If you have yet to check out the pedals from the guys over at EarthQuaker Devices, you’re missing out on some of the most unique sounding – and looking – pedals to come around in a long time. Based in Akron, Ohio, these guys are never satisfied with the status quo when it comes to guitar effects as their pedals tend to push traditional concepts and spice them up by adding unexpected features while keeping them highly adaptive. The same is true with the Sea Machine Chorus.
Coming in at 4.7" x 3.7" x 2.25", the Sea Machine is far from the smallest chorus pedal on the market but it’s still reasonably compact enough to not take up too much precious real-estate on your board, especially considering the number of controls it offers. Better yet, all of the jacks are located on the top of the pedal – as opposed to its sides – meaning you won’t need extra space between it and other effects in order to get everything hooked up accordingly. The knobs themselves are too cluttered so making adjustments on the fly should be a pretty simple feat. The labeling of the knobs is clear enough that you can easily distinguish between them even in low light conditions. And in case that’s not enough, the Sea Machine offers some lighting via a bright blue-white LED. It’s actually really bright. On a dimly lit stage, it’s not too bad when viewed from an angle but when directly from above, it can border on painfully bright. The LED also pulses in tie with the LFO – which is controlled by the pedal’s Rate knob – giving you an instant indication of the pedal’s LFO speed. A nice feature to say the least.
Unfortunately, the Sea Machine does not do stereo and is instead features a mono in / mono out chorus. Stereo would have been nice but it’s not a deal breaker by any means. It should be noted that the Sea Machine is adapter powered only in case you were looking to power this baby up sans-cord. As far as the insides go, the Sea Machine uses a hybrid-circuit but analog purists shouldn’t get scared away as it still produces a very warm and creamy sound that can stand toe to toe with the best all-analog boxes in terms of tone and quality, but with a much more robust set of comprehensive controls than most chorus pedals – and that goes for both analog or digital.
Like all EarthQuaker Devices that I have had my hands on, the build quality feels tough and rugged and the components are all top-notch. And like any good pedal should, the Sea Machine features true bypass meaning that even when the pedal is switched off, an analog dry signal goes through a transparent buffer to keep things strong and clean.
As touched on above, the Sea Machine comes packed with controls that you won’t get with most any other chorus pedal around. For starters, most chorus pedals usually come with two knobs; one for rate and another for width or depth. The Sea Machine comes with six: Rate, Shape, Dimension, Intensity, Animate and Depth. Rate is pretty much in charge of the LFP speed – pretty straightforward stuff. Shape on the other hand controls the modulation waveform. Turning the knob to the left will give you a smooth, soft triangle wave while twisting the knob to the right will yield a square, choppy-sounding waveform. Dimension meanwhile adds quite a bit of ambience when triggered. All the way left, or off, yields nothing but cranking just a little above that will give you something similar to a short snapback delay. Going further right, it begins to sounds like full on reverb and then at its max setting, it pretty much sounds like a very echoey resonant filter. The Intensity knob is simply in charge of how hard the LFO modifies the delay time. Animate controls the delay time and the amount pitch shifting sweep – that is to say how far it swings sharp or flat. Setting this control along the lower regions will yield a very mild and traditional chorus sound while cranking it further up will give you something much more crazy and intense. And finally, Depth is essentially what most of us will know as the blend knob – lets you decide how much of the modulated signal is mixed it with the dry one.
While six controls looks on a chorus pedal might seem a bit overwhelming, the Sea Machine is surprisingly easy to use. If you’re unfamiliar with chorus pedals, it’s best to start with the two most important controls, Rate and Depth, and work your way from there. Once you got those two dialed in, you can start messing with the Intensity until you like what you’re hearing. After that, you can experiment with the other three knobs so that you have a better idea of what each can bring to the table and how they affect the overall sound. There’s a lot of tonal possibilities with the Sea Machine to say the least!
There’s also plenty of headroom to be had with the Sea Machine. I was able to push the pedal pretty hard right after a particularly beefy distortion box and it never budged once – not a single sign of clipping. And if you ever find yourself in the need for more headroom, the Sea Machine is able to run on 12v (instead of the standard 9v). Although I myself never found a real need for the extra headroom, running it on 12v did give the pedal a nice boost in sound, with slightly increased delay time, more intense modulation and even a slight sparkle to its overall tone. 12v is its absolute limit though unless you don’t mind damaging the pedal by using a higher voltage (not recommended). It should be said thought that for best results, EarthQuaker specifically recommends placing the Sea Machine before signal boosters or after fuzz and overdrive pedals.
If you’re looking for a chorus pedal that has unprecedented control and a sound as unique as the box it resides in, look no further than the Sea Machine. Seriously, the only thing I wish this pedal had was stereo output, but that doesn’t mean the mono isn’t great. The pedal is so rich and full sounding that it screams quality all the way. Not only do you get the ability to choose between a square or triangle waveform, not to mention everything in between, the ambience added by the Dimension knob pretty much gives it that extra something that chorus pedals just don’t offer. Then add the Animate knob, which pretty much sends it over the top (if you feel like going there) or can give you a more traditional chorus sound, and you have a chorus pedal that pretty much stands out above the rest. Seriously, the range of sounds possible with the Sea Machine is simply outstanding. A definite winner.