Catalinbread Launches the Soft Focus Reverb Pedal, an “Instant Shoegaze Button” for Dreamy Guitar Ambience
Inspired by the rack-mounted Yamaha FX500 unit, the Soft Focus takes reverb off-road for recreating the shoegaze sounds of Souvlaki-era Slowdive and more.
Portland, Oregan effects pedal specialist Catalinbread has launched a reverb pedal that in one stroke can cater for all your blissed-out shoegaze electric guitar tones. The Soft Focus Reverb is inspired by the eponymous patch on the vintage Yamaha FX500 rack-mounted unit, one that was put to good use by early ‘90s indie and shoegaze bands.
The most notable of these were the English band Slowdive, whose 1992 album Souvlaki could serve as a demo of the Soft Focus 40 years before its launch. There were clues if you looked for them that Catalinbread had planned some kind of stompbox inspired by the FX500.
A 2021 blog on the Catalinbread site celebrate the legacy of the FX500, Catalinbread describing ‘Patch 40’ – aka Soft Focus – as “a 100 percent wet mashup of many different effects for a very interesting synth-like sound” and noted its importance in pop-culture.
Indeed, the FX500 was described as “shoegaze machine” – those looking for My Bloody Valentine tones were advised to check out its ‘Early Reflections’ setting.
Incorporating a Yamaha FX500 into a modern-day rig might not be that practical, and there are downsides to its design – particularly for guitar players. As Catalinbread notes, there was “no mix control, a sub-par preamp, and a ghastly tone-sucking bypass signal”. All of which are remedied in the Soft Focus.
At the pedal’s core is a plate reverb, but there is an abundance of controls for warping it out of shape. There is a Symph dial, which adds a subtle octave effect that changes the character of the reverb, adding more harmonic content to the reverb.
A Mod control sets the rate of a multi-voiced chorus and alters some of the frequencies in the reverb oscillation. Verb controls decay time while Volume adds gain to your dry signal – or as a clean boost when the pedal is bypassed in buffer/trails mode.
Finally, there’s an all-important Mix knob for setting your wet/dry mix.
All of these controls are interactive, so there is going to be some merit in experimenting with the Soft Focus, jotting down settings that work for you.
There is, of course, one setting that sounds good right off the bat, and that’s simply diming everything and surrendering to the ambience. That’s pretty darn shoegaze. But finding subtle textures in ambience is part of the shoegaze guitarist's skill-set, too.
The Soft Focus is available now, priced $209. See Catalinbread for more details.
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