The Big Sky is a stereo-in and -out device via its unbalanced 1/4-inch inputs on the back. For most of my testing, I had it connected to a pair of aux sends on a mixing console and returned to a stereo channel. In fact, the Cab Filter switch on the back is included to give an amplified sound when the pedal is being used in the studio. There are also MIDI-in and -out ports for further studio or live electronics integration. These can be used for tempo-syncing pre-delay, full CC parameter control, program changes and patch storage. The Big Sky boasts 100 banks with three presets each.
The A, B and C footswitches across the bottom of the front panel select which of the three presets per bank is being used. A green LED above each switch turns orange when you change a parameter and returns to green if a setting matches the original preset. These footswitches can also be held for some interesting infinite-sustain and freeze techniques that let an effect ring out while new notes are played on top of the reverb. Most parameters can be adjusted using the nine knobs on the front panel, but there are some parameters that require a little bit of menu diving. An infinite push-button knob labeled Type is used for picking the reverb type and also storing patches. Another knob of this style labeled Value is used for going further into menus for adjusting parameters that are not assigned to the Param 1 and 2 knobs. Either one of these two parameter knobs can easily be assigned per patch to whatever parameter is most useful for tweaking. Controls for decay, pre-delay and mix are pretty self-explanatory, and the knobs also control feedback for Nonlinear and Magneto, a tape delay modeler. Each reverb has a different decay range specific to the effect. A simple tone control is like a low-pass filter without resonance, and another control, Mod, incorporates modulation for some far-out sounds.
The 12 presets consist of some classic styles such as room, hall, plate and spring in addition to some unique flavors called Swell, Bloom, Cloud, Chorale, Shimmer, Magneto, Nonlinear and Reflections. The more traditional ones are capable of a variety of sizes, and all have a low-end control, which I kept turned down; I found the lows clouded up the mix. Besides that, all of the presets sounded very good. Swell mode introduces the reverb slowly behind the dry signal or vice versa. Bloom excels at producing a reverb that builds slowly, allowing it be placed loud in the mix without interfering; the additional adjustments of tone, feedback and modulation helped to make this an interesting special effect. Cloud is a big ambient reverb capable of a very long decay, useful for creating pads out of anything. I found Chorale one of the most useful, as it produces the effect of someone, or several people, singing aahs and ohs of the same tonalities as the source. Shimmer is also very interesting, which adds two different pitch-shifted intervals to create either a nice pad or even something like a one-note string patch, and provides a multitude of harmonic possibilities. The Magneto machine is a decent delay with a lot of options to clone various styles of multi-head tape echo. Nonlinear is great for strange effects like reverse reverb. There's no telling what this might do to an incoming signal—which is a good thing. Finally, Reflections creates a psychoacoustic and realistic 3D room where you can place your amp in any position. This is definitely worthy of experimentation with headphones on.
I was very impressed with both the sound of each type of reverb and the deep possibilities for each effect. The ability to generate pads and string-like sounds from any material, keeping it in tune with a song, is a huge bonus. I never found the unit to add unwanted noise. The build quality is good, if maybe a little bit too lightweight (if that's possible) thanks to the aluminum case. It's a great unit for the studio, and it'll work fantastically on stage as well.
Ease of use: 3.5/5