By Jake Behr
(SPOILER ALERT: Probably.)
You might be surprised to learn that I wasn’t born cursed with a Smeagol-like lust for guitar effects. Early on, the glorious tones, snarky artwork, and infinite sweet frustrations just didn’t appeal to me the same way that screaming while playing an acoustic guitar in a dimly lit dive bar did. But in my brunch years as a guitarist I began hearing things in my mind I couldn’t hope to replicate with such simple means. I had to dig deeper into what was sonically possible. I likened my mental music to the subtle urgency of bands like Explosions in the Sky and *shels, so my only course of action was to try to approximate their tones inside of a budget. The most common denominator in their works seemed to ostensibly be varying degrees of reverb. With my limited knowledge I started Googling.
I’ll admit, I outright stumbled upon Neunaber completely by accident. I don’t even remember which famous guitarist’s ‘board I saw the name on, I just knew I needed a reverb and threw a dart that landed on WET. Man, that was the best bet I’ve ever made. If you’re not familiar with the EXPANSE pedals, each housing contains the potential to be almost any of Neunaber’s constantly updated effects with two programmable expressions, and the latest models can switch between them on the fly. I’ve been through many reverbs, but I keep finding myself drawn back to the WET. I’ve used every algorithm on the WET in a gigging capacity and have never been dissatisfied with the sound quality or flexibility. Neunaber has opened my eyes to a world where clean, effective units live in harmony with unrelenting quality and tone without breaking the bank. Needless to say, I’m a fan.
In February, Neunaber surprised the world by releasing a standalone reverb with absolutely no auxiliary features. No expression outs, no programming, no second switch capabilities, no bells, no whistles. The Immerse is just a meat-and-potatoes pedal with 8 static onboard reverb algorithms, and it may just be the classiest piece of ambient hardware I’ve ever pumped a guitar signal through.
- Eight (!!) unique and lovingly crafted effects, each featuring their own parameters to tweak
- Five Knobs:
Effect Select – Determines the algorithm in use
Level – Controls the amount of wet signal blended into the output
Depth – Controls the length of the tail decay
Tone – For most of the effects, this knob serves as an EQ. For the +echo, you get a delay control and for Shimmer B you get to tweak which frequencies are affected by the algorithm.
Effect Adjust – Depends on the effect. More on this later.
- High-quality buffered bypass with external Trails switch
- External Kill Dry switch for parallel effect loops
- Inputs/outputs can be used mono or stereo
- Analog dry signal for low noise and zero latency
- Small footprint
Sound & Performance:
Upon first having the Immerse in hand, it’s hard to tell if the stout enclosure is an impregnable plastic or a lightweight metal (it’s the latter.) The craftsmanship behind the construction is so obvious that despite Neunaber’s disdain for the B-word, I have to say it: the Immerse bleeds all things the lay-guitarist interprets as ’boutique’. The five knobs are the kind of compact dials you find on some pro studio mixers, and the soft touch bypass switch feels oh-so-right.
Flanking the power input are two tiny switches for trails bypassing and a kill dry function, respectively. The trails bypass is a utilitarian tool for cutting out the long wispy tail of the reverb in a crowded mix when set in the off position. I’ve found the kill-dry to be a very addicting creative tool to play with, rewarding my experiments with sci-fi pads and quirky organ-ish sounds. The stereo configuration sounds downright colossal, adding a true sense of dimensionality to already spacious reverbs. Neunaber really spent a ton of time perfecting these algorithms, and it shows whether you’re fond of playing a post-rock ambient vibe or jamming drippy surf rock.
I’m going to touch on each of the selectable configurations briefly because they really do sport genuinely unique algorithms.
Neunaber’s Poster Child, the WET algorithm simulates reverb in a space that cannot mathematically exist. As I’ve been caterwauling, I love the WET. It sounds like what I imagine playing on an asteroid hurtling to Armageddon sounds like, except you’re not suffocating, and you can hear sounds in space. Approximately. Neunaber beefed up the original WET’s capabilities in this iteration by adding a realtime modulation control alongside the tone, mix and depth parameters, as opposed to making us choose in the EXPANSE software editor. This is a welcome change, as the WET’s er… wet signal sounds as great modulated as it does clean, and you’ll want to experiment to find the right modulation depth and rate. With the kill-dry in the on position, we find our asteroid has narrowly avoided the Earth and is now hurtling away from Armageddon and deep into the blackness of space. What you lose in attack (all of it) you gain in whispery wash; great for accompanying synth or brass or even just acoustic guitar with textural ambience. Dial back the depth and you get a much more pronounced note decay, and a more synthesized tone as opposed to just the sound of space around the note.
