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I’ve been through a few reverb pedals, and I’ve had a hard time finding “the one.” There are plenty of options out there if you’re looking for a basic spring reverb, but what if you want to unleash all of the dreamy, spacey goodness that the effect can offer?
Fear not! Electro-Harmonix has got your back. In addition to the oft-used Holy Grail and the mid-range Holy Grail Plus, EHX offers the Cathedral unit for those of us who are serious about our reverb. And I mean serious. With true stereo inputs and outputs, seven 24-bit reverb algorithms, a 2-second digital delay setting, and controls for blend, decay time, pre-delay, tone, and feedback, the Cathedral puts other reverb stompboxes to shame.
Let’s start with the basics.
The Cathedral includes the three settings featured on the original Holy Grail: Spring, Hall, and Flerb. Spring is as bright and shimmery as usual, Hall is warm and even, and Flerb adds a subtle flange for a modulated sound. What lifts these settings on the Cathedral above a regular Holy Grail is tweakability. By adding feedback and adjusting the pre-delay and decay time, you can get rich, full washes of reverb with Hall and Spring. You can also use the time knob to adjust the frequency of the flange in Flerb mode.
On top of the three classic Grail settings, the Cathedral is loaded with four unique reverb algorithms. Accu Spring imitates an Accutronics spring tank with moderate success, Room provides a less spacious version of Hall, and Reverse gives you super-psychedelic reverse reverberations. Each mode allows for a saved preset, which is particularly handy for gigging.
These settings are all quite usable, but I find myself consistently dwelling on the Plate mode. Impressively warm yet deliciously ethereal, Plate evokes the hazy soundscapes of Cocteau Twins and Galaxie 500 when you really crank it.
Without a doubt, my favorite feature of the Cathedral is the tap tempo option. This especially comes in handy with the Echo mode, a 2-second delay that you can add reverb to by adjusting the blend knob. You can also add up to two seconds of pre-delay with the other modes for spacious swells of reverb.
By far the coolest use of the tap tempo switch is infinite reverb. By pressing tap tempo down right after you play a note, you can get drones that will sustain forever. Strumming chords while using this feature yields organ-like pads that do justice to the pedal’s name.
My main (read: only) complaint with the Cathedral is its lack of tonal range. While each setting sounds great on its own, the pedal generally tends toward the brighter side of things. In order to get darker reverb, you have to crank the tone knob pretty far counter-clockwise, which results in a slightly muddy tone. Of course, EHX reverb has always been known for its celestial shimmer, so is this really a downfall?
[rating:5] – Build Quality: 5
[rating:5] – Sound Quality: 5
[rating:5] – Features: 5
[rating:5] – Ease of Use: 5
[rating:overall] 5 Stars!
There’s no such thing as perfection, especially with stompboxes. But with its startling versatility, loads of usable features, and top-notch sound quality, the Cathedral is definitely at the top of its class. A pedal like this is probably excessive for most guitarists, but for lovers of shoegaze, surf rock, and other reverb-heavy genres, it’s definitely worth the investment.