Beetronics FX SeaBee Harmochorus Review
The hive mind at Los Angeles’ Beetronics FX created one the more stunning and tonally complex modulators ever made.
Endless sonic possibilities. Rich, three-dimensional tones. A challenging creative stimulant.
Requires a lot of time and effort to unlock its true power.
Beetronics FX SeaBee Harmochorus
A simple way to describe the SeaBee is that it’s a digitally controlled, analog, bucket-brigade chorus and pitch modulation unit. But the sickos at Beetronix weren’t content to leave it at something so simple. Each of the effects here are so malleable and varied that they sometimes border on absurd.
Inside the Hive Mind
The SeaBee is rightfully positioned neither as a pure chorus nor a vibrato. But Beetronics may undersell the almost endless sonic possibilities offered by the marriage of the effects in this gorgeous little stompbox. It’s beautifully designed and crafted, both internally and externally. The designs on the pedal’s face, for instance, aren’t stenciled or screen printed onto the box, but are part of a textured faceplate that’s affixed to the chassis. The SeaBee looks and feels like a treasure.
My hat is off to whoever had to design the pedal’s control layout. It’s not going overboard to say they did something magical here, given the small space they had to work with and the many multi-function features present. Most of the pedal’s controls serve more than one function, and a few serve three—for example, the knob at the top left controls ramp speed, tone, or modulation pattern depending on which mode is engaged. Meanwhile, the footswitches function as bypass, ramping, and tap tempo switches. If all that wasn’t enough, the pedal’s digital brain enables 16 presets, it’s MIDI enabled, and there is an expression pedal jack.
No amount of ingenious engineering could save a stompbox this complex from a steep learning curve. And the SeaBee tends to funnel you toward mixing and mashing-up its different sounds. So, before you can enjoy the whole of the pedal’s possibilities, it’s wise to learn how the entire ecosystem works. The good thing is that the SeaBee sounds great along that journey, even if you don’t always really know quite how you got the sounds you hear in the first place.
The SeaBee’s many sounds are often the kind you associate with digital pedals with lots of digital processing power. The pedal also often does work that would require more than one analog pedal. It would be impossible to describe all of the SeaBee’s possible sounds—or the function of every control— in the space of this review. But the chorus and vibrato modes are delicious and enveloping and can be tweaked to range from classic and subdued to warped and psychotic. There are three basic chorus modes: roto, which approximates rotary speaker modulations, depth, which ramps between levels of chorus intensity, and sting, in which the two delay lines in the chorus work more like a dedicated delay unit than a modulator. In all three chorus modes, the sound was three-dimensional and full, and I could not find a tone that sucked. All three chorus modes sat in a really pleasant tone pocket, too. Regardless of what kind of guitar I used, they were neither too dark (as some analog choruses can be) nor too bright. If I had to pick a favorite among these chorus voices, I’d say I particularly liked the weird vibrations of the sting mode, which I used as a sort of tight, demented delay. It’s worth mentioning, too, that the louder I played this pedal, the better it sounded. These are rich, complex sounds with many overtones to explore.
While the chorus sounds can be wild, switching to harmochorus—which pitch shifts the chorus signal—is when things really go off the rails, usually in incredibly fun ways. All three modes—dual, arpeggio, and mad—are a little disorienting at first, and while Beetronics’ 16 onboard presets offer representative samples of the possibilities, they offer little in the way of tutorial about how to make them yourself. Still, once I started to crack the code, the going got easier, and the rhythmic and melodic rabbit holes I found and dove down were endless.
The SeaBee is complex enough that I would hesitate to bring it on tour without a lot of practice. But who cares? As a creative tool, it occupies a unique space. SeaBee prompted me to think and play differently. I used voicings and timings that I would otherwise never reach for, and that makes this pedal feel pretty special.
Considering the fact that the SeaBee can produce a lifetime of interesting sounds, and that there are boutique one-trick-pony pedals that cost nearly as much, the steep asking price is absolutely justified. The SeaBee is a difficult mutant to master, but it’s well worth the effort. PG
- Beetronics Unveils the Royal Jelly and the Buzzter ›
- Beetronics Royal Jelly Review ›
- Rig Rundown: Cory Wong ›