Pedal Review: Hardwire Supernatural
Review by Ian Garrett
The Pedal: Hardwire Supernatural Ambient Verb
The Point: A Multi-Mode Reverb Pedal
The Cost: $179.95
Find the Supernatural at Proguitarshop.com
I won’t give you a history lesson on exactly what is, or how the ambient music genre was created, but for the uninitiated ambient music focuses on creating different moods or atmospheres. It is a form of music that has less structure and melody, but reaches its audience through “feeling.” Earlier on, ambient music was created through use of synthesizers, but guitarists have moved into the ambient arena as well. The Supernatural Ambient Verb pedal is one such tool that can help guitarists create these surreal landscapes of tone.
Likely by now you’ve checked out a lot of great videos of Andy highlighting any of the seven different reverb modes that are featured on this pedal. But what surprised me most about this pedal is there are three or four modes that most non-ambient guitarists will find very useful. So for this review, I’m going to divide the ambient reverbs from the more traditional reverbs, and how they differ from one another.
A quick look at the controls
The Supernatural is pretty straightforward. It has one knob to select which reverb to use; a decay knob that controls the amount of delay you want to dial in; a liveliness control, which helps you dial in the higher end treble content; and finally a mix knob to control how much of the reverb effect is added to your signal. If you turn it up all the way, you’re signal is 100% wet, meaning you will only hear the effect, and not your initial notes being played. This makes total sense with ambient music, where you’re looking to create different washes of reverb tone, and will give you a very synth-like feeling. Hearing the individual notes being played first can ruin the effect. For more traditional usage of reverb, keep the mix below noon and you will find that it enhances your overall tone without it taking over too much. Right around noon or greater, your tone will quickly be surrounded with dripping reverb. The mix and decay knobs work well together, with the liveliness control coming in handy for more fine tuning adjustments.
The ambient modes vs. the “traditional” reverb modes
The Spring mode seeks to emulate certain amps - older tube-driven spring reverb Fenders, for example. The spring mode is extremely accurate to a real spring. The delay time of the spring sound itself isn’t terribly long, but it’s very authentic sounding, which is what I had hoped for. Keep the mix fairly low at first to give your tone a little something extra. Then turn it up to around noon, with decay at noon or greater. Then turn it off. You realize quickly how much more alive your tone sounds and how three-dimensional notes sound with reverb added in. Turn the mix up most of the way if you really want to push the envelope. Even if you never plan on using any of the “ambient” modes at all, you might find the price of admission worth it for the spring mode alone.
My favorite setting was the Plate mode. And the Plate w/Modulation mode was quite good, too. I initially liked the plate with mix set somewhat low, around 10-11 o’clock, with decay around noon. It just adds something crisp and natural to your tone, in a different way from spring. Cranking the mix can certainly give you more of an ambient feel too. If you use any gain/fuzz at all, you’ll want to keep the mix and liveliness lower, but it can make a fairly average dirt tone come alive. The chorus modulation mixed in with the plate mode is pretty good, especially if you’re looking for a little variety, and play clean so that you can hear the effect. It isn’t over the top at all; more of a subtle mix of chorus being dialed in.
And I might argue that the Pherb setting is a traditional reverb effect – basically a hall reverb with a slow phasing effect. But I can see this also appealing to ambient players, as well, because of the phasing effect you can hear no matter how you set the mix and decay knobs. Unfortunately you can’t control the speed or depth of the modulation on any of the settings which is too bad I liked using Pherb with a clean tone and the mix set a bit higher. I wouldn’t use this mode with much gain; but on its own, it has a very nice, pleasing tone to it.
The ambient verbs
Moving in the opposite direction, if you’re looking for that ambient synth-like vibe, get ready to crank up the mix and decay, and get your mood on. The Shimmer mode has a haunting, ethereal vibe to it, complete with octave shifts that make it sound like you have a keyboard/synth playing in unison. It is a very cool effect, and I can see umpteen uses for it – whether on stage, or for the home recording enthusiast that might not have a big budget. Add a looper pedal to the Supernatural and you can make all sorts of cool effects.
The Supernova mode creates some unique tones, as well, with sort of a twisting flange and pitch shifting occurring at the same time. I found I can use this mode with the mix set lower in more traditional types of playing, as well as turning the mix up when I want the flanging to be more prevalent in my tone. The pitch shifting becomes more obvious with the decay turned up making it sound like you might have several different pedals on at one time. The Shine mode has some pitch shifting too, with chorus instead of flanging. All three ambient related verbs have unique tones to them, yet they all have a familiar feel to them too.
I’ve personally owned the Supernatural since it first came out. I’m a big fan of both the spring and plate modes, but lately I’ve made sure to give more time to the ambient reverbs too, even though I don’t consider myself an ambient type player. With judicious use of these modes, they can fit into many different styles of music. If you’re looking for a reverb pedal that will give you endless tweaking of every possible parameter, this might not be for you. But if you want a great sounding pedal that is built like a tank in the USA at a fair price, it’s hard to beat the Supernatural.
5 – Tremendous product; among the very best
4 – Great value overall; exceeds expectations
3 – Definite contender, but look closely at the competition too
2 – Average at best; probably better choices exist
1 – Not ready for prime time