Reverb is one of those rare effects that can, with very little tweaking, make a world of positive difference in your tone. Unfortunately, great reverbs often come at a hefty price. Even compact digital effects designed to affordably mimic vintage units can still sometimes peak at $200–$300—a total bummer if your amp doesn’t have reverb, or it’s coarse and/or shallow sounding. The new Whirly Verb pedal from T-Rex Effects, designers of the fabulous Roommate and Roommate Jr. reverb pedals, gives cash-strapped guitarists an affordable option for high-quality digital reverb, with a potent modulation effect added on the side.
Controlling the Whirly Verb should be fairly simple for anyone who's used reverb pedals before. The deep blue enclosure sports four controls for shaping both effects, which can be switched in and out independently via true-bypass stomp buttons. The reverb knob sets the intensity of the effect, and decay determines how long it takes the effect to die out. The Whirly is limited to room-type sounds only, so soaking your tone in bouncy, spring-induced ’verbs sadly isn't an option. Yet for what the effect lacks in vintage flavor, it gains in tweakability. Both the reverb and decay knobs have tremendous ranges, and can be set to emulate pretty much any size room you can imagine—from tiny bathrooms to cavernous halls.
The modulation effect uses a simple chorus circuit with just one control for mix level—which, unfortunately, makes it impossible to alter the speed of the effect. You can, however, apply just the chorus effect by dropping the reverb controls all the way, which is really useful if you only want to have a drier modulated tone. Instead of having dual outs for use in a bigger-sounding stereo rig, the pedal uses a single mono output, which limits its use to use in a single-amp rig—but then again, dual-amp users probably have more of a budget than the players the Whirly Verb is aimed at.
The Whirly Verb’s reverbs pack a powerful punch. Although it’s capable of going completely overboard with deep-space echo, it also works for more conservative guitarists who only need to smooth out their tone within the band mix.
Using a Gibson SG Classic, I found that the Whirly’s tamer settings—those below 12 o’clock on the reverb and decay knobs—are quite subtle. The effect sits nicely underneath the dry tone, adding rich warmth to the edges of notes and chords, but the effect itself doesn’t respond to picking dynamics or generate overtones quite like a tube spring reverb would—although lightening up on attack seems to lend the effect a more pronounced swell. Dialing the reverb level to noon and beyond shifts the effect into more atmospheric territory, which works beautifully for using volume-knob swells to create Mellotron-esque tones with a slightly boosted midrange. Noise- and indie-rockers will have a blast cranking both the reverb and decay controls for on-the-edge-of-feedback reverberations, but if they concentrate only on those sounds they’ll be doing themselves a disservice by not experimenting with the pedal’s lower decay settings. Some of the Whirly Verb’s most head-turning sounds come from high reverb and very low decay settings—it can sound like being hit in the face with a wash of echo before a door is slammed in your face.
Throwing in the pedal’s chorus circuit adds some unique twists, but it would definitely benefit from being more tweakable—maybe by adding a mini pot on the front for adjusting the speed. As it is, the effect might be too intense for players who like a subtler rate. That said, with its lone level control, the modulation is voiced nicely for many applications, and it will retain a great deal of warmth until its level knob goes past 3 o’clock. Pushing the effect this far with maxed out reverb can be an intense and chaotic experience.
T-Rex’s Whirly Verb has a lot to offer cash-conscious players looking for a solid reverb unit. The detail and spaciousness of the effect is impressive for the price, and even though it’s bound to appeal more to guitarists with experimental tendencies, it also has a lot to offer players with simpler needs. It would be a much more versatile pedal if it offered more control over the chorus, but even in its present form it’s hard to beat for the price.