EarthQuaker Devices Pyramids Review

 

Have you ever wanted to join a cult but the worry of being judged by your peers has stopped you? Did you try to join one late at night in a McDonald’s parking lot only to be left with a handful of fries, a party hat, and never ending emptiness? I felt the same until I found EarthQuaker Devices. Harboring spirits and secrets in each pedal, EarthQuaker Devices has rapidly turned into the boutique pedal brand of choice for those who want to add an obscure, wild element to their rig. Known for their unique yet familiar pedals like the Rainbow Machine, Data Corrupter, and Avalanche Run that reimagined “standard” effects, EQD has gone even more specific and challenged the traditional flanger with the newest addition to their family tree: Pyramids.

 

 

Visit EarthQuaker Devices for more info about the Pyramids.

 

The Soul Servants Abide

Pyramids is a stereo flanger that you can mix, tweak, and morph from a smooth jet plane into something sounding like a contemporary art song played on a broken banjo.

With a first glance at this teal and purple box, right away your eyes are drawn to the 2 sets of rotary knobs offering the options of 5 Presets and 8 Modes. Unlike its pedal siblings, Pyramids not only offers the choice to construct and save sounds, but also a mix knob to level those effects with your input signal. All of these 8 Modes can be tweaked to your desire with dedicated knobs like Manual to control the delay time of your modulation, Rate to change the speed of your LFO, Width to control the range of the LFO sweep, and Mix for dry and wet control.

When you first plug into Pyramids it’s tempting to stay lost in a subtle wash from Classic Mode. With all dials turned to 12 o’clock, Pyramids gives you just a taste of what it must have felt like to be an 80’s rock star onstage with fans blowing in your long beautiful hair. Classic mode is all about that hallowed ageless tone everyone seems to be talking about these days. I like to mess with the rate and feedback to create a warping bubble that you could almost compare to a ring modulation. Classic sounds great on large open chords allowing you to hear the ebb and flow of your modulated signal in the background.

With a quick turn of the Mode knob, you’re now on Through-Zero. This preset is where you can get some whooshing jet sounds or cancel out your signal for momentary pauses. My favorite is having the Modify and Rate turned to 0 at normal speed to create a pause similar to turning the attack knobs up on your synth of choice. Roll up the feedback, slide between notes, and you get an almost reversed signal with that nice tasty layer of flange on top. Pair Pyramids with a hearty reverb pedal such as a Strymon blueSky to get some beautiful ambient chords.

With the Mix and Rate all the way up, both Barber Pole Up and Barber Pole Down sound like a Chorus mixed with the shakiness of a sawtooth wave. These modes let you control the tone of your modulated sound using the Modify knob acting as high and low pass filter. It’s interesting to hear the tonal differences between Barber Pole Up and Barber Pole Down by switching between the modes back and forth. Playing leads on these modes creates a unique warble sound that is easy to control with the Tap/Trigger foot-switch.

Like most people, I think lasers are pretty cool. Trigger Up and Trigger Down Mode are basically your excuse to point a guitar to your loved ones and show off your true musicianship with the power of “pew” “pew” “pew”. It’s a great party trick. Everyone will love you. These two modes control how your signal reacts to you picking or “triggering” a note. Trigger up lets you sound like a Kraftwerk intro by providing a high pitched rising sweep with every pick. Pick a note, then right after hit the Tap/Trigger foot-switch to get an immediate re-trigger of that rising sweep. Trigger Down is all of this, with more of a traditional sounding “pew” “pew” in which the sweep descends.

Step Mode is a huge game changer that removes Pyramids from the ranks of any basic flanger. This Mode sounds like an arpeggio constantly rising and falling. Modify controls the amount of glide between the notes, while Width controls the pitch respectively. The fun thing with Step Mode is that it can create an infinite set of steps looping forever with the Feedback turned all the way up. This means that even after the sustain of the guitar tone dies on a note you picked, the “sequence” of steps is still audible. Step Mode is very effective on synths and digital instruments, in which you are able to hold down a note without any decay.

Random is the final adventure through the elusive Pyramids, adding a chaotic mix of random steps in a fashion that is slightly more tamable than the Magic setting on EQDs Rainbow Machine pedal. Like the Step Mode, you can control the glide of these steps using the Modify knob. Having a slow/low Rate creates a beautiful Lo-Fi sounding shimmer that can suddenly drop into a lush sound of goodness. Use Random Mode on long open chords to get the full effect of sinking into a bowl of chocolate.

With so many Modes and Presets, the user is presented with a minor annoyance of having the switch between sounds manually using the assigned rotary knobs. For some this could seem cumbersome having to bend down onstage to switch between presets. This is something to think about but also something I think that is able to be helped by assigning your presets in order of your set. Of course it is ideal to have a foot-switch to shift between numerous presets in a loop, but with the rotary design on the Pyramids it is helpful to have that click of security between each sound so you can know exactly which one you’re on.

 

 

The EarthQuaker Devices Pyramids is a versatile stereo flanger that offers musicians unconventional sonic possibilities through 8 modes, 5 user presets, and multiple control knobs. As a guitarist, synth player, and producer, I’ve always appreciated those in the guitar world who aim to do something out of the ordinary. It’s easy to sum up the Pyramids as just a solid flanger, but it’s even easier to point out unusual amount of control the user has over such a simple effect. From washed chords to randomly generated leads, Pyramids is a multi-purpose tool that has a place in any rig.

That concludes our EarthQuaker Devices Pyramids review. Thanks for reading.

EarthQuaker Devices Data Corrupter Review

 

The mad scientists in Akron have done it again. The Data Corrupter is one of the latest offerings from Earthquaker Devices and is likely to help you get started on that Summer home improvement by peeling the paint off all your walls. Earthquaker Devices have created their own spin on the familiar PLL-style pedal loosely based on the Electrax Sythax and the “Basic Frequency Synthesizer” by Ray Marston, only with better tracking and sustain. The Data Corrupter is an incredible fuzz / modulation / octave / oscillator machine that is sure to corrupt everything you feed into it, and it will destroy everything in its path.

 

Wait. What does this thing even do?

According to the manual, The Data Corrupter is an analog PLL harmonizer with modulation that takes your input signal and brutally amplifies it into a crushing square wave fuzz, multiplies it, divides it, then modulates it into a three-voice synthesizer. Need I go on? They pretty much had me at “brutally amplifies…”. At the heart of this signal destroyer is the Master Oscillator. The three-position switch on the oscillator control feeds your input into either Unison, -1 Octave, or -2 Octave. Use this to fine tune the tracking response for your preferred instrument. From here, the Data Corrupter will do the science and split off a synthesized frequency. Further controls allow you to select the octave/interval as well as the volume of this voice. The Frequency Modulator applies pitch-bend modulation to the Master Oscillator. A Glide Mode gives you a smooth portamento as each note slides into the next. In Vibrato Mode, the pitch modulates up and down in a retro sci-fi effect! The Subharmonic assimilates the input into one of eight lower octave programs between one and three octaves below the input. The Square Control blends in a great sounding square wave fuzz which I thought sounded great on its own!

Those not familiar with a PLL (Phase Locked Loop) will be surprised by how interesting and finicky these things can be! A PLL takes your input signal and compares its phase and frequency against an oscillator, generates an output proportional to their difference then feeds it back into the oscillator. This causes the oscillator to lock onto the input signal and generate a synthesized frequency. Serious science going on here. So what does that sound like? Well, it’s a super thick, nasty undertone with funky octaves and harmonics all over the place. Tracking inconsistencies will make things feels pretty loose and random as you noodle around the fretboard.

 

 

Features:

Control Surface:

Obviously, there is a LOT going on here. Thankfully, the control surface of the pedal is nicely arranged so you can just get down to business. It’s divided up into sections where you can kind of focus on one part at a time.

Master Oscillator. This part is the heart of the entire device.

• One small three-position switch gives you Root Control:

1.Unison
2. -1
3. -2

• An eight-position rotary allows for octave/interval control with options for:

1. U/U
2. +1/U
3. +1/5
4. +2/U
5. +2/M3
6. +2/5
7. +2/m7
8. +3/U

Frequency Modulator.

• One toggle gives you control between:

1. Glide
2. Vibrato

• A knob to set the rate

Subharmonic section. This section is very similar in control to the Master Oscillator.

• A small toggle for root source:

1. Unison
2. Master Oscillator

• An eight-position rotary allows for another batch of octave/interval options:

1. -1/U
2. -1/5
3. -2/U
4. -2/M3
5. -2/5
6. -2/m7
7. -3/U
8. -3/M2

A three-knob Voice Mixer section allows you to blend in:

1. Square
2. Subharmonic
3. Oscillator

And you can blend each voice in one at a time. A must-have option for any crazy pedal.

Lastly, there’s a Master Volume for the entire thing. If you’re looking for a seriously loud-ass pedal, this is the one. I found unity gain to the dry signal to WELL below noon. In fact, it’s below 9:00.

Ins and outs:

The Data Corrupter has top-mounted (!) mono 1M input and 1K output jacks and a 9v power jack drawing 25mA.

