Electro-Harmonix Oceans 12 Review
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: