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!

Top 10 Best EarthQuaker Devices Pedals

best-earthquaker-devices-pedals-01

Welcome to our roundup of the Top 10 Best EarthQuaker Devices Pedals!

I’ve been wanting to do builder roundups for a while on Best Guitar Effects, and it’s finally happening! We’re featuring EarthQuaker Devices for our first one. It may or may not become a regular thing. We’ll see. But what you really might be wondering is…

 

Why Start With EarthQuaker Devices?

You could simply assess the merits of a company’s products based on features and how well they meet your needs. But if you look deeper as a responsible modern consumer, it’s becoming increasingly important to look at the people behind companies & products and understand the values and practices of the businesses you buy from. I’ll spare you the long argument about why value isn’t only about price and convenience, but the people behind EarthQuaker Devices were just as inspiring as their guitar pedals in choosing to showcase this builder in a dedicated “best pedals” list.

 

A Different Kind Of Builder

Among the handful of modern boutique builders that have an expansive lineup of great guitar pedals, EarthQuaker Devices is unique not only for their eclectic range of rad stompboxes but as a forward thinking company that fosters a community environment among their customers, fans, employees, and fellow pedal builders that’s more akin to the bonds of family than a business. From proudly celebrating EarthQuaker Day in their hometown of Akron, Ohio, to welcoming rival pedal companies to their Pedal Builders Summit events during The NAMM Show, EarthQuaker Devices has long displayed a reputation for inclusion, respect for diversity, and cooperation before competition with other builders.

EarthQuaker Devices is a role model example of a company with values, yet they don’t really seem to make a big deal about who they are which makes what they represent all the more genuine. Rather than step on other small builders on their way to success, EarthQuaker Devices have shown on more than one occasion that they won’t hesitate to reach out to another builder during a time of need or tragic loss. Their consideration for their peers and efforts to raise up others reveals a comradery and compassion that you’ll rarely find in any industry. I’d even go as far as saying that EQD founders and husband & wife duo, Jamie Stillman & Julie Robbins, are like the symbolic parental figures of the modern pedal industry. Sounds corny, but I’m serious. And I’m probably not the only industry observer who would agree with these sentiments. I wholeheartedly believe that the EQD family are more than deserving of the respect and admiration they’ve earned from their peers, fans, and the industry as a whole.

If you’re unfamiliar with the people behind this company, here’s a great EarthQuaker Devices // mini movie from Knobs Demos that provides a glimpse into their world and the team behind the pedals.

 

A Different Kind Of Device

EarthQuaker Devices is an outlier builder in the pedal world. From that now unmistakeable font and those quirky graphics to the sometimes traditional, sometimes unheard of sounds contained within, each attractively styled and sonically adventurous EQD pedal belies wondrous sights and sounds to behold.

Their pedals aren’t necessarily for everyone and many of their noteworthy releases induce polarized opinions among guitarists. But the emotive responses to their pedals are a sign of EarthQuaker Devices’ bold, risk-taking attitude and the fact that they must be doing something right to have won over so many fans with their fearless designs. If you like an EQD pedal, chances are you really love it.

I really appreciate that EarthQuaker Devices has taken some hard-to-find circuits and revamped/re-released them for the masses. Pedals like the Terminal fuzz (modeled after Jamie’s JAX fuzz), Fuzz Master General (EQD’s take on the vintage Ace Tone Fuzz Master FM-2 Professional fuzz), and Spires (green channel inspired by the Rosac Electronic Nu-Fuzz) give modern guitarists access to fuzz sounds that would have remained hard to find or long forgotten if it were not for EarthQuaker Devices reviving these sounds. Even if EarthQuaker Devices releases a re-interpretation of a somewhat more common circuit (like the DOD OD-250 inspired Gray Channel or Tube Screamer relative, the Palisades), they’re up front about these pedals’ backstories and origins of inspiration. I wish this went without saying, but EarthQuaker Devices displays an honesty and integrity in this regard that some successful builders of dubious reputation should take note of.

I don’t have issues with pedals made overseas. And I don’t have a strong opinion about whether using surface-mount technology is any better or worse than hand-soldered, through-hole design. It’s all circumstantial. But I do think it’s commendable that while businesses always find ways to lower costs through less expensive production and assembly methods, EarthQuaker Devices still places focus on their pedals being hand-assembled and mostly hand-soldered in Akron, Ohio. Until the day everything is made by robots and we’re all receiving universal basic income, you’ve gotta give EQD props for employing folks while maintaining quality production standards. But again, this seems more like the byproduct of a company being genuinely aware of their place in a community rather than an attempt to make a show out of their products’ “Made In USA” origins.

