Vesta Fire RV2
Ah, the romantic nomenclature of the rack-mounted gadgetry purveyors! This is the RV2, exemplifying all the subtlety and wit entailed when it comes to sticking on the name transfer. Really Violent? Rabid Voles? Ronnie's Vasectomy? Nope, just good old ReVerberation.
This stereo reverb, priced at £276 (inc VAT), uses reverb springs tucked away inside, and in this way chooses the largely mechanical method of passing the signal along the spring and catching its changes on the way by pickups mounted at each end. This is intended to imitate the way that sound moves around a room, and the spring technique has been used for a good while. One of the earliest such units was the hallowed Hammond spring.
Thus a reverb device is to be used when you want to create space around sounds, and spring units are often cited by musicians and engineers alike as offering a warmer, more 'musical' sound than the hardness which some feel is added by a purely electronic reverberation system.
You'd really have to listen for yourself to a selection of gadgets to decide what kind of sound suits your purpose — or, indeed, if you can hear much difference. The only plainly obvious disadvantage of the spring comes of its mechanistic nature. Bash the unit too hard, or send a particularly spikey sound through it, and the spring may thank you by rattling away inside, producing an audible clang through your amp or monitor speakers.
The two uses we're most concerned with for the RV2 are quite different: through an amp for beefing up the instrumental twaddle you push through it, or linked to the mixer or relevant outs and ins of a home recording set-up.
Controls on the Vesta are simple and relatively foolproof. There are two separate channels of reverb, an on/off switch for each which lights yellow when on, and footswitch jacks to enable channel selection.
There was no footswitch supplied with the review model, and I hooked up a pretty standard on/off pedal which happened to be hanging around. The CH1 jack will switch both channels on and off simultaneously; CH2 only affects channel two. I assume that a footswitch in each socket would give you individual control.
Each channel has three controls and an indicator: an input and output level rotary, marked zero and 'Max', a Low Cut switch which gets rid of 6dB at 100Hz, apparently a frequency at which springs really enjoy rattling, and a two-colour overload/limiter indicator which lights green as you're entering overload and red when you should get even more worried.
This is all clear and concise. A power switch which lights red when on and a mode control at each end of the box (measuring 95mm, 480mm across and 240mm deep) complete the fascia. The mode switches control mono/stereo options and output routing, so that you can switch sounds around and enhance mono signals going to stereo monitoring.
On the back are jacks for in and out on 1 and 2, a ground (earth) connector and a switch for reverb signal only or source-and-reverb mixed. Inside, four springs give delays of 43 milliseconds (mSec), 37 mSec, 27 mSec, and 19 mSec.
Interfacing, a flash word for connecting up, posed a few problems for me in that all the sockets are ¼in (ie standard guitar-lead) jacks. This is OK for instrument and amp use, where you'd normally only be using jacks anyway.
But when it comes to home recording the plugging gets more complex with a variety of sockets and leads. I eventually found myself rushing about with a jack-to-phonos lead in one hand and a soldering iron in the other, screaming about the lack of uniformity in connectors at the top of my voice. But then I have been a bit run-down just lately.
And of course this isn't the Vesta's fault — though with its obvious recording bias, I would have thought that phono sockets in addition to jacks could've been a help.
The sound is, as I mentioned earlier, more musical to my ears than the sort of thing you'd get from a purely electronic gadget. This is offset by a wee bit more noise than I'd like, though it tends to get lost in the mix if you're tracking up at all, and I wouldn't level too heavy a criticism here.
The Low Cut I found relatively unnecessary, though it was a little more useful live with a guitar and amp where anything which helps avoid clang from the springs is a bonus. You'll tend to use one channel only like this, and the gadget seems cheerful enough in adding a bit of space and depth to guitar or keyboard output.
It's worth mentioning Vesta's other reverb, the RV1, too, which seems interesting with its similar four-spring versatility, but with parametric eq (possibly a good bet for live use) and the effect/dry switch located on the front, as well. It's also some £90 cheaper than this, so eyes open.
But the RV2 tested is simple and effective. A reverb device is about the most handy additive to a home recording system and should normally be the first on your list once the coffers recover.
There are two principal routes you can take: electronic or spring. And here's a welcome spring.