SG101 on the Web

Follow SurfGuitar101 on Twitter

Photo of the Day
Shoutbox

simoncoil: FWIW my guess for the ending of GoT was a surprising "Invasion fo the Dragonmen" (Hey-ho, hey-ho ...)
281 days ago

Surf_Skater: Congratulations JonPaul and Marie!
248 days ago

tubeswell: Anyone in Cali affected by the quakes?
235 days ago

Scrane255: Marty smith was my Uncle! Would like to see pictures of the nobles band
228 days ago

josheboy: Convention in 1 week!!
214 days ago

bigtikidude: 4 days and counting. Who's coming?
211 days ago

dragonfly: Has anyone heard the new Ford commercial with Dick Dale's Misirlou in the background? I have and it's awesome but too bad they waited till DD passed away. Long live the King!.
199 days ago

DangerDeathRay3: Check out Hamilton Ontario's surf grunge power trio, Danger!! Death Ray: https://face...
81 days ago

Double-Crown-Records: Last chance to order Seasonal Favorites 5 or anything else from Double Crown before Christmas! www.doublecr...
70 days ago

Clint: Check out my YouTube Channel… “Surf Music Videos”. Tell me what you think. Please subscribe. https://www....
30 days ago

Please login or register to shout.

Current Polls

No polls at this time. Check out our past polls.

Current Contests

No contests at this time. Check out our past contests.

Donations

Help us meet our monthly goal:

100%

100%

Donate Now

SG101 Banner

SurfGuitar101 Forums » Gear »

Permalink Stanley FX Blue Nebula

New Topic
Page 1 of 1

The Blue Nebula Tape Echo Emulator (and Lots of Other Effects) Pedal

Massive pedalboards are not my thing. One of the things I don’t care for is having to tweak settings between songs. Once I’m on stage, I’m in the mood to play, and nothing else. But I need reverb and I need delay, on occasion. When the Boss RE-20 came out, I bought one as a tape echo emulator, but it wasn’t quite what I was looking for. The reverb sounded too deep, like a coin dropping into a hand-dug well. There were some great sounds, but it took some knob twiddling to get there. I found myself using only a handful of settings because of this twiddling.

After the RE-20, I tried the Boss FRV-1 and the MXR Carbon Copy Delay, which was OK at best. The FRV-1 sounded harsh to my ear. Eventually, I settled on the CatalinBread Topanga as a reverb unit and pretty much forgot about delay. I had found a few pedals which combined reverb and delay, but none of them really had what I was looking for.

A while back, I watched an instructional video with Hank Marvin and learned about his use of delay. The sounds he used really appealed to me, so I started looking into ways to accomplish this. A pair of delays can be setup to imitate Hank’s delay, but the settings are picky and it’s easy to knock it out of adjustment inadvertently. Mel Waldorf mentioned the Stanley FX Baby Blue and I investigated.

When I got to the Stanley FX site, I found that there was a programmable pedal called the Blue Nebula, which had the delay settings for all of Hank’s major songs by default. After researching the pedal and the options for programming, I was convinced that this pedal could not only meet my needs as a tape-delay emulator, but also as a very versatile pedal for all sorts of effects, so I ordered one.

I had to learn my way around the pedal; how to configure it, how to save patches on a computer, how to edit them and how to reapply them to the BN unit. One thing I discovered is that there are all sorts of effects which can be added to the pedal. The first 8 are best left alone, but the second 8 effects beg to be programmed to taste. So I replaced some of the many delay effects with a Reverb + Chorus, a Reverb + Flanger, a Reverb + Phaser, and changed the order of the existing effects which I retained. Including moving the “Abbey Guitar Reverb” from position #15 to position #8, It is a very useful and great sounding effect based upon the Abbey Road plate reverbs. This one reverb covers a lot of ground and will drip until the cows come home.

Once I selected my desired effects, I decided to work with my list of patches. Each patch can be custom named and allows you to select the effect, save the parameters for that effect and name it. Usually, I name to for the song I intend to use it on and, indeed, my list of patches form a setlist. Because there are 128 user patches available, one can compile quite a list, and the Hank Marvin patches are always available as another group of 21 patches in addition to the 128 user patches. Any of the Hank patches can be saved to a user patch location and named to whatever you desire, as long as you desire 16 characters or less.

Of course the big question is; how does it sound? Let me start by stating that it isn’t designed to replace your tank, although the Guitar Abbey Reverb has a nice drip. But it’s not intended to be a spring reverb emulator. I’m very satisfied with this as a Surf sound, but I’m not a hard-core purist.

