Reverb has many uses in a guitarist’s arsenal. Most of the time it’s used to accent a dry tone for a bigger sound. But it can play a part in emulating other instruments—like cathedral organs—and creating the aural illusion of whole environments and dimensions from a secluded valley to outer space. In the proper hands, reverb can be one of the most expressive effects out there, and the new HardWire Supernatural Ambient Reverb, built exclusively for Pro Guitar Shop, can open doors to some of the most out-there and useful manifestations of the effect you can imagine.
I Ain’t Afraid of No
Holding the American-made Supernatural, you get the impression it’s built to take a lot of abuse. The substantial jet-black metal enclosure houses dual ins and outs for true stereo operation, and sports four controls for mix, decay, liveliness, and reverb type. There’s also a removable footswitch plate for replacing the 9V battery.
Controls for mix level and reverb decay are more-or-less self-explanatory. Liveliness, however, is effectively a tone control with an emphasis on high frequencies and lends considerable power to shape the reverb type you select, which you choose using a 7-way rotary knob. The reverbs include classic spring and plate types, plate with modulation, and more out-there reverb types like Shimmer, Supernova, Pherb, and Shine. If you like your reverb to trail off after bypassing it, there’s a switch (accessible from underneath the footswitch) to enable or disable that feature inside the enclosure.
Ghost in the Machine
The Supernatural has so many different sounds that we can't possibly cover them all here, but suffice it to say that the spring setting will bring a Stratocaster to life in a very big way. It’s a very dimensional and expansive spring simulation when you want it to be, but it retains very real, analog warmth with decays that are clean without sounding digital. Some of the bouncy qualities real springs exhibit in response to playing dynamics aren’t as pronounced here. And at times the effect can feel as though it’s lying underneath the dry tone, rather than blending in. But vintage sounds are a fraction of what this pedal can do. One of the Supernatural’s strengths is that it has a voice all its own—that becomes more apparent as you move through additional modes.
Each mode has its strengths, too. Shimmer, with its rush of pitch-bending trails, is excellent for crafting massive, spaced-out echo, and it also doubles as a very cool-sounding futuristic organ when used with volume-knob swells. Shine has a similar effect, but adds a thick chorus for added dimension. You can’t control the level of the chorus effect, which is a drawback given how heavy the chorus can be, but Shine can still be very effective for sci-fi moods. The Supernova mode also lacks the ability to dial back the intensity. And the wild flanging and pitch shifting—while amazing in experimental, soundscape, and postrock settings—can seem excessive and out of control. Pulling back the high end using the liveliness knob helps considerably, but the loss of definition is a trade-off you might not always be willing to make.
The Supernatural is an all-in-one reverb powerhouse whether you’re after atmospheric and ethereal effects or vintage tones. If you’re after vintage soft-and-bubbly reverberations exclusively, you might find the slightly inorganic blend between wet and dry signals a bit of a put-off. But that drawback will likely prove irritating only to the most puritanical spring reverb aficionado. Though some players might wish they could adjust the intensity of the more extreme effects, the pedal’s straightforward controls translates into a shallow learning curve, which you don’t see in a lot of reverbs that deliver this much range.
HardWire’s Supernatural is great for experimental, shoegaze, and post-rock styles and is likely to find legions of fans among those players. But it can be scaled back into the realm of more subtle and conventional applications with ease. And if you’re a player that moves between those two extremes, this pedal will seem like a steal.