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Earthquaker Devices Westwood Drive

You're guitar's gonna love this wood!

 

by Chris Loeffler

 

 

There are hundreds of overdrives available for guitar players, from circuits designed to mimic the sound of a specific amp to circuits designed to those that expand the overdrive opportunities of the amp you have, but only a few are as specific as to be designed especially to add grit without fundamentally changing your guitar tone.

 

The Earthquaker Devices Westwood overdrive pedal is a medium-to-low gain pedal designed to add truly transparent crunch and grit to your guitar tone without the emphasized frequency spikes that accompany most overdrive effects. It features Volume, Drive, Bass, and Treble controls, silent true bypass switching, and is powered by a standard 9v adaptor. 

 

What You Need to Know

 

Earthquaker Devices states the Westwood was specifically designed to drive both standard stacks and low-wattage amps, with active EQ controls for additional tone shaping to address the more constrained nature of many smaller tube amps. In my experience, most tube amps under ten watts, especially vintage ones with simpler circuits, tend to shine on their own but quickly become overwhelmed when fed overdrive or distortion effects. A push from a fuzzface-style fuzz or treble boost might create some ripping classic rock tones, but add more than a nudge in volume or narrowing of EQ and things become flabby and congested. 

 

Using a 1954 Magnatone and a Fender Champ clone as my small amp testing grounds, the Westwood sounded invisible when the Drive was rolled back and the tone controls were set at noon. There is a fair amount of volume on tap with the Westwood, more than most players will ever need, and the drive is incredibly responsive to both pick attack and the guitar’s volume control, capable of adding open sizzle to single coils in more subtle settings or full-on classic rock crunch to rhythm and leads when pushed past noon. 

 

With the gain sets below noon, the Westwood produces soft, tube-like preamp breakup without compressing too quickly andthe ability to go from clean to dirty just by digging into the strings. Things gets pretty hairy past noon for riff-rock ready punch that pushese the boundaries of classic vintage distortion. The gain structure is especially well balanced from low to high and is easily balanced to individual amps and guitar by the 2kHz Treble and 80Hz Bass controls.

 

The Bass and Treble controls are center detented at noon for flat EQ and naturally add or remove presence to their respective frequencies without sounding effected, opening up some interesting opportunities in amps both big and small. Using my Les Paul, I found the slightly overdriven tone to liven up the guitars stock 57' Classic pickups, with just a touch of reverb creating some of the best unaccompanied “barely clean” tones I’ve ever coaxed out my smaller amps. The Champ clone really enjoyed a slight bump from the Treble control while the slightest reduction from the Bass control reigned in the low end looseness and allowed the natural mids of the humbuckers to push the distortion in a more pleasing way without causing the 10" speaker to strain unpleasantly (something they are known to do).

 

This held true as well for my Vox AC-15, a notoriously fickle amplifier when it comes to traditional overdrive effects. Blending the gentle grit of the Westwood at unity gain with the excitable overdrive of the preamp resulted in a thicker, more complex overdriven tone without overtaking the classic Vox sound, and when the gain was cranked I felt like I’d immediately stepped up to an AC-30. Running into a Fender Deluxe Reverb for reference proved there was no smallness to be heard when the Westwood is run into a amp at standard gigging volumes.

 

Limitations

 

None. If you love your guitar and amp tone, the Westwood will make it better.

 

Conclusion

 

The Earthquaker Devices Westwood is a unique offering from a house as wacky as Earthquaker, neither a tweak on a vintage circuit nor a quirky noisemaker. It is a subtle, subdued pedal that does a lot of useful things without taking over your core tone, even when the gain sounds like an amp about to explode. Whether adding girth and crunch to a low wattage amp or getting stony grind with a clean amp, the Westwood layers gain and fine tuning without color or losing the touch of the amp. What the Westwood does is what I see people describe when they say they are looking for a transparent overdrive.  - HC - 

 

Resources

 

Earthquaker Devices Westwood Transparent Overdrive Product Page 

 

Buy the Earthquaker Devices Westwood Transparent Overdrive ($179.99 Street) at Sweetwater

 

 

 

                                      

____________________________________________ 

 

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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