Welcome to our roundup of the Top 10 Best EarthQuaker Devices Pedals!
I’ve been wanting to do builder roundups for a while on Best Guitar Effects, and it’s finally happening! We’re featuring EarthQuaker Devices for our first one. It may or may not become a regular thing. We’ll see. But what you really might be wondering is…
Why Start With EarthQuaker Devices?
You could simply assess the merits of a company’s products based on features and how well they meet your needs. But if you look deeper as a responsible modern consumer, it’s becoming increasingly important to look at the people behind companies & products and understand the values and practices of the businesses you buy from. I’ll spare you the long argument about why value isn’t only about price and convenience, but the people behind EarthQuaker Devices were just as inspiring as their guitar pedals in choosing to showcase this builder in a dedicated “best pedals” list.
A Different Kind Of Builder
Among the handful of modern boutique builders that have an expansive lineup of great guitar pedals, EarthQuaker Devices is unique not only for their eclectic range of rad stompboxes but as a forward thinking company that fosters a community environment among their customers, fans, employees, and fellow pedal builders that’s more akin to the bonds of family than a business. From proudly celebrating EarthQuaker Day in their hometown of Akron, Ohio, to welcoming rival pedal companies to their Pedal Builders Summit events during The NAMM Show, EarthQuaker Devices has long displayed a reputation for inclusion, respect for diversity, and cooperation before competition with other builders.
EarthQuaker Devices is a role model example of a company with values, yet they don’t really seem to make a big deal about who they are which makes what they represent all the more genuine. Rather than step on other small builders on their way to success, EarthQuaker Devices have shown on more than one occasion that they won’t hesitate to reach out to another builder during a time of need or tragic loss. Their consideration for their peers and efforts to raise up others reveals a comradery and compassion that you’ll rarely find in any industry. I’d even go as far as saying that EQD founders and husband & wife duo, Jamie Stillman & Julie Robbins, are like the symbolic parental figures of the modern pedal industry. Sounds corny, but I’m serious. And I’m probably not the only industry observer who would agree with these sentiments. I wholeheartedly believe that the EQD family are more than deserving of the respect and admiration they’ve earned from their peers, fans, and the industry as a whole.
If you’re unfamiliar with the people behind this company, here’s a great EarthQuaker Devices // mini movie from Knobs Demos that provides a glimpse into their world and the team behind the pedals.
A Different Kind Of Device
EarthQuaker Devices is an outlier builder in the pedal world. From that now unmistakeable font and those quirky graphics to the sometimes traditional, sometimes unheard of sounds contained within, each attractively styled and sonically adventurous EQD pedal belies wondrous sights and sounds to behold.
Their pedals aren’t necessarily for everyone and many of their noteworthy releases induce polarized opinions among guitarists. But the emotive responses to their pedals are a sign of EarthQuaker Devices’ bold, risk-taking attitude and the fact that they must be doing something right to have won over so many fans with their fearless designs. If you like an EQD pedal, chances are you really love it.
I really appreciate that EarthQuaker Devices has taken some hard-to-find circuits and revamped/re-released them for the masses. Pedals like the Terminal fuzz (modeled after Jamie’s JAX fuzz), Fuzz Master General (EQD’s take on the vintage Ace Tone Fuzz Master FM-2 Professional fuzz), and Spires (green channel inspired by the Rosac Electronic Nu-Fuzz) give modern guitarists access to fuzz sounds that would have remained hard to find or long forgotten if it were not for EarthQuaker Devices reviving these sounds. Even if EarthQuaker Devices releases a re-interpretation of a somewhat more common circuit (like the DOD OD-250 inspired Gray Channel or Tube Screamer relative, the Palisades), they’re up front about these pedals’ backstories and origins of inspiration. I wish this went without saying, but EarthQuaker Devices displays an honesty and integrity in this regard that some successful builders of dubious reputation should take note of.
I don’t have issues with pedals made overseas. And I don’t have a strong opinion about whether using surface-mount technology is any better or worse than hand-soldered, through-hole design. It’s all circumstantial. But I do think it’s commendable that while businesses always find ways to lower costs through less expensive production and assembly methods, EarthQuaker Devices still places focus on their pedals being hand-assembled and mostly hand-soldered in Akron, Ohio. Until the day everything is made by robots and we’re all receiving universal basic income, you’ve gotta give EQD props for employing folks while maintaining quality production standards. But again, this seems more like the byproduct of a company being genuinely aware of their place in a community rather than an attempt to make a show out of their products’ “Made In USA” origins.
EarthQuaker Devices has always had a reputation for doing their own thing and basically giving the finger to people’s expectations. Even I have a love/hate relationship with some of their design choices. The most recent issue I’ve taken with EQD is the most glaring: the company’s switch to “lazy relay bypass” for all 2016 pedal releases. This is a deal-breaker for me, and I won’t use any such pedals in my live rig or recommend them to other guitarists who use effects switchers. This only affects a small amount of musicians, most notably those of us using effects switchers and/or a rack rig and who don’t want the extra pre-show checklist item of remembering to activate lazy relay bypass pedals. (Forgetting to activate those one or two lazy relay pedals can be a nightmare when you’re in the middle of a song, hit the switcher or trigger it remotely, and your pedal is still bypassed. Why EQD, Why!?) I was obviously heartbroken when I realized EQD went this route, essentially preventing me from considering their new pedals for my personal use (that’s why this list is being published nearly a year after I first thought about writing it… much sadness), but for this list I’ll present pedals based on sounds and usability for guitarists who don’t use effects switchers. (On a side note, your pal Gabe talked to about a dozen companies at Summer NAMM 2016 to present the merits of “smart relay bypass”; the majority of builders seem understanding of its virtues.)
tl;dr …EQD rocks. You get it. That’s why you’re here, right? So let’s get to it!
Here are the Top 10 Best EarthQuaker Devices Pedals!
1. Avalanche Run
EarthQuaker Devices Pedal Page: Avalanche Run, Effect Type: Delay/Reverb
The Avalanche Run is one of the builder’s newer pedals and arguably the best EarthQuaker Devices pedal released to date. It combines delay & reverb in a dual-foot-switch enclosure, expanding the concept of their classic Dispatch Master with tap tempo and other surprises.
The Avalanche Run gives you 3 delay modes: Normal, Reverse, & Swell. Normal is the pedal’s regular delay mode. Reverse plays back the delay line in reverse. Swell responds to your picking dynamics to increase the volume of the entire signal path as you play. In addition to Time, Repeats, & Mix, there’s a Tone control for rolling offer either the highs or lows or setting a flat response.
In all 3 delay modes you have access to a pleasant reverb that that’s accessible via its own dedicated Decay & Mix knobs. (In Swell mode, the reverb’s Mix knob controls the length of the swell.) The reverb is what really pushes the Avalanche Run over the top as one of the best end-of-signal-chain pedals that’s also easy to use.
There are some handy auxiliary features. There’s a dedicated Ratio knob that lets you choose from 6 different tap division settings including quarter note, dotted 8th, quarter note triplet, 8th note, 8th note triplet, & 16th note. That should nearly any guitarist’s tap tempo division requirements. You can also press and hold the Tap foot-switch in Normal or Swell mode to induce oscillation; in Reverse mode this will switch between backwards to forwards delays while the foot-switch is held. There’s also a dedicated Exp knob that lets you set expression pedal control over any parameter (minus Tone) or toggle from Normal to Reverse delay mode. The last option is very useful as it lets you switch modes and regain access to Tap foot-switch oscillation while in Reverse mode.
This pedal is extra special in that it utilizes EarthQuaker Devices’ new proprietary DSP platform. This is an interesting sign things to come as this builder is known for their sometimes outlandish effects, and this new found power will surely yield some interesting new surprises in the years to come.
EarthQuaker Devices Pedal Page: Palisades, Effect Type: Overdrive
When is a Tube Screamer not a Tube Screamer? When it’s the EarthQuaker Devices Palisades. EQD surveyed the land of TS808 inspired overdrive pedals and took notes Then they shredded them and rebuilt the a pedal from the ground up that took the iconic style of overdrive into all new territory.
The Palisades gives you 6 different clipping options via the Voice knob: No Diodes, LED clipping, MOSFET clipping, Asymmetrical Silicon clipping, Symmetrical clipping, & Schottky Diode clipping. This produces a range of ways to set the response of this super versatile overdrive pedal to your liking.
The other very unique feature of the Palisades is its Bandwidth knob. This sets the overall frequency response of the pedal and can produce thin and brittle tones or make your guitar sound really thick and heavy. This is the most important knob for dialing in your overall sound.
In addition to the pedal’s Volume, Tone, & Gain A knobs, there’s a foot-switchable 2nd channel with its own Gain B knob, and a foot-switchable Boost function with a dedicated knob as well. Rounding it all out is a Normal/Bright switch and an optional Buffer switch. If you’re looking for a gnarly rock ‘n roll overdrive machine, the Palisades kicks ass. If you think the Palisades looks awesome but want something a bit smaller, try the shrunken down EarthQuaker Devices Dunes.
