The Mercury7 Reverb was the first pedal release from Meris, a Southern California based builder currently comprised of only 3 team members. While at a glance the Mercury7 may seem like a pretty standard reverb, it’s actually more of a conceptual reverb instrument. After all, the sounds of the Mercury7 were inspired by the majestic use of reverb found in Vangelis’ original Bladerunner film soundtrack from 1982, and if you’re familiar with the work, that should give you a hint as to the kinds of sprawling cinematic ambience this pedal can produce.
The Mercury7 Reverb pedal was actually derived from Meris’ Mercury7 Reverb 500 Series module, the world’s first 500 Series based algorithmic DSP reverb. When you consider the Mercury7’s inspirational source and the fact that the Mercury7 was originally designed as a studio tool first, you can further imagine the perspective with which it may be best to approach the pedal. Expanding your perceptions in this way will help you see the Mercury7 Reverb as a portal that can open wormholes to uncharted dimensions of reverberant space.
- Handcrafted Algorithmic Reverbs
- Analog Mix & Dry Signal Path
- High & Low Frequency Damping
- Extensive Modulation Capability
- Auto Swell Envelope (variable and foot-switchable)
- Stereo input and output
- Switchable input output headroom level for Guitar, Synthesizer or Line levels
- Expression pedal control over all parameters simultaneously
- Presets available via external 4-Preset switch or MIDI
- MIDI in/out over TRS via the EXP jack
- Premium analog signal path and 24-bit AD/DA w/32 bit floating point DSP
- Premium Analog Devices JFET input section
- Color – translucent coat of deep blue over brushed aluminum
- Designed and built in Los Angeles, California U.S.A.
- Premium quality 24 bit A/D and D/A
- 32 Bit floating point DSP hardware
- -115 dB Signal to Noise Ratio (typical)
- Premium low noise Analog signal path throughout
- Auto Swell Envelope (variable and foot-switchable)
- Analog Devices JFET input circuitry
- Wet/Dry signal mix occurs in the Analog domain
- Selectable True Bypass (Relay) or Analog Buffered Bypass
- 150 mA total power consumption
- Durable transparent blue powder coat over brushed aluminum
- Current draw: <150mA
- Dimensions: 4.25″ wide, 4.5″ long, 2″ tall
Sound & Performance:
The main knob functions are generally self-explanatory, but some of the knobs function a bit differently from what you’ll find on some reverb pedals. For example, while the Space Decay sets the length of your reverb trails (the “decay”), there’s also a change in the way the reverb dissipates depending on where the knob is set. The knob will seem to expand and contract the reverb as you turn it, and the reverb seems to get “bigger” and more dense as you turn the knob clockwise. This makes it highly interactive with other parameters; as the reverb gets bigger and louder, you may need to attenuate the sound with the Mix knob. Likewise, the Lo Frequency and Hi Frequency knobs can help shape the atmosphere of the reverb. You can brighten the high-end to add more sheen to the reverb or dampen the highs for a boxier sound, and you can remove some low-end content for a thinner reverb sound or increase the size of the virtual room.
The two center knobs, Modulate and Pitch Vector, provide a couple extra surface options for augmenting the sound of the reverb. Modulate adds modulation to the reverb ranging from a light, smooth sway to deeper and more hypnotic movements. (We’ll discuss this a bit more when we get to the Alt functions.) The Pitch Vector knob selects between different pitch intervals that shift the pitch of the reverb. It’s worth noting the knob interplay again; when you add a Pitch Vector selection to your sound, you may wish to experiment with changing other knob values to get the perfect sound. With the -Oct setting, boosting the Lo Frequency can help dial in a booming low-end heavy reverb. With the Slight Pitch Down and Slight Pitch Up options, try using the Modulate knob to make an even more dizzying and vertigo inducing sound. With the 5th and Shimmer options use the Hi Frequency to really accentuate or suppress those glistening upper frequencies. You’ll also notice how higher Space Decay values cause the pitches to regenerate and continue cascading in the direction the pitch is shifting.
