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The Acmeverb

The story behind the Acmeverb is a very personal one. Going back to my high school 60s punk band, I’ve always felt naked without reverb, and thus my first two amps were Bandmaster Reverb and Dual Showman Reverb heads. In the years since, I have modified many amps to add more low end and gain to the reverb circuits. In addition, I’ve collected many different amps with reverb - Ampegs, Premiers, Traynors, Olivers, Silvertones, Buddas - and been fascinated by the many flavors of reverb.

When Tacoma’s Puget Sound Organ Repair closed its doors, the first things I bought were a filing cabinet full of schematics and service literature, and every reverb pan in the building, which added up to a whopping 150 units. As I sorted through and tested these I discovered more than two thirds of them were the ‘FB’ variety, rather than the more popular ‘AB’ type used in Fender amps. ‘FB’ pans were used in Ampegs in a capacitor-driven circuit, which sounds very different from transformer-driven ‘AB’ circuits. As I boxed these up in my storage space it dawned on me that it would take decades to sell them, and that a better way to dispose of this healthy supply of vintage springs would be a standalone Acme reverb. I hit the books, reviewed every spring reverb schematic I could find, and was quite surprised when my research brought me back to the Silvertone 1484!

This reverb is deliciously trashy and blown-up sounding, and always reminds me of the Velvet Underground’s “White Light/White Heat”. Danelectro used a goofy homebrew spring unit in this amp, but this circuit works well with the ‘FB’ pan. I started with this basic drive circuit and added three controls: “Depth,” which controls the mix of wet and dry; “Sand,” which adds or rolls off high end from the wet signal; and “Swell,” which controls the overall drive and extends into very fuzzy overdriven territory. I also voiced the Acmeverb with a healthy amount of low-end, something I find lacking in many other units. Two reference points for the sound of the Acmeverb are Poison Ivy of the Cramps and Roland S. Howard of the Birthday Party, and I alternately label Acmeverbs 1484-IVY and 1484-RSH in their honor.

--Jesse Quitslund

© 2016 by ACME Instruments. Photos by Gary Lappier.

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