More:

Designed and built in the USA
Measures 5.65″ x 4.75″ x 2.25″ with knobs
True bypass and uses electronic relay based switching

Visit EarthQuaker Devices for more info about the Data Corrupter.

 

 

Data Corruption further explained:

Now, if everything up to this point has made about as much sense as a midnight Trump tweet, have no fear, I will break this down for you. In a nutshell, the Data Corrupter is here to kick ass and chew bubble gum, and it’s all out of bubble gum. Unless you’re some kind of math genius or an expert on PLL-based pedals, you might plug into this thing and feel like the world just ended. You might feel overwhelmed and maybe even question why you picked this thing up. My advice… start small and work your way up. I recommend starting out with trying each of the three Voice options one at a time. Try the fuzz first. Just tear into it. The fuzz all by itself is damn near worth the entire price of this pedal. Now try playing just the Oscillator Voice. Get familiar with it. The Oscillator lets you drop (in octaves) the input source pitch. Since some of the frequencies of the Oscillator are too high for our human ears, this comes in super handy. Personally, I like the -2 option here. From there your signal is fed into the PLL and multiplied to create one of 8 different intervals. Stay with me now. In the section above, I wrote all this out for your brain to freeze up on like you’d had too much frozen yogurt. For the 8-position knob, don’t look at all the stuff printed there. JUST LISTEN. Trust your ears to do the work. Just find the setting that you think sounds the best. One end is higher pitched, the other end is lower pitched. I tend to prefer lower, in general, but since this has two voicings (in addition to the fuzz) I set a high one AND a lower one. The high one I usually mix quieter than the lower one.

Now, let’s turn that Voice all the way down and mess with the Subharmonic. Same thing here, kinda. You have two options for where that signal is coming from. You have Unison or Master Oscillator. When you choose Master Oscillator, the subharmonic will be a division of the Master Oscillator. What? It just means it gets more complicated. I prefer pulling from Unison. When you do that, it will be a division of the fuzz tone and Frequency Modulation will be taken out of the equation. Wait, what’s the Frequency Modulation? That’s the little section in the middle of the pedal that you can add to the Master Oscillator. You have two options here. Glide and Vibrato. I prefer glide for more of a subtle effect. Vibrato is cool with rate set way high for a laser machine gun effect.

Now back to that Subharmonic. Here you have another 8-position rotary giving you more options of how the signal is divided. Again, don’t read the little letters and numbers printed on the pedal. Just use your ears again and turn it until it sounds best (or worst, depending on what you’re doing). Ok. Still with me? You have it all set up now. Now you can start blending all the voices together. You can decide if you want the sound to be clean or dirty. If you’re after clean, just keep the Fuzz voice all the way down. If you’re after the nasty, just turn that fuzz up! Now mix in that Oscillator and/or Subharmonic. I suggest, for most applications, keeping these relatively low in the mix. Generally, for most usable, real-life situations, you’re gonna want to just use these to flavor your fuzz/clean tone. If they are up too high, they will dominate your signal. Now, this may be exactly what you’re looking for. If so, go for it. But that’s a really difficult beast to tame! You may find that you’ll just surrender to it and let it decide what notes pass through. It really comes down to a question of control. Do you want to be in control, or do you want to give that up to the greatest corrupter of all data?

 

 

Guitars, keys, and drums, oh my!

Seems like the obvious instrument with guitar effects is, well, the guitar. I obviously ran a series of guitars into this thing. I felt like humbuckers tracked a little better than single coils, especially on the neck pickup. Also, since the pedal is monophonic, single notes sounded better than chords. Power chords sounded better than more complicated chords. Liking what I heard, I decided to continue on to the next instruments in the studio. I have this old KORG CX-3. It’s kind of a Hammond clone and has a wide range of beautiful organ tones. Well, the Data Corrupter absolutely destroyed it. It was really fun to hear an old familiar tone get taken to the cleaners. The coolest thing is the ability to blend, just mixing in a hint of the dirty, crazy, and interesting tones that the Data Corrupter produced. It was also fun to run some old drum machine patterns into it. Imagine the coolest Nine Inch Nails drum track if it were played through the console on the Mother Ship in the original Alien movie. That’s what the Data Corrupter did for me, and all I had to do was plug into this box. I kinda think I liked drums the best. It’s as if the pedal was secretly made just for that purpose. Pretty sure drums and a DC will meet again in my studio!

Probably asking too much here, but there are a few things that would have made it so you could get a lot more from this pedal. I would have liked to have seen MIDI, or some way to save some presets. With a pedal this complex, when you find a cool sound, you’d love a way to save and recall that! Even just a few on-board presets slots would have been cool. Expression would be super fun. It sounds pretty cool to cycle through the rotary switches by hand. It might be complicated to assign a rotary to expression, but it would be cool. Even just using expression to blend in the wet signals of each of the three voices would be rad. It also seems like it could benefit from a little bit better tracking accuracy. I know that this is a characteristic of PLL effects and they, generally, feel a bit “wonky.” But as I played there were moments where a tighter feel would have been really nice.

 

 

The EarthQuaker Devices Data Corrupter will give you some of the most bizarre and beautifully intense fuzz tones and chaotic guitar sounds you will ever hear. If you’re getting sick and tired of so many fuzz pedals out there that sound just like everything else, this pedal may be your answer. You really can get as tame or as insane as you like with the blend controls. This pedal truly is a new spin on an old idea and one of the most accessible takes on a PLL pedal, being thoughtfully designed and nicely laid out in a way that makes sense for the first time PLL user. And LOUD? You damn right. At times you will think you have found fuzz Nirvana, other times you will think you smell smoke emitting from your speaker cabinet. Still, you must go on and explore the new world of fuzz that is laid out before you. Great rewards will arise from your efforts. (Ear plugs sold separately.)

That concludes our EarthQuaker Devices Data Corrupter review. Thanks for reading.

EarthQuaker Devices Avalanche Run Review – Best Stereo Delay/Reverb Pedal?

For the better part of the last year and a half, my existence as an effects aficionado has trembled in the shadow of a great rectangular force, its chthonic tendrils gently coaxing me into fantasies laden thick with ambient wash. I am, of course, referring to EarthQuaker’s much sought after atmospheric cornerstone, the Avalanche Run. If you need any introduction to the Avalanche Run, you should consider your knowledge of modern guitar effects woefully lacking, but I’ll humor those out of the loop.

The Avalanche Run is a Stereo Delay/Reverb with 3 impressive voices, multiple expression controls, and tap-tempo, which is a first for EarthQuaker Devices. It has been lauded as one of the best delay pedals on the market today by merit of its simple playability and wide tonal wheelhouse. I’ve been chomping at the bit to see if it deserves such praise, and while I’m confident that EQD, who have been cranking out pedal after pedal to the tune of “modern standard” for thirteen years, wouldn’t falter on such an ambitious product, I plan to pull no punches as I tease out what makes the Avalanche Run one of the best.

Features:

  • 3 Voices controlled by center toggle:
    Normal: Digital Delay into Plate Reverb
    Reverse: Reverse Delay into Plate Reverb
    Swell: Auto Volume Swell into Delay into Plate Reverb
  • 6 Parameter Knobs:
    Time: Sets the time of the Delay repeats inside a range of 0ms to just below of 2000ms
    Repeats: Sets the repeats from 1 to infinity
    Tone: Standard tone control for the delay
    Delay Mix: Volume control for the Delay repeats
    Decay: Controls the tail length of the Reverb
    Reverb Mix: Volume control for the Reverb circuit
  • Side-mounted Expression in with 6 controllable Expression parameters: Delay Mix, Reverb Mix, Repeats, Decay, Time, Toggle (Crossfades from Normal to Reverse)
  • 6 bypass configurations: True Bypass, Short Tails, Medium Tails, Long Tails, User defined (set by Repeat knob), Sound on Sound
  • Tap Tempo
  • 6 repeat subdivisions
  • Controllable Self-Oscillation (hold tap tempo)
  • Stereo I/O
  • 24bit 96kHz ADAC for analog/digital conversion

Visit EarthQuaker Devices for more info about the Avalanche Run.

Build & Sound Quality:

The Avalanche Run is EarthQuaker’s loving pseudo-expansion upon their gifted ambient baby, the Dispatch Master. The reason I say “psuedo-expansion” is because while EarthQuaker worked hard to emulate the Dispatch Master in some important ways, the Avalanche Run is built around an entirely original DSP, which Jamie Stillman and the ‘Quakers worked on for “at least 2 hours.” If I’m being as crude as possible, we’re looking at an analog-voiced digital delay running in series through a reverb. However, if all you’re looking for is a plain ole delay/reverb combo, a common package to an ever-increasingly frustrating degree in the effects world, you needn’t invest in the Avalanche Run to accomplish what the Dispatch Master and its contemporaries easily have locked down. That’s not why we’re here. We who recall the Dispatch Master fondly remember the vast open spaces it dropped us into, and the thought that EQD is giving us more of that excites me to no end. Indeed, those atmospheric feels and much, MUCH more are all contained inside the Avalanche Run. The real draw to the Avalanche Run though is its incredible flexibility, which serves not just as the boldest entry in its list of actionable talents but the very nature of the thing itself and places it head and shoulders above a huge portion of the market. I know that sounds vague, but I don’t want to get ahead of myself. The payoff is huge.

So, what have we got on the face panel? On the top row from left to right there are controls for the Time of the delay (which goes from 0ms to just shy of 2000ms,) Repeats (1 to Infinity,) what sounds like a standard Tone knob that can roll off either the highs or lows, and a Mix for the delay signal, which will not just blend your dry tone with the affected signal but also attenuate the dry down to naught when dialed past 3 o’clock. On the bottom we have a hard rotary that determines what the expression input does, a Decay to control the length of the reverb, a Mix which functions identically to the delay’s, and another hard rotary knob that splits up the tap-tempo into one of 6 time divisions. I’m an expression guy, so what stands out to me here are the expression-controllable parameters that the Avalanche Run offers. EarthQuaker has given us six here to play with, and each adds a new way to play. The Decay and R Mix settings control the length and mix of the reverb respectively, and are great for organically deciding how much of the mix you want to take up in real time. Toggle crossfades the signal from the standard delay repeats to the reversed repeats, effectively enabling you to effortlessly wield two modes in one. My favorite expression control has to be the Time, which will open up a world of pitch-altering time warps. Not to be forgotten are the D. Mix and Repeat controls, which are most useful for dipping the delay in and out of the way of your raw playing.

As for tone, the 24-bit 96khz analog-to-digital and digital-to-analog converters in the Avalanche Run deliver a smooth digital delay, and the analog dry through ensures that your dry signal remains completely intact when it comes out the other end. Used in stereo, the lush vibes produced fresh out of the box were immediately gorgeous and had me lusting for more. The repeats aren’t quick to break up completely when set to infinity outside of the self-oscillation feature which is activated by holding the tap-tempo. That said, even when I did reach that point of complete saturation, the breakup was luscious enough to bolster my already solid confidence in the analog emulation possibilities inherent in modern digital delay. At any rate, any high-frequency fizz was easily dispelled by rolling back the Tone pot. I couldn’t be 100% sure if I was hearing quantization “zipper” noise (thanks to Paul Uhl for hooking me up with that term via his review of the Empress Reverb,) when tweaking the Time mid-oscillation, and the fact that I was unsure was enough to convince me of the power present in the AR’s enclosure. The Avalanche Run is comfortably used like a traditional wash, with appropriate levels of both delay and reverb blooming under your playing, but either the delay or reverb can be isolated and played independently from the other and sound fantastic.

EQD also wisely included the capability to change what happens when the Avalanche Run is bypassed by unplugging it, setting the ratio knob to your preferred bypass style, and plugging it back in while holding the bypass. While four of the six settings are simply tail length variations and the fifth is a “true bypass” setting, the Sound on Sound mode will allow your repeats to continue indefinitely in one output and be affected actively by the knobs/oscillations/expression/voice changes. Meanwhile, your dry guitar signal runs from the other output, allowing you to play clean over the drone or loops on the fly. You can do this multiple times and create some very lush soundscapes as well as change the subdivision and voicing at any point to garner glitchy chops in the signal. It’s like playing two instruments at once.

Keep in mind that bypassing the Avalanche Run while in Sound on Sound mode will always recycle your repeats unless you switch it into one of the other modes. This is mitigated temporarily by quickly tapping the tap-tempo twice, but I found that if I left it bypassed, it would still ramp up repeats after a bit of time had passed. If you don’t plan on having the ‘Run on constantly, you may find yourself unintentionally fighting old repeats as they build from nothing.

Avalanche Run Delay Modes

Normal

Normal mode is the basic delay run into the reverb and is as close to vanilla as any of the modes get. Don’t let that blasé turn of phrase fool you; an avalanche of vanilla will crush a man as quickly as chunky monkey. If you’re seeking that Space Echo tone, seek no further, as the Normal mode makes a meal of it. The Time expression is particularly well-served here. While the Time knob will jump straight to where it is set, the expression ramps slowly to its final destination, making for beautiful cascading time warps that remind me of EQD’s Rainbow Machine. Of course, if you’re feeling masochistically conservative, you can set the time knob back for a terse little slapback, which has always made sense paired with plate reverb, and no one would judge you. The rest of us will just be over here catapulting to the pleiades.

Reverse

Reverse is kind of exactly what it sounds like: a reverse delay run into the reverb. You can’t achieve the pitchbends that you can in the Normal and Swell modes, but if you do a little investigating, you’ll find that the Reverse mode unleashes a secret ring-mod/bitcrusher setting that is exclusive to this voice when you dial the Time all the way back. The modulation will respond very strongly to where the repeat and tone knobs are set, becoming more reactive as you roll beyond the lowest most repeat setting. Armed with this knowledge, you can make some pretty cool, squashed out chirps playing with the Time via your expression. The only conceivable drawback to this is that the resonant frequency almost never chimes at a consistent tone whenever you leave the ring-mod zone by extending the time (toe down on the expression,) and returning to heel, but I didn’t mind the weirdness. To me, it was songwriting fuel; I’ll admit that that’s subjective, but if you’re not looking at the Avalanche Run for organic inspiration, you’re doing it wrong. This minor quirk might have been a function of some minimum voltage threshold that the Avalanche Run’s expression in has to meet before it jumps into the ringing tone, but it seems more likely to be a function of the sensitivity on the expression pedal I was using; EarthQuaker does recommend the MOOG EP-3 expression pedal I have for use with their units, but it’s possible that the TRS signal just wasn’t consistently sent at the same voltage every time. Before we stray too far from the topic of the Time parameter as it pertains to the reverse mode, dialing it just before it starts getting ring-y wrung out a very sweet, almost-chorus-almost-harmonic-trem wobble which when set to a darker tone blended so well with the reverb that I had a hard time moving on. I drew a diagram in my notes for personal use. Also, very useful in the Reverse mode is the D. Mix expression which when pushed to the toe plays back only your reversed repeats; you can probably imagine the real application of this feature.

Swell

Swell mode sums the wet and dry signals to mono and runs the whole thing through a voltage-controlled auto-swell, which cuts the attack off of the front end of the signal path. The Mix knob on the bottom row now serves to control the attack on the swell, allowing you to dial in the length of the attack to great effect when coupled with the R. Mix setting on the expression rotary knob. The Toggle expression is also particularly potent here, if only because it essentially allows you the benefit of all three voicings in a musical capacity. While the manual claims that this voicing reacts to pick attack, that is an oversimplification: the initial pick transients will trigger the swell but attack on any notes played over a held chord will still be audible. That said, Swell mode was the perfect choice to round out the ambience generated by the Avalanche Run, adding that last washy option so eagerly sought by shoegazing guitarists everywhere while eliminating the need for any volume knob play.

How could EarthQuaker Devices have improved upon this almighty cascade of atmospheric snow? I have a few nascent thoughts. Foremost in my mind is the lack of savable presets on this goliath. While the footprint is only about one-and-a-half the size of a standard EQDevice (a net win if you plan on replacing your delay and/or reverb,) the enlarged space needed to accommodate the 8 knobs and tap-tempo is still quite a chunk of real-estate for just one active voicing, even with those top-mounted jacks that EQD got right so long ago. The Avalanche Run has so much to offer in its enclosure, and while you can play it like a separate instrument no matter which voicing you’re using, it seems like a missed opportunity to lack a quick way to change over to another setting even with the expression set to Toggle. Also, tap-tempo I/O for syncing up with the rest of our boards would have been a huge boon. Much to my dismay, EQD is still putting “dumb” relay switches in their devices, meaning that when you power down your board, the Avalanche Run won’t remember if it was on or off. So if you’re running an effects loop, you’ll have to make sure you turn it back on before you start your set.

While I’d never detract from the sensible choice to keep the reverb dead simple, it could have done with another parameter; if not the obvious tone-stack, then maybe a pre-delay or a blend for a hypothetical modulation? I get why there’s no bypass on the reverb; the focus is rightfully placed on the beautifully rendered digital delay and the ‘verb is meant as simply a smoothing tool to unleash that sweet, sweet ambience, so I’m not suggesting EQD should have taken a more standalone perspective on it. What I am suggesting, however, is that the reverb could have enjoyed a little more limelight. If I’m indulging in my wildest fantasies, I would have also loved to have seen a parallel/series switch for textural experimentation purposes. Of course, without another parameter on the ‘verb that doesn’t seem all that important to me.

I’ll be the first to admit that barring my preset and relay complaints, my suggestions for possible feature additions are eclipsed entirely by what is in the Avalanche Run. In other words, they only really make sense as suggested features in an overdone, imaginary Avalanche Run Sr., so please don’t mistake my musings for disappointment. Far from it. I could speculate (baselessly) that considering the digital nature of the ‘Run, a bigger, more integrable version is pinned amongst other insane concepts for future products on Jamie Stillman’s “next project” dartboard, but rather than torture all parties involved I will simply squash that thought before my head explodes. The Avalanche Run is still so new, and there’s already so many different directions EarthQuaker could go if they wanted to expand on a previous product; I mean, have you seen the EarthQuaker pedalboards they set up in music shops? Talk about perspective. The hidden mantra of EarthQuaker has always struck me as “amazing tone first, functionality a near-tie second, bells and whistles non-placing,” so I’m not really holding my breath for anything completely un-EarthQuaker, like MIDI functionality or savable presets. However, if the Avalanche Run and post-Run digital pedals like the Space Spiral or Transmisser are any indication, EarthQuaker is dead set on flexing their DSP muscles and to me, that implies that anything is possible. At any rate, while EQD is pumping out brilliant, affordable pedals, one can dream!

The EarthQuaker Devices Avalanche Run is an auditory daydream, designed to be explored but never truly understood yet straightforward enough that it still plugs-n-plays as quickly as you can tear your old delay and reverb pedals off your pedalboard. Bolstered by EarthQuaker’s sterling reputation and uncompromising quality, three fine voices, sensible parameter choices, stereo I/O, clean headroom, extensive expression options, and hidden tonal rewards, it stands proud among not just the most flexible pedals out there but some of the best all-around guitar effects pedals at this price point. I’m absolutely loathe to say this, but the shrewd guitarist could build a stereo tour board around one of the ‘Run voices, an expression pedal, a compressor and a nice overdrive or two and be done buying guitar effects forever. Forget I said that! It’s just really really good! If its reputation alone is any indication, I’d wager that it’s good enough to stand the test of time in both studio and performance applications. Mark my words: to not at least give it a try is to do yourself a lifelong disservice.

That concludes our EarthQuaker Devices Avalanche Run review. Thanks for reading!

EarthQuaker Devices Transmisser Review – Best Modulated Reverb Pedal?

EarthQuaker-Devices-Transmisser-Review-Best-Modulated-Reverb-Pedal-01

When I’m gripped by a remarkably enchanting pedal and have the distinct honor of writing about it, I always have a hard time with the first few words. Like, just now; there was a solid ten minutes of empty space disguised as thought. I mean, we’re talking SPACE. The kind of space that every prog band (mine included) writes masturbatory concept albums about. Big open expanses of nothing, run through by thick gusts of cosmic wind that strip away the comforting cocoon of conscious thought. The kind of space the EarthQuaker Devices Transmisser simulates. And now my train of thought is back.

I love playing with EarthQuaker Devices pedals. No matter how many of these weird little rectangles I let into my life I just can’t get enough. It isn’t the unique and well defined branding, or the affordability of every EQD pedal, or even the quake-inducing tone inherent in each lovingly crafted feel machine that does it for me, though these are all contributing factors. What gets me every time is EQD’s insatiable thirst for bending the rules of what sounds good inside of a realistic framework. For example (and to segue into the reason we’re here now,) EarthQuaker recently released a modulated delay as an alternative to their riotously successful Afterneath, a pedal we know as the Transmisser. The Transmisser is a multifaceted reverb with both modulation and filter aspects entwined in it’s DNA, an effect few (if any) builders have attempted. It’s a truly unique effect, and I’m going to talk about it.

Features:

  • Six Knobs:
    Decay controls the length of the reverb tail
    Darkness is a tone control
    Freq is shorthand for frequency, which controls the sweep of a low-pass resonant filter through which the reverb tail is processed
    Warp is a unique system-wide parameter adjustment, affecting the width of the modulation, the depth of the filter, and the length of the decay at once. More on this later.
    Rate controls the speed of the modulation
    Mix determines the wet/dry blend
  • Expression Pedal Input
  • True Bypass
  • 9VDC powered

The Transmisser is decorated with a light fuchsia visage of what I can only imagine is EarthQuaker artist Matt Horak’s interpretation of lightning striking a black hole, printed on a sparkling black background. The knobs are tall and thin and the I/O jacks are top-mounted to save space, like most of EQD’s smaller offerings. There is an expression jack on the right side that controls the Freq parameter, which allows hands-free control of a glistening resonant filter.

Visit EarthQuaker Devices for more info about the Transmisser.

Sound & Performance:

Immediately upon playing my first notes through the Transmisser, I was intimidated by the incredibly complex wash produced. What is going on? Even with the Decay at its lowest possible setting, every reverb tail seemed to last forever, indicating from the get-go that I was in for something worlds apart from even the most out-there reverbs I’ve played. Although this means it might not be replacing any traditional reverbs on the ‘board per se, the zealous experimenter can buy the Transmisser and not feel as guilty about keeping another pedal that might otherwise help mitigate the costs. More pedals are a win in my book.

The Warp knob is the perplexing centerpiece of the Transmisser’s parameter set, serving as a slew that fundamentally alters the entire nature of the pedal and way that the other parameters interact with the one another: clockwise for a defined sound, counter-clockwise for more of a wash. As you do this, you’ll notice quite quickly that this also downshifts the pitch of the reverb tail, which sounds terrifying. The applications of this are endless and I almost wish there were another expression out to control the Warp, but that would be an outrageous demand. The Transmisser is affected by a near-indecipherable modulation which grows more frantic the further clockwise you roll the Rate knob. This also modulates the Darkness and Freq parameters depending on where the Warp is set.

Cranking the Rate and playing with the Freq reminds me of EarthQuaker’s Spatial Delivery envelope filter, which yielded a similar harmonic purr on its way up or down in resonant frequency. With the Decay knob maxed, whichever frequency you’ve set will actually start to oscillate, but never go beyond a dull drone, adding a whole new element of ambience to long reverb tails. I was also surprised with how well the Transmisser takes any kind of dirt. With an overdrive behind a full wet Mix and the Rate rolled back to a slow yawn, I was treated to a very vocal sounding vibrato.

If all you’re looking for is a unique way to add some auditory distance between yourself and the audience, fret not! Even with all of the crazy sounds dipping in and out of the Transmisser’s mood-setting, I couldn’t help but notice that I never once lost the sense of space that justifies calling it a reverb and not something flamboyant, like “Cosmic Embellisher.” If you were so inclined, you could pretty much set the knobs anywhere and become inspired from your first note. In the harmonically dense sense, it reminds me of some high-end shimmer reverbs, only this is the effect I’ve wanted shimmer to be all along. Sorry, shimmer. It’s not you, it’s me.

EarthQuaker-Devices-Transmisser-Review-Best-Modulated-Reverb-Pedal-02

Overall-Rating-5.0

The EarthQuaker Devices Transmisser is both more and less than any reverb: it is an experience. Armed with its reverb and modulations, the Transmisser is a particularly potent sound tool I never thought I needed. It is an effect all its own, a must-have for weirdos and a must-try for normies. Honestly, I can’t think of one thing I didn’t enjoy about the Transmisser. There’s just so much going on that the nuances are hard to keep track of, and the radical expressionistic power of this pedal is undeniable. Maybe in the future EQD will consider a Transmisser 2 with stereo, an expression for the warp, and maybe panning? There’s not much more beyond that that can make it better. Even if you never dial in a normal sounding reverb (and trust me, you won’t,) the Transmisser is well equipped to hypnotize anyone within earshot, and that’s totally worth your dad never understanding what’s happening when you play with it. Try it and explore the universe.

EarthQuaker Devices Spatial Delivery Review – Best Envelope Filter Pedal?

earthquaker-devices-spatial-delivery-review-best-envelope-filter-pedal-01

Filters hold dominion over a strange, quacky place in my heart. I grew up in a town inundated with Dead Heads and funky jam bands who wielded the traditional wah-like expression of the effect an awful lot, and now I can only associate that tone with its ubiquity in the realm of funk. Not that that makes the filter guilty of anything negative in my book; I love funk. Its just that I came of age hearing filters as often as I heard overdrive. Its tough to picture it in any other context, so I very rarely do, but the envelope filter isn’t something to pigeonhole as its uses and pleasing effects are wide-spanning.

If you’re here, chances are pretty good that you’ve heard of EarthQuaker Devices. They’re easily among the upper echelons of the most sought-after effects builders in the world. EarthQuaker has built their name on a legacy of never-disappointing, always-innovative releases at price points that the average Joe can justify while looking their kids in the eyes. They’ve swarmed the market with their take on everything from germanium fuzz to analog guitar synths and everything in between; nobody’s complaining, so they must be doing something right.

The EQD Spatial Delivery is another unique take on something awesome that was maybe a little bit overdue for a good ‘Quaking. It’s a voltage controlled Envelope Filter meaning that the effect is activated and made more or less extreme by the level of voltage (or volume) run through it. Sometimes it’s an autowah, sometimes it’s the auditory interpretation of a Commodore 64’s thoughts.

Features:

  • Voice Switch to index through Up, Down, and Sample & Hold
  • Range knob: In Up/Down modes, this controls the width of the envelope, and its sensitivity to pick attack. In Sample & Hold, it controls the speed of the voltage changes.
  • Filter knob: Crossfades between high-pass and low-pass frequencies, allowing for fine-tuning capabilities.
  • Resonance knob: Controls the amount of filter feedback in the signal.
  • True Bypass
  • Soft-Touch Switch
  • Small footprint
  • Hand-made bit by damn bit in silver studded Akron, Ohio

Visit EarthQuaker Devices for more info about the Spatial Delivery!

See the lowest price on Amazon.

See the lowest price on eBay.

Sound & Performance:

There’s a certain je ne sais quois about EarthQuaker’s simple visual design choices that makes the user question even his own looks. I know it’s silly; It’s a box for God’s sake. But here I am, wondering if the Spatial Delivery would look better in my jeans than I do. It sports a tall, svelte metal enclosure with a sexy sparkle white finish similar to the finish on EarthQuaker’s Dunes and Palisades, accentuated by a peachy orange geometric screen-print. The knobs are pretty standard, but the soft-touch switch and lightning-bright LED give it that tactile boutique feel we’ve all come to expect from EQD. Jamie Stillman, President of EQD and all-around badass is a self-acknowledged fan of the patriarchal Maestro FSH-1, but don’t expect a Maestro clone from the Spatial Delivery; EQD designed this baby from toe to tip with Jamie himself handling DSP programming duties for this pedal’s smooth digital filtering.

EarthQuaker recommends placing the Spatial Delivery first in the chain behind overdrive. This is to allow the harmonics of the filter to clip some frequencies more than others for a more intense effect. I actually liked it after as well, as it added a more obvious wah to a dirty signal; play to your heart’s content.

UP

With all of the parameters set at noon, the UP voicing is one of two things you think of when you hear the words “envelope filter.” In this instance, the Spatial Delivery gives a filter sweep up, making for a whistly, resonant autowah. With everything at noon you can expect the classic autowah tone. If that’s what you’re shooting for, that base is covered, but the true beauty of this pedal is how finely you can adjust the parameters to achieve a wide range of sounds. The Resonance knob controls the thickness of a veneer of harmonic overtones added to the signal that thins as the volume fades; I had a ton of fun swelling down my volume knob with this parameter turned up all the way to achieve long, filtered oscillations.

SAMPLE & HOLD

Unlike the Up and Down voices, the Sample & Hold is controlled by random levels of voltage shot through its circuitry, and the Range knob is repurposed to function as the rate control for the random voltages. Like the Up and Down voices, though, it evokes a nostalgic love of 70’s cult movie soundtracks. The random voltage spikes serve to arpeggiate your signal in jumpy harmonic bursts. Run this through some fuzz and the Spatial Delivery now simulates the death of a circuit frying in the haze of a nuclear meltdown.

DOWN

Bootzilla’s Back! The down filter is the other funky thing you think about when you hear the words “envelope filter.” It’s a filter sweep down that instantly transports you to a discotheque with its synthy, percussive tone. Its important to back off the low-pass end of the Filter knob here; if you go all in, the sweep will sound like music from the inside of a stomach. Otherwise, the whole range of parameters offers something fat and pleasing to the ears and soul.

earthquaker-devices-spatial-delivery-review-best-envelope-filter-pedal-02

Overall-Rating-4.5

The EarthQuaker Devices Spatial Delivery gives you more filtering flexibility and sonic mojo than most pedals its size. The inclusion of the filter knob as opposed to a static Low/Band/High pass voice switch adds a level of control to this box that its contemporaries just can’t match. I had a lot more fun playing with the Spatial Delivery than I thought I would, and it added the oomph to parts of songs I had been working on that I otherwise might have gotten rid of entirely. It would’ve been nice if EarthQuaker had included some kind of exp tap tempo for the Sample & Hold, but it does what you’ll need it to do. Pick it up!

That concludes our review of the EarthQuaker Spatial Delivery. Thanks for reading!

 

Want To Buy The EarthQuaker Spatial Delivery?

See The Lowest Price On Amazon

See The Lowest Price On eBay

 

Be sure to check out our list of the best EarthQuaker Devices pedals!

EarthQuaker Devices Hummingbird V3 Review – Best “Choppy” Tremolo Pedal?

EarthQuaker-Devices-Hummingbird-V3-Review-Best-Choppy-Tremolo-Pedal-01

The EarthQuaker Devices Hummingbird V3 is the third iteration of the Ohio-based company’s “repeat percussion” tremolo pedal. This pedal is a bit different than your standard trem, offering a harder sawtooth chop and slower to ridiculously fast Rate speeds for a pedal that evokes the sound of a tiny hummingbird’s flapping wings… if those wings were a whirlwind of sonic machete blades chopping your guitar signal into fragments of stuttering chaos. Yes, the Hummingbird V3 is a deceptively unassuming little pedal with massive potential to disrupt and augment your sound in serene and psychedelic ways. You’ll find out if you need to make a cozy pedalboard nest for it in our EarthQuaker Devices Hummingbird V3 review.

Features:

  • Depth knob: Controls amount of modulation from barely there to full signal chop at full bore.
  • Rate knob: Controls the speed of the LFO. Clockwise for faster, counterclockwise for slower.
  • Level knob: Controls the signal input level which ultimately controls the output level. Clockwise for more, counterclockwise for less.
  • Mode flip-switch: Three way toggle switch which selects the range of the oscillator. Mode 1 is slow, mode 2 is mid tempo and mode 3 is fast.
  • Expression Jack: Use an expression pedal to adjust the rate with your foot! When an expression pedal is in use the Rate control is defeated. We recommend the Moog EP-2 expression pedal. 
  • True bypass for letting for signal pass unaffected when disengaged.
  • Power: powered by 9VDC power adapter (10mA)

Hummingbird V1 vs V2 vs V3

Here’s a brief history of what’s changed in the evolution of the Hummingbird. The original V1 “Hummingbird Repeat Percussions” was dead-simple in operation, featuring just a single Rate knob and a “Flutter” or “Flap” flip-switch for increasing the speed range of the pedal. The “Flutter” setting was generally for slower “choppy” trem sounds while the extreme “Flap” setting allowed the pedal to venture into psuedo-ring-mod tones at high Rate settings, a trademark of the Hummingbird’s sound. The Hummingbird V2 added a couple incredibly useful functions, a Depth knob for making the trem softer and a Level knob for adjusting output level. A Mode switch still allowed selection from 2 different Rate speed ranges.

EarthQuaker-Devices-Hummingbird-V3-Review-Best-Choppy-Tremolo-Pedal-02The Hummingbird V3 has 4 noticeable improvements over the V2. First, expression pedal control now allows real-time Rate modulation. The Mode switch now has 3 selectable Rate speed ranges. The Depth knob can now reduce the trem depth entirely, making this pedal double as a JFET clean boost when no trem is called for. And a final little improvement that happened was EarthQuaker’s transition to top-mounted audio jacks. If you’re not using the exp pedal control you’ll benefit from having a little extra space on the sides of the Hummingbird V3 for squeezing it onto cramped pedalboards.

The inside is clean and simple and appears solidly built (as are such things made one at a time on a gilded cloud in Akron, Ohio). The few of you that still use batteries to power your guitar pedals might complain about the lack of battery option, despite there being room for one inside, but let’s face it, most guitarists use power supplies as they’re essentially for powering up a whole pedalboard of any reasonable size. But this is a sturdy bird and will most likely serve you well as EQD pedals are known to do.

Visit EarthQuaker Devices for more info about the Hummingbird.

See the lowest price on Amazon.

See the lowest price on eBay.

Sound & Performance:

EarthQuaker-Devices-Hummingbird-V3-Review-Best-Choppy-Tremolo-Pedal-03The Hummingbird V3 is something a little different from your standard tremolo pedal. While tremolo sounds are often characterized by their smooth volume pulsing, the Hummingbird pedals from EarthQuaker have always been known for their more aggressive, squared chopping of your audio signal. The Hummingbird V3 is actually a bit more versatile in this department as its Depth control will let you rein in the intensity of the trem for a smoother feel, although it’s still generally more prominent that a sine wave LFO tremolo. If you’re familiar with the harder, percussive trem sounds of a Vox Repeat Percussion or 60’s bulb & photo-resistor tremolos, you’ll understand the general idea of what to expect from the Hummingbird V3.

The Mode switch is probably the most essential little control here as it lets you set the speed range of the Rate knob. Basically, 1 is for slower speed Rate settings, 2 is for medium and faster tempos, and 3 goes from fast to mind-bendingly warped as a sub oscillating tone creeps into your signal at higher speeds. (More about the trippy sounds in a moment.) There’s a bit of crossover range in each Mode setting, so each can cover a wide speed range when you need it to.

My favorite setting is Mode 3 as this produces some wildly bizarre sounds as you crank the Rate past noon. As the sub tone creeps in you can actually turn the Rate knob to tune it to create a resonating drone under your playing. I’d also recommend trying the Hummingbird V3 before and after distortion to hear how it affects your sound. While I normally keep a tremolo pedal placed later in my signal chain, it also sounds interesting when you feed the oscillating drone infused signal into a distortion pedal or an overdrive amplifier. This is another reminder to experiment to see what interesting sounds you can find.

EarthQuaker-Devices-Hummingbird-V3-Review-Best-Choppy-Tremolo-Pedal-04One one of the biggest selling points of the Hummingbird V3 is the expression pedal controlled Rate. I plugged in a Moog EP-3 expression pedal for my demonstration purposes. (EarthQuaker Devices recommends Moog pedals, and our Mission Engineering EP-1 & Roland EV-5 were indeed incompatible.) You can rock the exp pedal to set the pedal to different tempos, but sweeping through the pedal’s sweep to modulate the tremolo speed in real-time is where the real fun is. Again, Mode 3 is especially cool for going in and out of those crazy ring-mod sounds.

Another subtle but huge selling point of the Hummingbird V3 is that it functions as a JFET clean boost. While you may not want to use the choppy trem effects throughout a set, by turning down the Depth all the way counterclockwise the trem pulse is removed, and you can use the Level to set your degree of boost. Unity is somewhere around the 10-11 o’clock ballpark, and this pedal can get very loud as you go past noon and beyond.

My only major gripe is that a visual Rate LED indicator would have been nice as some of EarthQuaker Devices’ other pedals (like the Disaster Transport SR) have this feature. Of course, this extra implementation might have increased the Hummingbird V3’s very competitive asking price a little. The only other concern is that this type of percussive tremolo may not be for everyone, but if you like quirky variations on a classic effect, the Hummingbird V3 is worth checking out. And if you’re a fan of EQD’s outlandish Rainbow Machine, Organizer, Arpanoid, or Bit Commander pedals, you definitely might be adding this emerald colored gem to your pedalboard. And since the boost is solid, that will help give it some extra utility on your board.

EarthQuaker-Devices-Hummingbird-V3-Review-Best-Choppy-Tremolo-Pedal-05

Overall-Rating-4.5

The EarthQuaker Devices Hummingbird V3 is an inspiring pedal for guitarists with a taste for choppy tremolo and strange sonic textures. And this pedal doubles as a JFET clean boost when not trem is called for, adding extra value this slot on your pedalboard. Expression pedal control makes real-time Rate modulation possible, and 3 selectable ranges of the Rate speed add to the versatility. The Hummingbird V3 is yet another example of the kinds of unique pedals that set EarthQuaker Devices apart from any other pedal builder in the world today.

That concludes our EarthQuaker Devices Hummingbird V3 review. Thanks for reading.

 

Want to buy the EQD Hummingbird V3?

See The Lowest Price On Amazon

See The Lowest Price On eBay

 

And check out our list of the best EarthQuaker Devices pedals!

EarthQuaker Devices Fuzz Master General Review – Best “SuperFuzz” Pedal?

EarthQuaker-Devices-Fuzz-Master-General-Review-Best-SuperFuzz-Pedal-01

I have to admit that I’m a huge fuzz nerd, having built a bunch of different circuits myself, and I consider fuzz an incredibly musical and inspiring type of effect. So I was obviously quite excited when I got my hands on the EarthQuaker Devices Fuzz Master General, especially considering that EQD has a lot of experience when it comes to modernizing classic circuits as well as having released a wealth of unique sounding and original designs including the Bit Commander, Afterneath, Rainbow Machine, Disaster Transport SR, and Palisades pedals to name a few.

In a nutshell, the Fuzz Master General is a revamp of the ”Ace Tone Fuzz Master FM-2 Professional” which was fairly similar to the more widely known “Univox Super Fuzz”. The design is quite different from the better known 60’s fuzzes (Tone Benders and Fuzz Faces), and while the resulting sound might take a little getting used to, it can be very musical once you get the hang of it.

There are a few original specimens out there in the realm of fuzz pedals, but coming across one for a reasonable price is often a rare occasion. I’m glad the current climate in the boutique pedal market gives companies the freedom to “reissue” relatively obscure circuits like these.

Features:

  • Fuzz, Tone and Level controls
  • 3-way Diode Clipping Selector (Germanium, Silicon and Diode Bypass)
  • Top Mounted Jacks and DC input
  • 9v DC or battery operation

The original Ace Tone FM-2 was made in Japan between roughly 1968 and 1971, by Ace Electronic Industries Inc., a company started by Ikutaro Kakehashi, who later founded Roland. So even though it’s a fairly obscure fuzz, its creator has been responsible for some of the most common designs around, in other words, someone who definitely knew what he was doing. It must also be noted that the 1960’s and 70’s were a very productive and innovative period for the musical instruments business in Japan, as they were putting out a lot of designs. Close cousins to the FM-2 besides the Univox Super Fuzz would be the Ibanez Standard Fuzz, The Roland Bee Baa, and the Companion Fuzz by Shin-Ei (who also brought us the Uni-Vibe).

The Fuzz Master General stays true to the original circuit but adds a couple of ‘updates’ to make this guitar pedal a little better suited to today’s players.

One main upgrade/addition is the three way toggle switch which selects the clipping style:

  • Mode 1 – A pair of Germanium clipping diodes, supposedly produces a more “open and looser fuzz”. I believe this is the original configuration.
  • Mode 2 – Silicon clipping diodes. This produces a tighter, more compressed fuzz.
  • Mode 3 – Bypasses the diodes altogether, generating all the fuzz generated by the transistors only.

Another obvious upgrade was replacing the ‘tone selector’ switch, which went between two radically different settings (mid-boost and mid-scoop), by inserting a pot in its place, making the unit a lot more flexible. The other less exciting, yet essential, upgrades include a very bright white LED and a DC jack (in addition to a battery snap) located on the top of the pedal, next to the input and output jacks.

EarthQuaker-Devices-Fuzz-Master-General-Review-Best-SuperFuzz-Pedal-02Of course, it’s also true bypass, although this surprisingly enough isn’t technically an ‘upgrade’ since the originals were TB as well, a relatively rare feature back then.

Also noteworthy are the cool graphics featuring two knight helmets in an attractive blue/green, fairly scratch resistant finish. This will help the FM-2 still look pretty decent after it’s lived on your pedalboard for a while.

Taking a look on the inside, the first thing I noticed is the meticulous build quality, and although it uses smaller than usual resistors in order to save some space, it is still clearly hand-built. The silicon transistors in the original FM-2 were 2sc369’s from what I’ve read, but the Fuzz Master General uses 2n5089’s, a readily available modern replacement. Since it’s a more involved circuit (which besides transistor clipping also includes diode clipping), transistor types matter less than in a Fuzz Face for example, and a lot of transistors are known to sound faithful in this circuit.

Visit EarthQuaker Devices for more info about the Fuzz Master General.

See the lowest price on Amazon.

See the lowest price on eBay.

Sound & Performance

Although I unfortunately have no experience with the original Ace Tone FM-2, the Fuzz Master General certainly does deliver as I expected as there are lots of wild and filthy fuzz tones (and relatively little subtlety) to be found in this pedal. The fuzz sounds range from velcro style fuzz with little sustain to thick and saturated, although the metallic robotic quality of the ring modulation shines through at most settings.

Although most guitarists would run it at or near maximum most of the time, there are good tones to be had across the entire range of the fuzz control, obviously also depending on the guitar’s pickups. Since the Fuzz Master General is fairly gated, there isn’t a lot of noise or hiss, but this also means it doesn’t really clean up much when rolling back the volume. Of course it’s not really the type of fuzz for that anyway.

EarthQuaker-Devices-Fuzz-Master-General-Review-Best-SuperFuzz-Pedal-03The Tone control works opposite of most tone knobs, with the tone getting darker as you turn it clockwise. And it’s not just the highs that get attenuated but also the mids, going from a buzzy sound all the way to a heavily scooped tone at maximum.

The Level control adjusts the output volume, and can be used to slam the amp quite a bit harder, but it’s also meant to compensate for the difference in volume between the different diode clipping options and tone control settings.

When flipping through the various diode clipping options, the first thing that becomes apparent is the huge volume boost on the ‘diode bypass’ setting; however, its cleaner sound and more pronounced upper octave are a very welcome addition to the two relatively similar diode types.

Germanium clipping is supposed to sound a bit woolier, and I did indeed detect a subtle change in the low end response compared to the silicon setting. Single-coil and humbucker equipped guitars both work well with humbuckers resulting in a more compressed fuzz, but single coils still sounded plenty fat and sustained nicely.

On more extreme Fuzz settings, playing anything more than a power chord, especially in the lower registers, results in an angry robotic ring-mod-esque growl, which can be interesting for more chaotic styles of riffing. But when playing leads the pedal really shines. When moving to the area around the 12th fret, the octave-up sound becomes quite apparent (particularly if you’re using your guitar’s neck pickup) although maybe not as clear as an Octavia or a dedicated octave effect. But it’s still a lot clearer than my Fender Blender for example.

For me, the musicality of this type of fuzz sound lies in it’s unpredictability and being forced to change your playing to get the fuzz to respond the right way. Like with most other fuzzes I preferred the Fuzz Master General into a slightly overdriven amplifier as it rounds off the edges a little bit, allowing you to subtly go between more traditional overdriven sounds to over the top fuzz when engaging the pedal. As an alternative to a overdriven amp, an overdrive pedal can do the trick as well. For example my Catalinbread SFT (which is meant to emulate a 70’s Ampeg SVT amplifier) sounded great in combination with the Fuzz Master General when going for a Queens of the Stone Age inspired sound. If you’re going for very ‘in your face’ and angry sounds, however, plugging into a clean amp or even going direct can yield great results as well.

EarthQuaker-Devices-Fuzz-Master-General-Review-Best-SuperFuzz-Pedal-04

Overall-Rating-4.5

The EarthQuaker Devices Fuzz Master General is a highly musical and inspiring addition to any fuzz lover’s arsenal. There’s only a mild learning curve involved in regards to the Tone knob and diode settings to achieve preferred results as well as adapting your playing style to make effective use of the octave up and ring modulation sounds. And admittedly, the style of fuzz is an acquired taste and certainly not for the faint of heart. But the Fuzz Master General is surprisingly quiet and easy to live with, and plugging it into the right amp definitely made me want to crank up and jam which is what a great pedal is supposed to do. It’s definitely worth considering if you’re looking for a quality “Super Fuzz” style of fuzz pedal.

That concludes our EarthQuaker Devices Fuzz Master General review. Thanks for reading.

 

Want to buy the EarthQuaker Devices Fuzz Master General?

See The Lowest Price On Amazon

See The Lowest Price On eBay

 

And check out our list of the best EarthQuaker Devices pedals!

EarthQuaker Devices Afterneath Review – Best Experimental Reverb Pedal?

EarthQuaker-Devices-Afterneath-Review-Best-Experimental-Reverb-Pedal-01

EarthQuaker Devices is well-known for creating unique guitar effects with the Rainbow Machine, Bit Commander, and Organizer pedals being great examples of this reputation. And while they already one amazing experimental delay/reverb hybrid pedal in the form of the Disaster Transport SR, one of the best lo-fi delay pedals you’ll ever play, EarthQuaker Devices have released yet another inspired delay infused reverb pedal with the Afterneath.

The Afterneath uses a plethora of short delays to create unique reverb sounds unlike anything I’ve ever heard before. While there are a few subtle references to “hall” and “plate” style reverb sounds in the accompanying manual, these are but reference points for what is easily the most unique sounding standard-sized reverb stompbox I’ve come across. Is it the best experimental reverb pedal around? Let’s run down the features and descend to the cavernous depths in our EarthQuaker Devices Afterneath review.

Features:

  • Length knob controls the decay length of the reverb.
  • Diffuse knob adjusts the spread of the reverb. Sharper with more attack counter clockwise, more ambient and washy as you turn it clockwise.
  • Dampen knob adjusts tone; clockwise for brighter tones, counter clockwise for darker tones.
  • Drag: This digital reverb is made up of a bunch of short delays, this separates the delay lines creating a stuttering, pingy effect. This is the coolest control on the Afterneath, we highly advise slowly turning this while you let notes ring out for a cool warped speed effect. More delay as you turn it counter clockwise, more reverb as you turn it clockwise.
  • Reflect: Controls the regeneration of the reverb, turn clockwise for more wash and echoes, counterclockwise for less. This will self oscillate if turned up high.
  • Mix: Blends the wet signal into the dry. Though it does not actually go full wet, it will gradually lower the clean level as you turn it clockwise and give the appearance of full wet.
  • Powered by 9VDC power adapter (current draw 65mA).

Visit EarthQuaker Devices for more info about the Afterneath.

See the lowest price on Amazon.

See the lowest price on eBay.

Sound & Performance:

The EarthQuaker Devices Afterneath is not your typical reverb pedal in any sense. If you’re looking for just a little subtle ambience, some moderate echo, or a conventional sounding space to place your guitar in, this pedal is probably not for you. The Afterneath is an entirely new style of reverb that will take your guitar into completely uncharted dimensions of experimental sound. While the beautiful noises this pedal produces can warrant a noticeable comparison to certain multi-tap digital delay algorithms I’ve heard being combined with reverb (minus the Afterneath’s “Drag” function), no pedal or effects processor comes to mind that has a single effect specifically comparable to the Afterneath. We’re dealing with such an original sound here that I wouldn’t be surprised to see another company try to emulate or copy the sound of the Afterneath in a virtual DSP algorithm at some point.

EarthQuaker-Devices-Afterneath-Review-Best-Experimental-Reverb-Pedal-02When you first glance at the Afterneath’s plethora of 6 knobs, it might appear to offer an overwhelming amount of control. The 2 knobs furthest right are easy enough to understand. Dampen adjusts the reverb tone from dark to bright. It sounds great throughout its range and is particularly useful for maintaining a reasonably full range sound with a little high end rolloff if needed. Mix sets the amount of wet reverb signal heard, from no reverb to a degree of wet signal that sufficiently covers your dry sound without actually being 100% wet. It’s basically safe to crank the Mix knob all the way up or keep it around the neighborhood of 3 o’clock more or less with great results.

The Length and Reflect knobs are quite interactive in my experience. Length sets the decay time of the reverb, creating the overall length of the sounds heard. Longer settings can produce cavernous, hall-inspired reverbs. The Reflect knob increases regeneration, thus adding to the reverb length with potential to self-oscillate into an infinite void of ambient chaos. I generally find best results by keeping one of these knobs set lower when the other is set high although it’s still fun to push them both up for a cascading swirl of reverberating sonic bliss.

The most unique and inspiring aspect of the Afterneath is its Drag knob which affects the reverb sound by changing the spacing between a series of short stuttery delays. You can dial this in for various rhythmic delay/reverb ambience or slowly turn the knob while it’s reverberating for mesmerizing pitch shifted reverb sounds. Hearing demo videos online is one thing, but you must experience it firsthand for the full interactive effect. The final knob, Diffuse, adds definition to the delays. Keeping it turn to the left lets those ping-ponging repeats some more articulated while turning it clockwise washes them out for a smeared and washy sound. With lower Drag, Diffuse, Reflect and Length settings you can achieve a clearer multi-tap delay sound.

While I’ve covered the general functionality, it’s how you find yourself using the Afterneath that makes it so appealing. While you can coax some interesting set-and-forget ambience from it, going on a knob-twisting journey of discovery is where the real fun is. EarthQuaker Devices excel at creating guitar pedals that are veritable playgrounds of sonic exploration, and the Afterneath is another gem among them. This is another pedal from EarthQuaker Devices that may inspire entire songs or become a huge component to an experimental guitarist’s signature sound.

While shoegazers will surely love twiddling knobs and creating alluring aural soundscapes – and I do love binging out this way myself from time to time – there are a few minor or significant concerns, depending on your performance preferences. Frankly, the Drag function is amazing and desperately needs expression pedal control. I find no excuse worthwhile that should require taking attention away from an audience to bend over a pedalboard and twist knobs. Though it might be inconvenient to overhaul the internal PCB/schematic design to accommodate this, I’m certain that the collective cry among guitarists who loves this pedal is that it would greatly benefit from added expressional pedal control. Here’s to EQD someday blessing us with an Afterneath V2. While they’re at it, my single biggest personal issue with EarthQuaker Devices pedals that do have expression pedal control is that they’re not compatible with CV (control voltage). While I myself would love to be able to use MIDI to CV conversion for automated and realtime Drag control, the Afterneath would also be a killer effect for modular synth junkies. Imagine the possibilities tif you could modulate the Drag with an LFO via CV. The only other issue I noticed was a bit of a raised noise floor at lower Drag settings most likely due to the longer duration of the delay time, but this didn’t really compromise performance or the overall experience of playing the Afterneath.

It must be said that as it is, the Afterneath is one of the most unique and inspiring reverb pedals around. It’s not meant to be your definitive ambience creating reverb. In fact, I really like stacking it with other reverb pedals for traditional ambience after the Afterneath. It’s truly a haven of experimental fun and one of the highlights in EarthQuaker Devices’ stellar pedal lineup.

The EarthQuaker Devices Afterneath is an “otherworldy reverberation machine” like no other. Let’s see the final result.

EarthQuaker-Devices-Afterneath-Review-Best-Experimental-Reverb-Pedal-03

Overall-Rating-4.5

The EarthQuaker Devices Afterneath is the most original and unique reverb pedal I’ve played in years. Forgoing all the traditional expectations what a reverb pedal is supposed to be, the Afterneath offers bold new ambient sounds thanks to its surrealistic multi-tap delay meets oscillating reverb design. If you’re up for a little real-time knob-twisting, turning the Drag knob will send your guitar spiraling into oblivion. While some guitarists will have wished for expression pedal Drag control, the Afterneath is still an undeniably worthy addition to your pedalboard. It’s one of the best experimental reverb pedals around and one of the best pedals EarthQuaker Devices have released.

That concludes our EarthQuaker Devices Afterneath review. Thanks for reading.

 

Want to buy the EarthQuaker Devices Afterneath?

See The Lowest Price On Amazon

See The Lowest Price On eBay

 

And check out our list of the best EarthQuaker Devices pedals!

EarthQuaker Devices Palisades Review – Best “Tube Screamer” Overdrive Pedal?

EarthQuaker-Devices-Palisades-Review-Best-Tube-Screamer-Overdrive-Pedal-01

EarthQuaker Devices may have said they’d never make a “Tube Screamer”, and well, they didn’t. EQD’s Palisades, while clearly influenced by the legendary TS-808, is much more than a mere “Tube Screamer” clone. It just so happens to be one of the most feature-packed and versatile overdrive guitar pedals ever made. Forgoing the typical 3-knob overdrive control set, the Palisades is a veritable playground of knobs, flip-switches, and foot-switches, designed to be the final word in mid-boosting, “Tube Screamer” style overdrive pedals. The question really isn’t whether or not the Palisades is any good or even if it’s the best “Tube Screamer” overdrive pedal. A greater curiosity is whether this might be the greatest overdrive pedal money can buy today. Lets scale the cliffs and find out in our EarthQuaker Devices Palisades review.

Features:

EarthQuaker-Devices-Palisades-Review-Best-Tube-Screamer-Overdrive-Pedal-02Controls

Boost: Sets the level of the output boost.
Volume: Sets the output level.
Tone: Brighter clockwise, warmer counter clockwise.
Gain A: Sets the gain for the Channel A (lower gain)
Gain B: Sets the gain for Channel B (higher gain)

Foot Switches

Activate: True bypass switch
Gain B: Activates Gain Channel B
Boost: Activates the output level boost

Toggle Switches

Normal/Bright: Normal is a warm full tone, Bright is livelier tone with more chime.
Buffer: Turns the input buffer on or off. ON is a tighter and brighter tone while OFF is a warmer tone with more sag. The buffer is part of the drive circuit & is only available when the Palisades is activated.

Rotary Switches

Bandwidth: This sets the overall tone and gain structure of the Palisades. 1 is the thinnest setting with the least amount of gain and 5 is the fattest setting with the heaviest gain. Everything else is in between. This control has a major effect on all the settings of the Palisades, especially the gain and voice controls.

Voice: This sets the nature of the Palisades distortion by changing the clipping diodes. 1- No diodes: The most open and least distorted. 2- LED clipping: light clipping with a lot of volume. 3- Mosfet clipping: light gain OD with great harmonics. 4- Asymmetrical Silicon clipping: Tighter light gain OD closest to stock 808. 5- Symmetrical silicon clipping: tighter distorted tone. 6- Schottky Diode clipping: Looser fuzzy tone.

Power

Takes a standard 9 volt DC power supply with a 2.1mm negative center barrel.

Visit EarthQuaker Devices for more info about the Palisades.

See the lowest price on Amazon.

See the lowest price on eBay.

Sound & Performance:

This pedal is an absolute monster of an overdrive, and I’ve been spending way too much time playing the Palisades. It’s a pedal you can get lost in. The Palisades is designed adapt to virtually any guitar/amp combo and enable any guitarist to find their ideal overdrive sound. It’s pretty incredible just how much flexibility the pedal offers. While that’s to be assumed just by looking at this pedal’s array of tweakable knobs and switches, it’s when you plug in and play the Palisades that its tone fortifying power becomes known.

To get the Palisades close to that original “Tube Screamer” style overdrive sound, I found the best results using Voice setting 4 (asymmetrical silicon clipping, similar to the TS-808) and Bandwidth setting 3. While different models of “Tube Screamer” offer slightly different variations of that signature character, the Palisades easily gets within the range of all those classic tones when using these settings as a starting point. From there subtle tweaking of the Tone and Gain A or B will get you all the way there.

EarthQuaker-Devices-Palisades-Review-Best-Tube-Screamer-Overdrive-Pedal-03The Bandwidth knob is perhaps the most important function to get acquainted with. It sets the overall frequency response of the distortion to create the foundation for your sound that will be affected by the other parameters. On its lowest settings your tone with be thinner with less gain while on higher settings your tone will be more full-range and saturated. I generally like the higher settings for fuzzy lead sounds and the thinner settings for cleaner tones. The middle settings offer more balanced tones with setting 3 being closest to typical “Tube Screamer” overdrive tones as mentioned previously.

EarthQuaker-Devices-Palisades-Review-Best-Tube-Screamer-Overdrive-Pedal-04On the other side of the pedal is the Voice knob which offers 6 different clipping options. Some variations are more transparent (like “no clipping” obviously) while some provide more harmonic complexity and saturation. (See our YouTube Palisades review demo above for an in-depth sound comparison of the different Voice options.) It’s really worth auditioning the different clipping options with the various Bandwidth settings to hear the different interactions and associated character changes. Each clipping option imparts subtle changes in feel, tone, and response that are worth exploring on the quest to find your signature sound. I often find myself favoring one particular option only to later find preference for another sound entirely. Schottky or Mosfet? Symmetrical or Asymmetrical Silicon? So much variation. If you’re the kind of guitarist that goes through a different overdrive flavor every week, you might appreciate being able to keep the Palisades on your pedalboard due to its wide range of variations available from the Voice and Bandwidth controls.

EarthQuaker-Devices-Palisades-Review-Best-Tube-Screamer-Overdrive-Pedal-05The Gain A and Gain B options are a nice touch. Gain B is foot-switchable and offers a little more maximum gain than Gain A. While Gain A already offers more saturation than your typical “Tube Screamer”, Gain B not only kicks it up even further but allows foot-switchable access to this even higher level of overdrive saturation. It’s like a little one-two shot of distortion to provide more flexibility in a live situation.

The Boost expands upon this flexibility. I was initially disappointed that there wasn’t an option to put the Boost in front of the overdrive, but then I played the Palisades and discovered that there’s more than enough gain on tap thanks to the 2 independent Gain options. The Palisades’ Boost instead focuses on hitting your amp with an extra shot of volume and overdrive from the pedal. There are a few ways to play this to your advantage. You could use Gain A set low with the Boost to achieve a cleaner boost. This provides options to hit your amp’s front-end with 2 varying levels of volume for pushing your amp’s preamp section into overdrive. Or you can stack the Boost with Gain B set high for a meaner saturation from the pedal that also induces more overdrive from your amp. The Boost isn’t accessible independently from the overdrive, a disappointment to some, but I personally appreciate that the single Activate foot-switch bypasses the entire pedal. The focus here is on shades of overdrive that can be achieved from the Palisades alone or in combination with your amp. This pedal really isn’t meant to be used as just another boring clean boost. Still, flip-switches allowing boost/overdrive order reversal and independently foot-switchable Boost are the only suggestions I can think of should EQD ever release a Palisades V2. But for me, these minor suggestions don’t weigh in on my overall review verdict.

The Palisades’ optional Buffer is also bypassed when you disengage the pedal, keeping things true bypass. The Buffer essentially affects your sound by adding an additional level of touch sensitivity and feel to the overdrive. EarthQuaker Devices says that it tightens up the tone and makes it sparkle. I rather dig it particularly on cleaner settings as notes tend to spring off the fretboard. It’s also useful for kicking up those highly saturated tones yet another notch. Overkill? Or just what you’ve been looking for? The Palisades does subtle and tasteful just as well as ripping overdrive grind – nice, mean, and everything in between. As legendary pedal designer, Robert Keeley, once said, “Tube Screamers weren’t punk until the Palisades.”

Speaking of sparkly clean tones, the Normal/Bright switch adds an additional layer of top-end sheen if desired. This is particularly useful with humbuckers that sound a little darker compared to single-coils. Even with single-coils I sometimes find the added presence of the Bright setting to sound pleasing. It’s all about listening and discovering what works best for a particular guitar and amp combination.

The Palisades’ Tone control is actually surprisingly more subtle than I expected it to be. The key is in getting your Bandwidth setting right to begin with. But the Tone knob actually has a wider range of utility compared to some overdrives thanks to its gentle affect on your tone.

The Palisades is not only a very unique offering in EarthQuaker Devices’ eclectic resume that includes the Rainbow Machine, Bit Commander, and Afterneath pedals, but it’s a real standout in the realm of overdrives in general. It’s a really great pedal and certainly one of the best overdrives I’ve ever played.

EarthQuaker-Devices-Palisades-Review-Best-Tube-Screamer-Overdrive-Pedal-06

Overall-Rating-5.0

The EarthQuaker Devices Palisades is one of the most inspired takes on the classic “Tube Screamer” design and a leading contender for the best overdrive pedal available today. The depth of this pedal’s available control is matched by its plethora of great tones. It’s one of those rare pedals that can be used with just about any guitar and amp combination, rewarding guitarists who scale the looming heights of tone the Palisades offers. It might even inspire you to remove 2 other great overdrives from your pedalboard to make room for the Palisades. It’s that good.

That concludes our EarthQuaker Devices Palisades review. Thanks for reading.

 

Want to buy the EarthQuaker Devices Palisades?

See The Lowest Price On Amazon

See The Lowest Price On eBay

 

And check out our list of the best EarthQuaker Devices pedals!