Free The Tone Ambi Space

  • By David A. Evans @tonereport
  • December 21, 2016

Free the Tone’s Ambi Space Digital Reverb has class, as some people might say. Its color scheme is reminiscent of an audiophile’s hi-fi system: glowing lights, dark knobs, black trim on a dark brown-copper housing. In fact, the Ambi Space is so well-designed, so reminiscent of a $10,000 stereo component that it would be easy to forget that it’s actually a useable effects pedal.

The Ambi Space covers a lot of ground with its minimalist palette. It features six reverb modes which cover the essentials, and then some: Spring, Plate, Room, Hall, Cave, and a special option called Serene for those new-age, wall-of-sound songs. Switching reverb modes requires a mere twist of the Mode knob.

True to the pedal’s intuitive and minimalist design, the Ambi Space features four Preset modes that can be accessed when the pedal is in Preset mode. If this seems a bit confusing, bear with me. By depressing the Mode button (not twisting the Mode knob), the pedal switches between the Manual and Preset modes. Only when the pedal is in the Preset mode can the user access the saved settings. Phew!

Despite its appearances to the contrary, the setup is actually fairly straightforward, which I appreciated. However, as I tinkered with the pedal, I discovered that once in Preset mode, I couldn’t adjust the reverb parameters without first depressing the Edit button. By no means do I consider this quibble a deal-breaker, but I believe that readers should be aware of the nature of the Ambi Space’s presets. They’re really meant to be set up beforehand, as presets ought to, then used without much fuss when needed.

Speaking of parameters, the Ambi Space features a nifty little Pre-Delay knob that allows the pedal to produce reverb that’s not otherwise possible. Take the Spring reverb setting, for example; the Pre-Delay actually adds just a few milliseconds of delay from the moment the dry signal passes into the reverb circuit until the moment that the wet signal is outputted. Wholly analog reverberation units cannot accomplish this feat, at least not without some clever jury-rigging with a delay unit. But with the Ambi Space, the impossible (or impractical) has been made possible (or more practical).

At least in the Spring mode, the Pre-Delay gives a sort of ricocheting effect to the signal. More surreal effects come about in the Cave and Serene modes, in which the ricochet is transformed into a shimmering, undulating wave of reverberation.

Free The Tone has wisely added a few input and output options that might not have been so obvious to readers. First, the company placed a tiny selector switch inside the unit for the choice of line level or instrument-level inputs. Although the switch is actually inside the pedal, a hole in the right-hand side of the housing is just large enough for a paper clip or small screwdriver to flip the switch. Another switch accessible via a small hole on the bottom of the unit allows the user to stop the dry signal from passing through the output. And, if that’s not enough, the Ambi Space also features a MIDI port that allows for editing of all parameters via a MIDI controller.

Free the Tone’s Ambi Space is an eye-pleasing little unit, but it’s also highly functional and sounds good to the ears. Despite my minor quibble with the need to depress the Edit button to alter Preset parameters, I believe that Free The Tone’s design is rather sensible. For that reason, I can’t dissuade anyone who’s thinking of breaking out the brandy snifters for a relaxing, audiophile-grade evening.

What We Like: Stereo input and output; parameter control via MIDI; shimmering reverb and an intuitive set of controls.

Concerns: I would have liked a way of adjusting Presets without needing to enter a special Edit mode.

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