If, like many of us, you come from a style- and vintage-conscious but budget-conscious segment of the population, you’re probably grateful that Eastwood Guitars exist. Although the company’s offerings tend to favor the obscure, Eastwood is good at creating functionally unique, well-made and practical homages to the quirky style. I know musicians who build Eastwood instruments that are first line, premium guitars, as much for their unique sound and feel as for their looks.
Given their history, it’s easy to be tempted by Eastwood’s new guitar pedal efforts. The new Black Box series can forego the flash that is associated with the brand. But they use popular vintage touchstones as a starting point. And the pedals’ uniform, utilitarian appearance (which fits well with a certain branch of vintage pedal aesthetics, if you think about it) helps Eastwood achieve more affordable pricing, another mainstay of the company’s ethos. The Dusty Spring Reverb, with its two knobs and very direct functionality, is a particularly fine embodiment of the substance before style philosophy of the Black Box series.
out of the cage
Digital approximations of spring reverb have always been difficult to execute. For starters, the mechanical, resonant, and metallic harmonics of a spring reverb are difficult to reproduce in digital formats that aren’t high-powered, computationally tight DSP applications. Also, an “authentic” spring reverb can be many things. Even if you’re a Fender reverb purist, the spring of a black-panel Vibrolux can sound quite different from that of an external Fender Reverb. And that’s before we consider the differences between these units and the awesome spring sounds of a Space Echo, or a Bandive Great British Spring, or a Grampian – or, for that matter, two different Fender Vibrolux. As with most things related to music, I have a very liberal view of what constitutes the “best” spring reverb sound, so I didn’t listen to a perfect Fender reproduction in the Dusty Spring. I’m glad, because what I’ve heard is an approximation of spring reverb that sounds great on its own while still delivering a lot of what any player, including Fender fans, would want from a affordable digital spring reverb.
Ping and sway
Dusty Spring’s economical layout – there are only controls for wet/dry mix and dwell time, which is essentially decay time – means it’s very easy and intuitive to move between sounds quite disparate. Such simplicity can feel like a godsend if you have a busy pedal board or want to make changes in the heat of a set. But what makes that simplicity doubly satisfying here is that both ends of the Dusty Spring range produce tasty flavors of spring reverb.
Such simplicity can feel like a godsend if you have a busy pedal board or want to make changes in the heat of the set.
More subdued settings are soft around the edges while retaining the ghostly, nostalgic sense of space that gives Spring Reverb its emotional appeal. It’s a cool balance when you find it. Splashier and more extreme settings are great fun too. The Dusty Spring probably resides narrowly on the slightly brighter side of the spring sonic spectrum (again, that’s a very broad category), and that makes the effect quite lively. It could also accentuate the harsh, almost pulsating reflections typically produced by spring reverbs and digital spring emulations, which come on here at relatively low sustain settings. No matter how right or wrong it might sound to your ears, it sounded great in the context of small ensemble playing, where the percolating reverbs added a dose of kinetic energy.
The Dusty Spring lives up to its name. The pedal has a down to earth side to it in the way it sticks to spring style sounds without trying to get too celestial, which often equates to sounding too digital. There are audible traces of digital artifacts in the more humid and ambient settings when heard in isolation. Again, a spring reverb can produce its own weird harmonics with the advanced settings, some of which also won’t sound typically Joe Meek or Dick Dale. The streamlined controls are authentically old-school and provide useful creative decision constraint without significantly diminishing tonal range. There are reverbs that do more in the Dusty Spring’s vaguely $150 price range. But few offer such a beautiful cross of elegant simplicity and vintage weathered tones.
Eastwood Black Box Pedal Demos | First look
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