Tremolo and phase modulation mingle, mix, and respond dynamically to your picking.
A compact and powerful multi-verb offers abundant options and probes abyssal reverb realms.
A super-expansive palette of reverb tones. Compact for a pedal with this many options. Combined reverb sounds create ultra-rich textures.
Activating some functions can be confusing. No preset scrolling. Some audible digital artifacts in some modes.
Electro-Harmonix Oceans 12 Dual Stereo Reverb
Ease of Use:
These days, Electro-Harmonix’s multi-function, programmable, digital stompboxes are as vital a part of their product roster as classics like the Big Muff and Small Stone. They’re an impressive lot of pedals, too—spanning looping, delay, and modulation, and overflowing with tools for tweaking, twisting, and recombining sounds. If you’ve ever spent any time with these pedals, you know how fun, immersive, and full of surprises they can be.
The new Oceans 12 isn’t the first multi-function digital reverb in the EHX family. And the bigger Cathedral and more compact Oceans 11 cover some of the same ground. But the Oceans 12 strikes a practical balance between the two—uniting a relatively compact footprint with dual independent digital-reverb engines, 12 different reverb modes, and enough tweaking options to propel many of the voices to abyssal realms.
While you can approach the Oceans 12 head-on, twist a few knobs, and come up with magnificent sounds, you’ll be best served by studying the manual first. Yeah, homework sucks. But delving into those 37 pages will save time you’ll otherwise spend hunting for hidden functions or missing out on them entirely.
Because the Oceans 12 slots in size and price categories that don’t easily permit preset scrolling and digital readouts, you rely more on blinking lights and the memorization of push-button functions to know what mode you’re in. As a result, some simple maneuvers take a little practice. Switching between the two reverb engines, for instance, requires you to select a default reverb first, which also reverses the location of the bypass switch. Consequently, I sometimes selected two voices or turned off the effect entirely when I thought I was switching between two reverb types.
The Oceans 12 allows two presets per reverb voice, which are assigned individually to the reverb A and reverb B switches. Undoubtedly, some deep divers will consider that limiting. But I found the variety you can achieve with just those 24 presets pretty mind boggling. The inability to readily scroll through presets and between reverb types using a footswitch does complicate matters a bit. But with a little planning and ingenuity you can create lovely or jarring contrasts between your A and B reverb voices and switch presets between songs.
Voices From Beyond
While programming and switching between functions can feel complicated in the get-to-know-you phase, you can still harvest a bounty of sounds utilizing just the 12 reverb voices, the four basic parameter controls, the mini knobs, and the mode switch. Describing every option for all 12 voices would take more space than this review permits, but I certainly had favorites.
The room mode is relatively soft and subtle, with options for hall mode, a subdued modulation, and a pre-delay feedback control that makes the soft reflections into a clanging racket. The tremolo reverb mode can range from soft, throbbing, and almost subliminal modulations to chirping ring-modulated sounds. The reverse reverb is also a delight, and can feel seamless and organic or mechanical and alien, depending on time, tone, or pre-delay settings
Using two reverb engines together opens up even more expansive possibilities. And you can also create amazing variations on two core sounds by choosing between series or parallel routing. The former can create dark and super-hazy reflections, while the latter can conjure intricate, compound reverbs with greater clarity.
While using disparate sounding reverbs together creates many beautiful, complex-to-chaotic blends, some of my favorite textures came from stacking two of the same voice. Two reverse reverbs running in series sounds deep and swirlingly mysterious, while running them in parallel creates beautifully disorienting, twisting helixes of reflections that sound like a house of mirrors.
The Oceans 12 is a cool option for a player that wants a deep, powerful, and adaptive reverb for a compact pedalboard. Some study, practice, and memorization are key to making the most of the pedal—not least because the print on the pedal itself verges on microscopic. But if you go deep with the Oceans 12, there are, indeed, leagues of reverb sounds to explore.
