6 Earthshakers from EarthQuaker Devices

January 30, 2014

Earthquaker Devices was birthed in “under fire” conditions while founder/designer Jamie Stillman was working as tour manager for the Black Keys, building one-off pedals for the BK’s Dan Auerbach, and selling his Hoof Fuzz (and a few other models) on eBay, starting in 2005. Since then, the Akron, Ohio, company has grown to offer a vast smorgasbord of deliciously lunatic signal annihilators. Lucky us. earthquakerdevices.com

Bit Commander
$175

If, like me, you’re old enough to have heard almost every riff in the rock canon, and you freak yourself out when composing licks because you just know you’re doing something someone else has already done, then the Bit Commander might be salvation for us all. This monophonic, analog guitar synth can weird-out even the most sophomoric and clichéd riff with its four octaves of square-wave tones, making you sound like a guitar player who could be the next Jack White if only all the planets aligned around you. Tracking can be tough at times, but if you work within the pedal’s restrictions, you’ll discover whole new galaxies of bitchin’ riffs.

Disaster Transport
$215

The digital Disaster Transport does a masterful simulation of both tape delay and analog delay pedals. It also offers modulation so you can dial in expansive, old-school delays that are almost symphonies in themselves. The overall tone is articulate and clear—unless you mess with the powerful Tone knob to create, well, some vibey sonic disasters. Also, the maximum delay time is set at 625ms to further emulate vintage echo/delay machines. From propulsive The Edge-like delay armadas to seasickness-inducing undulations, the Disaster Transport provides tons of fun and absolutely wicked sounds.

Ghost Echo
$165

If you’re into rockabilly, the mop tops, surf, Duane Eddy, or anything on the infamous Nuggets garage-rock compilation, plugging into the Ghost Echo will be quite a thrill. A savvy emulation of vintage echo units and reverb tanks, this pedal nails the subtle, sensual, and dimensional ambiences that make ’50s and ’60s tracks so spooky and vibey. The Attack knob works with the wet signal only, controlling the delay between your pick attack and the onset of reverb/echo—a brilliant way to ensure notes are clean and articulate (dry) before the atmospherics kick in.

Hoof Reaper Octave Fuzz
$295

I discovered the Hoof Fuzz a while back, and I always find some way to use its feral spittle or soaring sustain on a track. And although the Hoof Reaper Octave Fuzz is rather hard on the wallet (and consumes more than twice the pedalboard space of the Hoof), the ability to mix two great fuzzes and an octave effect—or use each separately—is nothing short of awesome. The Hoof has slightly more tone-shaping ability (thanks to its Shift knob) than the Reaper, but you can craft absolutely freaky fuzz madness from each.

Organizer
$185

Beware! This device may melt your brain. It is not for the faint of heart, or judiciously normal. On the surface, it’s “just” a polyphonic organ simulator based on the wacky, early ’60s Guitorgan. Now, I was able to get a twisted, organ-like drone for the Monkees’ hit “Words,” which I perform in a “punk Monkees” tribute act. But warping guitar tones beyond all humanoid recognition is the true genius of the Organizer. It has let me craft a chorale of screaming ants (along with a wah pedal), tortured wails, otherworldly melodies, and myriad cinematic swells that make me sound much more artsy than I actually am. And that’s why I love this box with all my heart.

Talons
$195

Talons is kind of like the distortion/overdrive equivalent of Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III—it does a whole bunch of things incredibly well. In fact, it may just do everything you need. Drive-wise, it delivers relatively clean boosts to at-the-edge-of-breakup grit to full-on, cataclysmic saturation. But then there’s its boost/cut EQ section that offers Presence, Treble, Middle, and Bass. With this level of tone armament, you can emulate almost any sound you love from your favorite records— including fuzz-like sear—or devise unique roars that are totally your own.

