Pedal Feature: Earthquaker Devices Palisades Overdrive

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.

Overview

 

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?

Tweakables

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.

Conclusion

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 beyondThe Pedal File - Scary Carrot Top 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.

Love,

Nick
The Pedal File

 

Pedal Feature – Henretta Engineering’s Choad Blaster

henretta1
Hey there.  Hi.  Hello…  Want to hear about a pedal?  No?  Well then what the hell are you doing on my site?  Please leave and go back to looking at cats or whatever it is non-pedal-loving squares look at on the internet.  If you are actually interested in hearing what I have to say please send me $5 via PayPal to continue reading.  Haha jk, I do this out of the good of my heart so maybe you can impress somebody with your vast pedal knowledge.  I want you to sound as good as you look.  Plus, chicks and barnyard animals totally dig pedals.  Just don’t forget where you learned it, son.

I’d like to use your precious internet-surfing poop time to tell you about a great and affordable distortion pedal.  I mentioned it very briefly in a previous post, but now it’s time to give you the full-on hardcore details.

The venerable Choad Blaster, made by Henretta Engineering, for a long time was the only ‘normal’ sized pedal with knobs (the recently released Lake Effect fuzz tremolo and just released Big Zapper envelope filter are exceptions, but that’s another post or two!) they had to offer.  I refer to this pedal as a distortion pedal, which it is to the unenlightened.  But to the true pedal sage it is actually an overdrive, distortion, and fuzz pedal.  You mean you don’t know the diff?  Ok, let me break it down for you, you noob, with a helpful (although poorly edited on their website) explanation from the website of Dr. No Effects:

Overdrive – more mild, transparent gain.  Responsive to how you play/set your amp and tone.  Think Tubescreamer, Klon etc.
Distortion – more intense gain, tends to color your tone.  Think Boss DS-1, ZVex Box of Rock, etc.
Fuzz – more organic, can be aggressive or smooth with nice harmonic character and overtones.  Some can be great for fat, single note lines, others for thick chords and/or octave effects.  Some clean up with the volume knob.  Some are crazy, some are tame. Think Fuzzface, Fuzz Factory, etc.

So then to break it down for you further, the Choad Blaster can offer tones that compete with any of the aforementioned pedals/tones making it difficult to apply one label to this device.  Let’s get on with the pedal then, shall we?

I’m a sucker for knobs (knob-sucker?).  While the Choad Blaster has only 4 knobs (and one internal trim pot), they’re as sensitive as Bill Cosby‘s nipples while committing rape in a pool full of Jello pudding? Paula Deen‘s nipples while basting a turkey? A choad in the wind? A freshly circumsized choad in the wind?  Americans over a tasteless joke?  The Choad Blaster is designed so the EQ knobs adjust frequencies in the guitar’s ideal frequency range (i.e. mids), which allows you to boost or cut the important stuff to shine through the mix.  It doesn’t just work the mids though, the tone knob can dial in the proper bass/treble ratio.  This is truly a ‘one size fits all’ pedal that can be the only source of dirt on your board.  If you’re into looping and can’t afford the luxury of endless pedals at your disposal, the Choad Blaster could be THE pedal you use for any boost/distortion/fuzzyness you need.  It’s important that looped layers sit in different places/frequencies in the mix so they don’t turn into a big muddy ball of shit.  I would also find this useful in a recording studio as you can sometimes get away with strange tones you wouldn’t necessarily use live, but work well in the context of standing out in a mix.