Read the EarthQuaker Devices Palisades review.
EarthQuaker Devices Pedal Page: Afterneath, Effect Type: Reverb
The EarthQuaker Devices Afterneath is another hybrid pedal featuring delay and reverb, but it’s more of an infernal reverb from the underworld with a glitchy little multi-tap delay on the front. The Drag knob adjusts the spacing between the delay taps and warps the pitch of the reverb if you turn the knob while sound is decaying. The Diffuse knob smears the delayed taps for a less obvious delay sound. The Reflect & Length increase reflections and extend the reverb decay, respectively, working together to form the Afterneath’s cavernous ambience. The Dampen knobs adjusts the tonal character, and the Mix dials in the amount of reverb in the mix.
The Afterneath was an instant classic when it was released, and likely rank among the very best EarthQuaker Devices until they somehow improve upon it. I’m still crossing my fingers that EQD one day solves the supposedly impossible feat of making the Drag knob expression pedal controllable.
Read the EarthQuaker Devices Afterneath review.
EarthQuaker Devices Pedal Page: Bit Commander, Effect Type: Analog Octave/Guitar Synthesizer
The EarthQuaker Devices Bit Commander is an unmistakeable pedal. If you ever hear someone kick this thing on out of nowhere, you’ll always notice that this pedal commands attention. Jamie stumbled upon created this awesome analog guitar synthesizer while testing out possibilities while working towards the Organizer. I’m glad this deviation happened, as the Bit Commander simply rocks.
It gives you separate level controls for an octave down (Down 1) and a -2 octave sub voice (Sub). Bringing in these massive low-end tones unleashes what you might say is the company’s signature “EarthQuaking Device”.
The Up 1 knob brings in a ripping analog octave up, similar to what you’ll find in EQD’s Hoof Reaper and Tentacle pedals. You can also use it by itself or with the Base (a squared version of your dry tone) for awesome drive and splatty tones that stack very well with other pedals. Seriously, it’s awesome and adds extra versatility when you’re not using it for monophonic sub synth tones.
Also, the Bit Commander is my personal favorite EarthQuaker Devices pedal if that means anything to you. ;)
Read the EarthQuaker Devices Bit Commander review.
EarthQuaker Devices Pedal Page: Rainbow Machine, Effect Type: Pitch-Shifter/Modulation
The EarthQuaker Devices Rainbow Machine is the release that solidified EQD’s reputation as a builder of weird and crazy pedals. It’s a pitch-shifting modulation machine that takes your guitar to bizarre, kaleidoscopic realms inhabited by clockwork elves. The Pitch knob sets the amount of shift from a 4th down to a 3rd up. The Primary & Secondary knobs dial in the level of the pitch shifted signal and its additional octave up or down voicing. The Tracking knob delays the pitch shift and is particularly interactive with the Magic knob when that function is activated via the Magic foot-switch. You can induce dizzying, spiraling fractal ascents with pitch shifts above the root sound or fall into a rabbit hole of vertigo when detuning the pitch shift. Trippy as hell. Not for everyone. But the Rainbow Machine is definitely one of the best EarthQuaker Devices pedals for psychonautic guitarists who swallow the pink pill.
6. Hoof Reaper
EarthQuaker Devices Pedal Page: Hoof Reaper, Effect Type: Fuzz
The Hoof is the original EarthQuaker Device, a fuzz pedal based on the classic green Russian Big Muff. The Tone Reaper is EQD’s take on the classic 3-knob Tone Bender. Put ’em together, throw in a killer octave up, and you’ve got the EarthQuaker Devices Hoof Reaper.
This pedal is a gnarly beast of fuzz awesomeness. It’s hard to go wrong with 3 styles of vintage fuzz goodness, but EQD pulled off the Hoof Reaper exceptionally well. You can use the 3 circuits individually or in combination for a wide range of fuzz sounds. The order of the effects is preset to Octave → Tone Reaper → Hoof which is arguably the most effective signal flow. This lets you apply the Octave up front when needed or feed the Octave and/or Tone Reaper into the Hoof which can apply final fuzz shaping and EQing. Probably the simplest and most versatile multi circuit fuzz pedal out there.
Also, while the original Hoof Reaper has a germanium flavored Hoof section, there’s also a Cloven Hoof Reaper that uses silicon transistors instead. It’s a matter of personal taste really as both sounds are great.
Read the EarthQuaker Devices Hoof Reaper review.
