Electro-Harmonix Oceans 11 Review
Reverb’s depths made accessible in a small and super-economical package.
Great sounds, extremely versatile, feature-rich, small enclosure, affordable.
Would love a preset button.
Electro-Harmonix Oceans 11 Reverb
Ease of Use:
Though Boss’ RV-2 might have been first, Electro-Harmonix’s Holy Grail reverb was among the earliest digital reverb stomps to attain relative pedalboard ubiquity. But while the Holy Grail is still a fantastic pedal in its original guise, advances in DSP technology have made it a sort of Volkswagen Beetle among reverb stomps—solid, simple, and economical. In the form of the Oceans 11, Electro-Harmonix is mating some of the simplicity and utility of the Holy Grail with the DSP power of EHX units like the Cathedral and compact multi-verbs like the TC Electronic Hall of Fame and the MXR Reverb. Even by the high standards set by those units, the Oceans 11 is a superb digital reverb.
Shallow Box, Deep Circuit.
The most remarkable thing about the Oceans 11 isn’t necessarily the number of reverbs on hand (Eleven, if you’d hadn’t yet made the connection.), but the fact that they’re all genuinely musical and inspiring. It’s also noteworthy that these various reverbs share very little sonic overlap between one another and don’t go to cartoonish extremes to achieve their differences. What’s more, most of the reverbs here have multiple voices available via the little “mode” button nestled at the center of the pedal’s knob array. There are even more hidden parameters accessed through the Oceans 11’s sneaky “secondary knob mode.” The device rounds out an impressive feature set with a clever dual function footswitch that allows you to engage an infinite reverb loop by holding the switch down, while whatever you play on top of the loop is doused with the reverb you’re already using. It’s an impressive, expressive, and thoughtful tweak.
With the number of options and sounds packed into a pedal this compact, you could be forgiven for assuming something must have been sacrificed for economy’s sake—especially with a price tag at about $150. But the Oceans 11’s sounds are truly stellar and inspiring. The most common reverbs, like spring, plate, and hall, felt and sounded organic and authentic.
The weirder stuff like the polyphonic setting encouraged unexpected ideas, even at their most extreme. The Oceans 11 also packs in a slew of contemporary favorites, like an ethereal shimmer ’verb and an ECM Records-approved echo reverb—sounds that are must-haves for players in the indie-pop and post-rock realms.
Navigating the Abyss
The Oceans 11’s controls (FX level, time, tone) change function depending on the reverb voice you select. And each control has a wide range regardless of the function it is regulating, making it very easy to dial in everything from super subtle sounds to over-the-top, fully drenched vibes.
While there’s plenty of payoff for knob tweakers willing to dive deep and explore the Oceans 11’s expansive feature set, I found the pedal extremely satisfying to explore more intuitively. And whether routed through the front end or sent to the effects loop of my Friedman Dirty Shirley 40, the Oceans 11 melded beautifully with my dry signal and added lush dimension without sterility. It sounds like a much more expensive effect.
Even though the Oceans 11 is small, there are many more features than can be covered in this review. The only gripe I have with the Oceans 11 is that its copious sounds aren’t accessible via preset. That said, at this price I would not be at all surprised to see these appearing in pairs on pedalboards. The Oceans 11 is a killer reverb solution for a small fly-date board, for recording sessions that require spatial sounds, and could even prove a useful tool for acoustic players that need to spice things up when plugging into a DI or PA. Indeed, the Oceans 11 is much more than the sum of its 11 voices.
Watch the Review Demo: