As you might expect from a boutique pedal company that makes statements such as, “made by a bunch of bearded dudes and a couple of ladies in the comedic drama section of Akron, Ohio,” Earthquaker Devices is dedicated to whimsy, uniqueness, and an ample dollop of weird. As a result, you can depend on many Earthquaker pedals to offer you all the rope you need to either craft wonderfully individual and cinematic tones, or push you ever closer to complete musical lunacy. Both options are awesome.
Earthquaker offered GP a preview of its new Transmisser—which is one hell of an odd device— and we also had three more “normal” pedals on hand. All are true-bypass, utilize soft-touch switching, and are powered by standard 9-volt DC power supplies or a 9-volt battery.
TRANSMISSER RESONANT REVERBERATIONS
If you had the brain of Batman’s nemesis, the Joker, but poached and scrambled by one-too-many trips through a temporal rift in the time/ space continuum, you may have come up with the Transmisser ($225 street). This modulated reverb with a resonant filter is the antithesis of “good” reverbs that resemble anything like rooms, halls, springs, or any ambient processor that wouldn’t turn a professional recording engineer into a pillar of sea salt. To be blunt: This sh*t is f**ked up! But the Transmisser is also one of the most astoundingly creative pedals I’ve ever come across. Guitarists who adore being iconoclasts— or those who simply love exploring eerie soundscapes for film scores and experimental music—will likely fall under the Transmisser’s spell hard. I did.
Operating under my own mandate for idiosyncratic signal processors—that it’s best to not study what the controls actually do, but just jump in and whip up trouble—I was immediately creating surprising, feral, and gorgeously strange sonic vistas. Any note I played could be “normal” or just plain crazy, depending on where the Decay, Darkness, Freq, Warp, Rate, and Mix knobs were set. It was quite liberating to just let go and embrace the results. There’s an expression pedal input for controlling the resonant filter, but I dug inviting chaos by twisting the Freq and Warp knobs in real-time as I played. I had a ton of fun, as well as ideas for numerous underscores and track-sweetening parts after one session with this beast.
Would I step on the Tranmisser if I were trading solos with Ted Nugent? Hell no. But that’s not the game here. However, if you’re a tad weak of heart, the Transmisser does offer a handy failsafe. You can return any bizarre, reverb-kissed tone to sanity—albeit “altered sanity”—by turning Mix to mostly dry (unaffected). So you see, there’s always hope for clarity, even in a blizzard of madness. —MM
Kudos Whack. Weird. Wonderful.
For old-school-inspired peeps who love working with amps that don’t have master volume controls, the two-knob Bellows ($145 street) is going to be a thing of beauty, as it emulates those rigs’ unfettered roar. The Drive control has much the same effect as an amp’s volume knob, and determines how brutishly or delicately your guitar signal hits the input, and Level manages— surprise—output level. Somewhat surprisingly, there are many useful dirt options possible with just these two knobs. At lower Drive settings, the pedal has a tube-like breakup with a fizzy decay—kind of like a semi-cranked Fender Champ. My favorite tones happened between the Drive knob’s half-way mark and dimed, where an aggressive fuzz gets blown out and inspiring. Bellows is a very dynamic pedal, as well. Rolling back my guitar’s Volume, I uncovered some very fun and expressive low-gain edge. A little more volume and a harder attack got me back into fuzz territory. Bellows also stacks well with other drive pedals—you get all the power without the sound folding in on itself or glitching out. Overall, I was hard-pressed to find a setting I didn’t like. —KA
Kudos Tons of cool tones.
Much like Bellows, Bows ($145 street) provides a fair amount of tones from one knob and one switch. Based around a vintage NOS OC139 germanium black-glass transistor, this colorful preamp booster can work for “always on” enhancement, as well as serve as a tool to selectively push solos and riffs front and center. I really liked leaving Bows on continuously to do its magic to whatever amp I was using. My favorite move was setting the Tone toggle to Treble mode, and playing sparkling funk licks, soaring classic-rock solos, and brittle, post-punk rhythm parts. Full mode produced a warm crunch that delivered a nice overdrive when the Level was increased, but, for the most part, the bass frequencies of this mode were a bit too tubby for my liking. Whenever I needed a thick, booming wall-of-sound for a song, however, Full was the way to go. —KA
Kudos Drives amps nicely. Good classic-rock-style tones.
Concerns Full mode’s bass EQ may be too much for some users.
Whereas Bellows and Bows give you lots of tonal power with minimal controls, the Gray Channel ($195 street) serves up two channels and several sound-tweaking options to deliver an insane amount of tone-sculpting muscle. Earthquaker’s Jamie Stillman could have called this the “Gray, Green & Red Channel,” but as this box emulates and expands upon the thick, robust drive of one of his favorite distortion pedals, “Gray” obviously got the nod. Each channel—Green and Red—offers three clipping modes to tailor the roar. Green provides Si (silicon), Ge (germanium), and N (none/clean boost), while Red has LED (LED), FET (Mosfet), and N (none/clean boost) modes. That’s like an armory of drive— and we haven’t mentioned the Gain and Output knobs for each channel. I play in a Bowie tribute band, and I need to evoke many different guitar sounds from Bowie’s varied eras, and the Gray Channel was all I needed when I brought it to rehearsal. There can be a significant level boost or drop, depending on which mode/channel you’re switching between, so on-the-fly changes can be tricky. However, one of the Gray Channel’s great benefits is being able to use one channel for rhythm, and the other as a boosted high-gain setting for leads. —KA
Kudos So many great tones.
Concern Level boost/drop between some modes.