What do you get when you plug a delay pedal into heavy reverb? More often than not, a big, ugly mess. But as configured on Hungry Robot’s the Wash pedal, delay into reverb creates a nice, pretty mess. And that’s the whole point. The Wash was explicitly created for players who enjoy conjuring ambient … uh … washes of sound.
What Big Knobs You Have!
The Wash resides in a king-sized enclosure (approximately 5.5" by 4.5" by 1.5") with imperial-sized knobs. That may make it too much of a space hog for some pedalboard curators, but the ergonomics are excellent. It’s easy to toggle the footswitches that activate the delay and reverb effects and the tap-tempo switch without whacking the wrong control. Meanwhile, nimble-footed players can probably turn the big knobs with their feet—especially the central reverb-level knob, which is a tad taller than the surrounding knobs. (The large format seems to be a deliberate design choice. Judging by the size of its circuit board, the Wash could easily have been stuffed into a smaller box with humbler knobs.)
Like the hand-painted enclosure, the interior work was clearly executed by a human, not a robot—despite the manufacturer’s name. Interestingly, Hungry Robot opted for large-format through-hole components, even though the effect is digital. The core processor is also humongous: It’s a Belton “Brick” from Accutronics. The soldering is solid, and the jacks are attached to the enclosure, not the circuit board. It’s high-quality work.
Echoes in the Dark
The Wash’s leftmost knobs and switch control the delay circuit, which can be used independently from the reverb section. There are standard level and feedback controls, but no dedicated delay-time knob; the tap-tempo switch covers that. There’s also a jack for connecting an external tap-tempo switch. The delay tone is a very good analog simulation that suggests attentive study of analog echoes. There’s a lot of treble roll-off, similar to what you encounter on a vintage bucket-brigade delay. Maximum delay time is a hair over one second.
There’s no attempt to mimic bucket-brigade distortion (the way successive echoes grow noisier as well as quieter), but that’s not necessarily a criticism. In a blind-listening test, I’ll bet many players would choose this simulation over the real deal with its real noise. And it’s hardly an issue with slapback and other short delays. At those settings, the Wash’s delays sound convincingly and attractively old school.
Wash Me in the Water
Naturally, the real fun starts when you activate the reverb section. The result isn’t the same as patching your delay pedal into a reverb stompbox, since only the darkened wet delay signal is reverberated. The resulting “wash” is far less chaotic than it would otherwise be. In addition to the central effect-level knob, the reverb section includes controls for reverberation time and the rate at which individual echoes dissolve into reverb soup. (While you can use the delay section without reverb, you can’t have reverb without delay.)
The results are lovely. Between the delay and reverb sections and their simple but effective controls, you can create not only impenetrable reverb swamps, but also subtle animation, slowly evolving textures, harmonically relevant backdrops for your “unwashed” signal, and other such stuff as dreams are made on.
According to the pedal’s documentation, the Wash “accomplishes the arduous task of creating an organic, below-the-mix wash. Normally this requires stacking three or four reverb and delay pedals at the end of your chain.” Fact check: 100 percent true! With its innovative signal path, attractive medium-fi sound, and easy-to-grasp controls (see what I did there?), the Wash can generate many complex and compelling spatial effects. It’s sure to delight ambient players—or any guitarist who enjoys the occasional walk on the wet side.