Classic concert hall tone, ruthlessly recreated from the ground up. Like the WET, the hall configuration also sports a modulation parameter that adds a dancing warble to the wet signal. Imagine playing guitar in a particularly large house of worship hours after all of the soft, sound-diffusing worshippers have left. Just you and the stone. Yeah. It’s a handsome sound. The immaculacy of the space created by this configuration stands out as everything that’s good about reverb: the illusion of hugeness simulated without loss. Flip the kill dry and you get what sounds like a distant choir of mermaids, each singing different syllables.
We’re seeing a lot of plate reverbs on the market these days, but not without good reason. Plate reverb is the sound of reverberations on a giant metal plate; it was previously impossible to achieve without filling your space with a coffee-table sized tablet of metal. Like many of their competitors, Neunaber strives to make this Plate reverb as faithful to the original concept as possible, while still expressing some creativity. The effect adjust parameter controls the amount of pre-delay introduced in the signal, or the delay between the dry guitar and the reverberations of the effect.
Another classic effect rebuilt from scratch, the Spring algorithm gets extra drippy with the tone knob turned far right. The effect adjust knob becomes a low-cut attenuator for the wet signal; clockwise to tighten the reverb, counter-clockwise to open up the low-end. Of all of the algorithms, the Spring is perhaps the most restrained, recalling with ease the sound of physical spring reverberations.
SHIMMER (a & b):
The output of the reverb feeds into an octave pitch transposer, delay and filter, and back into the input of the reverb. The “A” Variation retains the tone knobs’ control over the tone of the effect, while the “B” variation repurposes it to control the frequency the effect impacts. They both employ a whispery, choir-like sound that doesn’t sound like anything you’d expect a guitar to sound like. It might seem like one of the Shimmers or the other is a filler effect, but they’re two different animals. “A” can change the sound of your guitar to be an unrecognizable organ even at its most conservative, bubbling up over the unprepared. Use this if you’re looking for something to substitute a guitar sound for the sound of space whales. “B” takes a little more work to dial in an extreme sound, and that’s appealing to anyone who just wants to add a little something special. Despite the strength of my feelings for the WET, I think this one might be my favorite.
I’m guessing this configuration pairs some offshoot of the Echelon Echo and the WET, and it’s a nice pairing. The effect adjust parameter becomes a reverb/echo blend knob that allows for full mix of either effect. I noticed that there was a click when I changed the “echo time” parameter, but it was negligible enough to ignore. I’m not sure I understand delay mechanics well enough to say this, but I wish Neunaber had found a way to make the echo time pitchshift the signal rather than just change the tempo; that would have added an even greater degree of functionality to this great configuration. That said, it is a perfectly gorgeous effect and shouldn’t be faulted for being a digital algorithm without a traditionally “analog” feature.
The +Detune adds a chorus-like detune to the WET algorithm (almost definitely a proprietary instance of the Chroma chorus,) With the effect adjust serving as the reverb level, you can mix out the reverb entirely and just have a modulated double of your signal, or you can blend in the WET and smear out the detune for a particularly huge sound reminiscent of all your favorite Rush songs. Add some overdrive to the mix and you’ve got yourself an effortless lead tone. For me, this is as close to filler as any of the algorithms get, but chorus has been making a much needed comeback the last few years. I’m eager to see some innovation around this beauty.
The Neunaber Immerse Reverberator is the flexible embodiment of the entire reverb branch of the EXPANSE algorithms (and more) that you can tweak and change without extensive pre-play setup. You know, I’m usually a feature fanatic. I go out of my way to vet the MIDI capabilities, variable expressions, and creative applications offered by developers until I find the best, most intensely decked-out piece of hardware I can. Call it FOMO. The Neunaber Immerse changed that paradigm: a simple piece of hardware that does just what it does very, very well. Some of us may miss the editor’s strict consistency or the second switch capabilities or any of the other things that make the EXPANSE pedals great, but I think the point of the Immerse is a return to the age of just plugging in to an effect and making music while still sculpting a truly unique tone. This simplicity coupled with the distinct beauty of each individual algorithm makes the Immerse a poignant choice that deserves to be recognized as a special unit. Don’t miss it.
That concludes our review of the Neunaber Immerse Reverberator. Thanks for reading!
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Jake Behr Filed Under: Best Guitar Reverb Delay Effects Pedals, Best of the Best, Brand: Neunaber, Reviews (New) Tagged With: Best Digital Reverb Pedal, Guitar Pedals, Neunaber Immerse Review