Nonetheless, there’s more to Surf music than reverb. The various delay effects and tremolo come in very handy for Surf players. The tremolo is solid and competent. I’ve had tremolo pedals that were quite disappointing in the past, but this one works well. One optional effect is a Reverb + Vibrato, which gives one the vaunted “harmonic vibrato” as a sonic tool. It’s an amazing sound. While not traditional Surf effects, I should point out that a Phase Shifter and Flanger are also available and quite good.

One complaint commonly heard, with regard to delay pedals, is that the sound is sterile. The Blue Nebula addresses this matter proactively and, unlike some pedals I’ve seen, it does not resort to artificial means. On the right-hand side of the Blue Nebula are three knobs labeled Gain, Pre and Master, respectively. Gain and Pre control the JFET preamp stages. You can crank up the first stage and push the second stage JFETs into overdrive, just like a tube driven tape delay. It is not designed to replace a Tube Screamer, but it will complete the puzzle, so to speak, and allow the tape delay to avoid the sterile sound of some delay units. The Master control is there to allow you to match the volume of the Blue Nebula to the volume with the volume in bypass mode.

Now that I’ve had the Blue Nebula for a few weeks, I’ve learned to create some very useful patches. I’ve also adapted some of the Hank Marvin patches to our song list and discovered some new approaches to effects use in the process. During yesterday’s band practice, I used the Blue Nebula exclusively and was completely satisfied with the results. We covered some Surf classics, some Chuck Berry, Del Shannon’s version of Runaway a version of Ruby Baby that combines Dion’s and Donald Fagan’s approach to the song. The Blue Nebula gave me an appropriate and unique sound for everything on our setlist. The best part is that these patches can be named for each song and used as an on-stage setlist. By switching between effects at the click of a foot-switch I was able to go from one song to the next without delay. I estimate that we will be able to add one additional song per one-hour set, by virtue of this saved time.

One thing that needs to be pointed out is that the Blue Nebula is very transparent. I have played any number of multiple effects platforms that had an audible noise floor. This one is crystal clear. There is no coloration of the signal whatsoever and the various delays are true to the input signal.

Digital pedals, such as this, are essentially packaged DSPs. The manufacturer is selling not only the hardware, but also the programming of the DSP. The Spin FV-1 DSP in the Blue Nebula is the same DSP as a CatalinBread Topanga, but the programming is much different. The package of this pedal works very well, with an easily readable display, controls to allow manual input of patches and even a manual mode where you can select any of the 16 effects loaded on the unit and try different parameters in real time. There is also a MIDI port, allowing the Blue Nebula to be externally controlled.

While the Blue Nebula came into existence as a way to copy Hank Marvin’s delay effects on classic Shadows songs. In themselves, these effects are enough to justify buying a Blue Nebula. They sound great on Surf tunes as well as Blues, and Classic Rock. Other available effects, as mentioned above, make the Blue Nebula a very versatile effects platform which is useful in many genres. It’s the centerpiece of my pedalboard.

The artist formerly known as: Synchro

When Surf Guitar is outlawed only outlaws will play Surf Guitar.
My Guitar WebSite
Dead Thread

synchro wrote:

Massive pedalboards are not my thing.

But I need reverb and I need delay, on occasion.

I'll be honest, my pedalboard is probably one of the more ...'comprehensive' on the site. That's probably because I started out really more garage rock than surf stuff, and there are a few things on the board (the bass fuzz, Muff and treble booster) that are really more to do with that sort of sound. There's a couple of things too, that I just have because they're fun and I had space.

Even so, I think if I was cutting my board down to the minimum for my use, it's still not going to be the smallest one here. In a nutshell, I need: A boost or fuzz, a killswitch tuner, a tremolo, an ABY and a delay. Of those, on my pedalboard, the boost and fuzz I use are both micro-pedals, as is the tremolo. So, if I wanted to, I could put together something pretty portable. But the reason I have all these is because I struggled for ages with in-amp digital effects, and I've kind of turned almost violently technophobic in what I put in my guitar signal. The only digital pedal I'd be prepared to use is the Korg Miku! ROTFL

But there's one thing I do miss from my old robo-amp, which is the patches. You're not wrong about how intrusive it is to have to fiddle with controls between songs, and the worst thing to do that with are tempo-dependent ones like delay and tremolo. Being able to set the precise oscillator frequency from a patch set would be awesome. I've always wondered (we'll see if I survive the Showman build first) about putting together a bucket-brigade discrete-time delay, but using a microcontroller instead of an oscillator, to allow setting the time interval from a MIDI source or a digital display, rather than an analogue dial. Maybe that should be my next career, hm? Wink

I also love the JFET triode-emulation they use in the pedal. It's like if Björn made a digital multi-effect, no? Angel

If I see one anywhere, I'll have to have a play.

