Strymon V2 blueSky Reverberator and V2 El Capistan DTape Echo review

Two favorites from the Strymon canon of high-functioning digital effects pedals return, new and improved, with discrete JFET input circuits promising ultra-low noise. Time to upgrade?

Strymon V2 BlueSky Reverberator and V2 El Capistan DTape Echo
(Image: © Strymon)

Guitar World Verdict

Providing the same beloved effects that made the original blueSky and El Capistan classics but with improved fidelity and the addition of full-featured MIDI, USB and other new features, the new Strymon V2 pedals are well worth the upgrade.

Pros

  • +

    Addition of Shimmer and Spring controls to the top panel.

  • +

    Enhances dynamic responsiveness and low-noise signal.

  • +

    Mono/stereo switch is handy.

  • +

    Fully featured MIDI.

  • +

    Top-quality sounds.

Cons

  • -

    Not 100 per cent essential to upgrade.

  • -

    Pricey.

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When Strymon announced new V2 versions of six of the company’s most popular small-format pedals, the response from the guitar community was a mix of excitement and confusion (what else do you expect these days?). 

Many dedicated Strymon users who had happily owned the original versions for years were puzzled why they’d want an upgrade as the pedals sounded fine as is, while equal amounts of players anticipated new features that would unleash previously missing performance capabilities.

Oddly enough for once, both sides were kind of right in that Strymon’s new V2 pedals sound the same as their predecessors, but they also offer a significantly expanded range of performance and ergonomic features that make the upgrade totally worth it.

The Strymon V2 range currently consists of the blueSky Reverberator, Deco Tape Saturation & Doubletracker, DIG Dual Digital Delay, El Capistan dTape Echo, Flint Tremolo/Reverb and Lex Rotary. All six include the addition of MIDI, USB C, a discrete JFET input circuit and rear-panel Mono/Stereo switch.

For this review, we’ll also focus on the individual new features of Strymon’s popular blueSky reverb pedal and El Capistan tape echo pedal, first introduced way back in 2010.

Strymon BlueSky V2

(Image credit: Strymon)

Features

The addition of full-featured MIDI is a major upgrade for all of the V2 pedals. MIDI is accessed via the 1/4-inch TRS Expression/MIDI jack to support functions like MIDI Control Change commands, MIDI clock sync and access to 300 preset locations. The knobs on the top panel can now send MIDI CC data. A USB-C jack allows users to control the pedals from a computer and download future firmware upgrades. 

The discrete analog JFET input circuit enhances dynamic responsiveness and provides pristine low-noise performance, and a new ARM DSP chip significantly increases the processing power of each pedal while also enabling the addition of new algorithms.

Strymon El Capistan V2

(Image credit: Strymon)

Eagle-eyed observers noticed the addition of a sixth control knob to the top panel of the blueSky and El Capistan – actually, all of the new V2 pedals except the Flint. A Shimmer knob was added to blueSky for the upgraded Shimmer parameter, while a Spring knob now appears on El Capistan for the spring reverb algorithm. A new spring reverb algorithm was created for blueSky, and a new Mod switch was added that allows users to select modulation depth for each of blueSky’s reverb types.

The addition of an extra front panel knob means that the secondary modes for both pedals now offer an expanded range of control and functions.

El Capistan’s secondary functions now include Low End Contour, Tape Crinkle, Tape Bias, Boost/Cut, MIDI Clock Sync and Respond/Ignore MIDI Expression live edit functions and Input Level, Bypass Mode, Spillover Mode and EXP/MIDI jack configuration power up modes.

Strymon BlueSky V2

(Image credit: Strymon)

The secondary modes for blueSky are the Boost/Cut and Respond/Ignore MIDI Expression live edit functions and the Input Level, Bypass Mode, Spillover Mode and EXP/MIDI jack configuration power up modes.

Performance

Overall, the character of the blueSky and El Capistan’s effects remains nearly identical. El Capistan still delivers some of the best and most realistic tape echo effects available with delicious warmth and chewy texture, while blueSky’s reverbs remain as pristine and three-dimensional as ever.

However, there is a noticeable improvement in dynamic responsiveness and clarity – something that may not be noticeable when using compressed, highly distorted tones but becomes more evident when playing clean or lightly overdriven amp settings. There is definitely an improvement in sound quality, but the pedals still retain their original personality and flavor.

Strymon El Capistan V2

(Image credit: Strymon)

The new sixth control knobs are a welcome addition for players who like to tweak effects on the fly during live performance. I particularly liked being able to dial in spring reverb at will on the V2 El Capistan, and though the blueSky’s Shimmer knob may not be something I’d personally adjust often, it was great to have that option at my fingertips.

The MIDI implementation is a huge performance upgrade that’s more than worth the added cost, if only for being able to save and access 300 presets instead of the previous pair that were only available via the optional Miniswitch Favorite function. 

Although a V2 upgrade isn’t 100 percent essential for previous blueSky and El Capistan owners, all of the new power and expanded functionality is very hard to resist.

Specs

Strymon BlueSky Reverberator

  • PRICE: $379 / £359
  • ORIGIN: USA
  • TYPE: Reverb pedal
  • FEATURES: Switchable bypass, mono/stereo MIDI, 300 MIDI preset locations, ultra-low noise discrete Class A JFET preamp input, Plate, Room Spring Reverb, Modulation, 
  • CONTROLS: Decay, Pre-Delay, Low, High, Mix, Shimmer, 3-way mode switch, 3-way mod switch
  • CONNECTIONS: Stereo outputs, standard input, TRS jack for expression pedal, USB
  • POWER: 9V DC adaptor, min 300mA
  • DIMENSIONS: 4” (w) x 4.5” (d) x 1.75” mm (h)

Strymon El Capistan

  • PRICE: $379 / £359
  • ORIGIN: USA
  • TYPE: Tape echo emulation pedal
  • FEATURES: Switchable bypass, mono/stereo MIDI, 300 MIDI preset locations, ultra-low noise discrete Class A JFET preamp input, Plate, Room Spring Reverb, Modulation,
  • CONTROLS: Time, Wow & Flutter, Tape Age, Repeats, Spring, Mix, 3-way mode switch, 3-way tape head switch
  • CONNECTIONS: Stereo outputs, standard input, TRS jack for expression pedal, USB
  • POWER: 9V DC adaptor, min 300mA
  • DIMENSIONS: 4” (w) x 4.5” (d) x 1.75” mm (h)
  • CONTACT: Strymon

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Chris Gill

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.