Gear Review: Chase Bliss Audio CXM 1978 Reverb

There’s a really good reason we haven’t covered the CXM 1978 before, even though it’s been out for a bit. They sold out fast. So, it’s particularly exciting that they’ve procured the parts necessary to produce more of these beauties as they are perfect for singer-songwriters and belong in any home studio set up or on your pedalboard.  Do you want the Jeff Buckley vocal sound from Grace as well as hundreds of other influential records?  Start here.

The CXM 1978 is a collaboration between Chase Bliss Audio and Meris, who are known to make their own wildly creative, expansive, and hi-fi devices. Together they have truly captured the magic of the Lexicon digital reverb that graced (pun intended) so many recordings made after 1978, up to and including “Loveless” by My Bloody Valentine.

The exceptional thing about the CXM 1978 is that it doesn’t stop there with that classic unit. In the clock section, you can select the standard setting to recreate the original but also have the choice of lo-fi or hi-fi selections which broadens the sonic palette considerably. Standard may feel like a warm, familiar old blanket but lo-fi creates some sonic mayhem by introducing noise (but highly musical noise) and it also interacts with the rest of the controls to achieve dreamy, washy, swirling madness. The hi-fi setting is just that; open, precise, expansive, and clear but no less dreamy. Again, all three of these designations are highly interactive with the rest of the controls.

Tank mode allows for low, medium, and high, which are simply the sizes of the space you’ll be hearing. Diffusion affects how much filtering occurs on your high end. Available spaces are room, plate, and hall, respectively, and they are quite possibly the best room, plate, and hall I’ve ever heard. They are accurate, well-conceived, and work perfectly with the other controls. They obviously put a lot of time into working out the compatibility between each parameter to give the greatest possible number of combinations for the user.

Further, we have the slider faders which is probably the most striking feature of the Automatone series from Chase Bliss, but they are far from a gimmick. They too work very closely with each parameter in the CXM 1978 and perhaps are even more important to the overall sonic characteristic results.

A lot use EQ reverbs in production but the way the EQ faders here interact with the output is frankly magic. You aren’t just cutting bass, adding midrange, or cutting tremble. No, these frequencies are intertwined with every other option and thus there are hundreds of interesting combinations at your fingertips. Even the pre-delay slider on the CXM 1978 works differently to my ears, especially in combination with everything else. Lastly, the cross-slider picks where your mid-range crossover frequency is at, which again can highly influence your sound.

The CXM 1978 takes 9-volt power and needs 500ma to operate properly.  There are 10 available preset slots on board but hundreds more via MIDI. It’s definitely expensive, which could turn off some consumers, but when you consider the quality, the myriad options, and the fact that you could even use it as an effect send when mixing, it’s well worth the price and still cheaper than the original rack unit.

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