Each of the Mercury7’s knobs has an Alt function which is accessed by pushing and holding the Alt button while turning any of the knobs. These functions add deeper levels of customization to the reverb.
The Predelay Alt function behaves slightly different from how I expected it to compared to the many other reverbs I’ve used. The maximum time you can insert before the onset of the reverb is relatively short, but it will let you add a little extra space before the reverb so that your pick attack and transients can breathe. Considering how subtle it is, this may be more of a set-and-forget parameter rather than one that’ll have dramatic effect on the placement of the reverb in a mix; however if you’re using the Mercury7 with other instruments besides guitar, you may find the Predelay useful for tweaking the response of the reverb to work well with different audio source(s). The Density Alt function “sets amount of initial build up of echoes before the reverb tank”. To my ears this seems to smooth out the reverb as you raise the Density. With shorter settings more detail of the reflections will be audible, but at higher settings the reverb seems more diffused. It’s worth exploring how this interacts with the Space Decay. If I’m using longer decay settings, I find myself liking to add more Density, but with shorter decay times, I like to keep it low to create a sparsely reflective response that seems more room-like.
There are a couple different modulation Alt parameters. The Mod Speed option sets the “dominant” speed of the modulation. I mentioned that you can dial in a range of modulation textures with the Modulate knob. As you increase the Mod Speed and raise the Modulate knob’s surface value, you’ll notice that there’s all kinds of gargling modulation happening. It sounds like the Mercury7 is using well more than one LFO to generate the movement, and it can go from subtle to sea-sickening as you increase both of these parameters. And if you add in the Vibrato Depth Alt function, you have yet even more modulation to add to your reverb, this time in the form of more subtle sine wave based pitch modulation. The vibrato has a set speed, perhaps a drawback for those wish for more from the vibrato function. You’ll probably not notice the counter-movement of the set vibrato speed if the Vibrato Depth is set low and if you’re using both of the modulation options at once; things will just get more interesting with all the movement going on.
The Pitch Vector Mix Alt parameter adjusts the mix between the normal reverb sound and the pitch-shifted reverb. It essentially lets you balance out how much of the pitch-shifting is in your wet reverberated signal. It can be tempting to just max it out so that when you activate the Pitch Vector you get a full-on pitch-shifted reverb, but it can be more effective to carefully set the Pitch Vector Mix by ear while the Mix and Space Decay are set to levels at which you generally use them. I personally went through a phase of feeling like I didn’t like the Mercury7’s pitch-shifting effects that much until I realized how critical it is to be mindful of how much Pitch Vector signal is blended into the virtual reverb tank. For me a Pitch Vector Mix setting around 11 o’clock generally works well for getting a nice Shimmer effect that is present without being overly prominent.
The Attack Time Alt parameter sets the onset time for the Swell effect. Let’s talk about that in detail…
The auto swell function has it’s own dedicated foot-switch. When activated the reverb will swell from silence to full volume in response to your playing. It’s good to set the Attack Time Alt parameter to get a response that suits the feel you want to accompany your playing. This function also works really well with the Mix cranked up for a fully wet reverb signal. Generous amounts of Space Decay will also help create a huge cloud of reverb, and you can hold down the Swell foot-switch to max the Space Decay to keep the reverb going while you auto-swell in more of your playing. This adds some extra performance flexibility to the Mercury7.
Cathedra & Ultraplate
It’s finally time to talk about the Mercury7’s two reverb modes. While some pedals come loaded with maybe a half-dozen, dozen, or even more reverbs, this pedal has only two. Is that a drawback? Well, if you just want a spring reverb sound, the Mercury7 definitely won’t be your first choice, but the two modes on tap do cover a lot of ground. Let’s discuss.