Thanks for the detailed review!

They who die with the fewest control knobs, win.

Tqi wrote:

synchro wrote:

Massive pedalboards are not my thing.

But I need reverb and I need delay, on occasion.

I'll be honest, my pedalboard is probably one of the more ...'comprehensive' on the site. That's probably because I started out really more garage rock than surf stuff, and there are a few things on the board (the bass fuzz, Muff and treble booster) that are really more to do with that sort of sound. There's a couple of things too, that I just have because they're fun and I had space.

Even so, I think if I was cutting my board down to the minimum for my use, it's still not going to be the smallest one here. In a nutshell, I need: A boost or fuzz, a killswitch tuner, a tremolo, an ABY and a delay. Of those, on my pedalboard, the boost and fuzz I use are both micro-pedals, as is the tremolo. So, if I wanted to, I could put together something pretty portable. But the reason I have all these is because I struggled for ages with in-amp digital effects, and I've kind of turned almost violently technophobic in what I put in my guitar signal. The only digital pedal I'd be prepared to use is the Korg Miku! ROTFL

But there's one thing I do miss from my old robo-amp, which is the patches. You're not wrong about how intrusive it is to have to fiddle with controls between songs, and the worst thing to do that with are tempo-dependent ones like delay and tremolo. Being able to set the precise oscillator frequency from a patch set would be awesome. I've always wondered (we'll see if I survive the Showman build first) about putting together a bucket-brigade discrete-time delay, but using a microcontroller instead of an oscillator, to allow setting the time interval from a MIDI source or a digital display, rather than an analogue dial. Maybe that should be my next career, hm? Wink

I also love the JFET triode-emulation they use in the pedal. It's like if Björn made a digital multi-effect, no? Angel

If I see one anywhere, I'll have to have a play.

Thanks for the detailed review!

My entire board has three pedals, and I may end up not using the last two very much, if at all. I don’t use an OD/Fuzz pedal and if I need to boost my signal the Topanga has a nice clean preamp built in.

photo

I employ two buffers on my board, which keep the signal strong by keeping the input impedances high and the output impedances low. It was $90 for a double buffer, but money well spent. The Siamese cat may also play a role in this. Smile

photo

The pedalboard itself deserves a shout-out; it’s a Temple Audio Solo 18. The pedals are held in place by Temple’s “Quick Release System” which uses mounting plates affixed to the pedals with a very strong and durable cushioned adhesive tape. These plates attach to the pedalboard with thumbscrews and these allow pedals to be added or removed quickly, but the mounting is absolutely secure. Underneath the board, I have a Truetone CS-6 power supply which gives me outlets for the various voltages I need, 9v for the Hall of Fame, 12 for the Blue Nebula (which requires a polarity reverser) and 18v for the Topanga and the Buffer.

photo

For a clean-sound dude like me, this is about the ultimate and having the patches sure makes life easier on stage or at band practice.

The artist formerly known as: Synchro

When Surf Guitar is outlawed only outlaws will play Surf Guitar.
My Guitar WebSite
Dead Thread

It's pretty impressive!

It's nice to see someone else who appreciates the value of a buffer pedal, too. I use a Boss TU-2 as a tuner, and the reason I chose that over the more modern tuners you can get; is that the TU-2 has the best buffer of any of them. Using an analogue tremolo pedal and splitting to two amps, the buffer was critical! When and how to use buffers is probably the single most useful thing I ever learned about guitar effects!

These days it's pretty rare for me to use the fuzz pedals, but I still find myself using the treble booster a fair amount, I think I just got so used to having it in the sound. That, and it took a lot of time to design, I want to make sure I get good use out of it! Laughing

As boards go, my previous drummer was replacing his skateboard deck, and offered the old one for a pedal board. I have found that the velcro on the very end pedals occasionally comes unmeshed when I'm rough with the board, so I think yours is the better design! I am curious about trying out a long tape echo like yours, I've never used anything longer than about a second, and my board only goes up to 800ms - and that's with the BBD running at less than half it's normal 'safe' clock, so it gets a little rough there.

They who die with the fewest control knobs, win.

Tqi wrote:

It's pretty impressive!

It's nice to see someone else who appreciates the value of a buffer pedal, too. I use a Boss TU-2 as a tuner, and the reason I chose that over the more modern tuners you can get; is that the TU-2 has the best buffer of any of them. Using an analogue tremolo pedal and splitting to two amps, the buffer was critical! When and how to use buffers is probably the single most useful thing I ever learned about guitar effects!

