This particular feature was prompted by Anasounds elegant Element solution to True / Real Spring Tank Reverb - where the control interface is wholly separated from the actual spring tank. There are of course a number of stand-alone spring tank pedals available in various sizes - and I thought I would do the pros and cons of each approach.
Generally I find that the larger the spring tank is, the more complex / textured and full-bodied the reverb effect is - yet with size you run into distinct practicality and usability issues. Most of the true spring tank pedals are not really pedalboard friendly for a couple of key reasons - including footprint size and unintended knocks and residual vibrations / resonance. Separating the spring tank from the controls allows you to cleverly place the spring tank out of harm’s way as such. The two smaller Anasounds Spring Tanks - Le Bon (18cm) and La Brute (23.5cm) can also be mounted under most pedalboards and they both have silicon cushions as such to dampen movement and vibrations.
Anasounds does not have it all its way though, as Crazy Tube Circuits and Spaceman Effects have more compact form factors overall, but then again Anasounds has further aces up its sleeve as we shall see.
This article is intended to give you a brief overview of the different real spring tank options available. I have selected Anasounds’ La Brute option as the best combination of effect and practicality, while there are a couple of larger sized Spring Tanks not covered here - the ScreaminFX Uverbia Real Spring at 34.3cm (in my earlier article though [here]), and the Anasounds Le Truand option at a rather eye-watering 42.5cm - which I just don’t deem properly practical for most people - at least by my reasoning - I can only see those working as part of a fixed studio set-up.
The further question here is for whom are these pedals intended and who would make best use of them? When I think of True Spring Reverb - it brings to mind classic 60’s drippy surf rock, and YouTuber Ryan Burke of 60 Cycle Hum fame in particular as a sort of ambassador or spokesperson for that genre. I feel a lot of the pros and enthusiasts will simply have a classic Fender Deluxe Reverb, Princeton or Twin - but those amps can be heavy, and may not always be the most practical within the new paradigm of easily transportable rigs.
So for drippy reverb fans with smaller and more modern amps, or even wanting to rely on amp-less solutions, then these pedals make more sense. However within a proper touring rig - many of the candidates here are still a little unwieldy - so it’s always a case of best fit line really - getting the best possible sound in the most practical and compact of form factors - which would likely lead you down the Element, Orion or White Whale path - but we shall see.
Pedals listed alphabetically by brand - note that pedal images are as close to proportional size as possible - with the Headroom as the largest pedal, and the White Whale as the smallest overall:
So I tried the Element for the first time at this weekend's Birmingham or 'The' Guitar Show. Alex had both the small 'Le Bon' and medium 'La Brute' set up - although I hope next time there is a more elegant switching solution between those demo options! :) To my ears the medium-sized La Brute delivered a significantly richer and more complex texture of reverb than the smaller unit - its effect was more pronounced and impactful, and altogether more pleasant to my ears. This has often been the criticism of some of the smaller spring-tank units in that they can't convey the complex richness of the larger ones - the physics of resonance, standing waves and vibrational harmonics just cannot apply for the smaller units - which do though of course give you a flavour of true reverb - it's just much more subtle and less pronounced. I'm always one for practicalities, but I won't let practicalities get in the way of tone - there's usually some compromises that needs to be made along the way - and for me the large Le Truand Spring Tank at 42.5 cm is just too gigantic, and takes up too much space for one effect - particularly where available space is limited - say a typical domestic 'music corner'. So for me 'Le Truand' will only ever be a studio tool/solution, and if you listen to both 'Le Bon' and 'La Brute' hopefully like me you will decide that the more dynamic sounds of the mid-sized option are worthy of the sacrifice in real estate. I personally don't use a pedalboard as such - I have a long 'pedal-chain' of 40 effects, and the Element solution allows me to place the La Brute spring tank away from the main pedals. I need to investigate the accessories options further - to see just how long a cable you can use with the spring tank. The actual 'control unit' is standard compact pedal size and has 4 controls - Out (Level), Mix (Dry/Wet), Low (Bass), High (Treble). I really need to check with Alex if the tone controls are Low Pass and High Pass filters or some other form of linear shelf-type tone control. A really cool secret weapon here is the 'Spring Saturation' toggle switch which introduces some kind of feedback distortion into the circuit - for a really pleasant sort of fuzzy tone which I really loved. To my mind the 2-box solution provided here is the perfect marriage of tone and practicality, and for most players - the mid-size spring tank will be the perfect choice.
This is the largest spring tank featured here - as you can see in the proportional visual above. It does however have an ace up its sleeve in allowing you to set two different Reverb Tone/Level settings and switch between them via a second footswitch. The pedal can be activated remotely for both Bypass and Reverb Selection - but overall you don't have as much tone-shaping here as for the Anasounds Element - it's still a decent proposition though and lower cost.
By 2mm this is the most compact offering featured here - and is actually a combined Reverb Tank with analog Tremolo - so a slightly different proposition overall - with a form factor very similar to the Spaceman Effects Orion q.v., while its feature set is closer to the Gurus Sinusoid. As this article is on Spring Reverb we will just focus on that side of the pedal - both the Tremolo and Reverb can be activated independently - you have Tone and Dwell (Level) dials and a 2-way essentially EQ shift toggle where mode II is brighter with less mids and slightly less decay, while mode III is full tilt reverb. This pedal generally gets very good reviews - although for more complexity of tone it could probably do with a slightly larger spring tank.