I’m a big fan of plate reverbs, and I like to try every plate emulation I can get access to. In short, the Mercury7 Reverb’s Ultraplate algorithm is my personal favorite plate reverb for using with a short pre-delay. In fact, the stereo spread of the Ultraplate is so appealing to me that I’ve been using the Ultraplate as my default “always-on” reverb for light to moderate ambience for the past six months. While the sound of the reverb may be more artificial than a room-modeled reverb, it does what I need it to do, and when compared to algorithms from other noteworthy pedals, I keep going back to the Mercury7. Since I literally just leave it on nearly all the time, if I want to use another reverb, I may stack another reverb that has a less impressive stereo sound in front of the Ultraplate. The Mercury7 Reverb creates the space for all the other pedals to sit in.
The Cathedra is arguably the Mercury7’s flagship reverb that really magnifies all of the sound design possibilities on tap. If you want something more restrained, you’ll probably stick with the Ultraplate. But if you want see how far you can travel, the Cathedra will take you beyond the horizon. The Cathedra has way more complexity in its sound and can absolutely dominate the frequency spectrum with its massive presence and extra long reverb decay. It you’re creating music with sparse instrumentation but want to create a mood through evocative use of reverb, you’ll find plenty of expressive nuance in using the Cathedra. The knobs beg to be turned while you feel audio into the pedal, and you’ll probably find it worthwhile to consider using an expression pedal to control multiple parameters at once.
I already mentioned how impressed I’ve been by how good the Mercury7’s Ultraplate sounds in stereo. (The Cathedra is awesome in stereo, too, by the way.) If you haven’t noticed yet, I can’t stress enough how highly I recommend trying this pedal in stereo. And running the Polymoon & Mercury7 together in stereo is the stuff dreams are made of. The Mercury7 and other Meris pedals also let you select between Line and Instrument level signals. This makes it easier to integrate the Mercury7 in a synthesizer based rig. You can also take full control of the pedal’s adjustable parameters with MIDI, allowing control of the pedal from a MIDI controller or sequencer. Meris recently released their long-awaited MIDI I/O adapter, and for my testing the Chase Bliss Audio Midibox worked perfectly fine.
Ups & Downs
I really want to find some faults with this pedal, but I can’t really find anything that is a deal-breaker. I will say that I’m starting to wish more reverb pedals would include a High Pass Filter to help make space for other low-frequency instruments rather than being able to do it only in post processing. It’s essential to separate elements in an audio mix, and a huge reverb can dominate the audio frequency spectrum. The Lo Frequency can tame the lows pretty well, but I usually like to just cut out all low frequencies below a certain point. Also, I have noticed that I wish the Alt parameters on all Meris pedals were labeled in small font beneath the main parameters. While I don’t spend much time adjusting them once things are set, that’s also the reason why Alt labels would be helpful – to help users remember which parameters are where for the occasion when users do need to make a quick tweak and aren’t sure which Alt parameter hides under what knob. The only other issue I can think of is that you will need a separate device (like the Meris Preset Switch) if you want to save and recall presets. I personally have all the Meris pedals set up with MIDI and find that to be my preferred way of interfacing with and controlling the Mercury7 (and other Meris pedals). The Mercury7 may not be as flashy seeming or “wow-ing” at first, but it sounds amazing and is easily among the great reverb pedals available today. And like I said, the Mercury7 has become the one reverb pedal I can’t turn off.
The Meris Mercury7 Reverb is a masterpiece of sophisticated reverb sound design, and the versatility of its two interstellar algorithms helps the pedal hold its own against reverb pedals that contain many more. The pedal’s two humble algorithms boast an incredible range of possibility thanks to a wide range of carefully calibrated parameter controls. It’s amazing how the Mercury7 (and other Meris pedals for that matter) can seem very simple to use yet house such a breadth of potential. Rather than be filled to the brim with different types of reverb (with many of them failing to inspire), the Mercury7’s Ultraplate and Cathedra are exceptionally well crafted, and the interactive parameter controls make it possible for these two modes to cover a lot of ground. The Mercury7 alone could inspire the atmosphere of whole albums, and this pedal will no doubt be used to score some cinematic masterpieces to come in the ensuing years.
That concludes our Meris Mercury7 Reverb review. Thanks for reading.
July 19, 2018 at 5:15 am
What about the top pedals of Summer NAMM ’18?