Ratings

Pros:
Flexible feedback loop functionality in ambience mode. Simple design and operation.

Cons:
A few more basic, traditional reverb colors might be nice.

Street:
$199

Rocket Surgeon Ice Caves
nordstrandaudio.com


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In Rocket Surgeon’s mythology, the Ice Caves reverb is allegedly inspired by an exploration of the Dachstein glacier in Austria. But regardless of this tale’s veracity, the Ice Caves definitely weaves the aura of a grand, frozen environment into the pedal’s many tones. And while Ice Caves is sure to be a hit with ambient enthusiasts, its otherworldly voices and broad control structure mean there are many useful sounds to be found apart from tundra-scale reverb.

Traverse the Glacier
The function of each Ice Caves’ control isn’t completely clear at a glance. The three most familiar and essential reverb controls—level, depth, and echo—are situated along the top row. But there are additional, less clearly named controls that can make things very weird and very expansive, very quickly. The ambience switch has three settings: off, delay, and reverb. Both modes create a sort of feedback loop, which creates a droning effect in reverb mode, or a fluttering-at-the-edge-of-oscillation kind of feedback in delay mode. The ice control, meanwhile, only functions when the ambience function is in delay or reverb mode position, and essentially acts as a depth control for the selected ambience mode. Brightness, meanwhile, is a low-pass filter that shifts frequency emphasis in the output from shimmering highs to low rumbles. And if you need reverb’d tones to leap out or recede in prominence when the effect is on, there’s a trim pot on the circuit board that can be adjusted to increase or decrease the output volume. The Ice Caves can only be operated with a 9V barrel adaptor, so you can leave the batteries at base camp.

You can easily summon long waves of refraction and reflection that complement both single notes and full-fledged chords without completely drowning out dynamics.

Frost to Floe
Ice Caves’ most subdued tones are achieved by turning down the depth, and leaving ambience in the off position. And with the echo around 9 o’clock and minimal depth settings you can coax short, analog-colored slapback reverb tones that are perfect for rockabilly pomp. By introducing depth, though, the reverb picture gets bigger. It does not, however, overwhelm. And you can easily summon long waves of refraction and reflection that complement single notes and full-fledged chords without completely drowning out dynamics.

If you’re into modern, expansive reverbs rather than traditional applications, the ambience switch is the key to uncovering the Ice Caves’ most glittering treasures. In delay mode, and with the ice knob posted at 11 o’clock, the reverb blooms with pronounced, but easily managed, oscillating tones. Things get more unruly and difficult to control as you pass noon on the ice knob, but killing any runaway feedback is as easy as rolling back the ice completely. Reverb mode is more user-friendly at these high ice settings. But extreme delay and reverb mode settings can both be made to work in the fashion of a loop or freeze function at low depth settings, which is one of the real bonuses in the Ice Caves’ design. The brightness control is also invaluable, and can also help you situate the Ice Caves in a band mix, or counterbalance high peaks introduced by distortions and fuzzes.

The Verdict
With its useful ambience control, Ice Caves is a fantastically three-dimensional atmosphere machine. It’s ideal for players among the soundscaping set who want to bridge big, modern delays and more traditional ones without managing a thousand knobs and menus.