“Known Pleasures”: the Biamp MR/140 spring reverb, best known for its use by Joy Division’s Martin Hannett on Unknown Pleasures, is now available as a series of impulse responses for any reverb and a recreation as Ableton Live device. And that’s a great excuse to talk about the production techniques behind this record.

Okay, let it be known: I have a reverb addiction. You don’t need the number of reverbs I’m recommending. But… let’s treat ourselves anyway. It’s kind of remarkable this isn’t a reverb that has been commonly reproduced, not only for the Joy Division connection but because this device has a unique sound and intelligently designed sound sculpting features.

As creator Doug / silen5 writes:

The two features of this spring reverb that have always fascinated me (honestly I had it for years before I knew about the Joy Division thing) are that it features a bizarre “EQ/Blend system” that is like a cross between a graphic EQ and a fixed filter bank, and that it has an automatic limiting system to try and prevent spring-slap (which thankfully doesn’t always work well).

I would describe the sound of the MR/140 with sophisticated audio engineering terms like “well behaved” and “smooth”. The response is noticeably smoother and richer than something like the Tapco 4400. Indeed, there are some settings where this unit really sounds more like an actual space than it does like an annoyed piece of metal.

Included Ableton Live effect rack simulates the front panel controls, and given the way the front panel controls work this brings you a lot closer to the real thing than you might expect from convolution.

Additional stereo imaging available per band, which takes things far beyond the sound of the original mono device.

Image of device showing mapping of Audio Effect Rack to original hardware knobs.

The IRs are useful, but this really comes alive with the full Audio Effect Rack for Ableton Live (Live Suite required). You get the EQ/Blend controls as on the original hardware, a kind of cross-breed between graphic EQ and fixed filter bank. The rack here “goes quite a ways towards being a convincing reproduction of the original hardware unit,” Doug tells CDM. “I’ve made an effect rack that performs convolution for each of the 4 bands independently, and this allows you to mix the results in much the same way as the hardware.” Obviously, if you use a different DAW (or hardware), this is your invitation to load those IRs and then try something similar in your environment of choice.

$10 and it’s yours:

Biamp MR/140 Spring Reverb Impulse Library [gumroad]

There’s not a lot on the Biamp around, but it’s really beautiful following Martin Hannett and others talking about production. There’s a lot to be taken about the approach to drums and sound, not just for this particular device or this music. Ah, snares and the “offbeats … with a good deal of vigor.” And a “pretend room for the ear.”

Plus still more from NME, 2019:

Watch a new film celebrating the 40th anniversary of Joy Division’s ‘Unknown Pleasures’