Tweakables:
Green Knob – controls output volume.  This pedal can get so loud it’s like being stabbed in the ear with a choad.  Ouch.  Not that I would know…but your mom would.
Yellow Knob – controls amount of upper-mid frequency gain and gives you a classic British-style crunch.  Sometimes when setting this knob high, it sounds like you’re gonna get a big, fizzy, mid-scooped tone, but it always comes out with surprising crunchy clarity.
Red Knob – controls amount of low-mid gain and turns to mild fuzzyness as you turn it higher.  Could also be named the ‘balls’ knob to stay with the theme of the pedal.
Blue Knob – turn clockwise to add treble and counter-clockwise to add bass.  At noon with the red and yellow knobs turned fully counter-clockwise acts as a transparent boost.  I like to keep mine a little more on the bass side, but it’s nice to be able to choose.  Changes the tone quite drastically from dark and bass-y to bright and treble-y.
Internal trimmer – compresses fuzz more as your turn clockwise.  As you turn it up it gets more into Fuzz Face/Fuzz Factory type territory with octaves appearing on notes played in the upper register, but nothing that glitchy or too crazy.
Switchable Op Amp – Say what?  You can switch out the op amp to customize your tone further?  In the words of Team America, “Fuck yea!”.  I think Kevin Henretta should draw more attention to this feature; it’s kind of hidden at the bottom of the manual.

Let me clearly state that this pedal is neither a gimmick nor a typical distortion pedal (I do admit the name ‘Choad Blaster’ piqued my curiosity to investigate).  It’s simple controls easily let you dial in a wide range of ear hole-pleasing tones.  Overall, this is a great distortion pedal and, to me, it stands out from being just another tube screamer or amp in a box.  Also, if you’re like me and not the biggest fan of fuzz, the Choad Blaster can be your safe trip into fuzz territory, like your trail of bread crumbs so you can find your way out of the fuzz forest.  It’s controls won’t confuse and with the ability to switch the op amp, this pedal can easily take the place of your existing distortions and fuzzes.

I think it was clever to design the Choad Blaster with the ability to distort upper and low mid frequencies.  Seeing how the guitar primarily sits in this part of the frequency spectrum means you have strict control over your tone and where you sit in the mix that would make Kim Jong-un red with envy.  Most distorted guitar tones you hear can be matched by distorting the proper frequency – the Choad Blaster offers this ability.  If your current distortion is blending in with your band, I suggest trying the Choad Blaster on for size (hehe).  Beware however, I’m pretty sure you can’t hold Henretta liable for any torn speakers and/or holes.

For more info check out Henretta’s website.

Check out my video demo:

That’s all for now.  As always, let me know what you think about the Choad Blaster.  Yay or nay?

Thanks for reading!

Love,

Nick
The Pedal File

Pedal Feature – Wampler Pinnacle Deluxe

wamplerlogo

Greetings, pedal seekers and tweakers.  I bring you news and tidings of pedals and such!  Today I’d like to talk to you about a great pedal company I think is underrated and not well known – Wampler Pedals.  Specifically I want to talk about the Pinnacle Deluxe, my current favorite distortion, but first allow me to give you some background info.  In fact, you have no choice in the matter (I’m beaming mind-control waves through the screen to keep your attention on every single glorious word…and you thought it was the Ritalin.  And the aliens.)

IMG_3127Brian Wampler started out modding pedals and even wrote a book (now out of print damnit) about pedal building and modification.  Since about 2006 he’s built a high quality product line that mostly consists of distortions/overdrives and ‘amp-in-a-box’ pedals with a few takes on modulation effects like delay, reverb, and an exciting new deluxe tremolo that I posted about previously.  He also offers a buffer and a compressor, the latter of which is currently on my board…not that you care.  But famous muckymucks like Brad Paisley who actually matter use them so you should care!  In addition I’ve begun to notice a lot of session guitarists and studios use Wamplers, which to me said, “Hey Nick!”  And then I was like, “What?”  And then my brain was all like, “Wamplers must be pretty god damn versatile to be used by so many people needing so many tonal options!”  Then I was like, “Brain, you might be on to something!”  My brain and I agree for once. Any company that can build such a reputation so quickly must be doing it right.  You might be thinking, “Come on, the Brad Paisley Drive?  I don’t want to sound like a country guitar player.  I play punk or metal, I’m super hardcore, and that’s not for me !”  Well I say ‘listen with your ears and not your dick’ (what, that’s not a saying?).  I’m no Brad Paisley fan, but I can’t deny a pedal that sounds fantastic.  Even if they called it the ‘Justin Bieber Drive’, I don’t care, it’s all about the tone, right?
IMG_3129

