Review: Strymon Big Sky Reverb Pedal

Not too long ago, when guitarists wanted great sounding, studio-quality reverb, they had to haul around a big rack and pay a fortune for a MIDI foot controller if they wanted to access more than one preset while performing.

The only portable options were built-in spring reverb (which sounds great but is limited) or small digital reverb pedals (which are more versatile but sound grainy and unrealistic).

Strymon has solved this problem once and for all with the Big Sky reverb pedal, which places powerful, studio-quality processing into a compact pedal format, much like the company's previous TimeLine and Mobius pedals did with delay and modulation effects, respectively.

Features: The Big Sky is one of Strymon’s “large-format” pedals, measuring just under five by seven inches. Underneath the hood is a 333MHz Sharc DSP that provides incredibly powerful 32-bit floating-point processing and produces incredibly complex and detailed reverb sounds. The pedal provides 12 different reverb effects that encompass standard reverbs (room, hall, plate and spring) and special effects (swell, bloom, cloud, chorale, shimmer, magneto, nonlinear, and reflections).

Seven control knobs on the front panel allow users to instantly adjust parameters like decay, predelay, mix, tone, parameter 1, parameter 2 and modulation, and new settings can be saved in any of 300 preset memory locations. Presets are accessible in separate banks of three presets (A, B and C), which are accessible via the pedal’s three footswitches and/or the rotary value control knob, and the large LED displays preset info, including number and a programmable name. The LEDs surrounding the rotary reverb-type control change color from green to amber to let users know when a preset has been modified.

The pedal’s rear panel provides true stereo (separate left and right) inputs, stereo left and right outputs, an jack for controlling parameters assignable for each preset with an optional expression pedal, MIDI in and Oout jacks, and a mini switch for engaging a cabinet emulation function. The pedal operates with its included 9VDC 300mA center-negative power supply.

Performance: Once again, Strymon has proven that great things do indeed come in small packages. The quality of the Big Sky’s reverb sounds is simply phenomenal and actually much better than many famous digital reverb rack units from the past three decades. The reverb tails are incredibly smooth, and the special effects rank right up there with those usually found on studio gear costing well over $2,000. Playing through the Big Sky instantly provides that elusive professional sheen both onstage and in the studio. The hall reverb sounds impressively warm and huge, and the room and spring reverbs add the perfect sense of space while retaining all the clarity and definition of the original guitar tone.

Unlike a rack unit with its endless menus of parameters to dig through, the Big Sky is very easy to operate and program, thanks to its front panel controls. Most of the parameters a player needs are accessible right up front, but if you want to dig into more detail, additional parameters are accessible with only a few presses of the value control. Selectable true-bypass or analog-buffered bypass, full MIDI implementation, and modes like Kill Dry (useful when placing the Big Sky in a parallel-processing signal path), Spillover and Reverb Persist make the Big Sky a true professional-quality processor. Plus, the cabinet emulation filter allows guitarists to use the Big Sky for direct recording or to connect to a PA system, retaining warm, natural tone without an amp.

List Price: $479
Manfuacturer: Strymon,

Cheat Sheet: Twelve different reverb effects provide everything from standard room and hall reverbs to a wide variety of professional-quality special effects.

Commonly used parameters are instantly accessible via seven control knobs on the front panel as well as via the value control’s push/hold functions.

The Bottom Line: Guitarists who want studio-quality reverb and don’t want the hassles of hauling around a big rack should immediately get their hands on the Big Sky pedal, which actually outperforms many of its bigger rack-mounted brothers.

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Chris Gill, Video by Paul Riario

Chris is the co-author of Eruption - Conversations with Eddie Van Halen. He is a 40-year music industry veteran who started at Boardwalk Entertainment (Joan Jett, Night Ranger) and Roland US before becoming a guitar journalist in 1991. He has interviewed more than 600 artists, written more than 1,400 product reviews and contributed to Jeff Beck’s Beck 01: Hot Rods and Rock & Roll and Eric Clapton’s Six String Stories.