Other Equipment

We survived some Earthquakin’ in Akron…

26

It does seem very clean and efficient and rather a pleasant place to work as a factory goes.

I really do feel that you didn't get a feeling of the magic, of the creative spark and enthusiasm that ferments these devices. In the end, it's just caps, diodes and resistors in a metal box yet the imagination to connect them in a myriad of imaginative ways is the alchemy. You didn't get even a glimpse of that and feel a little bit sad for you and the others. No box art on the walls, no fun fonts on the signage, no Zappa on the radio. We both know that a visit to those dudes making effects at Tapanga Canyon in the early 70s would have been highly, highly (and I use the word advisedly) memorable. If it could be remembered at all.

The lack of a demonstration facility, even a silent Pod-populated area, is palpably miserable.

27

I thought Tim essentially 'got what he paid for' from the visit: he saw where and how the pedals were made.

Given the small-to-medium size of the business, I'd have been surprised if they could spare staff to keep visitors happy as their sole or main job, rather than doing an ad-hoc tour. Indeed, it's evident from the account of setting up the visit that the company will accommodate visits as and when they can.

Expecting much beyond that (getting to 'have a go' on the soldering bench, or staff just downing tools to have a jam for example) seems rather a stretch.

As usual though, a great read.

H59

28

Thanks for the tour. I like to support homegrown USA businesses, so I'll pay more attention to EQD the next time I look for a new pedal.

29

What a great tour, with a building filled with passionate people.

Everyone was happy to talk about what they did, in as much detail as you might want to plumb, for as long as you might want to discuss the subject. After that though, they go straight back to work. Unflinching levels of concentration are needed to get any hand soldered joints connected correctly(there's still a bunch of soldering done by hand there as not all connections to parts are friendly with automated soldering).

The plus of all this was, we got to do this in Akron, birthplace of Devo. After spending a bit of time in this town(It seemed more like a town than city to me), I found it to be the perfect place for Earthquaker to be.

Thanks for the article, Proteus. I was really looking forward to getting to see this factory, and it did not disappoint.

30

i've quite enjoyed watching EQD grow over the last decade...when i bought my first EQD pedal i think they had fewer than 12 models, almost all fuzz-tortion of one or another flavor. everything they do isn't necessarily to my taste, but it's always quality, well-engineered stuff.

funny aside: when i first saw the thread title i thought there'd been a real Akron earthquake, which would go well with the current end-times vibe

31

THAT should be the name of the next EQD pedal - a barely controllable apocalyptic fuzz combined with trem capable of fast deep square wave stutter, all wrapped into a deep pitch vibrato: the End-Times Vibe.

To be complete, I guess it would need unstable delay with a random mode mixing ever darkening muddy repeats with ever-thinning piercing repeats, gradual pitch drift included.

32

Great thread. Thanks for sharing.

33

THAT should be the name of the next EQD pedal - a barely controllable apocalyptic fuzz combined with trem capable of fast deep square wave stutter, all wrapped into a deep pitch vibrato: the End-Times Vibe.

To be complete, I guess it would need unstable delay with a random mode mixing ever darkening muddy repeats with ever-thinning piercing repeats, gradual pitch drift included.

– Proteus

I'm thinking their next pedal should reflect the quirkiness of Akron.

The Akronator!

What's it do?

It makes things slightly weird, but in a good way. Maybe a slight flange/pitch shift/delay w/trem decay?

34

Any suitably Akronic pedal from EQD should certainly sound rubbery - so that would work.

It could have a Nylon Cord mode (softer and looser wobbling), a Radial mode (well, how could you resist making that a stereo Leslifier?), and a Blowout momentary switch. I don't know what that would do, but it should take everything you got to keep it between the lines.

Deluxe edition lets you run in Raw mode (gooey and sticky) or Vulcanized (much more composed and rational).

35

So....Tim......What is your favorite Earthquaker Device pedal?

36

That's a hard question. The short, flippant answer is "whichever I'm using at the time."

