Can you capture the Strymon Big Sky guitar pedal in a plugin?
Strymon has been around for not much over 10 years. In this time, the US company has built an enviable reputation for high quality, innovative and inspirational effect pedals. Users include not just guitar players, such as Noel Gallagher (formerly Oasis), Matt Bellamy (Muse) or Matt Healey (The 1975). Keyboard players and producers, such as Martin Garrix or Cory Wong, use the Strymon Big Sky reverb pedal.
With the recent release of the Strymon V2 pedals, which added the ability to control the Strymon V2 pedals via MIDI, the company has taken another step now in blurring the lines between hardware and software.
One of the flagship products in the Strymon range is the Big Sky reverb pedal. In theory, reverb created with a DSP based software algorithm should be more accurately port to a 100% software platform than a reverb generated through hardware (such as a spring reverb).
The demos sound lush, in particular the long tail reverbs and shimmer algorithms. We like that there are only a few but powerful parameters. What is clever about the user interface is that the top row parameters remain the same, even as you change algorithms.
The user interface looks practical and easy to use. It contains:
In practical use, I can imagine this design feature makes dialling in decay, tone, and mix easy, while allowing you to audition different algorithms with the same settings.
Using the dial on the left of the plugin, you can choose between 12 algorithms:
Bloom: 90s style digital reverb
Swell: A modulating reverb with rising reverb levels
Spring: 60s style spring reverb
Plate: A plate reverb emulation, with large and small plate options
Hall: Longer tail diffuse reverb with concert and arena settings
Room: Shorter reverbs than Hall, with club and studio settings
Reflections: Small space reflections, with up to 250 signals
Non-Linear: Special effect reverb great for textures and unusual effects.
Magneto: 50s style multi head echo reverb
Shimmer: Dual voice ambient reverb with very long decay
Chorale: A modulating reverb algorithm tuned to vowels
Cloud: 70s style massive reverb
Rounding out the features are input/output levels, presets, bypass, and plugin size options.
When we saw the news emerging of yet another reverb, we asked ourselves: does the world need another reverb plugin?
The Strymon pedigree is impeccable, with a strong reputation among musicians. The demos Strymon released sound enticing, in particular when it comes to long reverb tails, and "shimmer" reverbs.
However, the full price of $199 takes the Strymon Big Sky plugin to the top of the reverb plugin price range. The hefty price tag pitches the plugin against plugins such as FabFilter Pro R. And then you need to consider the well regarded and much cheaper Valhalla Shimmer reverb at $50. On the other hand, the Big Sky pedal costs $479. Still, this doesn't make the plugin a bargain.
Luckily, you can make up your mind yourself before potentially splashing out. Strymon offers a 7 day free demo.
Here is one bug bear. Strymon seems to deploy a very selective approach to selling the plugin. So far, you can only buy the plugin directly in the US from Strymon, and outside the US there are only three retailers at the moment, Gear4Music* in the UK, Thomann* in Germany, and GB Music in Canada. We suspect Strymon obliges any retailer to sign a retail price maintenance agreement, which we believe is not in the interest of consumers, as it reduces competition and keeps prices high. We hope that Strymon rethinks their approach.
Trained in classical and jazz piano, Christof has over 30 years of experience in songwriting and music production. In 2021, he founded musicmanta and is now its Editor-in-Chief. Christof has worked in marketing for 25 years in Unilever and Kimberly-Clark. He is now the Head of Performance Marketing UK for Andrex, Kleenex, and Huggies, leading a team of 10 to create award-winning marketing campaigns, writing effective content, reaching millions of people.
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