How does the Heaven's Gate actually work, anyway?!
How does the Heaven’s Gate [actually] work?
Heaven’s Gate is a unique, specialty reverberator, and as such, it was designed following a somewhat “unconventional” approach and methodology. Let’s take a moment to walk through the simplified (and I mean HIGHLY simplified) block diagram below. (Bypass system, power-supplies, all filtering, LED indication, etc. have all been omitted from this diagram in an effort to provide only the information necessary for a solid understand of the basic operation of the circuit.)
So lets get right into it, eh? (click the image below to open a high-resolution version in a new window for reference)
We’ll work straight through in a pretty linear/controlled manner, starting with...
Our Primary Input Driver!
Our input stage (Primary Input Driver as detailed above) is pretty simple and straight-forward, and is also pretty easy to understand:
The Heaven’s Gate input driver is a simple and robust input-driver (providing an intentional input impedance of approximately 500KΩ, such as not to load down passive guitar pickups, while maintaining the ability to accurately receive low-impedance output signals from active pickups, keyboards, and other alternate input signal sources) that translates our raw electric guitar/electronic-instrument/signal output to the signal and strength required to push our incoming signal(s) everywhere they need to be, at the correct levels and strength required for all the tasks downstream. We can see, our input driver provides strong, solid and continuous input-signal(s) to three basic blocks:
- Dry-Signal Output Driver (which feeds the dry side of our Final Output Mixer)
- Input-Signal Detector (which drives our Reverb Amplitude Control)
- Reverb Engine (which generates the actual reverb we hear, love and enjoy)
Let’s break down each of the three blocks being fed by our Primary Input Driver…
Dry Output Driver:
The Dry Output Driver is about as straightforward as they come. This is our dry signal driver, which retains our un-adulterated input to be later mixed, and subsequently output from the system (after mixing and all that stuff).
Input Signal Detector:
For simplicities’ sake, our Input Signal Detector has been drawn as a single circuit-block with the Trigger control shown beneath the circuit block. This portion of the circuit is responsible for creating the signal that determines when our reverb-gate engages and disengages.
The Reverb Engine is where our actual reverb is created, augmented, and finally delivered to our Reverb Output Driver (which is controlled by the Reverb Amplitude Control, driven by the Input Signal Detector). The Decay control determines the length of the reverb tail as generated by the Reverb Engine, and the engine’s output is fed directly to our Reverb Output Driver. (The Reverb Engine itself is extremely complex and has been reduced to a single block for simplicities’ sake.)
Reverb Amplitude Control:
After sensing what is coming in from our Primary Input Driver and Trigger control input, our Input Signal Detector determines how we’d like our gate to respond and react, and then sends the appropriate signal to our Reverb Amplitude Control. The Reverb Amplitude Control then sends a signal to our Reverb Output Driver which controls and sets the output amplitude and timing of the Reverb Engine, which is later mixed by our Final Output Mixer and subsequently delivered to the output of the pedal. (More on all that shortly.)
Reverb Output Driver:
Our Reverb Output Driver receives its control signal from our Reverb Amplitude Control and determines how much, and when reverb is sent to the Final Output Mixer based on the way our Trigger and Decay controls are set.
So far, this is a pretty straight-forward and simple arrangement, right? I know there’s a lot happening all at once, and these things can get confusing pretty quickly, but hey, the engineers at Mr. Black did all the “hard stuff” for you, so you can just kick back and enjoy all the sensitive ambience the Heaven’s Gate gives you without having to spend a bunch of time mucking about with the inner-workings and details.
Final Output Mixer:
From the outputs of our Reverb Output Driver and Dry Output Driver, our Final Output Mixer receives these two inputs, and with the configuration of our Wet/Dry control, outputs the signal mixture we want-- determined by the position of our Wet/Dry control. (This control, like many details in this diagram, has been grossly simplified in an effort to keep the diagram easy to read and understand.)
One thing to note is that this control actually “works backwards” from what you may expect, in that as the control is advanced (towards the 100% wet extreme), it is actually removing more of the output from the Dry Output Driver instead of adding more signal from the Reverb Output Driver. This control has been meticulously designed and balanced to provide a 100% dry / 100% wet output mixture when set to the center, and 100% dry OR 100% wet at either respective extreme, without any losses during the transitional positions. (Easier said than done!)
From the Final Output Mixer, we can then send our signal directly to the output jack and into our amplifier or next effect in the chain.
So why would I ever want a “gated reverb?”
Now that we’ve covered the basics of Heaven’s Gate's internal function and operation, let’s talk about how you can quickly and comfortably incorporate this wonderful device into your signal chain, how to get the most out of it, and why you would ever want a specialized device like the Heaven’s Gate. Please, continue…
We already know that Heaven’s Gate is a gated reverberator, but what exactly makes a gated reverberator different, or potentially “better” than a conventional reverb pedal? Well, the answer to that concept is strikingly simplistic.
A gated reverberator offers an entirely new approach to including and employing reverb when building your tone. Reverbs are known and regarded for their obvious characteristic of making your sound “big” and full, and boy oh boy do they deliver! Especially dramatic and engaging reverbs (like the Mr. Black SuperMoon for example. :P).
