MOD Kits DIY is a great resource for the DIY-curious effects nerd. The company offers an expansive line of nicely outfitted kits for building everything from a basic boost or overdrive pedal, to tube-based effects, wah pedals, and even tube amps. These kits are typically extremely affordable, letting pedal-mad players on a budget add to their collections of tone tools for very little money, while also affording them the opportunity to pick up the fundamentals of soldering and DIY electronics assembly.
The company's latest kit, The Wave reverb, is sure to prove popular with guitarists that are handy with a soldering iron and have a little time on their hands. The Wave is a tube-powered spring reverb unit, not unlike the vintage outboard spring reverbs of the ‘60s surf era, but housed in a rugged, modern, steel chassis that can be mounted in a three-space rack for studio use, or perched atop a guitar amp with the included rubber feet. The Wave is based around a quartet of dual triode vacuum tubes; one 12AT7 and three 12AX7's, with a MOD '60s style three-spring reverb tank providing the boing and splash. The ins and outs consist of mono, quarter-inch jacks for inserting the unit into one's instrument effects chain, and a set of RCA jacks for general and studio usage. Controls are limited to the Reverb and Dwell knobs mounted on the face of the unit, and a footswitchable, pop-free, on/off switch allows the user to quickly and silently toggle the reverb in and out on the fly.
The kit for The Wave sells for an extremely reasonable 275 bucks, and includes all the necessary parts needed to assemble the unit and get it running, including the pre-punched, powder-coated, black steel chassis. MOD Kits DIY also provides detailed assembly instructions that should be easy to follow for the semi-skilled DIY enthusiast possessed of some building experience and a steady soldering hand. The MOD Kits website notes that The Wave rates a "5" on their 1–5 Build Difficulty Meter, so it's probably not a good choice for the inexperienced aspiring builder.
To save time and ensure a top-notch build for our review unit, Tone Report employed Portland amp and effects guru Brian Sours, of Soursound, to assemble our Wave reverb. MOD Kits DIY states that the kit should take an experienced amateur about five or six hours to assemble, but Mr. Sours, as a highly-skilled professional, was able to complete the build in spectacular fashion in just under four hours. Anyone who is interested in The Wave, but does not necessarily want to build it themselves, should consider taking it to a local pro for assembly, though this option can be expected to add several hundred dollars to the overall cost.
Hooking The Wave up was easy as pie, with both quarter-inch instrument jacks located on the unit's faceplate, while the footswitch and RCA jacks are located on the rear. It powered up with no hesitation, and with the Reverb and Dwell knobs set around noon, my first thought was, "HOLY REVERB!" Seriously, this thing generates a metric ton of 'verb. With both knobs up, the signal was absolutely drowning, but dialing both controls back from the noon position a bit, The Wave was able to achieve a useful range of spacious tones, from vintage drip to subtle, roomy ambience. I found that the most useable sounds could be achieved by either turning up the Dwell while backing off the Reverb, or vice versa, with my favorite setting being Dwell at about 3 o'clock and Reverb at about 9 or 10 o'clock. It is in this range where the classic drippy tones seem to live, and I would imagine that this would be a popular setting for most players likely to purchase and assemble this unit. Experimentation with more extreme settings yielded some cool, if unorthodox, sounds that inspired me to play off of the reverb in interesting ways, similar to the way one might play off of a delay, building riffs and rhythms around the effect.
The essential tone of The Wave is quite compelling, with a warm, lively character and deep ambience that one could easily get lost in for a few hours while sitting in front of the amp with a Tele and a six-pack. That being said, its character is noticeably darker than the vintage Fender Reverb units that tend to be the standard-bearers of this kind of sound. These units have a uniquely bright, splashy drip that helped define early '60s surf music, and this is still a sound a lot of spring 'verb aficionados hold dear. The Wave, on the other hand, is warmer and somewhat less drippy, reminding me more of the vintage Gibson Reverb units than the Fender. The result is a sound that is probably less generically "surfy," but more generally useful, especially if it's being used as a studio effect on instruments other than guitar.
What we like: Extremely affordable, with solid overall quality and detailed, easy-to-follow instructions. Excellent range of cool spring tones, from subtly spacious, to vintage, to completely outrageous. Super easy to hook up and dial in, and it can be mounted in a rack or placed atop an amp or cab. And unlike a digital, spring-simulating reverb pedal, you can give The Wave a gentle whack and get that cool crashing sound!
Concerns: The Wave is for really dedicated spring reverb lovers. More casual users may find the amount of reverb on tap to be a little over-the-top, though this does not seem to detract from The Wave's ability to achieve more subdued ambient tones. Tone-wise, it's darker than the classic Fender Reverb units, but this does make it more useful for anything that's not a traditional, '60s-style surf guitar sound.