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Electro-Harmonix Cathedral Stereo Reverb Pedal Review

Electro-Harmonix Cathedral Stereo Reverb Pedal Review

Download Example 1
Grail Spring setting, max Blend and Feedback. No Predelay.
Download Example 2
Reverse setting, half Blend, Tone at noon Feedback at 10 o'clock, Predelay at noon.
Clips recorded with a '78 Les Paul Custom into a Mesa Boogie Electra-Dyne half-stack.
Reverberation is probably the most often-used effect in musical history. Even before the invention of compact artificial reverb devices, the design of entire structures were conceived with reverberation in mind. Bearing the namesake of one of those formations, the Electro-Harmonix Cathedral aims to continue the musician’s quest of striving for that perfect, ethereal ambience, albeit in a condensed, portable form. Building upon their previous reverb iterations, the Holy Grail series, the Cathedral contains seven different reverb types, in addition to a digital echo effect.

If I was allowed only one word to describe the Cathedral, it would have to be “detailed.” Everything from the myriad options to the 24-bit converters to the tone itself (which I will address shortly) really shows just how much attention to detail EHX put into the pedal. According to EHX, every reverb is designed to work in true stereo. In actuality, the Cathedral provides its end signals through two mono outputs, which provide a stereo effect when used with two amplifiers. The dual inputs run on the same concept.

Modes and Controls
A total of seven reverb effects: Spring (one from the original Holy Grail, and the other an Accutronics Spring emulation), Hall, Room, Plate, Reverse, and Grail Flerb (again, from the original Holy Grail, a reverb with flanging) round out the available modes. A final mode, a digital echo, throws the Cathedral into a digital delay mode with a maximum delay time of two seconds. The controls for Blend, Reverb Time, Dampening (a Tone control), Feedback, and Pre-Delay offer the player tons of control over the resulting effect. Topped off with a tap tempo mode and the ability to save up to eight presets, the Cathedral is definitely one intuitive device.

How it Sounds
I decided that for such a seemingly versatile pedal, I needed a versatile instrument. My 1978 Les Paul Custom has a set of coil taps, and has always sounded heavenly in the neck position with the Tom Anderson H1 set in single-coil mode. The amplifier handling the other end of the tonal spectrum was a Mesa Boogie Electra-Dyne half stack, set to clean at the 90-watt option.

Starting with the Grail Spring, the tone was spot-on to the original, with all of the great was and smooth, bouncy vibe that made me a fan of the Holy Grail in the first place. The Cathedral offers much more control than the original Grail however, so it was a real treat to be able to adjust the reverb time and pre-delay to try and hit the precise tone that I was hearing. The Pre-Delay control was especially exciting to use, and there will be more on that a little later.

As I passed through the rest of the reverb modes, I really started to notice just how detailed the effects sound, as I alluded to previously. The Cathedral is extremely clear and precise-sounding. The AD/DA converters do an excellent job of keeping the guitar tone smooth and pleasant, without any nasty digital artifacts left behind. In some cases, it can be almost too clear. One of my favorite reverb units is an old Danelectro tube reverb tank. I don’t even own it anymore, but I still remember how it sounded: soft but gritty, like dirty water washing over the ears. To me, it is the ultimate vintage reverb tone. That killer Dick Dale vibe was completely there and major parts of that traditional, gritty feel were due to the fact that it wasn’t sparkling clear. In no way should that be a mark against the Cathedral, because it does what it is supposed to do better than any other reverb pedal in its price range that I’ve come across so far.

One of my favorite options, the Pre-Delay control, is one of those fantastic features. In terms of reverb, Pre-Delay allows the player to dictate to the pedal just when the effect kicks in. Higher Pre-Delay settings mean the reverb starts to wash over after the signal has been processed for some time, giving the illusion that the sound is much bigger than it really is. The Cathedral’s Pre-Delay control is tied directly to its Tap Tempo footswitch, which really opens up the possibilities for ethereal, Robert Fripp-esque soundscapes. With a lot of overdrive built up and a heavy picking hand, the Cathedral eventually masked almost all of the attack in the tone to create this beautiful, swelling wall of sound that was all-enveloping, moving between each chord change with crashing waves of reverberation.

The Final Mojo
It’s great to see a company as storied and illustrious as Electro-Harmonix put out so many new products at such a comparatively high rate, and those products usually show just how dedicated they are to their craft. Being a guitar player myself and growing up with their effects, its difficult sometimes to separate my inherent love of their useful and oddball, quirky effects, and look at them with a critical eye. That love exists because their reputation is well-deserved, and the Cathedral is definitely a testament to it. I was personally very impressed with the tone of the original Holy Grail, and the Cathedral represents the culmination of the great ideas and concepts that they’ve had regarding reverb since then. Vintage enthusiasts who are tired of lugging around vintage reverb tanks or players with great amps with less-than-great reverbs should certainly give it a good look. Some might be turned off by its extremely pristine tone, but some will most definitely be pleasantly surprised. It just goes to show that after hundreds of years of experimentation with environments to circuits, the oldest effect ever can still be a blast to play with.
Buy if...
You’re looking for an all-in-one, compact reverb unit with sparkling tone and tons of usable options.
Skip if...
Pristine reverb tones are not in your favor.
Rating...
4.5

MSRP $290 Street $215 - Electro-Harmonix - ehx.com

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