I must say this: in my opinion, the Catalinbread Topanga Spring reverb is the best spring reverb pedal I’ve ever played.
It looks beautiful, and it has a je ne sais quoi that makes it sound think, warm, and very realistic. It sounds like a tube-driven spring tank from the sixties.
Read here what other people say about this pedal.
Big wet and splashy. 60’s outboard spring reverb tank
This is what the guys from Catalinbread say about the Topanga Spring Reverb:
The outboard Fender 6G15 spring reverb unit is the sound of Surf guitar, Spaghetti Western and many other great guitar sounds from the sixties.
Part of its magic, and how it differs from the internal spring reverb found in most Fender-style amps, is that it is run *in front* of the amp, causing the reverb signal to distort and sound more intense. Because there were additional knobs on the outboard units, you also have more control over the reverb qualities.
The Dwell knob controlled how hard the springs were getting hit by the guitar signal. The Tone knob allowed the treble to be dialed back to just the right degree of brightness.
It was also essentially a tube preamp, so it would color the sound going into the amp. All this added up to a very distinctive reverb sound with a lot of attitude and complex non-linearities that are hard to replicate.
But we here at Catalinbread did just that! Besides giving you the classic three knob control compliment of the original, we’ve also added a great discrete preamp that you can control via the Volume knob for a healthy amount of great clean boost when you want it.
This pedal is conceived just as vintage reverb tanks were, to be connected at the input of your amp. You won’t want to use this pedal in the effects loop. This guy will provide you with holy vintage sounds by driving your preamp. By using its volume knob, you can boost the sound so the reverb is a little saturated by your amp, creating a more intense sound.
Features and controls
Catalinbread Topanga spring reverb is very simple regarding its connectivity: it’s got mono in and out, and is powered by 9V negative power supply. It requires some 80mA of current.
The controls of this pedal are the typical ones you will find in most spring reverb pedals, but with an additional Volume control, which takes more juice out of the Topanga. It has 4 knobs: Dwell, Tone, Mix and Volume, and a single stomp switch.
- The Dwell knob controls how much signal is going into and driving reverb springs. As on vintage tube-drivenl units, cranking this knob up can cause clipping on the wet side due to the signal crashing the springs. It sounds real!
- The Tone control will let you sound brighter (clockwise) or darker (counter clockwise).
- Mix adjusts the amount of reverb that blends with the dry sound. Rolling it all the way up, you can get a fully wet sound.
- Volume is the essence of this pedal. This knob acts as a volume control of any preamp, allowing you to boost the sound. You will hear the difference this control brings by connecting your overdriven tube amp (or an overdrive pedal) just after the Topanga. The spring reverb will scream…
I’ve said at the beginning. This pedal is different from any other spring reverb pedal. This pedal sounds like real outboard spring reverb tanks.
From the moment you stomp on it, you can find the difference. It sounds great from the moment you switch it on, because the knobs do what they as supposed to do. It’s true that it’ll give you its best by connecting it just before your gain pedals (or preamp of your tube amp).
Unless you’re using fuzz, its reverb sound will get sweetly and warmly distorted, but the reverb doesn’t get like dirty or noisy. It’s just great!!
I’ve read that there is a trick that allows you having a very different sounding reverb. It has something to see with modulation… It seems there’s a youtube video where you can see what it is like and how to do it. Drop a comment below if you try it!
I cannot explain why is that different, but check out the video playlist below and see how you can play with the Volume control to make it scream!
Should I buy this pedal?
If you are into surf music and are serious about that, you’ll probably have a tube-driven spring tank. If you want a backup solution for convenience, or just practice at home, you MUST buy this pedal.
If you just love the sound of real outboard spring tanks rather than the spring reverbs that are built-in tube amplifiers, you’ll want the best spring reverb pedal. Buy the Topanga, it’s the best.
If you’re happy with the reverb you have in your amp and don’t see the possibilities that driving your preamp with a reverb up front gives you, you won’t probably think of buying a reverb pedal. Therefore, you won’t be thinking about buying (another) spring reverb device.
You should’t buy this pedal if you want to be able to recreate different reverb sounds, like rooms, halls, etc. This will give you the sound of a spring tank.
Alternatives to the Catalinbread Topanga Spring Reverb
To be honest, the best alternative to the Topanga is an outboard spring tank, like the ’63 Fender Tube Reverb reissue.
If we are talking about stompboxes, you should probably look to the Fender FRV-1 ’63 Fender Reverb. This pedal recreates the sound of the ’63 Fender Tube Reverb in stompbox format. It is a bit cheaper, and doesn’t sound as pure (although sounds pretty realistic) as the Topanga. But this pedal is cool (has the Fender logo on it…)
Other spring reverb pedals alternatives are the Wampler Faux Spring Reverb and the Mad Professor Silver Spring Reverb. These units sound great too, but not as dark, old school, and pure as the Topanga. They sound a little more modern to be.
These are the pros and cons that I found when tested the Catalinbread Topanga Spring Reverb.
- It does a great job by recreating the sound of vintage tube-driven spring tanks. It gets really close…
- The volume knob allows you adjusting how hard you will drive your gain stages, just like old tube units did in the sixties
- Quality of the pedal. It’s hand built using the best components
- Wide range of the knobs
- Bright reverbs don’t sound harsh. By rolling the Tone knob all the way up, the sound’s still warm
- It sounds excellent when fully wet. You won’t feel any digital reminiscence in the tail of the reverb
- The dry signal is fully analog
- The purist surf guitarists will say that (like every other spring reverb pedal) it just can’t replace an outboard spring tank
- It can be easily clipped (you have to be careful with the Dwell knob and you may use a 18V power supply)
The conclusion is clear to me. After playing the pedal for a while, and after watching the youtube videos of the playlist above and reading a few reviews by real users and expert opinions in forums, I would say that the Catalinbread Topanga Spring Reverb is the best spring reverb pedal.
If you are a purist, you’ll say that there is no way that a solid-state spring reverb pedal could ever replace a tube-driven spring tank. I agree with that, the same way as you may argue that a solid-state amp could never get close to the vintage sound of a tube amplifier. BUT, the Catalinbread Topanga Spring Reverb really nails it. It gets close indeed.
You can check the price of the Topanga here.