Not long ago, I joked to a colleague that the stompbox industry had reached peak digital reverb—an epoch marked by a glut of Hans Zimmer giganto-’verbs and plug-ins that approximate God’s own reverb chamber. On less grumpy days, I’d still argue that the stompbox market is a little rich with less-than-inspiring digital reverbs. But it’s impossible to not be impressed by Source Audio’s Ventris, a powerful DSP reverb machine that dedicates its ample processing power to authentic, sometimes stirring, vintage reverb flavors and unnaturally huge spaces.
The Ventris doesn’t just sound great. It’s a joy to work with. Dual processors mean you can cascade two reverb engines or use them in parallel—enabling complex, unique reverb textures you won’t hear on every smartphone-commercial-ready pop record. And though the Ventris is deep in features and tone tailoring controls, including Source Audio’s downloadable Neuro customization app, they are all musical, practical, and easy to use.
Where’s the One?
The Ventris, like the rest of Source Audio’s One Series pedals, is thoughtfully utilitarian. (Though a color other than gunmetal grey might be nice for a dark stage). The control set is streamlined compared to some DSP multi-’verbs. There are time and mix controls like you’d see on any reverb, a pre-delay control that sets the time between dry attack and the onset of the effected signal, and a useful, responsive cut/boost treble control. Secondary tone tailoring options for each reverb engine are controlled via the control 1 and control 2 knobs and activated via the option footswitch. Between the option switch and the secondary option controls, there’s an A/A+B/B mini toggle that is key to accessing Ventris’ dual engines and crafting some of the pedal's most interesting sounds.
You select individual reverb engines via the 12-position radial click knob. The subtle-to-extreme range of each voice is a big part of the Ventris’ versatility. And though the variations in these 12 voices alone could keep curious tinkerers occupied for years, the ability to add to and tailor these voices with Source Audio’s Neuro app means they are the tip of the iceberg.
Springs, Caverns, Dins, and Domes
There is no single way to characterize the sound of the Ventris. The available voices are each very different in terms of dynamics and timbre. Source Audio’s efforts to nail the elusive, immersive properties lurking in the mist of a real spring’s clanging, metallic overtones means the true spring setting sounds and feels impressively like mechanical spring reverb. The modern, more artificial delays, meanwhile, react to your playing quite differently. But it’s the ease with which you can combine, blend, and manipulate these varied voices and textures that make the Ventris magical. Before delving into the more alchemical side of the pedal’s capabilities, it’s worth mentioning highlights among the Ventris’ 12 basic voices.
Source Audio has been eager to highlight the authenticity of the true spring engine, and the pride is justified. It doesn’t seem to ape any specific amplifier reverb type. Most of the mechanical Fender reverbs I had at my disposal for comparison tended to be darker and, of course, much noisier. But secondary controls for bass EQ and spring length get you close enough that you’re unlikely to notice differences in environments other than total isolation. (Keep in mind that real amplifier spring reverbs can sound completely different from each other. An absolute standard for a “correct” spring reverb sound is in the ears of the beholder). Only the most trebly true spring settings betray any digital origins. Even then, I wasn’t sure I was hearing digital artifacts or the well-modeled versions of the cold overtones a treble-charged spring can produce.
The modverb takes a vintage-oriented approach to modulated reverb. Where many modern modulated ’verbs use chorus or vibrato to animate overtones, the Ventris uses organic, throbbing, amp-style tremolo to lend motion. The effect is intoxicating and sounds excellent at extreme modulation intensity settings and speeds.
The unique offspring setting combines high octaves and arpeggio effects to give the aural equivalent of refracted light through dewdrops or splintered glass. At lower mix levels it can sound a little stiff outside of rhythmically arpeggiated applications. At higher mix levels, though, it sounds beautifully, melodically deconstructed and practically begs for its own preset to be used in intros, outros, and breaks.
As good as individual reverb engines sound, the Ventris’ cascaded and parallel reverb voices are the real treat. Switching between these modes is surprisingly easy: It just takes a flick of the A/A+B/B switch and a press of the top-mounted input control button. Though you can use dual reverb sounds to sculpt and fine-tune unique textures—say, add a subtle hint of echoverb to enhance a true spring setting—the most fun comes from combining reverbs that have little business being together. I particularly loved mashing up the reverse and spring settings. In parallel mode you hear each sound in sweet dovetailed detail and can mix them in precise, well-defined relationships to each other. In cascaded mode, however, the right combination of reverbs exhibit complex, organic overdrive qualities that flatter and fatten lead tones and chords without sacrificing nuance. In spacious mixes, where you can discern these complexities and details, these sounds stand out as unique, mysterious, and hard-to-place—all the things a good reverb should evoke in a song or solo.
The Ventris is a gratifying means of adding space and ambience in performance and in the studio. It does organic and old-school mechanical reverb with aplomb and in good taste. But the real joys are in combining Ventris’ voices and the ease with which you can embark on deep sound-sculpting adventures. Indeed, chasing a specific sound with a well-designed control interface like the Ventris’ is satisfying, but working through sounds quickly and intuitively toward unknown ends is creative bliss. The Ventris enables both and makes each pursuit a breeze.
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