Demeter Fat Control
$189

A midrange boost/buffer pedal, the Demeter Fat Control can add a fairly broad mid-frequency boost, beefing up single- coils and taking neck humbuckers into woman-tone territory. It also converts your signal to low impedance, insuring that you won’t lose high end or oomph with super-long cable runs or jam-packed pedalboards. It’s simple to operate, with one knob that sweeps between Flat and Fat, and a mini-toggle on the side to select between Fat and Fatter. I wish it had more output—though it’s not supposed to be an overdrive—and easier battery access (you can use an 1/8" mini-plug adaptor if you happen to have one), but The Fat Control definitely imparts a girthy sweetness to the tone. demeteramps.us —MB

Demeter Tremulator PS Tremolo
$309

The Tremulator’s lopsided, opto-style amplitude-modulated goodness has long made it a favorite of many tremophiles. Now the new Tremulator PS “Tremulation with Presets” doubles the Speed and Depth functions to offer two presettable channels. As such, it’s a beauty for players tired of bending over to twist knobs to go from fast chop to slow swampy bubble. An internal trim-pot (factory set “to Ry Cooder’s favorite setting”) lets you adjust the tremolo’s bias, and therefore its on/off ratio. Now if only it had a standard barrel jack for a 9-volt adapter instead of a tip-positive 1/8" input jack. demeteramps.us —DH

Devi Ever Shoe Gazer Fuzz
$200

The Shoe Gazer captures two shades of fuzz. Selectable individually or together, the Soda Meiser (SM) on the right goes from smooth muff-like tones to bias-freaked, gated, disharmonic chaos, while the Torn’s Peaker (TP) on the left nails the nasty buzzsaw sounds of more aggressive vintage British fuzzes. If you haven’t dived into fuzz for a while, this monster reminds you what a creative tool it can be, dishing everything from behemoth walls of rhythm crunch to hair-trigger feedback wail to pseudo-analogsynth mayhem. The sonic chaos available at the extremes of either channel individually, or more so, chained together, might even distress some more timid users! deviever.com —DH

Effectrode Tube-Vibe
$429

Powered by two 12AT7s and a 12AU7, the Tube-Vibe is a creamy sounding Uni-Vibe-style phaser that gets its mojo on with Speed, Depth, and Volume controls, along with a side-mounted switch for selecting chorus or vibrato. The true-bypass pedal delivers a broad range of classic effects—from light washes of phasing to throbbing swirl à la Hendrix/Trower to cool “notch” effects when you manually sweep the LFO. The tubes run at full plate voltage (though power is supplied by a 12-volt adapter) and certainly contribute to the ’Vibe’s rich sound, but they are vulnerable to damage and only minimally protected by the chromed “roll bars.” effectrode.com —AT

Electro-Harmonix Tone Tattoo
$200

This analog multi-effector packs a Metal Muff distortion, Neo Clone chorus, and a Memory Toy delay, each with its own set of controls and bypass foot-switch, making it easy to preset the effects and activate them individually or combined. The ’Muff kicks down intense, metal grind with three flavors of “Scoop” (including off) and a selectable Gate with variable Threshold. The ’Clone’s sweet chorusing is adjustable for Rate and has a 2-position Depth switch, while Memory Toy provides everything from slapbacks to ambient delays to wild “spaceship” effects via its Delay, Blend, Feedback, and Gain controls. What a crazy good deal for this much sonic fun! ehx.com —AT

Empress Multidrive
$299

The Multidrive is an extremely powerful workstation for crafting brilliant noises. You get fuzz, distortion, and overdrive routed in parallel with myriad tone-shaping and textural options at your fingertips. It’s crazy—the pedal looks like the instrument panel of a WWII B-17 bomber or something, and that may scare some users off. Sissies! What’s not crazy is the amount of sonic layering you can achieve with three different drive chains ready and willing to be twisted, co-mingled, and mixed any way you desire. I love messing with this machine, I’m still discovering awesome tones—even though I’ve used this box onstage and in sessions since January 2012. empresseffects.com—MM

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