EarthQuaker Devices has always had a reputation for doing their own thing and basically giving the finger to people’s expectations. Even I have a love/hate relationship with some of their design choices. The most recent issue I’ve taken with EQD is the most glaring: the company’s switch to “lazy relay bypass” for all 2016 pedal releases. This is a deal-breaker for me, and I won’t use any such pedals in my live rig or recommend them to other guitarists who use effects switchers. This only affects a small amount of musicians, most notably those of us using effects switchers and/or a rack rig and who don’t want the extra pre-show checklist item of remembering to activate lazy relay bypass pedals. (Forgetting to activate those one or two lazy relay pedals can be a nightmare when you’re in the middle of a song, hit the switcher or trigger it remotely, and your pedal is still bypassed. Why EQD, Why!?) I was obviously heartbroken when I realized EQD went this route, essentially preventing me from considering their new pedals for my personal use (that’s why this list is being published nearly a year after I first thought about writing it… much sadness), but for this list I’ll present pedals based on sounds and usability for guitarists who don’t use effects switchers. (On a side note, your pal Gabe talked to about a dozen companies at Summer NAMM 2016 to present the merits of “smart relay bypass”; the majority of builders seem understanding of its virtues.)

tl;dr …EQD rocks. You get it. That’s why you’re here, right? So let’s get to it!

Here are the Top 10 Best EarthQuaker Devices Pedals!

 

1. Avalanche Run

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EarthQuaker Devices Pedal Page: Avalanche Run, Effect Type: Delay/Reverb

The Avalanche Run is one of the builder’s newer pedals and arguably the best EarthQuaker Devices pedal released to date. It combines delay & reverb in a dual-foot-switch enclosure, expanding the concept of their classic Dispatch Master with tap tempo and other surprises.

The Avalanche Run gives you 3 delay modes: Normal, Reverse, & Swell. Normal is the pedal’s regular delay mode. Reverse plays back the delay line in reverse. Swell responds to your picking dynamics to increase the volume of the entire signal path as you play. In addition to Time, Repeats, & Mix, there’s a Tone control for rolling offer either the highs or lows or setting a flat response.

In all 3 delay modes you have access to a pleasant reverb that that’s accessible via its own dedicated Decay & Mix knobs. (In Swell mode, the reverb’s Mix knob controls the length of the swell.) The reverb is what really pushes the Avalanche Run over the top as one of the best end-of-signal-chain pedals that’s also easy to use.

There are some handy auxiliary features. There’s a dedicated Ratio knob that lets you choose from 6 different tap division settings including quarter note, dotted 8th, quarter note triplet, 8th note, 8th note triplet, & 16th note. That should nearly any guitarist’s tap tempo division requirements. You can also press and hold the Tap foot-switch in Normal or Swell mode to induce oscillation; in Reverse mode this will switch between backwards to forwards delays while the foot-switch is held. There’s also a dedicated Exp knob that lets you set expression pedal control over any parameter (minus Tone) or toggle from Normal to Reverse delay mode. The last option is very useful as it lets you switch modes and regain access to Tap foot-switch oscillation while in Reverse mode.

This pedal is extra special in that it utilizes EarthQuaker Devices’ new proprietary DSP platform. This is an interesting sign things to come as this builder is known for their sometimes outlandish effects, and this new found power will surely yield some interesting new surprises in the years to come.

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2. Palisades

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EarthQuaker Devices Pedal Page: Palisades, Effect Type: Overdrive

When is a Tube Screamer not a Tube Screamer? When it’s the EarthQuaker Devices Palisades. EQD surveyed the land of TS808 inspired overdrive pedals and took notes Then they shredded them and rebuilt the a pedal from the ground up that took the iconic style of overdrive into all new territory.

The Palisades gives you 6 different clipping options via the Voice knob: No Diodes, LED clipping, MOSFET clipping, Asymmetrical Silicon clipping, Symmetrical clipping, & Schottky Diode clipping. This produces a range of ways to set the response of this super versatile overdrive pedal to your liking.

The other very unique feature of the Palisades is its Bandwidth knob. This sets the overall frequency response of the pedal and can produce thin and brittle tones or make your guitar sound really thick and heavy. This is the most important knob for dialing in your overall sound.

In addition to the pedal’s Volume, Tone, & Gain A knobs, there’s a foot-switchable 2nd channel with its own Gain B knob, and a foot-switchable Boost function with a dedicated knob as well. Rounding it all out is a Normal/Bright switch and an optional Buffer switch. If you’re looking for a gnarly rock ‘n roll overdrive machine, the Palisades kicks ass. If you think the Palisades looks awesome but want something a bit smaller, try the shrunken down EarthQuaker Devices Dunes.

Read the EarthQuaker Devices Palisades review.