Watch the John Bohlinger Demo the Oceans 12:
This soulful filtering machine dishes warm fundamental tones, smooth envelope effects, and rich, throbbing modulation textures. The PG Flower Pedals Hosta review.
High-quality construction. Smart control layout. Superb fundamental tones.
Might be too spendy for the auto-wah-curious.
Flower Pedals Hosta
Ease of Use:
The subject of auto-wah engenders weird reactions among guitarists—ranging from puzzlement to indifference to outright hostility. But, like many things that provoke strong responses, lack of understanding is usually the main driver of skepticism. The guitarists with the most vicious reactions usually assume that an auto-wah does the wah-ing for you and little else—as if an oscillating filter were an affront to Jimi's ghost, or something. So it's fun to imagine a skeptic's surprise should they someday interact with the Flower Pedals Hosta—an analog auto-wah with a digital brain that imaginatively stretches the auto-wah concept with warm wah-pedal-like oscillations, quacky envelope filter effects, and deep “No Quarter"-style LFO modulations.
Freq Your Wah Out
The Hosta is carefully made, with an eye for high-quality components and serviceability. Crack it open and you'll behold a tidy and exacting circuit, with a Fasel inductor (an evolution of the type used in the first Italy-made Vox wahs) looming over the rest of the circuit board. The expression pedal jack, footswitches, and the DC jack are all mounted to the chassis independent of the circuit board. There's no option for 9V battery power.
The thoughtful design motivations behind the Hosta are also apparent in the easy-to-grasp control layout, which is distinguished by logical flow and intuitive feel. Level determines output volume. Gain regulates input level at the wah's first stage (higher levels make the pedal more sensitive, intense, and resonant). The three toggles select between auto-wah, fixed wah, and envelope modes, select between three peak frequency ranges, and select the Q, or resonance and intensity, of the filter sweep.
Like many digitally managed analog pedals, the Hosta utilizes multi-function controls to extend the pedal's basic functionality. In this scheme, the A knob controls LFO speed in auto wah mode, peak frequency in fixed wah mode, and the envelope filter threshold. The B knob selects the LFO wave shape in auto wah mode, adjusts the ramp speed in fixed mode, and controls envelope filter sensitivity.
These knobs also have secondary functions, including a latch function and selection of the oscillation speeds that bookend the ramp effect. The two footswitches are also dual-purpose units: The right switch bypasses the effect but also enables access to secondary A and B functions. The left footswitch inputs tap-tempo rate, but also activates the ramp function. And while the optional use of an expression pedal (not included) might seem funny to auto-wah skeptics, you can use one to control the LFO speed and set up different fixed wah peaks.
One facet of the Hosta's performance that strikes you straight away is the intrinsic warmth and roundness of its fundamental tones. These inviting base sounds make many extreme sounds more expressive, palatable, and easy to slot in an arrangement or mix. And no matter where you set the Q and frequency toggles in relation to each other, that essentially warm tone is ballast and counterbalance for the peakier, more resonant output.
Players that have only experienced the quackiest, most basic auto wahs are likely to be surprised by the range of tones you can extract by switching the frequency toggle alone. Low frequency emphasis summons a funky, soulful undertone that sounds both burly and bouncy at slower sweep speeds and medium-intensity Q settings. Mid-frequency emphasis brings focus to the output—enabling exploration of high-intensity Q settings and fast, twitching sweeps. High-frequency mode brings out the pedal's more angular and stinging qualities, adding emphatic punctuation to a guitar phrase, or gentle percolating tones.
Surprisingly, there isn't space enough to describe all of Hosta's tones and capabilities in depth. But the pedal—and its recombinant, interactive features—are much deeper in functionality and expressive potential than the economical design suggests. Auto-wah skeptics will probably balk at the steep $279 price. But players that work from a less stodgy mindset will hear how Hosta cleverly and seamlessly ranges from wah to envelope filter to modulation machine—and appreciate the high craft that went into the Hosta's well-executed controls and inviting tones.