The Boss FRV-1 ’63 Fender Reverb pedal is a (great) attempt to reproduce the reverb sound of a vintage Fender Tube Reverb, the popular spring tube-driven reverb tank that contributed shaping surf and blues music in the early sixties. And you know what? Boss really nailed it.

The built-in digital signal processing algorithms do a great job by emulating the sound of this mythical reverb. It uses a modeling technology called COSM, which also gives character to other great Boss products. If you’re interested about digital sound modeling, check out this great article about the COSM technology.

The legendary sound of the 1963 Fender® Spring Reverb returns as a modern stompbox

You can read here what real people say about this pedal. In the words of Boss:

A classic reborn — the legendary sound of the 1963 Fender® Spring Reverb returns as a modern stompbox. BOSS and Fender® USA have collaborated to create the FRV-1, a stunning recreation of the legendary ’63 Fender® Reverb via COSM technology. 

The FRV-1 puts that timeless tube-driven reverb sound under your foot in a tough, reliable compact pedal. A timeless classic — the Fender® Spring Reverb is the sound that launched the surf-music phenomenon, and is a staple of rockabilly, country, and blues. 

Later, it became commonplace in grunge and other modern genres. Now the same legendary sound can be had in an affordable, rugged compact pedal.

With this pedal you won’t simply get just another spring reverb pedal: what you’ll get is the sound of a ’63 Fender Tube Reverb.

Features and controls

You must recall that this reverb was different than spring reverbs you can find in any vintage (and modern) tube amp. These reverbs only have a knob that basically controls the amount of reverb that is mixed with the dry sound, being the reverb placed between the power and preamp stages.

On the other hand, the ’63 Reverb was used in front of the preamp, not good for distortion sounds, but it could give an special taste to overdriven amps.

The stompbox is very simple concerning its connectivity: it has an instrument input (mono) and instrument output (mono), and it’s powered with a 9V negative power supply, driving about 37mA of current.

As the original unit, it has 3 knobs: Mix, Tone and Dwell, and a single stomp switch:

  • Mix controls the ratio of the dry and wet sounds.
  • Tone shapes the high frequencies, by making the reverb sound brighter or darker.
  • Dwell adjusts the amount of the original signal that is sent to the reverb circuit.

Sound

Now, how does it sound like? Of course, like with any other digitally modeled effect, the sound the Boss FRV-1 will get is not exactly like the one of a vintage tube-driven unit. But it’s indeed very close. It would definitely challenge you in a blind test.

Once thing that I like about this pedal is how easy is to make it sound great. It is not my favorite spring reverb pedal though, but it’s a good choice if you one to get the approximate sound of the ’63 unit reissue, but in a stompbox size (and for less than one fifth of the price).

The only thing that I didn’t like about its sound is when I turned the Tone control all the way up. I was using a Fender amp with its EQ controls at noon, and it sounded a little harsh. But it is ok, you may not need to go that bright anyway…

Check out the videos in the playlist below and find out if you like how it sounds

Should you buy this pedal?

You should buy this pedal if it’s clear to you that you want a pedal that gives you the sound of a classic Fender spring reverb tank of the early sixties.

If you are a hardcore surfer guitar you will see that there is no way that this pedal may sound like an outboard spring reverb unit. Well, you know, it gets pretty close. Give it a go, it can come handy as a backup for your outboard unit. Either to play at home or when is not practical to bring your tube-driven reverb unit to a gig, you will be happy to see the Boss FRV-1 in your gigbag or on your pedalboard.

You won’t like this pedal if you are looking for a “natural” sounding reverb. If you want to recreate natural reverberating environments, The Boss FRV-1 is not for you. Spring reverb is by no means natural; in fact, it was the artificial way to recreate a natural reverb in the sixties, when no digital modeling technology was available.

Alternatives to the Boss FRV-1 ’63 Fender Reverb

If vintage spring reverb sound is what you like, you should check the Catalinbread Topanga Spring Reverb. It is a very similar stompbox, but it includes an extra knob (preamp volume control) that will add a magic juice to your tone when driving your tube amplifier. In my opinion, it sounds a little better than the Boss FRV-1.

You have other great spring reverb pedals that don’t sound that old (to me). They have a slight more modern sound, and they can even recreate room-like reverbs, even though they have very simple controls (don’t allow you selecting between different types of reverb). These models are the Wampler Faux Spring Reverb and the Mad Professor Silver Spring Reverb.

Conclusion

The Boss FRV-1 has loads of positive reviews, and that’s because it’s a great pedal. This is the short summary of my personal review.

PROS

  • The recreation of the ’63 Fender Reverb gets pretty close to the original unit
  • You will agree that you love to see the Fender logo on the pedal, its look is awesome
  • It is a Boss pedal, so it’s clear that is a reliable and durable pedal
  • Great price

CONS

  • The signal is fully converted to digital, processed and then back to analog. A dry fully analog would be great
  • The sound of the reverb may get too harsh when the Tone control is set all the way up.
  • It is not true bypass

My personal conclusion is that the Boss FRV-1 ’63 Fender Reverb is a great reverb pedal if you’re looking for a vintage spring reverb sound. Not good if you’re looking for natural room-like reverbs or crystal-clear orbital sounds… The pedal looks great, sounds pretty close to the original outboard Fender unit and the price is great!

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