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3. Afterneath

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EarthQuaker Devices Pedal Page: Afterneath, Effect Type: Reverb

The EarthQuaker Devices Afterneath is another hybrid pedal featuring delay and reverb, but it’s more of an infernal reverb from the underworld with a glitchy little multi-tap delay on the front. The Drag knob adjusts the spacing between the delay taps and warps the pitch of the reverb if you turn the knob while sound is decaying. The Diffuse knob smears the delayed taps for a less obvious delay sound. The Reflect & Length increase reflections and extend the reverb decay, respectively, working together to form the Afterneath’s cavernous ambience. The Dampen knobs adjusts the tonal character, and the Mix dials in the amount of reverb in the mix.

The Afterneath was an instant classic when it was released, and likely rank among the very best EarthQuaker Devices until they somehow improve upon it. I’m still crossing my fingers that EQD one day solves the supposedly impossible feat of making the Drag knob expression pedal controllable.

Read the EarthQuaker Devices Afterneath review.

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4. Bit Commander

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EarthQuaker Devices Pedal Page: Bit Commander, Effect Type: Analog Octave/Guitar Synthesizer

The EarthQuaker Devices Bit Commander is an unmistakeable pedal. If you ever hear someone kick this thing on out of nowhere, you’ll always notice that this pedal commands attention. Jamie stumbled upon created this awesome analog guitar synthesizer while testing out possibilities while working towards the Organizer. I’m glad this deviation happened, as the Bit Commander simply rocks.

It gives you separate level controls for an octave down (Down 1) and a -2 octave sub voice (Sub). Bringing in these massive low-end tones unleashes what you might say is the company’s signature “EarthQuaking Device”.

The Up 1 knob brings in a ripping analog octave up, similar to what you’ll find in EQD’s Hoof Reaper and Tentacle pedals. You can also use it by itself or with the Base (a squared version of your dry tone) for awesome drive and splatty tones that stack very well with other pedals. Seriously, it’s awesome and adds extra versatility when you’re not using it for monophonic sub synth tones.

Also, the Bit Commander is my personal favorite EarthQuaker Devices pedal if that means anything to you. ;)

Read the EarthQuaker Devices Bit Commander review.

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5. Rainbow Machine

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EarthQuaker Devices Pedal Page: Rainbow Machine, Effect Type: Pitch-Shifter/Modulation

The EarthQuaker Devices Rainbow Machine is the release that solidified EQD’s reputation as a builder of weird and crazy pedals. It’s a pitch-shifting modulation machine that takes your guitar to bizarre, kaleidoscopic realms inhabited by clockwork elves. The Pitch knob sets the amount of shift from a 4th down to a 3rd up. The Primary & Secondary knobs dial in the level of the pitch shifted signal and its additional octave up or down voicing. The Tracking knob delays the pitch shift and is particularly interactive with the Magic knob when that function is activated via the Magic foot-switch. You can induce dizzying, spiraling fractal ascents with pitch shifts above the root sound or fall into a rabbit hole of vertigo when detuning the pitch shift. Trippy as hell. Not for everyone. But the Rainbow Machine is definitely one of the best EarthQuaker Devices pedals for psychonautic guitarists who swallow the pink pill.

Read the EarthQuaker Devices Rainbow Machine review.

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6. Hoof Reaper

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EarthQuaker Devices Pedal Page: Hoof Reaper, Effect Type: Fuzz

The Hoof is the original EarthQuaker Device, a fuzz pedal based on the classic green Russian Big Muff. The Tone Reaper is EQD’s take on the classic 3-knob Tone Bender. Put ’em together, throw in a killer octave up, and you’ve got the EarthQuaker Devices Hoof Reaper.

This pedal is a gnarly beast of fuzz awesomeness. It’s hard to go wrong with 3 styles of vintage fuzz goodness, but EQD pulled off the Hoof Reaper exceptionally well. You can use the 3 circuits individually or in combination for a wide range of fuzz sounds. The order of the effects is preset to Octave → Tone Reaper → Hoof which is arguably the most effective signal flow. This lets you apply the Octave up front when needed or feed the Octave and/or Tone Reaper into the Hoof which can apply final fuzz shaping and EQing. Probably the simplest and most versatile multi circuit fuzz pedal out there.

Also, while the original Hoof Reaper has a germanium flavored Hoof section, there’s also a Cloven Hoof Reaper that uses silicon transistors instead. It’s a matter of personal taste really as both sounds are great.

Read the EarthQuaker Devices Hoof Reaper review.