EarthQuaker Devices Pedal Page: Disaster Transport SR, Effect Type: Delay/Reverb/Modulation
The EarthQuaker Devices Disaster Transport SR is a lo-fi dual delay, reverb, and modulation workstation. It gives you two delay lines which you can run in series or parallel. One of the delay lines has optional modulation. The other has optional reverb. Expression pedal control unlocks the Bleed option messing with the series/parallel signal path to juxtapose between interesting rhythmic variations. Its complex signal path may seem like a lot to take in at first, but the Disaster Transport SR rewards guitarists who take a ride on this rollercoaster of interesting sounds and textures. This is possibly your signature delay pedal right here.
EarthQuaker Devices Pedal Page: Spires, Effect Type: Fuzz
The EarthQuaker Devices Spires takes a silicon version of EQD’s discontinued Dream Crusher fuzz and pairs it with their take on the Rosac Electronic Nu-Fuzz, a pedal I would probably never have heard of if Jamie Stillman didn’t reimagine it for this pedal. The Spires is a simple dual fuzz box that’s full of radness.
The Green channel brings in the Nu-Fuzz, a full-on vintage flavored beast with a level (labeled Green) and Tone knobs. The Red channel has its own level control (labeled Red) and a Fuzz knob instead of Tone. The Red side is smoother. The Green side is more aggressive. The Red’s fuzz knob has a useful range of fuzz sounds as you cut back the fuzz, but you can also get similar sounds by cutting back your guitar’s volume knob. The Green channel also cleans up well in this manner, and it’s harshness can be tamed for a warmer, woollier fuzz tone. The Spires is a rockin’ dual fuzz pedal that reveals more versatility when used in conjunction with your guitar and amp settings.
EarthQuaker Devices Pedal Page: Spatial Delivery, Effect Type: Envelope Filter/Auto Wah
The EarthQuaker Devices Spatial Delivery is a voltage controlled envelope filter. It’s all about funk filter sweeps and auto-wah. If that’s your bag, you’ve gotta try this pedal. When I first saw it, I speculated that it might be EarthQuaker Devices’ version of the Maestro FSH-1 Filter Sample/Hold, a favorite of Mr. Stillman. But the Spatial Delivery is an original digital creation that to my surprise is incredibly smooth and pleasing to listen to.
In addition to Up Sweep and Down Sweep modes, the Spatial Delivery has a Sample and Hold function for random voltage controlled filtering, the speed of which is set by the Range knob. This reminds me of the random pitch shifting of the Arpanoid and is a lot of fun for making weird sci-fi noises.
EarthQuaker Devices Pedal Page: Transmisser, Effect Type: Reverb
The EarthQuaker Devices Transmisser is “a modulated reverb with extra-long decay fed to a highly resonant filter”. That sums it up nicely in a way that’s easy to understand. This pedal is sort of a variation of the Afterneath… only it’s nothing like the Afterneath really except for being a reverb and having a reverb mangling Warp knob that’s sort of similar to the Afterneath’s Drag control. I’d say that while the Afterneath captures the enclosed sound of a massive subterranean cavern, the Transmisser is a more open reverb that traverses outer space after being blasted through a wormhole.
The big fun here is the Freq knob that sets the frequency of the resonant filter. You can use an expression pedal to manually control it for extra fun. The Rate sets the speed of an always present modulation. The modulation has a slightly jagged feel for an asymmetrical movement. It’s a quirky touch that may or may not appeal to everyone. Just remember that this pedal is for those who like it weird. The Warp knob changes the feel of the entire pedal and essentially gives it a looser, deeper, & warmer sound or a tighter, more focused sound. Decay and Mix set reverb length and wet signal amount, respectively. The Darkness knob is your tone control. It’s a strange pedal from a strange land, ready to team up with the Spatial Delivery for 70’s space prog excursions.
Runner Up: Gray Channel
EarthQuaker Devices Pedal Page: Gray Channel, Effect Type: Overdrive
Screw it. Let’s throw in one more classic inspired pedal to finish the list. The DOD OD-250 Overdrive Preamp in its various iterations is regarded as a classic, hard-clipped dirt pedal. The EarthQuaker Devices Gray Channel is a tribute to the sought after “gray box” version. It expands on the old 2-knob pedal with 2 channels, each having their own Gain and level controls (labeled Green & Red). Each channel also has different clipping options. The Green side gives you Silicon, None, & Germanium; the Red side has LED, None, & FET. This adds up to a well-rounded range of drive tones that’ll take you from your clean sound to mild drive and heavier saturation with one or two stomps.
That concludes our Top 10 Best EarthQuaker Devices Pedals! Tell us your favorite EQD pedal in the comments!