatness to total absurdity. That’s our Mike.
Some important contributions…
There was the Foxey (sic) Lady in the 70s. Then came the Treble Booster and the Bass Booster. But the most known and possibly the best Electro Harmonix pedal is the Big Muff, closely followed by the Memory Man.
Dave Gilmour was an avid EHX user, which isn’t a bad testimonial. Kurt Cobain, another user to be proud of, used the EHX Small Clone and the Polychorus, pedals that are still very much sought after today.
Here, gone, and back again…
They went a bit quiet in the 80s. But musicians were clamoring for their pedals, so back they came. These days they are not only producing a selection of the original designs but also have new pedals with new ideas. Creativity rules at Electro Harmonix.
Two things you can be sure about with Mike and his company. Number one, the pedal is going to be good. And number two, it is quite likely to be rather outrageous and different.
So, now that we have covered a little of the background, let’s have a look at the Electro Harmonix Oceans 11…
If you are expecting to turn it on and see George Clooney, Brad Pitt, and Matt Damon acting in a not so good movie remake of a Rat Pack classic, you will be disappointed.
However, you will get Plate, Hall, and Spring reverb as standard. There is also a newly developed algorithm for the spring reverb. Plus so many more options like shimmer and reverse reverb, there is plenty to keep you occupied with this pedal.
Being an Electro Harmonix pedal, there is a vast array of ‘hidden’ functions to use. But we will keep you in suspense about that.
What did we say? From ‘lush sounding greatness to total absurdity’. It is all in here. Creativity rules. So, let’s have a closer look…
This pedal was first released in 2018. It is a standard size the which means it will fit comfortably enough on most pedalboards. It measures 4.5 by 2.75 by 2.1inches.
The build is quite strong. The chassis is black with some attractive ocean artwork, and the four control knobs are white. There is also an LED light and a mode switch plus a very strong footswitch. It has three ¼ inch jack sockets, which are also quite sturdy. One input and one output plus a socket for an external footswitch.
This pedal has what is known as a buffered bypass rather than the more common true bypass. The design takes the signal and enhances it. This is a way of making sure the sound of your instrument remains stable and is preserved. The buffer is built into the circuits of the pedal and is really just a small preamp.
Other than the footswitch, there are four rotary control knobs and a push button. Here’s a quick summary of what each one does…
This controls the output of the effect. Leaving the control at its lowest point leaves only the dry signal. As you rotate the knob, the level of dry signal decreases, and the amount of the effect increases.
This allows you to decide on the decay time you want. Turning the knob will increase the reverb time.
This gives you a certain amount of EQ control over the reverb sound. Turning the control clockwise will give you a brighter effect. Turning the other way darkens the sound.
This is an important control as it selects which reverb type you are going to use. There are eleven settings to choose from, which include Spring, Hall, Plate, Echo, Trem, Poly, and Shim.
Finally, there is a MODE button…
This takes you through what is available with the active reverb setting you are using. Each of the reverb types has a different number of modes of operation. These modes will make modifications to the sound of the reverb.
The footswitch lets you move between the effect and buffered bypass. There is an LED that will illuminate when you are in effect mode. It also has a function that can be used as a tap tempo in the echo reverb setting. You can create different rhythms and can lock in your tempo by tapping twice.
There is a secondary mode that allows you to access some functions that are hidden away. This extra mode applies some ancillary control functions to the knobs.
If you want to access this, it is just a matter of holding down the Mode button. The LED will then blink to let you know you have access to a range of new functions. These are all located within the existing four controls. We hope you have plenty of time to explore all of these functions because there are a lot to get through, both normal and hidden.
As we have already discussed, there are eleven different reverb types. Hall, Spring, and Plate reverb most musicians will be familiar with and may already have used. So let’s take a look at some of the others briefly.
There are some interesting options. Reverse reverb is when the notes fade in but fade in backward. Jimmy Page claims to have ‘invented’ it in his Yardbirds days. But it was known to be around in the 50s on a tape loop system.
The echo option is self-explanatory, recycling the note or chord through the plate reverb algorithm. The tremolo setting gives you tremolo but with a half reverb layered on top. Mod, a reverb that has modulation. And Dyna will offer swells and gates, responding to your playing style and personal dynamics.
Then it gets more interesting…
Shim, the shimmering reverb. This has a wash that runs behind your core tone but is given an octave shift.
Auto-inf will give you a new reverb wash for each note or strum of a chord. On the majority of types of reverb included in this pedal, the infinite option can be accessed easily. Just push down the bypass footswitch, or if you have one, an external footswitch connected to the infinite jack socket.
The infinite setting makes the reverb that is currently active play indefinitely. This allows you to set up a new reverb setting to play over it. However, the second reverb setting must be a reverb of the same type. The Polyphonic is even more impressive. This takes your basic pre-reverb tone and adds not one but two-pitch shifts.
Simple or complicated?
As you will appreciate, there is not enough space to go into a detailed description of all this pedal has to offer. You can keep it reasonably simple, or you can make it as complicated as you like. Do you need a certain sort of reverb and can’t find it? If so, it can more than likely be found somewhere on this pedal.
Needless to say, all this tech does not come particularly cheap, but the price is not outrageous. Electro Harmonix does not make cheap budget pedals, but they are all cost-effective when you consider what they offer.
Electro Harmonix Oceans 11 Review – Pros and Cons
- Decent build quality.
- Quite compact and won’t take up too much space.
- Nicely decorated with good graphics.
- Easy to read controls, mode button, and LED.
- Buffered bypass.
- Eleven different reverbs.
- Each reverb has a variety of sound options.
- An infinite reverb setting allows the layering of reverb sounds.
- Not the cheapest.
- It will take some time to understand the functions and operations.
Looking for Something Else?
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You might also want to take a look at our reviews of the Best Mini Guitar Pedals, the Best Multi Effects Pedal, the Best Guitar Pedals for Blues, the Best Boost Pedals, and the Best Compressor Pedal currently on the market.
Electro Harmonix Oceans 11 Review – Final Thoughts
This is not a reverb pedal for the faint-hearted. If you are looking for a simple and basic reverb pedal, then this probably isn’t for you. However, if you want something a bit more adventurous that is going to offer plenty of creativity, you should definitely consider it.
It is unlikely that you will find too many pedals that offer the number of sound options as this pedal. That alone makes it a very special reverb pedal. The Electro Harmonix Oceans 11 is certainly that, if not also capable of lush sounding greatness and total absurdity.
Until next time, may the music make you merry.