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7. Disaster Transport SR

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EarthQuaker Devices Pedal Page: Disaster Transport SR, Effect Type: Delay/Reverb/Modulation

The EarthQuaker Devices Disaster Transport SR is a lo-fi dual delay, reverb, and modulation workstation. It gives you two delay lines which you can run in series or parallel. One of the delay lines has optional modulation. The other has optional reverb. Expression pedal control unlocks the Bleed option messing with the series/parallel signal path to juxtapose between interesting rhythmic variations. Its complex signal path may seem like a lot to take in at first, but the Disaster Transport SR rewards guitarists who take a ride on this rollercoaster of interesting sounds and textures. This is possibly your signature delay pedal right here.

Read the EarthQuaker Devices Disaster Transport SR review.

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8. Spires

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EarthQuaker Devices Pedal Page: Spires, Effect Type: Fuzz

The EarthQuaker Devices Spires takes a silicon version of EQD’s discontinued Dream Crusher fuzz and pairs it with their take on the Rosac Electronic Nu-Fuzz, a pedal I would probably never have heard of if Jamie Stillman didn’t reimagine it for this pedal. The Spires is a simple dual fuzz box that’s full of radness.

The Green channel brings in the Nu-Fuzz, a full-on vintage flavored beast with a level (labeled Green) and Tone knobs. The Red channel has its own level control (labeled Red) and a Fuzz knob instead of Tone. The Red side is smoother. The Green side is more aggressive. The Red’s fuzz knob has a useful range of fuzz sounds as you cut back the fuzz, but you can also get similar sounds by cutting back your guitar’s volume knob. The Green channel also cleans up well in this manner, and it’s harshness can be tamed for a warmer, woollier fuzz tone. The Spires is a rockin’ dual fuzz pedal that reveals more versatility when used in conjunction with your guitar and amp settings.

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9. Spatial Delivery

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EarthQuaker Devices Pedal Page: Spatial Delivery, Effect Type: Envelope Filter/Auto Wah

The EarthQuaker Devices Spatial Delivery is a voltage controlled envelope filter. It’s all about funk filter sweeps and auto-wah. If that’s your bag, you’ve gotta try this pedal. When I first saw it, I speculated that it might be EarthQuaker Devices’ version of the Maestro FSH-1 Filter Sample/Hold, a favorite of Mr. Stillman. But the Spatial Delivery is an original digital creation that to my surprise is incredibly smooth and pleasing to listen to.

In addition to Up Sweep and Down Sweep modes, the Spatial Delivery has a Sample and Hold function for random voltage controlled filtering, the speed of which is set by the Range knob. This reminds me of the random pitch shifting of the Arpanoid and is a lot of fun for making weird sci-fi noises.

Read the EarthQuaker Devices Spatial Delivery review.

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10. Transmisser

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EarthQuaker Devices Pedal Page: Transmisser, Effect Type: Reverb

The EarthQuaker Devices Transmisser is “a modulated reverb with extra-long decay fed to a highly resonant filter”. That sums it up nicely in a way that’s easy to understand. This pedal is sort of a variation of the Afterneath… only it’s nothing like the Afterneath really except for being a reverb and having a reverb mangling Warp knob that’s sort of similar to the Afterneath’s Drag control. I’d say that while the Afterneath captures the enclosed sound of a massive subterranean cavern, the Transmisser is a more open reverb that traverses outer space after being blasted through a wormhole.

The big fun here is the Freq knob that sets the frequency of the resonant filter. You can use an expression pedal to manually control it for extra fun. The Rate sets the speed of an always present modulation. The modulation has a slightly jagged feel for an asymmetrical movement. It’s a quirky touch that may or may not appeal to everyone. Just remember that this pedal is for those who like it weird. The Warp knob changes the feel of the entire pedal and essentially gives it a looser, deeper, & warmer sound or a tighter, more focused sound. Decay and Mix set reverb length and wet signal amount, respectively. The Darkness knob is your tone control. It’s a strange pedal from a strange land, ready to team up with the Spatial Delivery for 70’s space prog excursions.

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Runner Up: Gray Channel

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EarthQuaker Devices Pedal Page: Gray Channel, Effect Type: Overdrive

Screw it. Let’s throw in one more classic inspired pedal to finish the list. The DOD OD-250 Overdrive Preamp in its various iterations is regarded as a classic, hard-clipped dirt pedal. The EarthQuaker Devices Gray Channel is a tribute to the sought after “gray box” version. It expands on the old 2-knob pedal with 2 channels, each having their own Gain and level controls (labeled Green & Red). Each channel also has different clipping options. The Green side gives you Silicon, None, & Germanium; the Red side has LED, None, & FET. This adds up to a well-rounded range of drive tones that’ll take you from your clean sound to mild drive and heavier saturation with one or two stomps.

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That concludes our Top 10 Best EarthQuaker Devices Pedals! Tell us your favorite EQD pedal in the comments!