By Anda Volley –
Review of: Keeley Electronics Caverns V2
Reviewed by: Anda VolleyRating:4.5On March 3, 2018Last modified:March 3, 2018
Even in my most minimal setups, there’s sure to be a dedicated delay and reverb pedal, and so I’m intrigued by the idea of these effects being designed to work together in one pedal. The Keeley Electronics Caverns V2 expresses this intent as a combination delay and reverb. It’s updated from the V1 with an improved layout of controls, wider foot-switch spacing, an optional buffer for delay/reverb spillover, and a Mod selection switch. It’s also presented in a more attractive and artful boutique appearance with a clean, modern, and airy graphic design. The colorful abstract triangle art on the case is a metaphor for the complex sound possibilities and interactions between the delay and reverb. The Caverns V2 encourages you to turn every knob, flip every switch, and get creative mingling the delay and reverb together, creating lush and complex sounds.
- Keeley’s Magnetic Echo circuit which emulates an analogue tape delay
- Classic Delay Blend, Time & Repeats knobs – Delay timing up to 680milliseconds
- 3-way repeats Modulation switch with modes of Off, Deep, or Light for adding “Wow and Flutter”
- Classic Reverb Blend & Decay knobs
- Reverb Warmth knob that increases the analog tone or modulation intensity
- Reverb Rate knob that increases the modulation speed of the reverb
- A switch to choose between Shimmer, Spring, and Modulated reverbs
- Discreet bypass foot-switches for the both the reverb and delay sides.
- Trails or True Bypass – By default the Keeley Caverns in is trails mode, so when the bypass switch is on, the given reverb or delay will maintain the tone and continue in the buffer, ringing out again when bypass is switched off. The back-plate can be removed to change the setting to true bypass.
- Plastic knobs with just the right amount of smooth resistance, and hexagon shaped for a sure grip
- All metal casing
Sound & Performance:
For my testing, I used a 16-step sequenced semi-modular mono synth. I started with the delay side, then the reverb side alone, followed by mixing both effects together.
The Magnetic Echo tape style delay is a monster. The trails are very warm and convincingly analog with a bit of lo-fi grit. I organized the delay testing by the Rate knob settings: shortest, medium, medium-long, and longest, followed by “playing” the rate name at higher blends and repeats.
Shortest Time (7 o’clock). At lower blends and repeats, the delay had a thickening effect to the sound, like a slap-back doubling. With the Blend and Repeats knob increased to around 3-plus o’clock, the delay sounded fast and metallic with an industrial bent. At the highest Repeats and Blend, it started to sound out of control from the feedback repeats, amping up the energy. This was the fastest and noisiest setting.
Medium to Medium-High Time (10 o’clock – 2 o’clock). At the medium rates, I could start to hear more musicality in the trails and modulation. Modulation in Deep mode adds a rich retro sound and wobble, and Light mode adds a delicate touch of the modulation. It’s great that the Caverns V2 offers both to suite diverse tastes. Deep mode created a greater sense of being off-balance, which can be a desired effect. At moderate Repeats and Blend, especially with the modulation switched on, there was a syncopated, wave-like quality of the music bounding in the air which added a dimensional feel. At the highest Blend and Repeats settings, the delay repeats started to tumble delightfully and deliriously into each other, the sound piling up and building further into a crescendo of a distorted and sleepy roar.
Longest Time (5 o’clock). At a low to moderate levels of Repeats and Blend, the repeats began weaving in and out of each other creating a loosely woven tapestry in the air. As the Blend and Repeats knobs were increased, Time seemed to be playing tricks as the repeats sounded slower, but catching up to other notes, bounding together in loping rolling hills. Modulation added to an off-balance drunken effect. At the highest Repeats and Blends, the distortion and feedback became an undulating belly of ambient noise.
Playing with Time. After testing with Time knob in fixed positions, I set about on a more chaotic adventure to play the Time knob. I kept Blend and Repeats in relatively high positions, toggling between just-in-control to out-of-control feedback. Starting with the shortest “metallic” sounding Time settings and quickly increasing Time, the sound rumbled into place. The effect of the repeats already in motion completing their cycle, rumbling and then settling, added a physicality to the sound. Speeding up Time had a watery trickling up effect, like a clock ticking faster into the future. There were different pitches to the delay as Time was sped up and slowed, alternating between the increasing pitch of a faster time and decreasing pitch of a slower time. Slowly moving the Time knob could be a way to introduce some intentional, almost plucked-string, musicality or evolving soundscape. Moving the Time knob faster can create gaping moments of chaos. The Time knob was fun and playable.
Shimmer – Shimmer mode is quite lovely and has a ‘particles ascending and spreading out’ pattern to it. The Warmth and Rate knobs act together to dial in the strength and tone of the shimmer. With Warmth and Rate at lower settings, the Shimmer is subdued and low in the background. With Warmth and Rate at higher settings, the Shimmer quality brightens into a celestial choir. When increasing the Decay, Shimmer becomes an incredibly thick and lush ambient atmosphere.
Spring – Spring mode is emulated well and is convincing. Dialing in the Warmth and Rate adds a more pronounced spring modulation. When Decay is all the way up, I could hear a more pronounced reflection in all the lush ambience, as if the sound was coming from inside a metal warehouse or stone cathedral. With a continuous tone, the spring mode adds a noticeable but small wobble of pitch modulation.
Modulation – Modulation mode adds a choral effect and can achieve reverb closer to room or hall by dialing Warmth and Rate up or down. At lower Decay and Warmth, it sounds closer to room. At the highest rate and decay the ambient sound whooshes and swirls around like a stormy cold front. It seemed almost like a subdued shimmer at the highest settings.
Delay and Reverb together – The delay and reverb are artfully well made for each other. The delay enhances and adds power to the reverb, while the reverb smooths out extreme time changes and the harsher feedback of the delay. The overall effect of them working together is lush, expansive, and stormy. It’s like painting emotion with thick expressive washes of sound.
A couple considerations
With a relatively hot input source, at a higher reverb blend and decay, and especially with the delay on, the sound would sometimes clip and distort in a bad way. I would prefer to have the sound source go directly into the pedal before the mixer, but I had better results controlling the clipping and moments of distortion by going into a mixer first where I could monitor the sound and ensure it didn’t go above the green into the yellow at all. This might not be as much of an issue for guitar but might be something to experiment with on synthesizers.
With the default trails mode out-of-box, it can be easy to forget some extreme sound is maintained in the buffer behind the scenes. One could be startled when switching the delay back on. It’s something to be mindful of, while it could also be intentionally used.
The Keeley Electronics Caverns V2 offers impressive and expressive sounds that can veer between peaceful ambience and potentially unruly soundscapes. Keeley’s Magnetic Echo is cherry. The reverbs are lush, convincing, and much desired emulations. Entire tracks could be composed with just the Caverns V2 and a sound source like guitar or synth. I could see it used in conceptual pieces that evoke concepts of time and stormy weather, as well as being a go-to favorite for making evolving ambient sounds in any context. Even at Caverns V2’s noisiest, it does a fabulous job preserving the inherent tone of the source material. It exalts both tone and your creativity. It’s also a very pretty & well-built pedal among a crowded scene of utilitarian plain designs and indie tattoo nightmares.
That concludes our Keeley Electronics Caverns V2 review. Thanks for reading.