These days it's pretty rare for me to use the fuzz pedals, but I still find myself using the treble booster a fair amount, I think I just got so used to having it in the sound. That, and it took a lot of time to design, I want to make sure I get good use out of it! Laughing

As boards go, my previous drummer was replacing his skateboard deck, and offered the old one for a pedal board. I have found that the velcro on the very end pedals occasionally comes unmeshed when I'm rough with the board, so I think yours is the better design! I am curious about trying out a long tape echo like yours, I've never used anything longer than about a second, and my board only goes up to 800ms - and that's with the BBD running at less than half it's normal 'safe' clock, so it gets a little rough there.

There’s a lot of misunderstanding out there regarding buffers. It’s all about impedances and nothing more than that. If you have a low input impedance the capacitance of your patch cable will destroy your sound.

It’s not the only solution, but IMO, the Temple Audio is a true innovator and have a great pedal mounting system.

The artist formerly known as: Synchro

When Surf Guitar is outlawed only outlaws will play Surf Guitar.
My Guitar WebSite
Dead Thread

synchro wrote:

There’s a lot of misunderstanding out there regarding buffers. It’s all about impedances and nothing more than that. If you have a low input impedance the capacitance of your patch cable will destroy your sound.

Almost everything else in the chain is 'true bypass', since that's the modern obsession with pedal design. So when they're off, there's a lot of wire running between my pickup and the two amplifiers. I've also found that analogue tremolo pedals need a low impedance input, or the click of the oscillator becomes a rather loud part of the output sound. Which is less than pleasant, of course.

They who die with the fewest control knobs, win.

Tqi wrote:

synchro wrote:

There’s a lot of misunderstanding out there regarding buffers. It’s all about impedances and nothing more than that. If you have a low input impedance the capacitance of your patch cable will destroy your sound.

Almost everything else in the chain is 'true bypass', since that's the modern obsession with pedal design. So when they're off, there's a lot of wire running between my pickup and the two amplifiers. I've also found that analogue tremolo pedals need a low impedance input, or the click of the oscillator becomes a rather loud part of the output sound. Which is less than pleasant, of course.

It makes a huge difference. The HOF is true bypass, the Topanga has the buffer switched on. If I try to move the HOF to the middle with a the Blue Nebula up front there is a noticeable drop in signal level.

The artist formerly known as: Synchro

When Surf Guitar is outlawed only outlaws will play Surf Guitar.
My Guitar WebSite
Dead Thread

Hi - I'd like to give another shout-out to the Blue Nebula. I use one and it is an amazing delay, among many other things. I'd back up everything synchro says about it. The only negative is a steeper learning curve than most effects, but this is because of the width and depth of its capabilities.

Multi-head delay fans have been sadly under-served by the market, with very few that could emulate the notoriously touchy and fragile tape units like the Meazzi Echomatics, Copicats, Vox Long Tom, and various Binson models, all of which made glorious guitar sounds.

Here is where I could go on for many paragraphs about Hank Marvin's sound, which totally relied on multihead tape units and it's influence on an entire generation of seminal guitar heroes but I'll leave it at this: If you love surf music and the sound of surf guitar, and are not intimately familiar with The Shadows catalog, run don't walk (yuk) to any source you can find listen hard. Marvin's Strat, his tape delays, and his Vox amps created a heavier yet tighter drip than anything that came out of California before the Mermen, even though the tunes had a touch of British gentility that didn't quite align with the majesty of man vs. sea.

Anyway! The Blue Nebula is an awesome machine/bit of programming, the result of thousands of hours of Hank Marvin mania/minutia on the part of many people around the world - it was a collaborative project. Thanks to all of them! Though the original intent was to sound like Hank, they had to reverse engineer all those delays, which can be used for many other purposes. All the BNs are hand built by one guy in Northeast England and are sadly under-marketed, although that may be a good thing.

I'm thinking I may replace my Strymon Flint and El Capistan with it (right now they're all on my board), but that's a tough call. I need to dive further into the BN librarian program and make some comparisons. The El Capistan for sure ought to be able to be mostly replicated by the BN, and I have an MXR Phase 90 and A/DA Flanger which can be put to bed as well, especially since I don't really like or use those kind of effects much anyway. I do love a taste of pitch vibrato, I'm wondering if I can find a way to get that out of the BN, may save me another chunk of real estate on the pedalboard. Synchro - chime in on that if you know.