However, one concern that often presents itself when adding any type of reverb into the signal chain is the dreaded “wash” which can make an incredible tone not only dramatic and powerful, but can also “smear” and “cloud-up” the full tone, and in its worst case, reduce the entire composition to a messy wash of sound. This is even more pronounced when a big tone is included in a passage or piece with sharp/abrupt stops and starts (think double-stops, break-downs, high-gain leads and the sort). Herein lies the true power of a gated reverb.
Because a gated reverb, by nature, disappears when you stop playing, it becomes nearly impossible to unintentionally create “the wash”, and as such a gated reverb can keep your tone and expression clean and clear, while adding the explosive, dramatic and powerful “extra” that only a nice reverb can give you. This is where gated reverb really shines and provides what conventional reverbs cannot; by allowing you to produce expansive, powerful and explosive moments while retaining the ability to cut the reverb tail off sharply accentuating the stops and silence required for breathtaking punches of sound and powerful, soaring leads. With a well dialed (and designed) gated reverb, the impact is increased ten-fold. Lucky for you, the Heaven’s Gate is both well designed, and easy to dial in.
Now that we’ve got a basic overview of the inner workings of Heaven’s Gate, lets talk about:
How to use and dial in the Heaven’s Gate (suggested application):
Heaven’s Gate is a deceptively simple pedal to use, and this is no happy accident; a lot of care and attention was put into realizing and delivering a simple, composed, and refined control interface capable of affording a wide range of sonic characteristics, and above all: delivering a damned good reverb when called upon.
Dialing in the Heaven’s Gate is sure not rocket surgery, but the process is very personal and one person’s settings may be radically different than the next.
What helps me visualize how each control affects the output and operation of Heaven’s Gate is to view each control as:
- Wet/Dry as our final mix level or “intensity”
- Trigger as our personal and individual “touch” (as in the sense)
- Decay by what the song or passage requests or commands.
I’ll always recommend beginning with the Wet/Dry control set to high-noon as a baseline (we can trim this to *just* the right spot once we’ve got our Trigger and Decay controls set right where we need them, but for dialing in the Trigger and Decay, noon is a wonderful sounding board).
With the Wet/Dry control set at noon, we’ll get equal parts dry (plain/original input signal) and wet (reverb-only signal), mixed evenly. This will allow us to hear what we’re playing while also hearing the reverb we’ve generated, and allow us to get our Trigger and Decay set just how we like.
Trigger is a very “personal” control as it responds directly to You and Your Approach, and not everyone will set this control identically. I recommend starting with the Trigger control set very low (perhaps even minimum) and playing your instrument as you normally do, with your instrument output volume set to where you most commonly leave the control while using a “standard for you” attack and delivery. Gradually increase the Trigger control until you can no longer hear a change in the immediately delivered reverb level when playing normally (familiar operators may even set the Wet/Dry control to maximum so that they *only* hear the reverb signal). The idea here is to get the trigger to engage and disengage with you and as such, compliment your personal playing and attack.
Once our Trigger is tuned for us as individuals, we need to set our Decay control, and luckily, that’s a whole lot easier than dialing in our Trigger. While not as critical/delicate as the Trigger control setting(s), the Decay control allows you to tailor the density/intensity/length of your reverb impulse/explosion, and as such, fill in exactly how powerful your reverb impulse is.
Simply start with the Decay control at its minimum setting and begin playing as you normally would, but this time, let your notes ring out and pay close attention to when the reverb dissipates and approaches near inaudibility. Gradually increase Decay until you find that sweet moment where the reverb tail melds with and compliments your playing, while simultaneously subsiding *before* your next note. You may find it helpful to play extra hard and stop abruptly while configuring this control.
Many players like to trim this control to the specific song or passage that calls for that extra accentuating burst. Restraint will be your best friend here, and the trick is to not get greedy or indulgent by immediately setting the Decay to maximum. Shoot for *just* enough Decay to make the passage glisten and glow, without adding so much Decay that you approach wash-potential.
The last piece of the puzzle is configuring our Wet/Dry mix level, and this is truly a classic case of: What You Like. Good ol noon o’clock is always a safe bet, and you may even prefer dialing back the Wet/Dry control to about 10:30 or 11:00, for a more tasteful and less-ostentatious effect (this is frequently a great approach for clean, clear, uncluttered high-gain leads which demand precise articulation and singing note definition), but we all know that fantastic and illustrious sounds are often found with extreme settings (in this instance: a 100% wet-mix). Ultimately, you’ll find just the right mix by beginning at noon and trimming either direction after a few moments with Heaven’s Gate engaged.
And that friends, is the basic operation and configuration of the Heaven’s Gate - Gated Reverberator! Heaven's Gate was designed and intended for specialty applications and uses, where only *just* the right effect will do, and while not necessarily a common or general pedal, boy howdy does the Heaven's Gate do what it does well!! Wanna watch some videos, read the manual and see the pedal? Just click HERE or on that beautiful pedal.
As always kids: Play louder than you believe you should and don't forget to Rock N Roll!
Peace, Love and Hair Grease.