Catalinbread launches the shoegaze-in-a-box X40 Soft Focus Reverb

Catalinbread has unveiled the X40 Soft Focus Reverb, a reverb pedal that was inspired by the Yamaha FX500 rack unit and the sounds it gave to indie and shoegaze artists such as Slowdive.

Anyone who owns a copy of Slowdive’s seminal 1993 album, Souvlaki, will have already heard an approximation of what the Soft Focus can do. It takes a plate reverb core and expands upon it for voluminous layers of ambience, offering guitar players a comprehensive array of controls to shape it to their liking.

For those who like their electric guitar tones dreamy and heady, and engage in soundscaping as part of their daily grooming routine, the Soft Focus is a one-stop shop, or an “instant shoegaze button”, as Catalinbread helpfully describes it.

Catalinbread Soft Focus

(Image credit: Catalinbread)

It takes the plate reverb and splits it into three paths, sending one through a multi-voiced chorus, the other through a subtle octave-up Symphony path, and the other as it is. How you set the interactive controls will determine how extreme the sounds are.

Running a Big Muff into it and maxing out everything is one option, but others are available. This is a shoegaze pedal, but that is a broad, gauzily defined sound. 

The compact guitar effects pedal has controls for Mix, Symph, Mod, Verb and Vol. Mix controls the amount of wet and dry signal is in your sound.

Symph controls the octave-up effect, adding the magic dust of extra harmonic content to your reverb. Mod controls the rate of the multi-voiced chorus while Verb sets the decay time for reverb. Volume dials in a pre-effect gain.

While the Soft Focus was heavily inspired and compared to the original FX500, it is not a mere pedalboard recreation of its Patch 40, aka ‘Soft Focus’. 

Catalinbread has removed the digital delay found in the original patch (it used up too much memory and was “generic”), given players control over the mix, revamped the preamp section, and remedied the “ghastly tone-sucking bypass signal” issues.

The Soft Focus can be run on 9V or 18V DC from a pedalboard power supply, minimum current draw 100mA. Running it at 18V will give you a little more headroom.

The X40 Soft Focus Reverb is available now, priced £179 / $209. See Catalinbread for more info.

Jonathan Horsley

Jonathan Horsley has been writing about guitars and guitar culture since 2005, playing them since 1990, and regularly contributes to MusicRadar, Total Guitar and Guitar World. He uses Jazz III nylon picks, 10s during the week, 9s at the weekend, and shamefully still struggles with rhythm figure one of Van Halen’s Panama.