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Earthquaker Devices Data Corrupter Synthesizer Effect Pedal

Turns chaos into music!

 

by Chris Loeffler

 

Standard guitar effects like overdrive, pitch and amplitude modulation, and delay are a core of the foundation of the guitar tones in modern music. Every now and then,  an oddball effect like ring modulation or bit crushing will step into the spotlight for being distinctly not guitar-like, someone will find a way to use that effect in a way people haven’t heard before, and a cult following forms around the eccentric sound while the general playing public writes it off as a one-trick pony. I already see the Earthquaker Devices Data Corrupter taking such a place in history, being flexible enough to inspire creative players to explore new territory while requiring just enough learning time to be written off by players who don’t want to commit the ten minutes to understand the tool (or are married to the status quo).

 

The Earthquaker Devices Data Corrupter is a monophonic PLL (phase-locked loop) harmonizing synthesizer with modulation capable of creating three-voice guitar synthesizer tones that features discrete control sections for Voice Mixer, Master Oscillator, Suboctave, and Frequency Modulator. It also features soft-touch true-bypass switching, and is powered by a standard 9v adaptor. 

 

 

What You Need to Know

 

In layman’s terms, the Earthquaker Devices Data Corrupter introduces a square wave fuzz and an oscillator that synthesizes the input signal up between 1 and 3 octaves for a Theremin-style sound. You can add an additional subharmonic signal path that's either tied to the input signal or the oscillator that can be dialed from -1 to -3 octaves as well. Listen to the clip below to get an idea of the types of sounds lurking within the Earthquaker Data Corrupter.

 

                                    

 

The Data Corrupter does a lot of things at once to achieve its unique sounds, and even with the logical, user-friendly control layout there is still a bit of a learning curve to move past the “this thing is crazy” phase and predictably dial in the sounds you want. Spending your initial ten minutes with the Data Corrupter learning the three sections individually, then exploring how they interact, is the quickest way to mastering the unit as a whole.

 

Starting with the Voice Mixer section, you can manually blend the Square, Subharmonic, and Oscillator output volume. Turning down the Subharmonic and Master Oscillator controls reveals an effective, grungy square wave fuzz tone that is thick and complex, with a stepped and gated decay reminiscent of a subtle digital flare out.

 

Blending in the Subharmonic next is helpful to understanding the relationship of the subharmonic notes octave and interval to the input signal (-1/U, -1/5, -2/U, -2/M3, -2/5, -2/m7, -3/U, -3/M2). The Subharmonic signal can be generated from the input signal (Unison) or from the Oscillator. The tone produced is a warm, slightly fuzzed octave interval that sustains better than most analog octave devices I’ve evaluated. The sound can get a little glitchy when playing multiple notes simultaneously, but “stable” is the most fitting word to describe the Subharmonic section. My experience is setting the Subharmonic to Unison yielded the most predictable results; tying it to the Master Oscillator is best after the behavior of the Oscillator is fully understood, as the cascaded signal multiplying can seem random without Master Oscillator mastery.

 

The Master Oscillator section is the dark heart of the Data Corrupter, and is set to synthesize against the input signal at Unison or down 1 to 2 degrees, which helps to dial in tracking on certain instruments. The behavior of the Master Oscillator can be set to Glide or Vibrato modes, which means the Oscillator will either pitch modulate vibrato at a consistent rate (set by the Rate control) at the octave division above the input note or rise and fall to the notes being played in glide mode, which creates a whammy-like swell attack as the oscillator bends  from the input note to the subdivided note, sustains in relative stability until the input signal drops below a certain threshold, and then decays back down to the base note.

 

I found the Master Oscillation section (U, +1/U, +1/5, +2/U, +2/M3, +2/5, +2/m7, +3/U) to be most expressive in the Glide mode, especially when utilizing odd intervals in both the Oscillator and Subharmonic sections - but there’s no denying the appeal of the Radiohead-ready haunting upper octave vibrato over the moody Square and Subharmonic signal lines. Keeping a blend of the Square in the signal mix is crucial to hearing how the Master Oscillator behaves within the context of the input signal.

 

Once you understand the Master Oscillator's behavior, things can get really wacky when the Subharmonic signal path is set to generate from the Master Oscillator. The result is the Subharmonic pulls the opposite direction of the Master Oscillator while modulating or gliding in concert. For an even more mind-bending exploration of new sonic territory in the Master Oscillator-controlled Subharmonic, setting the Oscillator to the fifth and octave above the input signal and the Subharmonic a Major 3rd two octaves down from the input signal results in tendril branches of conflicting harmonies that scramble to different edges of the sonic spectrum, peak at a surprisingly satisfying polyphonic chord voicing, and then descend into chaos as the various audio lines reconcile.

 

Limitations

 

The Earthquaker Devices Data Corrupter is fundamentally a monophonic device, meaning the more complexity you add to its signal (more than one note, especially as the intervals get more exotic) the more likely the Master Oscillator and Subharmonic lines will glitch out.

 

Conclusion

 

The Earthquaker Devices Data Corrupter is a pedal for iconoclasts and explorers, and can be incredibly revelatory and rewarding for players seeking glitch, lo-fi NES soundtrack throwbacks, stoner rock psychedelia, or retro-futuristic sonic walls. The stability and fine tuning of the various signal paths makes for a much more predictable and user-friendly experience than I’ve experienced in similar types of effects, and with a little disciplined discovery work the Data Corrupter is one of the most intuitive and accessible platforms I’ve experienced when it comes to marrying an instrument signal with an oscillator. On the other hand, those chasing the perfect smooth, glassy lead tone or chimey crunch for rhythm chords might want to keep on walking and stick to the safe side of the aisle.  -HC -

 

Resources

 

Earthquaker Devices Data Corrupter Product Page and Manual

 

The Earthquaker Devices Data Corruptor (street price about $225) is available from:

 

Sweetwater

Sam Ash 

 

 

 

 

____________________________________________ 

 

Chris Loeffler is a multi-instrumentalist and the Content Strategist of Harmony Central. In addition to his ten years experience as an online guitar merchandiser, marketing strategist, and community director he has worked as an international exporter, website consultant and brand manager. When he’s not working he can be found playing music, geeking out on guitar pedals and amps, and brewing tasty beer. 

 

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