Speaking of tone, we’re not talking about the Brad Paisley Drive so why did you even bring it up?  Kind of off topic, but anyway…The Pinnacle is like a Chipotle burrito chock full of distorted goodness.  Stay with me.  The guitar is your mouth and the amp is your ass.  Let them become one and you’ll be blasting diarrhea geysers of tone like volcanoes erupting into outer space like a true ass-tronaut!  This sexy red-sparkled contraption offers up everything from mild overdrive to fat and crunchy, super high gain distortion that borders on fuzziness, to scooping those mids, to the famous or infamous ‘brown sound’ (depending on your opinion of Eddie Van Halen).  I like the idea of tone that could potentially make people poop their pants, and I’d like to think Eddie’s was named after the elusive frequency.  Simmer down you damn hipster, I’m not that crazy about Van Halen either, I just admire the tone: high gain, crunchy heaviness with presence that’s not too treble-y or muddy.  That is what Nicky likes and again it’s about what pleases your ears, not imitation.   (But let’s be real, who wouldn’t enjoy playing to an arena of a bunch of drunken people who all crapped themselves at once?)  I haven’t been successful at making anybody poop yet, but don’t be scared because even if you hate Van Halen I’m convinced you could still produce distorted tones that are satisfying.  The Pinnacle goes way far beyond just emulating the EVH sound.

Tweakables: Quoted text is taken from the Pinnacle ManualIMG_3130

Volume – This perky knob adjusts the output level. Mr. Wampler says, “There’s plenty of volume on tap in either standard or Boost mode, so whether you want to go farther than your input level or just make sure it can do unity volume (the same level of signal going out as you feed it, when active), you’re covered. The Gain, Tone and Contour knobs, and the Boost toggle (or for Pinnacle Deluxe owners, footswitch) all have an impact on total output volume level, so you’re probably better off waiting to adjust the Volume until you’ve dialed in the other controls. Re-adjustment might be necessary if you get it to the desired level and still need to tweak the sound.”  He makes volume sound hard, but don’t worry, I have faith you can figure it out!

Gain – “This control, in conjunction with the Boost toggle (or, for Pinnacle Deluxe owners, footswitch), lets you dial in anything from a classic, almost laid back early rock tone all the way to modern high-gain.  Our users, from international pros to weekend warriors, all have their own favorite ways of using the pedal, so however you end up liking the Gain setting, that’s just fine.  The “Brown Sound” is in there, that’s the goal after all!  But in terms of how much distortion you want, there’s a great deal of flexibility and we encourage you to run through the whole gamut to get a good sense of how it works and responds before you settle on how you’ll use it.”  I agree.  The gain is incredibly touchy so you have really fine control of how much break up you want in that there tone of yours.  Also, I think it’s totally cool that this pedal is made to emulate a certain tone, yet it can also sound pretty much like any distortion/overdrive (and almost fuzz) you could want.  Extra points all around, Sir Wampler.

Tone –“This adjusts the frequency emphasis on the highs.  It interacts substantially with the Contour knob and  Vint./Modern switch.  There are several ways you can approach adjusting the Tone.  You could start with it maxed and roll it off until you like the amount of highs, or you could start with it lower and adjust it either direction if you want more or less.  Either way, it’s a fairly straightforward control, but the interaction with the other tonal adjustment options means you should expect to spend some time getting used to the overall tonal possibilities.”  Maybe this is a stupid thing to say, but it still surprises me how much control this knob has over the tone of the pedal.  It adjusts from way scary dark to shiny, bright and glittery.  I like to keep mine set from around noon to 3 o’clock depending on how bright I want it.

Contour –“This adjusts the frequency emphasis overall.  It interacts substantially with the Tone knob, and is affected by the Vint./Modern switch as well.  At noon, this knob gives you a balanced presentation of the overall frequencies; counterclockwise it becomes very midrange-forward, and clockwise it takes the mids out pretty heavily, contouring the sound for a very “scooped” tone.  A little adjustment goes a long way with this control.  The best approach would be to start with the Contour knob at noon, and adjust from there.  Of course, making such broad tonal changes, you’re going to want to adjust the Tone control in conjunction with the Contour knob!”  This knob is how you go from vintage to modern voiced gain.  I’m not usually a fan of scooped mids, but I’ve been digging the scoopage on the Pinnacle!  This is a useful feature for recording because I don’t have to have 7 pedals on hand (I do have them on hand anyway just because!  Pedals!!).  I can use the Pinnacle’s versatility to give it to me (ooh yea).  Typically I keep mine around 9 o’clock as I prefer more mids in the mix.

