Powerful, sweet sounding active EQ and boost pedal
$145.00 MSRP, $145.00 "street"
By Phil O'Keefe
The Earthquaker Devices Tone Job (Fig. 1) can be thought of as an all-analog preamp with three band EQ. It is also designed to function as a clean boost. The overall frequency response is quite wide, and the range the EQ covers is fairly broad. Because of this, it not only works great with guitar, but can also be used for bass and keyboards too.
Unlike some boosts, which add some grit of their own, the Tone Job is by nature more of a clean boost, with no distortion to speak of being added to the signal.
Figure 1: The Tone Job
The controls of the Tone Job are fairly straightforward and self-explanatory. There are four knobs - three of which are active EQ controls. Unlike graphic or parametric EQ pedals that can sometimes be a little tricky to use for the uninitiated, the Tone Job's tone knobs, which are labeled similarly to an amp's tone controls, should be extremely easy to understand. Here's what they're labeled, and what they do:
The 12 o'clock noon setting is "flat" for all three EQ controls. There is up to 20dB of boost / cut available per band. The bandwidth characteristics are illustrated in the pedal's documentation, and are shown in Figure 2.
Figure 2: A frequency plot showing the Tone Job's EQ characteristics
By adjusting the relative amounts of each of the three EQ controls, it's possible to roll off or boost bass, scoop or boost the mids, bring out more treble or dial it back… and then boost the overall output level independently of the EQ. The Level control is post-EQ, and allows you to dial in unity gain, or boost the output up to five times relative to the input level. Unity gain with the EQ flat is at about 10 o'clock on the level knob.
As you might expect, the Tone Job is a mono in, mono output pedal. The input, output and power jacks are all mounted on the top of the pedal. (Fig. 3) The high input impedance of 1MOhm, and low output impedance of 10kOhm means the Tone Job plays well with other pedals and doesn't load down your pickups. The Tone Job measures 4 5/8" x 2 1/2 x 2 1/4", including the knobs. It comes with a very cool little drawstring storage bag (also seen in Fig. 1), which is a nice touch. It features true bypass switching with a very bright LED indicator, and is hand-made in Akron Ohio USA. It can run on an internal 9V alkaline battery, or with a 9-18V DC, 2.1mm center-negative power adapter (not included).
Figure 3: The Tone Job's jacks are mounted at the top of the pedal, allowing for closer pedal spacing on tight pedalboards
PURPOSE AND USES
What kinds of things can a pedal like this do for you? Well, for starters, it is great for compensating for tonal and level differences between two different guitars. For example, if you use a Les Paul for half of your set, and switch to a Strat for the other half, then you're probably used to having to go to your amp to adjust the volume level and tone controls to optimize its settings for each instrument. That's not so bad if you switch once, but it can be a hassle if you want to switch more frequently. With a Tone Job, you can make the adjustments via the pedal, switch instantly with the click of a footswitch, and leave the amp settings alone.
It's also a great overall tone-shaper and master level control. Place it at or near the end of your chain to adjust your overall tone and level you send to the amp.
Do your solos need a lift? The Tone Job is a solid lead boost pedal, complete with alternative tonal response. Want a fairly standard warm and clean tone for rhythm, but a brighter, stinging lead tone? The Tone Job will allow you to easily set up and use separate level and EQ settings for leads. As with most boost pedals, it also works fantastic for slamming the input of a tube amp that is on the edge of saturation and throwing it over the edge into full-on distortion.
Another thing the Tone Job excels at is adjusting and shaping the sound of your dirt pedals. Placed in front of a dirt pedal, it can help goose the drive pedal, overdriving the input and allowing it to get dirtier than it normally would without the boost. Additionally, the EQ can be used to help tailor the nature of the distortion. For example, by placing it in front of an overdrive pedal and adding mids with the Tone Job, you can get that frequency range to more easily distort relative to the highs and lows.
Placed after dirt, it allows you to sculpt and adjust the overall sound of the preceding pedal. For example, suppose you love your Tube Screamer's overdrive character, but wish it had slightly less midrange, and more in the bass region. Place the Tone Job after the TS in the signal chain, and dial up a bit of bass boost and midrange cut. Placing the Tone Job after your dirt pedals is also the preferred location if you want to use the boost to increase overall volume levels for solos instead of increasing overall distortion levels.
For more EQ tips and suggestions, be sure to check out my earlier article on Guitar EQ Pedals.
OVERALL IMPRESSIONS? JOB WELL DONE!
This is a very musical and sweet sounding EQ that is drop-dead easy to use. It's not a parametric EQ, so if you're looking for a pedal to address a 60 cycle hum problem, or to do other narrow-band and surgical EQ adjustments with, you may want to look elsewhere, but as a boost and tonal shaper, it's outstanding. At higher voltages the detail and headroom of the pedal both increase, although it's a relatively high headroom pedal to begin with, even with commonly used 9V power supplies. In fact, even when I slammed the input of it with a variety of high gain, high output dirt pedals, the Tone Job never overloaded or flinched in the slightest.
I was also very impressed by the low noise levels of the Tone Job. Unlike some EQ pedals that tend to get very noisy when boosting - especially in the midrange and high frequencies, the Tone Job stays surprisingly clean and relatively noise free, even with significant amounts of boost applied to those two EQ bands.
In closing, I'd like to mention the Earthquaker warranty, which is somewhat unusual. Here's what it says on their website under "warranty":
"We will repair or replace any device that we made at any time as long as we re still in business! Warranty does not apply to the enclosure, graphics, knobs, hardware or any devices that are deliberately destroyed or modified by anyone other than Earthquaker Devices."
Of course, if you mod or deliberately damage the pedal you're out of luck, but this is a very generous warranty, and Earthquaker Devices should be commended for having the confidence in their products to stand behind them in this way. After having used the Tone Job for a while, I can see why they're so confident. Not only is it a very good sounding pedal, it's solid, well-built (Fig. 4) and utterly reliable.
Figure 4: The Tone Job's interior, showing its neat layout and clean construction
While EQ and boost pedals are not as glamorous as some other pedal types, they add considerable versatility, adaptability and flexibility to any pedalboard, and are thus an essential part of the modern guitarist's tonal toolbox. If you're looking for a easy to use and great sounding EQ, or want a boost pedal with the flexibility that only comes with extensive EQ control capabilities, you should definitely look into the Tone Job. It's a real winner that adds not only a boost, but a lot of tonal flexibility to your rig.
Phil O'Keefe is a multi-instrumentalist, recording engineer / producer and the Associate Editor of Harmony Central. He has engineered, produced and performed on countless recording sessions in a diverse range of styles, with artists such as Alien Ant Farm, Jules Day, Voodoo Glow Skulls, John McGill, Michael Knott and Alexa's Wish. He is a former featured monthly columnist for EQ magazine, and his articles and product reviews have also appeared in Keyboard, Electronic Musician and Guitar Player magazines.