Ahoy-hoy, y’all! If it’s okay with you, I’m going to talk about a pedal today. You know what I like in a pedal, don’t you? That’s right: versatility! I like to be in control of a pedal and tell it what to do, the more options for knob fiddling, the better. That is what I try to focus on in this blog, and for that reason I want to draw attention to what is perhaps the most versatile overdrive pedal on the market, made by one of the most ambitious and quirky pedal companies around – The Palisades Overdrive by Earthquaker Devices. You may also know I like to really get into a pedal’s insides, and this particular pedal is so versatile it has just about ten vigintillion (yes that is a naughty sounding word for a 1 followed by 63 zeros) features for tweaking, and tweaking, and tweaking some more until you tweak out from being over-twerked (or as I always say, Miley Cyrus-ed). Okay, maybe it doesn’t literally have that many features, but the point is still valid; this pedal is like totally covered in knobs and shit.
To make a long story short (or longer), The Palisades is an overdrive. Remember – overdrives are typically transparent as in they don’t add a lot of color your tone, as opposed to distortion. If you desire a somewhat clean yet gritty edge-of-break-up tone in between a boost and distortion, overdrive is the ticket. The Palisades is based on the Ibanez Tubescreamer, or as EQD refers to it, the Tubes Creamer (hee hee). The Tubescreamer was originally touted like 30 years ago by the great Stevie Ray Vaughn (the only guitar player with the chops to back up his layers of scarves), which helped it reach the status of ‘go-to’ overdrive for scores of guitar players even today who would rather sound like something they’ve heard before.
The Palisades is ready to be the ‘go-to’ overdrive for guitar players of the modern era; it takes the concept of the transparent overdrive pretty far, offering such numerous tonal options that only a crazy person would have set out to put them all in one pedal. This device is much heftier than any comparably wimpy 3-knob overdrive you find out there. On top of its rugged build (no plastic input/output jacks or cheap switches), it sports two switchable channels of gain that can go from clean to near fuzz, a switchable boost, a bright switch to shine things up, a buffer to tighten things up, a voicing adjustment to select which components are causing the clipping for different types of drive/compression etc., and a bandwidth control for selecting the amount of girth and gain. As I’m sure you can guess, if overdrive was made of (s)tones, then seemingly none would be left unturned by EQD when the Palisades was brought forth unto this Earth. Seriously, every jangle-y 60’s punk garage indie blues pop country jazz noise guitarist can find their tone in there.
Enough! Let’s move to the tweakables, shall we?
Boost: ‘Sets the level of the output boost.’ You can have just a little, or a large helping of boost suitable to feed Honey Boo Boo on pageant night…
Volume: ‘Sets the output level.’ Lots of volume. See aforementioned joke.
Tone: ‘Brighter clockwise, warmer counter clockwise.’ Aside from Wampler tone controls, this is one of the most versatile tone controls I’ve encountered – it’s quite sensitive and in combination with the normal/bright switch provides you with all you need to find just the right tonal shade you need. Bright, dark, and everywhere in between.
Gain A: ‘Sets the gain for the Channel A (lower gain).’ It is lower gain than Gain B, but cranked up it gets pretty heavy, especially when set to heavier voicings/bandwidths.
Gain B: ‘Sets the gain for Channel B (higher gain).’ I believe channel B is a totally independent channel. I noticed that you can make Gain B your low gain channel, if you so desire, by keeping the gain low while cranking the gain on channel A. (Not that it makes much of a difference, just wanted to point that out.)
Normal/Bright: ‘Normal is a warm full tone, Bright is livelier tone with more chime.’ This is great if you need to add or take away some treble-y bite from your signal or make proper adjustments for dark/bright amps and/or humbuckers/single coils (if you need to go further than the tone knob can go by itself). The brightness does make your tone livelier and seems to provide more harmonic richness, sort of like a tube amp.
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.’ The word on the street is that you can ‘feel’ the buffer more than you can hear it. How zen. But it’s true – there isn’t really a perceivable tonal difference except for maybe in picking response. Check out my video below to see if you can hear it.
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.’ It will also have a major effect on the pants of those in hearing range, either filling them with poop or causing them to get a little tighter…. Depending on how you set it.
Voice: ‘This sets the nature of the Palisades distortion by changing the clipping diodes.’ EQD could have stopped with this knob. Even staying on one bandwidth setting and adjusting the voice knob can give you an astounding array of overdrive tonez, brah.
1- No diodes: The most open and least distorted. This can be used as more of a clean boost or as a way to shine and grit things up a bit.
2- LED clipping: light clipping with a lot of volume. More of a low-gain, edge-of-breakup sound
3- Mosfet clipping: light gain OD with great harmonics.’ Medium-high gain, I like this setting a lot.
4- Asymmetrical Silicon clipping: Tighter light gain OD closest to stock 808. This clips the waveform unevenly or asymmetrically providing more compression/clarity.
5- Symmetrical silicon clipping: tighter distorted tone. Clips the positive and negative cycle of a waveform evenly giving the effect of more distortion (as opposed to asymmetrical clipping). Everyone knows symmetry equals beauty.
6- Schottky Diode clipping: Looser fuzzy tone. I had never heard of this diode before learning about the Palisades. After some research it looks like people traditionally put them directly in their guitar as a way to add a switchable overdrive boost right to the guitar. Loose and fuzzy is a great description of the tone as well as for the matriarch of your family. Ba-zing! Seriously though, this setting is pretty fuzz-like for an overdrive. It gets pretty nasty and nasally the more you crank up the gain and tone knobs.
Check out my video. By looping a riff and tweaking knobs, I try to give an overview of different tones and show how the controls interact all without boring you with needless talking.
As evidenced by the Palisades, Earthquaker pedals are for tweakers and practically beg to be touched. The versatility found in them gives one the ability to go exploring beyond traditional tones (the Sea Machine & Afterneath come to mind) like a regular Dr. Livingstone (I presume…only the goal is to not make it back from the unspoiled land of new tones). This ability to cover a fuller spectrum of ‘unusable’ to usable tones makes their pedals perfect for too-cool-for-school noisey noise-makers and square traditional tone hounds alike, which I’m sure is a big part of the success of the EQD pedal line. I also admire that Earthquaker didn’t buckle to the requests for just another Tubescreamer clone and instead went out on a very large limb and brought to life their own perverted version, like a forsaken monster pieced together from human remains, a.k.a. Carrot Top. But in pedal form.
If Stevie Ray Vaughn somehow had a chance to check out the Palisades, I think he’d go back in time and let his Tubescreamers take that helicopter ride to oblivion. Too bad that’s not the way it went down. No other single pedal more sensitively straddles the line of boost, chimey mid-focused overdrive, and dirty high-gain fuzzyness. I said it before, but it still stands: If you need to replace your whole collection of overdrives with one pedal, this one could and should be it.
As always, leave me a comment and let me know what you think about the Palisades, or whatever! If you really can’t share your thoughts in public, you can also drop me a line via my Contact Page.
For more info on the Palisades, as well as the rest of the EQD pedal line, check out: www.earthquakerdevices.com
Thanks for reading.
The Pedal File