By Jessica Fennelly –
Strymon is known for their dedication to maximizing the sound quality of common effects as seen in pedals such as the Riverside, Deco, DIG, and El Capitan. Housed in angular aluminum enclosures with bright anodized colors and descriptive names (that often pay homage to the builder’s home state of California), each pedal embodies the vibe of a contemporary sculpture. Strymon is well revered in the ambient and praise communities thanks to their expansive reverbs and delays as seen in the BigSky and TimeLine, respectively. Comprised of 12 reverb machines and vast control knobs, the BigSky is a great toolbox for those seeking a customizable ethereal tone. Preceding the BigSky, Strymon made a more compact stompbox to challenge classic reverb tones: the blueSky.
The Strymon blueSky is a moldable stereo reverberator powered by a dedicated high processing DSP. Housed in a vibrant baby blue aluminum chassis, the blueSky embodies the daydreaming quality of looking into a clear blue sky. The blueSky contains 3 Reverb Types that can be defined with 3 Modes, and the pedal has deep tone control by the way of Low Damp and High Damp knobs. The middle-oriented Pre-Delay knob sets the initial offset of the reverb, and the Mix and Decay knobs are conveniently placed at the top and enlarged for easy access to setting reverb mix and decay length. All of these settings are able to be changed in real time and saved into a preset on the Favorite foot-switch. I tend to have my Favorite set to the furthest extreme of my set in order to provide a quick stomp into spacey contrast.
Strymon has considered a wide range of playing styles by choosing Plate, Room, and Spring as the 3 main reverb types.
With a high mix and shorter decay, Plate offers a long trail of sound reminiscent of a vintage rack effect. This sounds great when paired with a simple overdrive or basic phaser, adding a layer of depth to your sound. Plate is the clarity found in the blueSky. On the Modulate mode Plate sounds similar to a heavy chorus effect with clear high frequencies peaking out. Crank the Decay all the way up to hear a crisp, spacey sound.
For the ambient lovers, and creators of lush walls of sound, Room reverb is your go-to setting. Room should be renamed to Room(s), as this reverb captures a large scale of room size options for reverbs. Almost behaving as a simple delay, the idea of enlarging the “room” you are playing in is a result of changing the Pre-Delay and Decay. Room can sound like a basic echo that quickly turns into a repetitive daze of sound bouncing off large walls. When Modulated, your signal diffuses and pools together for hazy long tones. Room sounds great on everything from single line riffs to large open chords. Turn up the Pre-Delay with the Mix at 100% for an ambient sound that swells and echoes almost infinitely.
Spring is a great option for those who want a more classic sounding reverb. Keep the mix low and you’ll get a hint of soft reverberations similar to hitting a bell with a mallet. Adding a slight tremolo to the tail of your input, Spring is effective on rhythmic chords and leads. I particularly love using Spring paired with Mod on surf rock styled riffs to get an old school beach bum vibe.
While I’ve covered the sounds of the 3 Reverb Types in Norm mode with a few mentions of the Mod option, the Shimmer mode creates the most unique quality of the blueSky sound. Shimmer can completely transform your signal into an organ, spaceship, or a beautiful growing pad that sounds like it would hail from a secret fairy garden. Shimmer on Plate is the organ playing in a sunken cathedral. This combination offers long expansive bell tones that swell upwards and surround your signal. Using Low Damp and High Damp allows you to pick apart these tones to perfectly embellish your existing sound. Shimmer on Room seems to focus on lower harmonic sounds, providing an interesting pitch difference when switching between settings. These frequencies act more like feedback, combining and washing together to create a great shoegaze wall of sound. With Pre-Delay all the way up, this Shimmer combo gives you a delayed attack that is more like a fade in. Shimmer on Spring adds more character to the bouncing, unpredictable nature found in an acoustic spring reverb. Even with Decay and Mix all the way up, the Shimmer still extends and recoils with the Spring sound, adding a metallic quality to the tail end of your signal.
Aside from the surface knob options, there’s also a -3dB Boost/Cut feature which can be achieved by pressing and holding the 2 foot-swtiches and turning the Mix knob. This is a handy feature for matching the signal level to your other pedals or adding a little boost or cut if needed.
Following the theme of other dual foot-switch Strymon pedals, the 3 reverb Types and Modes are only accessible via a small vertical switch. Changing the reverb types and settings quickly is rather difficult in a live performance. When the blueSky is mounted on a pedalboard, I’ve found it to be possible only when performing without shoes or bending down to switch between settings. This issue is solved by saving your preferred settings onto the Favorite foot-switch, but of course this limits you to only 1 preset and 1 live bank. This can be a draw back for those wanting more preset options, but the great sound quality of the available reverbs still makes the Strymon blueSky a worthy consideration.
The Strymon blueSky is a compact stereo reverberator that offers tone shaping possibilities through 3 reverb types, 3 mode variations including an excellent Shimmer, and multiple control knobs. With many reverb options it is easy to get lost when trying to find the perfect one. The blueSky contains a simple mix of classic reverbs that are able to be expanded into beautiful ambient designs that preserve the clarity of your tone. Reverb is one of my favorite effects and something I researched intensely before dedicating my rig to one pedal. Purchased years ago, my blueSky continues to provide a wide range of subtle echoes and atmospheric pads that always fit well in a live set.
That concludes our Strymon blueSky review. Thanks for reading.