Back in the 20th century (1976, to be exact), I wrote an article for Guitar Player on how to build the Stage Center Reverb. That spring reverb effect mutated into a dual-spring reverb tank design, with the inputs wired in parallel and out of phase so that when the reverb first hit, the sound cancelled. As the reverb progressed, the decays became more dissimilar and were no longer out of phase. As a result, the reverb would “bloom” after your initial pluck, emulating the sound you hear onstage, where the reverb bounces off the room’s surfaces and eventually comes back to you. (This circuit is still available on Paia.com as the “Hot Springs” DIY kit.)
But with a tip of the hat to Blade Runner 2049, it’s a new century. In 2013, my “Reinventing Reverb” Guitar Player column described how to construct the same effect out of several plug-ins and a pair of send buses. Now, five years later, we have a simpler, more effective way to create it with the Line 6 Helix Native plug-in. (The same principles described in 2013 remain valid when using plug-ins that don’t offer parallel paths or phase flipping.)
Figure 1 shows the Helix preset. The input goes into a Y split (circled in blue, with the parameter settings outlined in blue). Each split goes into a reverb — Hall is a good choice — with identical settings, and then into a mixer (circled in green, with the parameter settings outlined in green). The crucial elements are outlined in red. Set the second, parallel signal path input to “None,” and the mixer’s “B Polarity” parameter to “Invert.” It’s also important to set both reverb mix parameters to 100% and both reverb level parameters to +6.0 dB. Finally, note that because of the cancellation, the overall reverb level is relatively low. The post-mixer gain block can increase the level.
Figure 2 shows how to use this preset in a typical DAW. Like traditional reverbs, the Stage Center Reverb 2049 is a send effect (also called an aux or bus effect). Insert it in a bus, then insert a send into the guitar’s channel and send the guitar’s pre-fader signal to the reverb bus. The guitar channel’s fader sets the guitar track’s level, and the bus fader adjusts the amount of reverb.
With the guitar’s fader down and the bus fader up, you shouldn’t hear anything, because the mixer inverts the phase for one of the reverbs, so the sound cancels. Now open one of the reverb blocks, start playing and increase the decay time; for example if one reverb is set to 3.5 seconds of decay, set the other to 7 seconds. The initial attack will cancel, but as the decays become more dissimilar, the reverb will start to bloom. Finally, bring up the guitar channel’s level for the desired balance of guitar and reverb. You’ll be rewarded with a beautiful, liquid, ethereal-sounding reverb.
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