And that's perfectly true. What I mean is that there's no one killer pedal from EQD that I could suggest as a first purchase or point of entry, or a must-have pedal, or even that would explain what Earthquaker is about.


I can tell you that the single pedal I've probably had engaged for the most play hours is the Avalanche Run delay/reverb. This comprises a deceptively simple (two-knob) reverb with a 3-mode (normal, reverse, and swell) purely digital delay with tap tempo and multiple subdivisions. It also has an expression output for control over six different parameters. You can use delay and reverb either together or separately.

With the Reverse and Swell modes and (I think) 2 seconds of delay time on tap, you can actually do some freaky spacey stuff - though there's no modulation, and it isn't the most creatively extensive delay on my boards. (You do get very effective tone control to shape the repeats.) The reverb, likewise, is not option-packed: just Decay time and Mix. It doesn't get as short a time as something like the Strymon Blue/Big Sky - and I don't recall if it does infinite at the other end, but it certainly goes very very long.

They promote the pedal as an all-in-one ambient engine, and OK, it might be. (There are others that go way deeper.) I have 11 other reverb-capable pedals if I have all my boards connected. So why do I use the Av Run so much?

Part of it is an accident of geography and connectivity on my pedal boards. I should explain that my experimental board has patchbays so I can connect the pedals I want at the moment in whatever order I want, without having them all in a fixed order in the chain at all times. But three stereo pedals are always in the signal path at the end of the chain - mostly because they are stereo and would thus take twice the patchpoints and double the wiring pain. The Av Run is the first of these, and can be fed stereo or mono, always producing lush wide stereo at the outputs. Because it's always connected, it's always available - and because the experimental board takes the most concentrated attention when playing and is thus in front of me most, the Av Run is a convenient default 'verb.

It wouldn't be the default reverb, though, if it didn't sound so spectacular. I don't know what kind of magic Jamie has done in configuring the DSP chip for this 'verb, but it's enormously spacious, clean and clear at any depth, never in the way, and ridiculously dimensional. So it's not about the reverb's features, it's the quality. I can't say it sounds better than any of my other reverbs (Strymon, Eventide, EHX, GFI, etc) - because there are some incredible sounds in all those boxes. But it's SO easy to dial in, and the stereo field is so ear-confectionary that it's just awful easy to leave it on.

The delay line has a similar characteristic: not terribly complicated, but clean and pure (and not overly sterile for a digital, can be nicely rounded), easy to dial in, and (with tap tempo) easy to time as well. So it's very utilitarian.


Is the Avalanche Run thus my favorite EQD, just because I use it a lot? Not really. And that's because what I've said about utilitarianism can apply to most of the others. As with EHX, there's always more on tap in an EQD pedal of any type than you might expect, and that's appreciated. It's definitely part of the attraction that there'll always be more depth or speed in the modulation than you need for stock musical purposes, or more range in EQ or filter, or added routing or unique features. It's what keeps me coming back to EQD pedals.

But I don't use them only or even usually to freak out: it's the plain ol' great sound of their utilitarian functionality that keeps me patching them in and turning them on. The Night Wire harmonic tremolo and new Aqueduct vibrato both just sound great, and give you more range of adjustability than most pedals in their categories. But these two have the superpower of envelope sensitivity - meaning they respond to how hard you're playing, and you can route that envelope to control things like depth or speed of modulation, depth of effect, etc. That makes them favorite modulation pedals on my boards, but only my favorite EQD pedals when I'm actually playing through them.

Again, I have mod pedals with much freakier potential - but they're more complicated, or buried in menus and secondary functions. Which is another thing I like about EQD: everything's on the face of the pedal and it's all very analog and straightforward. Great for easy knob-twisting. Old School, I guess, no multi-functionality either to get lost in or fail to take advantage of.


