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G Lab DR-3 Dual Reverb and SD-1 Smooth Delay

August 16, 2012
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Designed and built in Zabrze, Poland, the G Lab line of effects pedals proves it is still possible to devise new takes on classic effects types—in this case reverb and delay—in terms of both function and form. The G Lab pedals have a stylish and somewhat high-tech look, avoiding standard enclosures, switches, and knobs—and some even sport “foot knobs” for true pedal control. They are solidly constructed, equipped with silent “optical true bypass” switches, and are powered by standard 9-volt power supplies (drawing a modest 100mA or less).

Both pedals incorporate what G Lab calls “Max Analog” technology, which in this case means that although the core reverb and delay effects are DSP based, all of the other components in the signal path except the A/D and D/A converters are analog—and the dry sound bypasses the converters entirely, remaining analog throughout. As a result, both the DR-3 and the SD-1 boast pristine audio quality while simultaneously avoiding the edginess and lack of dimensionality characteristic of some digital stompboxes.

On a less-positive note, the user manuals for these pedals read like Google gist translations. This is not a major issue with the relatively straightforward DR-3, but poses a significant problem with the feature-rich SD-1. Effects pedals of this quality deserve better manuals.

DR-3 Dual Reverb

There are a lot of great reverb pedals available these days, many of them loaded with features, yet I am unaware of any comparably priced pedal that sounds better than the DR-3 ($339 retail/$249 street). The DR-3 only offers two types of reverb, there are no presets or MIDI connecters, it isn’t stereo, and the only parameters you can control are Time and Level—but the reverb effects it does produce are big and beautiful, with nuanced tails that fade out gracefully, and they make everything you play sound better.

Although there are no presets per se, the DR-3 has two independent reverb sections with their own Time and Level controls, and you can toggle between them using the A/B footswitch, which is functionally the same as having two presets. Reverb B is capable of longer decay times than Reverb A, but otherwise the two are identical. The only other control is the Reverb switch, which selects between Reverb 1 (a very smooth spring-type sound) and Reverb 2 (a more plate-like sound with pre-delay). Bright— but not too bright—Reverb On, Reverb A, and Reverb B LEDs allow you to easily keep track of which functions are engaged, and a Peak LED flashes whenever you exceed safe input levels.

The DR-3 works equally well in front of your amp or in its effects loop, delivering exceptional audio quality in either application. And, when toggling between the two reverbs, the tail of the previous reverb isn’t cut off, which is a nice touch in a pedal at this price. The only thing even slightly esoteric about the DR-3 is its Foot Pedal input, which enables the Reverb A/B switch to be toggled remotely by the SD-1 Smooth Delay or G Lab’s GSC-5 Guitar Systems Controller (though a standard footswitch also works).

This is a fantastic-sounding pedal at a fair price, and as the manual states, “The DR-3 is very simple in use and will not make any problems even for the beginners.” That’s why it receives an Editors’ Pick Award.

Kudos Beautiful reverb sounds. Pristine audio quality.

Concerns None.

SD-1 Smooth Delay

In contrast to the streamlined simplicity of the DR-3, the SD-1 ($399 retail/$289 street ) boasts a robust feature set. And while it too probably won’t pose problems for beginners, professionals and other experienced users will find lots of goodies geared to their needs. For example, there are mini-pots on the side of the pedal for tweaking Input Gain and Effect Level, and a Dry Kill switch for use with a parallel effects loop—all of which enable you to optimize performance within any rig. And the SD-1 can be integrated into a MIDI control system thanks to onboard MIDI In and Thru jacks (PC and CC commands may be used to switch various functions on/off and adjust delay time).

The SD-1 was designed to emulate vintage analog delays and tape-echo units, and to that end there are analog Bass and Treble attenuation controls for fine-tuning the frequency response of the delays, as well as a Smooth function that filters off highs and lows progressively after each regeneration cycle. Another nice touch is the Hard/Soft switch that determines whether repeats will stop abruptly or continue when the pedal is bypassed.

Like most vintage analog and tape delays, the SD-1’s maximum delay length is relatively short. The delay Time control sweeps two different ranges depending on whether the Range switch is set to Low (50ms-640ms) or High (100ms-1280ms). Delay time may also be set using the Tap Tempo footswitch, which works in conjunction with the Mode switch to subdivide the time into 1/1, 1/2, 1/3, and 2/3 ratios (though the latter three require some additional footswitch pressing to program).

The SD-1’s audio quality is excellent and the delays sound full and vibrant unless you intentionally thin them out using the EQ or Smooth controls. Cranking the Feedback control produces hip runaway regeneration, but unlike vintage units, sweeping the SD-1’s delay time doesn’t result in the characteristic time-smearing effects that grace so many ’60s and ’70s recordings. Instead, it causes the delay sound to temporarily drop out altogether. For many users this may not be an issue, but for me it is a buzzkill. Given that the SD-1’s raison d’etre is to emulate analog and tape delays, and other manufacturers are able to endow their digital pedals with this capability, this seems like an unnecessary limitation.

That said, if you are seeking a great-sounding delay brimming with professional features, and producing Bitches Brew-type effects isn’t part of your echo aesthetic, then the SD-1 may be just your cup of tea.

Kudos Excellent delay sounds. Pristine audio quality. Robust feature set.

Concerns Delay drops out when delay time is changed. Inadequate manual.

Contact Guitar Laboratory (TSI Distributing), (212) 229-1347; tsidistributing.com

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