An arena on your ’board: this guitar pedal recreates the gigantic ’80s reverb beloved by Bruce Springsteen and Phil Collins

Catalinbread CBX Gated Reverb
(Image credit: Demos in the Dark / YouTube)

Gated reverb was all the rage in the 1980s, famously powering the cavernous drum sounds of Phil Collins’ In the Air Tonight and Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the USA album, among many other hits of the era. Now Catalinbread has packaged those stadium-filling sounds into pedal form with the CBX Gated Reverb.

As you may have guessed, the effect is a reverb that is paired with a noise gate, ensuring it snaps off at a predetermined point, rather than tailing off. This gives the sound a lot more pop and impact and, generally, clears up the mix.

This proved ideal for the ’80s mega acts, who were writing the sort of stripped-back compositions that required enough space to reach the other side of an arena without getting lost.

That said, gated reverb was not created in the live arena, though. Initially, it was the result of a mixing desk hack using the Solid State Logic SL4000 Talkback Mic channel and was pioneered by UK engineer/producer Hugh Padgham.

Padgham hit upon the idea when recording with Peter Gabriel in 1979 on the track Intruder, when he accidentally fed Phil Collins’ overhead drum mic into the gated talkback channel, inadvertently creating a reverb effect.

The effect was soon recreated in a more controllable fashion using digital reverb units of the era, including the AMS RMX16, and the rest is history.

The CBX moniker is a nod to that unit, combining an ’80s-flavored digital reverb pedal and noise gate in one stylised box. Control-wise, it’s pretty straightforward. The lag dial adjusts the length of time it takes for the gate to close after a note is played. 

The gate knob adjusts the noise gate’s sensitivity – turn it right down and it will disengage the gate, turn it up and it can handle higher gain tones. Verb, meanwhile, would normally determine the reverb tail, but with a gate in play, essentially determines how thick the reverb sound is before the tail is chopped off. 

Finally, you have a wet/dry mix dial and a preamp control, should you want to add a little grit to the tone.

There are a bunch of great tonal samples out there already, thanks to the YouTube demo industry, so check it out on the clips above.

If you like what you hear, the CBX Gated Reverb is available for $199. Head to Catalinbread for more information.

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Matt Parker

Matt is a staff writer for Before that he spent 10 years as a freelance music journalist, interviewing artists for the likes of Total Guitar, Guitarist, Guitar World, MusicRadar,, DJ Mag and Electronic Sound. In 2020, he launched, which aims to share the ideas that make creative lifestyles more sustainable. He plays guitar, but should not be allowed near your delay pedals.