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


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Rating:
5
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Last modified:December 3, 2016

Summary:

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.

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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.

 

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Comments

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  1. Jeremy Kaiser says:

    Sold! As a ‘Screamer fan count me in! EQD does it right…again!

  2. Chris Aguilar says:

    IMHO, the absolute best overdrive pedal on the market today. It will also take you into the clean boost/fuzz/distortion realm deeply. As you said in your review, I got rid of my other od pedals!