Vint./Modern Switch –“This control essentially sets the overall voicing of the pedal’s frequencies, to be either darker with a classic tonality or brighter and more modern if you’d prefer that.  Setting this up first will give you a good “starting point” for your tone, but it’s also useful if you’ve adjusted everything else and feel the overall tone needs to shift in a larger direction.”  Once again this feature makes this pedal great for the studio.  I wouldn’t say the change in voicing is incredibly drastic, however I would say it’s enough to be like two pedals in one.  Why do I like that idea?  That’s right, versatility, Stupid!  I prefer the vintage setting myself, but the modern is great for when you need to kick it up the gain some more.  The Pinnacle is perfect for intricate riffage and lead playing alike, and the ability to toggle between the two modes makes it well-suited for blues, jazz, rock, punk, metal, polka, muzak, easy listening, hard listening, and your mom.  Just kidding about that last one, don’t plug your mom into the pedal or vice versa!  I doubt that’s covered by the warranty…

(Pinnacle Standard Only) Boost Toggle –“This switch alters the internal gain structure of the pedal to bring much more drive, heavier and more aggressive distortion when engaged.  On the Pinnacle Deluxe, this functionality is found on  the Boost foot switch, for adjustment on the fly!”  I don’t use the boost a whole lot, but it does add a nice dose of gain to push the pedal a little further if you need extra cream in your crunch.  Brian Wampler says it’s not intended to be an actual volume boost but I swear my ears hear a boost in volume.  Could be my stupid brain perceiving something that’s not there…  There’s also an internal trim pot to adjust the output volume if you want to ‘go to 11’.  I do.  I do want to go to 11.

At first impression it’s easy to presume the Pinnacle (and Wampler pedals in general) aren’t intended to get too wild.  But it doesn’t take much knob-fiddling to realize it possesses a deliberate flexibility that could surprise the naughtiest of noise-makers and tone-chasers (especially when stacking pedals together.  This pedal stacks fat with fuzzes and other distortions as well as any gauntlet of modulation effects.  I like it stacked with an EQD Bit Commander>Wampler Pinnacle>Pigtronix Envelope Phaser.  It’s the fattest, funkiest, fuzziest synth sound from hell).  I’ve owned my Pinnacle for a while now and can still find new tones I didn’t know it could make every time I play.  The best part is that 99% of them are pleasing and musical, proving to me that Wampler pedals kick ass.  Even though Brian Wampler seems kinda nerdy and unassuming (I presume he smokes less weed than the goofs at ZVex or my silly neighbors at Earthquaker Devices), it doesn’t mean his pedals aren’t creativity-inspiring mean green tone machines much like those of the more experimental builders.  Just seems like most Wampler players are Nashville chicken pickers and not so much the shoegazers or experimentalists.  Part of this review is to spread the truth of the good word to the world:  Wamplers are for everyone!  Hallelujah!

Speaking from personal experience, Wampler pedals are rugged and could take any hard wample-stomp (I’m coining a new word…) from your combat boot, chuck taylors, or stilettos better than a fetishist’s balls.  Some pedal companies skimp on jacks and switches and whatnot, but not Wampler.  Rest assured that your pedal will sound and look great for a long time.  With a 5 year transferable warranty on a ‘Merican-made product you can’t go wrong!

For more info, please check out www.wamplerpedals.com

What do you think about Wampler?  Love em, hate em, don’t care?  Make sure to leave a comment in the reply box at the bottom of the page!!!  Oh yea, and also be sure to subscribe to stay up-to-date with The Pedal File!

That’s all I got.  Thanks for reading!  Until next time…

Love,

Nick
The Pedal File