I have 8 or 9 fuzz pedals (and more fuzz buried in multi-fxeseses), but EQD's Hoof Reaper is still compelling. It combines a refined and more tweakable Muff with a 3-knob version of the old Tone Bender AND a one-stomp/no option octave fuzz a la the old Octavia. You can combine the three freely in any configuration. It's a lot of fuzz engine in a double-wide package.

Also in the fuzz domain, the unique Fuzz Master General (now discontinued) is my favorite when I'm using it. It has a voice unlike any of my other fuzzes, which I don't know quite how to describe. It's based on the vintage Ace Tone Fuzz Master 2 (a pedal I didn't know). I guess it's a fuzz with octave blend, similar to the Octavia. But it has a tone control that's more of a contour than a rolloff - bassy, scooped smoother sounds at one extreme, midrange and treble bite at the other - and a toggle to go from silicon to germanium to wide open. Lots of fuzz range on tap, from gritty to demolished. My favorite superpower is that on the open setting, with fuzz and tone dialed all the way down, it gets an enharmonic octave ping something like a ring mod - but with no "out-of-tune" notes. Again, there may be other pedals out there that do these things - but the combination was new to me.


I do have a handful of EQD pedals that may answer the question "what's a classic Earthquaker pedal that does something nothing else does." (Which might be another way of vetting favorite status.)

The first EQD pedal I bought, because its wackiness was just irresistible, is the Rainbow Machine. But it's hard to describe how it sounds, because while the description will be technically accurate, the pedal probably doesn't sound the way you'd imagine just from the description. Short version: it's a pitch-shifting digital delay (up to maybe 90 ms) with a context-sensitive octave engine which can be blended in with the root tone. But in no way does the pedal sound digital - it sounds messy, muddy, and analog. Also, you only get to bend (and blend) from a 4th under your input note to a 3rd above (or anything in between) - not a huge range. Also, the extremes don't sound all that perfectly in-tune. So while pitch-shifting is essential to the rainbows in the machine, this is NOT a Pitch Fork or harmonizer in any substantial sense.

There's a "Magic" knob and associated stomp, which work together for good or evil in more ways than are immediately apparent. The core function is to control the feedback or repeat count: lower on the dial, fewer repeats; higher, more repeats out to self-oscillation. (I think. I'm not bold enough to go there.) But here's the entertainment: each repeat under Magic is shifted by the selected offset of the pitch knob. With the pitch knob from center to full cw (bending up), each repeat ascends by the offset amount. With the pitch knob from center to full ccw (bending down), each repeat descends. Much craziness can ensue.

But besides Martian pitch shifting, the Rainbow Machine is like the fattest non-modulating chorus you can imagine. Set the pitch knob dead center, and you get 3-voice thickening. Vary slightly from center and you get detuned thickening. And since there are no detents for specific intervals, you can make that as microtonal/dissonant as you like. If you like. OR it can be a perfectly in-tune tone thickener.

3-voice, I said: one is your incoming signal (always present), one is the copy of that signal controlled in level by the "Fundamental" knob, the third is another copy of the signal mixed in by the "Secondary" knob. ITS trick is that, with pitch at noon, Secondary is just another copy of your input. CCW of noon, it's shifted DOWN an octave; CW from noon, it shifts UP an octave.

All this interacts in ways that make perfect sense (but may not have been predictable) with the delay time control (which is labeled Tracking). The sweep seems backwards: at full CCW, you get the most delay time (under 100 ms); at full CW, there's virtually no delay (in the same way a Deluxe Memory Man at minimum delay has almost none; ie, it still doubles).

So. This pedal is a slam-dunk for making bursts of freak out, ascending like demons or descending like dwarves under Moriah. But it can be used to impart just a halo of weirdness around your tone, the unsettling sense of unseen parasites swarming your notes. Or it can be made to do duty as a completely tasteful and inconspicuous (till you turn it off) thickener. And everything between those waypoints.

(Read all about it here.)

Which still doesn't make it necessarily my favorite - just compellingly unique.


