If you know guitar pedals, you’ve most likely heard of Electro Harmonix, makers of such popular effects pedals as the Memory Man and the Big Muff. They have become known for delivering consistently designed stomp boxes that are straight forward in execution but always pack plenty of awesome tone. The Holy Grail Plus is no exception. This reverb pedal is just as easy to setup as the rest of the Electro Harmonix pedals and just as tough. Those looking to add some signature reverb to their overall sound will find plenty to like with this one. For those of you unfamiliar with the general principles of what reverb is and how it’s created, it is an effect made when sound is produced in an enclosed space, causing a large number of echoes to build up then slowly decay as the sound is absorbed through the air or wall. In an effects pedal, that natural decay is simulated either digitally through signal processing algorithms by using multiple feedback delay units or in the case of analog and spring reverb systems, through an electromechanical transducer that creates vibrations in a plate of metal. Chances are that many of your favorite songs use this effect as it is very popular with several genres, notably rockabilly and surf guitar. In the case of the Holy Grail Plus, Electro Harmonix took the digital route and although this can be a deal breaker for those analog sound purists out there, this stomp box has a surprisingly “natural” feel to it, avoiding the pitfall of sounding “fake,” as is a problem with some digital pedals - at least on certain settings. So, with all of the other great reverb units out there, is the Electro Harmonix Holy Grail Plus the right one for you? Well, read on and find out.
The Features of the Electro Harmonix Holy Grail Plus
As mentioned above, if you are familiar with Electro Harmonix stomp boxes, then you’ll know what to expect from the Holy Grail, and that’s most definitely a good thing. As far as controls go, you’ve got three knobs – Blend, Amount and Reverb – nothing more. Reverb will be your most important setting as this controls the type of reverb effect you’ll be using. The Holy Grail comes with Spring Reverb, Hall Reverb, Room Reverb and Flerb. The Blend knob controls the wet/dry mix of your sound, letting you choose your preferred balance of either wet or dry (signal with effect or signal without effect, respectively). And finally, the Amount knob controls the depth of the effect. The Amount and Blend controls will be your key to getting a wide range of mainly outstanding tones so it’s suggested that you first select the type of reverb you will be going for and then fine tune from there. And speaking of sounds, the Holy Grail definitely shines in that department.
Of the four included types of reverb, Spring is by far the best. You simply have to hear it for yourself to understand how beautifully textured the tone is on that setting. It has a very natural and warm shimmering feel to it, but with enough depth to keep the decays from sounding thin – a normal complaint with some digital reverb units. Honestly, sound of the Spring mode alone is enough to make this pedal worth the buy, but there are also three more to look at. The Flerb setting is as unique as its name suggests, maybe even a bit too unique as I can see a lot of players skipping over this feature completely. That’s not to say it sounds awful, just very, very unique. Although I can’t see many guitar styles that would incorporate the Flerb sound (except of course ambient genres such as prog rock), it’s actually a very fun effect to jam around with as the tones created sound intense and otherworldly, creepy even. If you are more of the creative type and love unique sounds, the Flerb will be a very welcomed addition to your tone library. The other two reverb settings are more or less in line with your average reverb tones with an ample amount of variation in each to be able to use them for several different styles of music. All in all, each of the reverb settings had plenty of pretty good sounds but in the end, the spring setting was by far the best.
Hands down, this thing is built tough, just like the rest of Electro Harmonix’s pedals. The chassis on this thing is solid (feels solid anyway) die cast metal with a very compact feel to it. I haven’t had mine for too long yet but I can tell you that if its anything like the Memory Boy, you can throw this into your gig bag, knock it down a few times and stomp away at it as much as you’d like and the thing won’t probably even have a scratch on it. This pedal offers true bypass when not on so it will be a perfect addition to any guitar player’s effects signal chain. Well, maybe not absolutely perfect as the Holy Grail doesn’t use batteries and instead needs to be powered by an ac adapter. I personally don’t mind this much but having a choice is always a better deal.
With all of the amazing tones packed into such a small and straight forward pedal, along with its tough as nails body and true bypass capability, the Electro Harmonix Holy Grail Plus Reverb is an outstanding pedal with plenty to like. Although it still has a problem here in there – most notably its inability to use batteries – this pedal is still one of the best reverb units in its price range and will make a great addition to any player’s effects repertoire.