There’s so little romance in pedals.
In 1798, William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge published Lyrical Ballads, with a Few Other Poems, which, according to some scholars, kicked off the English Romantic movement. In 1800, Wordsworth would publish it again after adding a few poems, scratching Coleridge’s name off of the cover, and writing a preface. The preface has become one of the most important first-hand accounts of what the romantics were trying to accomplish. In it, Wordsworth writes:
For a multitude of causes unknown to former times are now acting with a combined force to blunt the discriminating powers of the mind, and unfitting it for all voluntary exertion to reduce it to a state of almost savage torpor. The most effective of these causes are the great national events which are daily taking place, and the encreasing accumulation of men in cities, where the uniformity of their occupations produces a craving for extraordinary incident which the rapid communication of intelligence hourly gratifies. To this tendency of life and manners the literature and theatrical exhibitions of the country have conformed themselves.
The degree to which I identify with this is far too high considering how difficult I find it to parse. Leave it to a romantic poet to apply some torque to words. Regardless of its meaning or literary historical value, I am happy to co-opt the phrase “savage torpor” for this digital reverb pedal.
This is not my first pedal that uses digital technology, but for some reason, it feels extra digital. Not that I have any problem with digital effects in principle: as I described at length in my write-up for the Vacuous Reverb, reverb is not an effect that naturally lends itself to being stuffed inside of a box the size of a guitar pedal without some digital component. Vacuous uses a Belton Brick, which is a canned reverb module built around three canned digital delay chips. Their method of operation is somewhat irrelevant from a circuit standpoint though—their digital doodads are completely self-contained and the whole thing can be treated like a black box. It’s not like you could hook it up to a computer and reprogram it if you wanted to. While I love that pedal, it has a particular character that I don’t always want in every context. I found myself wishing that I had more generic reverbs available, like I have in my DAW, but in a format that can be placed anywhere in a pedal chain. And the answer to that was to finally embrace the FV-1.
The Spin FV-1 is a general purpose digital signal processor (DSP) that can be coerced into doing all sorts of things to an audio signal. It seems to specialize in reverb and time-based effects, but my sense is that there’s an awful lot of flexibility if you get into the programming side of it. It’s touted as being easy to drop onto PCB without much fuss like a PT2399, but somehow it seemed different to me. It can use an EEPROM to store extra programs, for example, and it has an external crystal. Yes, I had to solder a crystal to this, which sounds like a MacGuffin hunt from The Lord of the Rings. Perhaps the biggest mental barrier for me was that the FV-1 is only available as a surface-mount device (SMD), which means that it has tiny pins that sit on top of a circuit board instead of going through holes in it, optimized for rapid manufacture in industrial settings…not some guy with a $30 soldering iron who probably needs bifocals.
In this case, I didn’t need to deal with any of that though. I found a circuit board on PedalPCB (the Spatialist) where they’ll solder the FV-1 on for not much more than the retail cost of the part and include a pre-programmed EEPROM so that no coding is necessary (nor the infrastructure to push code to an EEPROM). This makes this project feel a little bit like putting together a Lego set to the picture on the box, but I’ve been on a kick of building things the slightly more difficult way on strip board, and was at peace with somewhat blindly following the instructions on this one. After all, a multitude of causes unknown to former times are now acting with a combined force to blunt the discriminating powers of the mind, and unfitting it for all voluntary exertion to reduce it to a state of almost savage torpor.
Since this pedal is digital as all get-out, it has 8 different reverb modes. Each of them has three controls: DWELL, plus two that vary depending on the selected mode, hence KNOB1 and KNOB2 (the LEVEL and BLEND knobs are conveniently labeled backwards, which could be seen as an error, but is more likely an attempt at creating value, like that postage stamp with the upside down biplane). The following sound samples are not comprehensive, but demonstrate the basics of each mode. I recorded the Coronacaster direct-in and then played it back through Savage Torpor on each setting using my re-amper. I think it sounds great, and is wildly versatile, vaguely in the style of an old rack-mount reverb unit.