It can do a lot of different things. I had to fiddle a bit, but I got some great options. Even without tinkering, it’s quite useful.

The artist formerly known as: Synchro

When Surf Guitar is outlawed only outlaws will play Surf Guitar.
My Guitar WebSite
Dead Thread

I strongly considered a Blue Nebula but ended up with the Baby Blue instead. For me pedals that require too much tweaking and that have steep learning curves end up not being used after the initial try out period. But that's just me. I prefer a pedal that can give me a small handful of useful tones with a minimum of knob twisting to get there. The Baby Blue provides some pretty good Hank Marvin tones and generally fits the bill for what I need. And, while I like it a lot, I have other pedals that do basically the same thing with slight variations on tone. All in all, Stanley FX makes good stuff and for those who don't mind learning all of the ins and outs, The Blue Nebula looks to be a pretty impressive pedal.

Rob_J wrote:

I strongly considered a Blue Nebula but ended up with the Baby Blue instead. For me pedals that require too much tweaking and that have steep learning curves end up not being used after the initial try out period. But that's just me. I prefer a pedal that can give me a small handful of useful tones with a minimum of knob twisting to get there. The Baby Blue provides some pretty good Hank Marvin tones and generally fits the bill for what I need. And, while I like it a lot, I have other pedals that do basically the same thing with slight variations on tone. All in all, Stanley FX makes good stuff and for those who don't mind learning all of the ins and outs, The Blue Nebula looks to be a pretty impressive pedal.

I missed this reply but I’ll go ahead and post anyhow.

The Baby Blue and the Blue Nebula share a lot of functionality. The biggest difference, as far as I can tell, is that the Nebula is more geared towards creating and saving presets and, while you can change settings on the fly, IMO it shines at using presets, which I have in order, like a setlist. In fact, I can use the Nebula as a place to store a setlist and read from it at a gig.

The artist formerly known as: Synchro

When Surf Guitar is outlawed only outlaws will play Surf Guitar.
My Guitar WebSite
Dead Thread

Synchro and geoale01 - Thanks for the additional comments on the Blue Nebula. I may revisit some of the demos on YT. I like the idea of having presets that can be called up on the fly. The Hall and Collins echo unit is also of some interest but it has a significantly higher price point.

I also have a Strymon El Cap on my board and don't see it being replaced. It is set to a single setting that works for me and I'll continue to use it for some things but with that said, if another pedal duplicates it then I am all for pulling it out of the chain. I try to keep my pedal board as small as possible. I currently alternate between the Baby Blue, the El Cap and probably my most used, a Wampler Ethereal that always gives me a good all around tone although not specifically a true Shadows tone.

Last edited: Jan 23, 2020 11:24:45

The rich lazy man method was to have a giant pedal board back when records actually made money. So they would have like 6 pedals of the same effect with settings for 6 different songs in the set so they didn't have to bend over. Smile

I like emulator rack units myself being you can have a entire rig set up with perfect settings on all gear in the chain at the flick of a switch or midi foot controller etc. I'm still working on all this with the limited time I do spend on it. It will probably be obsolete by the time I learn it all though. Laughing

Is this the Blue Nebula your talking about?

Surfing_Sam_61 wrote:

The rich lazy man method was to have a giant pedal board back when records actually made money. So they would have like 6 pedals of the same effect with settings for 6 different songs in the set so they didn't have to bend over. Smile

I like emulator rack units myself being you can have a entire rig set up with perfect settings on all gear in the chain at the flick of a switch or midi foot controller etc. I'm still working on all this with the limited time I do spend on it. It will probably be obsolete by the time I learn it all though. Laughing

Is this the Blue Nebula your talking about?

I’ve thought along those lines myself, a number of pedals preset so that I can mix and match on the fly. Every solution has its strengths. The Nebula, as pictured in Sam’s post, allows enough presets to get through almost any imaginable repertoire. It’s really the best solution I’ve ever found.

I do, however, have other pedals and have tried any number of other approaches, some of which I use with the Blue Nebula. I have a hall-reverb/delay pedal which I keep setup for a Chet Atkins style slapback and I have the Topanga for the heavy Surf.

One thing I love about the Blue Nebula is that it’s easy to program. If you have any degree of experience with configuration files, you can download the file which controls the presets to your computer and build a nice group of patches with a little cutting and pasting. That’s what I did on mine and I also changed some of the effects available, which is not all that hard.

The artist formerly known as: Synchro

When Surf Guitar is outlawed only outlaws will play Surf Guitar.
My Guitar WebSite
Dead Thread

Page 1 of 1
Top