I heard about Sushi Box FX the same way I have come to learn about a lot of boutique brands with an overwhelmingly enthusiastic following: good ole talkbass.com.
As a pedal fan, I kept seeing an increasing number of references to the Sushi Box brand and its diverse line of pedals. I write this, the Sushi Box FX Secret Society (Sushi Box mega thread) has a whopping 18,000+ replies. Clearly, Nathan at Sushi Box is doing something right, and I needed to investigate!
Sushi Box sent me two of their pedals to check out, the Hiwatt-inspired “Elementary” and the spartan, aptly named “More.” Both pedals contain at least one tube and are robust, sturdy, and well-built with cool-looking graphics and a slick vented chassis, which shows off the tube inside. Like all Sushi Box products, I was happy to see top-mounted jacks for cables and power supply connectors. I feel like I’m tearing apart and re-doing my pedalboard constantly, and every time I do it, I gain more and more appreciation for the simplicity and compactness of top-mounted jacks.
The Elementary is based on an early 70’s Hiwatt Dr103 and is the clean version of their super popular big brother, the “Dr. Wattson.”
Hiwatt’s are known for an aggressive and crunchy tone and were a crucial component of the sounds made famous by The Who, The Rolling Stones, and Pink Floyd. As Sushi Box says, “Elementary is basically the answer to the question, what if Dr. Wattson had a clean channel?” the control layout is relatively simple, with a Gain, Master, and 3-band EQ. Sonically, I was able to get a wide range of great tones from this pedal. With the gain around 9 or 10 o’clock and the master at 2 or 3 o’clock, the Elementary delivered fat, clean, dynamic tones that certainly felt like I was hearing the bounce and depth of the glowing 12ax7 tube. The EQ on the Elementary is straightforward and well-voiced. Honestly, the pedal sounded great with the EQ flat, but a little bass bump and slight mid-cut fattened things up and made them even more round and beefy. To be totally honest, for what it is, the Elementary is quite remarkable. It’s a tube preamp in a 9v pedalboard format with a full 3-band EQ and separate gain/volume controls. It sounds fantastic and is very well-built. All that for $180. I’d say the Elementary could go toe to toe with tube preamps costing 2-4x as much (not to mention being 2-4x as large) with ease.
The More pedal was particularly interesting, as I haven’t seen anything quite like it.
Taking a “two chords and the truth approach,” the More contains, simply, 2 tubes (a 12AU7 and 12AT7) and a single knob. Designed as a tone enhancer to bring more sweetness, complexity, and punch to your sound, many players use the More as an always-on solution for adding subtle tube flavor to an otherwise solid-state rig or pedal chain. Whether at the beginning or end of your chain, the More can be used to warm up Helix-style modeling rigs, solid-state pedals, or class D heads. I’m not sure I’ve seen a pedal of this size (4.75″ x 3.75″) with two tubes. It seems like an engineering feat in itself, and the high current power supply delivers 400mA during regular operation (600-900 mA during the warm-up phase). In action, the More pretty much does what it promises, delivering not only “more” volume and clean gain but more dynamics, more beef, more punch, and more presence. I get why people are using it to warm up and sweeten pedals and processors, which may sound great but lack a little of that pleasing dynamic plumpness and envelope that many players crave.
One of the nice things about the internet (and internet bass forums like talkbass.com in particular) is how a brand can acquire a groundswell of interest and buzz.
The more comments on the thread, the more it goes back to the top of the first page, and before you know it, these information hubs become the best marketing tool around. Sometimes, I think this excitement can create an artificial wave, over-inflating a brand with social capital, and eventually the reality catches up with it. In the cases of makers like Sushi Box, it has launched its cult following into the stratosphere, and their list of great products has garnered a devoted following. Having spent some time with these pedals, it’s very easy to see why. Now, my only problem is that I want to try them all!
For more info, visit Sushi Box online at www.sushiboxfx.com