The new Topanga from Catalinbread is a surf guitarist's wet dream. It’s drippy with the twangy verb of an old outboard Fender reverb unit. Sporting controls for Dwell, Tone, Mix, and Volume, the Topanga offers up everything from subtle amp style ambiance to Dick Dale and Ventures-approved reverb overload.
Tone and Mix are obvious controls. Dwell is interesting, because it determines how hot of a signal hits the “springs.” At the most extreme settings the reverb is slightly distorted just like a real Fender reverb unit. Volume controls the overall output of the Topanga. Unity gain is at the fully counterclockwise point.
The beauty of an original Fender outboard reverb unit, and likewise of the Topanga, is the ability to run it into the front-end of an amp. Going into my slightly distorted Vox AC15HW, the added grit intensifies the reverb. But don’t worry, if you want to enjoy the Topanga clean and dirty, it sounded great when running it into my Bearfoot Model G and my Mad Professor Sweet Honey.
The ability to boost the heck out of the signal is also cool. At band practice, I placed the Topanga last in the chain, set the boost near max and the rest of the controls at noon. Running it this way is great for solos, you get a major volume boosts along with some added reverb to thicken your tone.
For the ambient crew, maxing the Mix and Dwell controls creates a really cool wash reverb that obscures the attack of your note.
And blasting the front end of the Topanga with the full force of a boost pedal (Bearfoot Red Rooster in this case) creates a super cool fuzzy reverb. Awesome with the mix at 100% and in "secret" modulation mode.
Wait, you didn’t know about the “super secret modulation mode?” You can enter this mode by unplugging the power supply, turning the tone knob fully counter clockwise, and re-inserting the power supply. Now there is a subtle modulation applied to the reverb. In this setting, the Topanga has a kind of eerie late-80’s early-90’s chorus and reverb thing. As soon as I hear the tone, I immediately started playing the clean intro to Angry Chair by Alice in Chains.
What we like: Everything. From subtle washes of verb with the Mix and Dwell set low to dripping wet surf tones, the Topanga delivers across the board.
Build quality: The Topanga appears to be built well and the paint job (along with the graphic design work) is beautiful.
Value: $195 for this much versatility and this much verb is a pretty great deal.