Oto Bam Lo-fi Reverb: Messing around with this Lo-Fi Reverb Machine

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A few weeks ago, i got an Oto Bam. I heard about this interesting little device from Lauzon Music, a store here in Ottawa. The two of us in Paragon cause have been fans of some 80’s reverbs, including some of the classic Yamaha reverb machines, so why wouldn’t I want to try this thing? Well, for one, it aint cheap! Nevertheless, I wandered down to my local music store to check it out.

Upon first glance, it looked beyond cool. I could see this thing sitting nicely on my desk next to my synths. Second, I liked the easy appearance of the buttons. Third, the sound. very very cool.

So I got it. We brought the Oto Bam home and started to use it in some Paragon Cause Demos and songs. The learning curve, initially was slow, just getting used to the lack of words or symbols in the minimalist approach to a LED readout. But once you get it, you get it and its actually simple, but powerful. The first song I made with it is posted below. I basically ran a few simple synth ideas and played with the knobs. I think my favorite part of this is the analogue gain and the ability to hold the reverb and then alter the mix level. You can do some pretty incredible things with it.

 

Listen to the Oto Bim, Oto Bam and Oto Boum on Guitar


 

Hooking up the Oto Bam

For us, we connected a Waldorf Blofeld to the Bam using two TS connections (for Stereo) into our Antelope Zen Studio inputs for stereo. The Waldorf was controlled using an Akai MPK225.

The bam is easy to hook up, 1 power, 1 midi in (for timing/cc control) and a stereo in/out. We hooked ours up in stereo and you can hear why. It sounds lush, huge, fluid. It is incredible reverb. The mono also sounds great and really adds texture, but the stereo is where it is at.

 

Listen to Oto Bam via a Waldorf Blofeld on Synths


 

Listen to an Ambient song created using the Bam while you read. All sound effects (noise, swells, etc) were created using the Bam. The Waldorf Blofeld was used to create the actual music.

The Layout of the Oto Bam Reverb

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At first play, i found the layoutof the Oto Bam Reverb confusing. I didn’t understand the idea of a “data’ button as well as the single LEDs. However, if you find the same, dont let it bother you. Once you start moving some dials and reading the manual, its pretty straight forward. It takes a bit of memorizing as well as using your ears, which is a bit of a benefit of this device. Because there are no menus with words, you are forced to use your ear. At first, I was annoyed I couldn’t remember what “Type” of reverb was hall vs non-linear, but then I just relied on my ears and in the end, it worked better that way.

As u can see in the image, there are knobs and buttons. If you click Active, the effect is one (although there are options for this). These are your main selections and ways to adjust the reverb. You can adjust one at a time. Selecting the button allows you to use the Data dial to change the setting.

Type (type of reverb) . This sets your basic reverb types. Each type of reverb is designed to emulate a classic 70’s/80’s (even 60’s) digital reverb. The key to remember, is that OTO really took the time to asses what makes these old reverbs work, from the sample rate to the gain staging.

The reverb types included in the Bam are Room, Hall, Plate, Non-Linear, Ambient, Chorus and Primitive.

In Gain - Adjust the analogue input gain into the reverb. this is very powerful and you can go from clean reverb to noisy hell.

Filters - The Bam gives you control over high and low frequencies so you can tailer your reverb to fit the mix. This only affects the reverb

Chorus - mild, mod and high chorus levels are available and are different depending on the reverb type you selected.

Freeze, when active, freezes the reverb. It is amazing. More on that later.

Size, alters the size of the reverb space and in effect adjusts to tonality of the reverb. When you listen to some of the songs on this page, you can hear some modulation in the sounds, to do this, I would ‘freeze’ the reverb and then slowly turn the size. This will cause almost a chorus like effect withing the sound. Also, when playing notes or arpeggios, you can do this and get a very cool effect.

Pre-delay is typical pre-delay, in the sense that it is the time from when the sound hits to when the reverb occurs. Increasing this gives ‘space’ to the reverb.

Reverb Time changes the length of the reverb tail. This is more interactive depending on the type of reverb you chose. For your typical room/hall it increase the duration of the reverb tail. For other settings, it can have a more unique effect.

Damping basically reduces the high frequency content (its more complex than this) of the reverb. Its similar to a tone knob on a guitar.

SOUNDS
Lets start off by saying, the sounds are incredible. I havn’t found a setting I didn’t like. With the Oto Bam Reverb, you get Room, Hall, Plate, Chorus, Ambient, non-linear and a primitive digital reverb. All of them have subtle but very distinct differences. They also seem to interact differently with settings. My personal favorite is the primitive reverb, something raw about it.

The chorus effect can be applied to all types of reverb, from none to strong modulation. The effect is very cool. Perhaps my favorite aspect of the Bam is the input drive. Turn it up and you get distorted high noise reverb, turn it down and its clean. But seriously, a little input drive really adds a ton of flavor.

This brings us to the Hold or “Freeze” Feature. Using the Freeze in the Oto Bam is amazing. You can really hear it in the example below. It is a great creative tool once you get the hang of it.

the first noise you hear in this song, is just some held reverb with high gain. I added some comments to the song, to see whats up.

Examples of the Oto Bam in Use

Here are a three examples of songs, ambient style to highlight the reverb. Some classic Paragon Cause instrumentals! You should get a good idea what the Bam can do from these tunes. Each of these featured ONLY the Bam and a Waldorf Blofelt Synth. All the noise, sounds, reverb was performed using the Bam in Real time. No external effects were used. All the swells, the noise and everything in between were created using the Bam’s reverb. It is very powerful.