Also unique is the Arpanoid, which generates arpeggios from whatever you play - with 8 choices of patterns including stepwise major and minor scales in several octave ranges and both a major and minor randomizer. These are not harmonized to whatever key you're playing in, so there are ample opportunities for dissonance. You control speed, direction of arps, and how many notes of the arp the pedal plays (from the root note, doubled, to the 2nd, to the 3rd, etc through the octave).

Everyone who plays through the Arp begs for tap tempo, which would make it far more tractable. But no one gets tap tempo. Just a Speed dial. I can't often use it, but every time I find something to use it for, I realize I also can't get rid of it.


EQD has two stranger reverbs which I'd qualify as must-hear pedals, the Afterneath and the Transmisser. Both modulate the reverb tail (not your original input) in various ways, giving you control over various modulation parameters. Neither sound like conventional reverb, and unless you play nothing but ambient drone, they couldn't be always-on reverbs. This is not spring reverb (unless the spring is poisoned), not room reverb (unless it's the playroom), not plate or chamber (unless it's a chamber of horrors) or hall (unless it's the Hall of the Mountain King). A description of how the effects are achieved under the hood by combining familiar effect types wouldn't begin to suggest how they sound.

I don't use them often; I could use either one indefinitely, in the same way one could surrender to the lotus eaters or decide to retire to an opium den. You can play a note and revel in the reverb trail, twisting knobs to send its particles dancing in novel ways that induce dope-eating grins. You can play chords and wander strawberry fields whimsically saying "Poppies!" But this would not be the recipe either for the life of a purportedly responsible adult, or for music many people would listen to for long.

So I allow myself to indulge in them occasionally, for meditative (or karmically threatening) insight, for color (dark but gleaming), and ... just because. And when I do, either is definitely my favorite EQD pedal.


I've saved the most outrageous EQD pedal (in my collection anyway) for last: the Data Corrupter. This is phase-locked loop (I don't know what that is either) distortion generator which starts by converting your input to a 100% full-on pure square wave you can neither dial back nor shape in tone, then does a lot of math to it to feed oscillators which produce two other unapologetically synthesized voices whose intervals can reportedly be controlled for purposes of harmonization.

Note that when you stomp the button, nothing plugged into the DC will sound anything like itself. It does NOT preserve your tone. There are "transparent" overdrives; this puts up an utterly opaque wall of fuzz. It's hard to control. I don't always get anything useful out of it, but it's always fun to try, and when I catch a good wave and it inspires me to play the appropriate scales and intervals (which I didn't know I knew till the pedal taught me which notes worked and which didn't), it's like (among other things) being caught in the crossfire of a slow-evolving particularly chthonic 1974 King Crimson sonic trainwreck.

Through unintended experimentation, I've learned that this is the most extreme noise pedal I personally want to have anything to do with it. (I've accidentally had more extreme pedals I couldn't get anything useful from, even allowing for what I think is my pretty liberal view of "useful." Turns out there's a whole genre of more extreme, destructive, chaotic and uncontrollable devices whose squalls and glitches and beeps and noisy swoops have an apparently avid following of users who discriminate among them, aficionados of intricate morphologies of utter disorder. So what do I know.)

Again - even at what I take as an extreme edge of pedaling, Jamie Stillman has found a way to deliver a range of the most useful effects available there.

It's not a pedal I manage to control often - but when I do, it's my favorite EQD device.

37

Thanks for that detailed and elegant answer Tim. I went through all of their demos and indeed, there are some interesting devices there. The one that intrigues me the most at this standing on the shore looking out juncture, is the Transmisser. I'm thinking I could use it in an intermittent fashion, or with my new swanky active A/B switcher, I could have it in a second chain with a volume pedal in front of it and bring it in and out with as much or little as desired; lots of possibilities. For me, one of the challenges, or maybe THE challenge with using pedals beyond the conventional ones, is using them in service of the music. With freedom and an expanded tonal pallette comes increased responsibility, but that's a good thing.


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