The Depths Optical Vibe Machine review by EarthQuaker Devices

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  • Ease of Use: 9
  • Sound: 8
  • Reliability & Durability: 10
  • Overall Impression: 9
  • Reviewer's score: 9 Superb
  • Users' score: 7.5 (2 votes)
EarthQuaker Devices: The Depths Optical Vibe Machine

Price paid: $ 195

Ease of Use — 9
There's a quote on the manufacturer's homepage that says, "Welcome to EarthQuaker Devices, quite possibly the best pedal company in Akron, OH." Funny. I'd never heard of EarthQuaker Devices before discovering The Depths, and after checking it out I'm inclined not only to believe their claim, but also that they manufacture one of the best vibe pedals available anywhere at any price. The Depths delivers time-honored vibe tones beautifully, and it's a sonic adventurer's delight because the controls interact with each other in endlessly interesting ways. Just when I thought I'd found "the" sound, I'd roll back, say, the Intensity knob, boost the Throb and the Voice, and find another awesome tone that made me play in a new way. The icing on the cake is that The Depths looks really cool! I loved showing it off to other players. Who doesn't appreciate a giant white octopus with old-school diver helmet hatches on its head creeping along against a sea-green background?

Sound — 8
I didn't need instructions to get a solid idea of The Depths' surface features and core sound. I took it to a cabin retreat in Yosemite National Park where the first heavy rain of the season provided the perfect opportunity to spend an evening tweaking. I started by setting all the knobs at about 12 o'clock. The Depths' undulating sound waves combined with the torrential downpour beating down on the roof made me feel as if I was in Atlantis rather than Yosemite! The Level, Intensity, and Rate knobs on the The Depths are common vibe controls that did exactly what anyone would expect. The unique controls on The Depths are Throb and Voice, and they provided intrigue to my tweaking session in the woods. It was pretty easy to get the gist. Voice controlled the overall tone from thin to thick. Throb controlled the amount of low end in the pulse. Dialing in Throb and Voice required some experimentation because each had a sweeping effect on the overall tone, and they way they interacted with the other controls could produce dramatic sonic changes.

Reliability & Durability — 10
I found out that The Depths' could sound as pristine as an unmuddied lake, so filthy that it ceased to really pulse at all, or anything in-between. What The Depths core sound didn't do was color the base tone as much as some vibe pedals I've tried. I tested The Depths with a Godin Montreal Premiere or a Gibson ES-339, both semi-hollowbody with dual humbuckers through a 1983 Fender Super Champ. In fact, The Depths somehow managed to sound sonically pure even when I set it up to deliver intense amounts of effect while overdriving the amp, and this was with a 9V power adapter (not included). According to EarthQuaker, "The Depths can be powered at 9V for warmer tones or up to 18V for a stiffer tone with more headroom and sparkle." I didn't have an 18V adapter, but felt it had healthy headroom and sparkle at 9V. A lot depended on how I set the Voice and Throb controls. The Voice's tonal range was really broad from shimmering and trebly to dense and bassy. That flexibility proved useful in thickening up the sound of an '89 Fender Stratocaster, and balancing out the tonal discrepancy between the Strat and the Godin, which got super thick when using the neck humbucker with its volume cranked. Speaking of that particular tone brings up the Throb control on The Depths. It's designed to accentuate the low end of a throaty tone, and it really delivered on that intention, especially when used in conjunction with the Voice control. Others may go for more traditional vibe tones that The Depths can provide faithfully, but I got off on the gritty, throbbing pulse provided with the Voice and Throb knobs set at about 3 o'clock. It's worth noting that the Rate's range is also extreme. With the Rate set fully counterclockwise, the pulse was so slow that the phase sound spread like warm butter across whatever I played. In it's middle range, the Rate delivers a dotted eighth note that I had tons of fun manipulating until it became a part of my rhythm playing on an original song with a swinging groove. At the high end of the Rate's range the notes evened out - no swing. With the Intensity and the Rate cranked, The Depths produced rapid-fire, ray gun-like sounds!

Overall Impression — 9
I put The Depths through the paces for about a month and it never malfunctioned. I took the handmade pedal from San Francisco to Reno for a gig at the Peppermill Casino with the heavy swing ensemble, A Spirit Hustler, and The Depths didn't loose even a chip of paint despite being knocked around against other pedals in my pedalbox. It's an average sized pedal that's just a bit taller than most because of the way its knobs sit rather high on their posts. Its single white indicator light shone luminously. Its metal housing appeared and felt pretty typical. I used a Phillips head screwdriver to take off the back cover. On its inside I found a handwritten serial number and a date (its completion date?). A look inside revealed a tidy, securely housed circuit board that also sported a handwritten date (a few days earlier) as well as a name (of the assembler?). There appeared to be enough room for a 9V battery, but, oddly, there was no battery connector. I used one of the 9V slots on a Visual Sound 1 Spot multi-adapter to provide power to The Depths.

1 comment sorted by best / new / date

    Great review. I too never heard of Earthquaker Devices until doing some internet research and got the Cloven Hoof and Afterneath, now I just want more of their stuff. Im torn between the Depths and the Fulltone Deja Vibe MDV 1. I liked the fact that the mdv1 has a large speed knob that you can adjust with your foot but seems to be harder to get in my country and more expensive.