The lowest cost option on the page is also one that has become particularly popular for surf-rock enthusiasts. We have 3 controls - Volume (Master), Tone, Reverb (Effect Level), a single Bypass footswitch and a sort of rubber 'Kick Pad' for clanging the springs. There are no remote inputs here - although I am sure you could rig something relatively easily. This pedal is about as simple as these True Spring Tank Reverbs come - and sounds pretty decent overall - while there are of course pricier pedals with a few more controls and slightly more richness of tone.
The Reverberator is actually a really unique execution of the True Spring Tank - as this pedal enclosure contains two separate and identical 3-spring spring tanks which are used singly for a short reverb, and sequentially/in-tandem for the long reverb setting - i.e. signal passes down length of both spring tanks. We have 5 controls on the front panel to accompany single footswitch - Spring : Long/Short/Both, Phase, Volume, Blend (Dry/Wet), Gain. This is a really smart studio tool which ingeniously gives the spring tank dynamics of a tank twice the size - by splicing those two spring units together. I feel this unit could also do with some remote trigger jacks - but again it shouldn't be hard to rig a remote switch for this pedal. Yes it is one of the larger ones here, but it punches way above its apparent dimensions - it sounds awesome.
Slightly larger in dimensions but functionally very similar to the CTC White Whale - for Reverb we have simply Reverb (Effect Level) and Volume controls - and separate footswitches to activate Vibro (Trem) or Reverb side. Obviously wholly analog with a proper Valve PreAmp too for increased warmth and gain. An elegant pedal for sure that could also benefit from a remote socket or two possibly. Certainly worth consideration.
This is a somewhat different execution of a Spring Tank - more for your mad scientists and experimentalists. Here the 3-spring assembly is fully exposed so that it can be bowed, tweaked and twanged directly. You also have a plethora of controls including - Input Gain, Filter Mode, LFO to Filter Mode, Frequency Cut Off, LFO to Frequency Cut Off, Resonance, Velocity, External CV Output Amplitude, Waveform, Reverb Mixture (Dry>Soup), Output Amplitude, and Filter Mixture (None>Full On). This is the Reverb you never knew you needed, and certainly well beyond the basic requirements of a surf-rocker. Would no doubt find a good home in the studio setups of Jonny Greenwood and Ed O'Brien.
This one looses the mantle of being the most compact effect by 2mm - to CTC's White Whale. Otherwise it's another really compact and bijoux true spring reverb box with 4 controls - Volume, Blend, Tone and Dwell (Sustain/Decay). On a solely Reverb basis this is probably the nearest competitor to the Anasounds Element, but each has slightly different settings, and overall I find the La Brute slightly warmer and richer sounding - while on some days I could really go in either direction.
This is again a slightly different execution of a Spring Tank Reverb - where Dry and Wet signals are split into two separate outputs for Wet+Dry playback and greater clarity of tone. The pedal also comes with separate Aux socket and footswitch which can be used to trigger a secondary effect - often an amp's onboard tremolo for instance. Beyond the two footswitches there are just two control dials - Output Level and Dwell (Sustain/Decay). This is a well-loved studio tool which seems to be in short supply nowadays. Creates unusually warm and lush reverb.
Reverb itself is an essential guitar effect which most players love and use pretty much most of the time. I have my own Reverb pedals pretty much permanently on. The original Guitar Reverbs were delivered as Spring Tanks in those original and classic Fender amps. And it is generally held that for Spring Reverb - those early Fenders, then slightly later Vox amps were the benchmarks and poster-boys for said effect. Following on from Spring, we had Plate and Hall Rack Processed Reverbs - and nowadays you can get reverbs in a thousand different flavours, mostly digitally processed.
If you want that original reference tone - you either get the complete amp solution - which can be heavy, ponderous and possibly impractical to a degree. Or you get one of these stand-alone Spring Tank units which offer a more practical and portable solution. I would say the key criteria come down to Tone/Sound and Practicalities. And most players are prepared to sacrifice some element of tonal fidelity for a more compact and versatile form factor.
The Anasounds Element is a great innovation in this space - in separating out the controls and giving you a choice of Spring Tank - it also provides that really handy unique feature in the Spring Saturation toggle-switch. I feel that the La Brute is the right mix of Tone and Practicality - but you personally might prefer the tone and timbre of one of these other units. Generally though the same logic holds - that for reasons of Physics! the smaller spring tanks will not sound as rich and full-textured as the larger ones - that said, you wouldn't really want a spring tank the size of an Olympic swimming pool.
I am fascinated by much of the scientific method here - all these units rely on the traditional 3-spring arrangement - why do these tanks not come with spring tension adjusters and say alternative springs in different materials - like guitar strings - cobalt, nickel and copper can significantly change the vibrational character and output of such an element / device. I would love to see further rationale on spring lengths and combinations - based on scientific method - as to what the optimal length is for certain resonant and standing frequency waves, and how the character is impacted by different materials, numbers of spring and spring-tension.
Anasounds should really do an additional experimental tank offering with those kind of options built-in! As for where I stand in all this I would probably go for the more compact executions here - the Element, CTC White Whale and Spaceman Orion. If I could only have one - I would undoubtedly go for the Element in its La Brute edition - and yes I would use the Spring Saturation option a lot - as another favourite sort of fuzz flavour.
We've had 3 recent really cool demo videos covering a lot of the same ground that I do above - so I thought it opportune to add them to this page for further reference: