If there’s one thing that can be expected from EarthQuaker Devices, it’s the unexpected. Their pedal range reaches manic extremes, from classic-inspired gems like The Depths, to ultra-modern designs that sometimes go off the deep end like the Bit Commander, Organizer, and Rainbow Machine pedals. The Arpanoid is their latest example of the latter, offering polyphonic pitch arpeggiation that is unlike anything else to be found in any other pedal anywhere.
The Arpanoid is an avant garde instrument, offering wild pitch-modulation possibilities for the most experimental of musicians. You can certainly find some interesting ways to form music around it or use the Arpanoid as a way to add some spontaneous pitch-shifting insanity to bring chaos to order. But how does it fare in actual use? Few pedals offer any form of pitch arpeggiation. Is the Arpanoid the best guitar arpeggiator pedal out there? It’s the first dedicated pitch arpeggiation pedal out here, and we’ll find out how good it is in our EarthQuaker Devices Arpanoid review.
Wet control knob adjusts the effected (digital) signal.
Dry control knob adjusts the unaffected (analog) signal.
Rate control knob adjusts the speed of the sequence.
Step control knob selects how many notes are in the sequence.
Toggle Switch controls direction of the sequence: up (left), up & down (middle), down (right).
Mode 8 position selector switch chooses the octave and scale:
1: Major: -1 octave to root.
2: Major: root to +1 octave.
3: Major: -1 octave through +1
4: Major: Random pattern
5: Minor: -1 octave to root.
6: Minor: root to +1 octave.
7: Minor: -1 octave through +1
8: Minor: Random pattern
True Bypass foot-switch for letting your signal pass unaffected when disengaged.
Powered by 9VDC power adapter.
Sound & Performance:
I’ve played some crazy and bizarre guitar pedals in my day, but few are as insane as this one. The Arpanoid is not for the faint of heart. I’ve spent a lot of time coming to grips with this pedal, and I’ve realized a few things. The Arpanoid is a challenging beast to tame. Even so, to what degree you’re able to tame it is up for dispute as you may come to realize that you’ve had to submit yourself to this pedal to make use of it. I like the idea of “controlled chaos”, and I accepted the challenge of trying to get the Arpanoid to bend to my will. But ultimately, when playing this pedal it is you who bends as you give up control and align yourself to the chaotic flurry of sound that spews forth from the Arpanoid.
It’s important to get familiar with the controls before getting overwhelmed with a cacophony of pitch-shifting insanity. The Wet and Dry controls are easy enough to understand. I’d recommend rolling down your dry signal and focusing on the Wet signal to get a feel for what’s going on. The center Mode knob will allow you to pick various ranges of minor, major, and random note sequences, and the Step knob will limit or extend the range of notes available. For example, rolling the Step knob counterclockwise will result in the base note being heard, turning it slightly will bring in the second note, then the third, and so on, arpeggiating between them. The direction of the sequence is set by the Toggle Switch to either up, up & down, or down. It’s also important to note that the Step knob has a subtle influence on the rhythm of the note sequence as you turn it, giving the Arpanoid an analog, yet digital vibe. The Rate knob sets the speed of the sequence. To give you some ideas of what this pedal can do while reviewing its capabilities, I’ll cover several of the interesting settings I discovered.
Warped “Digital” Record
Set the Dry and Wet knobs to noon, and roll the Rate and Step all the way down. Set the Mode knob to 2. The Toggle Switch setting isn’t relevant. From here the Arpanoid produces a fast slap-back style delay effect due to the latency of the digital signal. Now push the Step knob up just slightly until the second note of the sequence can be heard shifting back to the first note. You’ll have a bizarre warped record sounding effect that’s interesting over clean chords.
Again, set the Dry and Wet knobs to noon, leave the Rate and Step all the way down, and use Mode position 1. You get an instant octave down effect. Try turning down the Dry knob for a fully wet signal that’s an octave below your original pitch. This is another cool sound, but now we’re going to start getting to the really good stuff.
Minor 3rd Triplets
Set the Mode knob to 6. Turn down the Dry knob and crank the Rate control. Set the Step knob so that 3 different arpeggiated notes can be heard. Set the Toggle Switch to Up or Down. Each note you hit will trigger 3 notes – the root, the second, and the third – in ascending or descending order depending on where you set the Toggle Switch. Try hitting E, B, and G notes on the high E and G strings using wide-interval stretching and string skipping. The Arpanoid allows you to generate a lot of notes with minimal effort. While it may prove challenging to remaining locked within a specific scale, it’s easy to create wild chromatic sounds.
Rise & Fall
Set the Mode to either 3 or 7 and leave the Toggle Switch in the middle position. Turn the Rate and Step knobs fully clockwise. Leave the Wet knob around noon and either set the Dry to around noon or fully counterclockwise. You’ll be treated to a wide -1 octave to +1 octave sweep of the notes throughout the range. Despite the Arpanoid’s digital nature, it has an analog feel in terms of its rhythmic vibe and the sensitivity of the Rate and Step controls. It can be useful to blend in your dry signal to add some rhythmic stability to the oscillating chaos of the arpeggiated scale.
Want to play some insane 8-finger-tapping style, chromatic 12-tone shred but don’t have the time to practice 16 hours a day? The Arpanoid will make you an instant shred-god. Crank the Rate and Step, set the Mode to either 4 or 8, and turn the Dry signal all the way down. Next time the other guitarist in your band starts wanking with all that tasteless shredding, just kick the pedal on in this setting and show everyone who’s the real shredder. Why not try turning your back to the crowd like Van Halen did in the early days as if you’re hiding your secret techniques? Then turn back and show them you’re just hitting one note. Yeah, it’s pretty ridiculous, I know. In all seriousness this is probably my favorite setting. You can either hit one note and let the Arpanoid do the rest or play chromatic sequences really high up the neck for some intense chromatic auto-shred. Kick it on for a quick burst of random notes for the most dramatic effect.
The funny thing about this pedal is that its weaknesses are its biggest strengths. The unpredictable nature of the Arpanoid forces you to just let go and be awed by the assault of notes that takes place when you engage the pedal. You’ll never have it lock in time to a rigid beat so don’t even try. You might be able to play in time by having your drummer form a beat around it. But then there’s the slight latency that, while subtle, further ensures that perfect timing is futile. The Arpanoid is an ego-shattering pedal that will force you to give in to its spontaneous, hypnotic arpeggiations. It’s at its best when you just let it run wild and is well suited to being used over ambient sequences without a clear beat or progression.
The Arpanoid really is the kind of experimental pedal-bomb that could only come from EarthQuaker devices. Let’s see the final result.
The EarthQuaker Devices Arpanoid will decimate your audience with an assault of pitch arpeggiated chaos and take you on a journey into the unknown with hypnotic patterns of ascending, descending, and random note sequences in major and minor keys. From ambient to extreme, the Arpanoid may be just the pedal to take your sound to exciting new frontiers. If you’re brave enough, try setting the Mode knob to the 2 random positions for the ultimate unpredictable sonic attack. Few pedals offer pitch arpeggiation, making the Arpanoid one of the default choices for best guitar arpeggiator pedal, but it’s a surprisingly useful pitch-mangling tool for those who like to terrorize their audience with extreme audio effects.
That concludes our EarthQuaker Devices Arpanoid review. Thanks for reading.
Want to buy the EarthQuaker Devices Arpanoid?
And check out our list of the best EarthQuaker Devices pedals!