Earthquaker Devices Plumes Small Signal Shredder
By Chris Loeffler |
Earthquaker Devices Plumes Small Signal Shredder
Plumes of shred!
by Chris Loeffler
When Earthquaker Devices announced they had a new pedal for evaluation, the last thing I expected to review was the Earthquaker Devices Plumes Small Signal Shredder. A “t00bscreamer” from the company that (begrudgingly, according to their copy) delivered the most definitive and flexible take on the classic overdrive circuit? Less than $100 and made in the USA?
The Earthquaker Devices Plumes is dubbed by EQD as a Small Signal Shredder, and packs Volume, Drive, and Tone controls as well as a three-position clipping mode switch in a small vertical enclosure with true-bypass switching.
What You Need to Know
The way EDQ embraces the “NATS” humor in their product description is the perfect setup since the Plumes veers away from pretty much everything that defines the concept of an “ideal” Tubescreamer; no 4558 holy grail chip, no transistor buffers, three clipping modes, and a modified tone control.
The Plumes is indeed quieter, cleaner, and more dirty that an off-the-shelf TS-9 or 808 thanks to many clever design factors such as removing noisy parts and increasing the voltage for extended headroom.
The Volume control offers plenty of boost over unity. Output volume varies based on the amount of gain in the Drive control, but even with almost no drive in the lowest output clipping mode the pedal exceeds unity gain by around 1:00; it gets outright beastly when cranked in the Clean Boost mode.
The Tone control is a deviation from the original Tubescreamer that it feels like the dramatic cut/add carving of the traditional tone control and demonstrates a more natural EQ curve across its sweep.
The LED clipping mode is the crunchiest of the three modes and has the bite and gain structure of a vintage Marshall, including a slight sweetening of the midrange and noticeable growl to the lower-mids. I found the LED clipping to respond especially well when digging in on chords and producing interesting and amplike interharmonic modulation. This was probably my favorite mode running into an amp that was clean or that exhibited fairly high-fidelity gain EQ.
The No Clip/Clean Boost mode removes the LED clipping diodes from the circuit for a rawer, cleaner, louder sound. It still gets dirty, but the gain is best structured to push an overdriven amp or another gain pedal and enhance it with additional harmonic content. That said, the slight stiffness to the gain attack does a fantastic job of tightening up spongier amp distortion, especially when demoed through a lower wattage Marshall clone.
The SIlicon diode mode creates asymmetrical clipping and is what Earthquaker Devices describes as closest to a “standard TS” mode, with soft clipping and emphasized mid-range. This mode is the most compressed, vocal, and liquid of the three, and jumps out especially well when used for the traditional TS application of filling in the hollow-mids of a Fender and forcing gain focus to the upper-mids while trimming bass. Asymmetrical clipping in this type of circuit is more commonly associated with the Boss SD-1 (the classic Tubescreamer does symmetrical clipping), but there’s the science and then there’s the 20 other variables that come into creating an overdrive. The Plumes certainly nails the TS sound, and came surprisingly close to a rawer-sounding Analogman Silver Modded TS-9 I demoed it against in terms of clarity and distortion behavior.
I found the different clipping modes to be distinct sounds rather than the typical “toggle” mod on a Tubescreamer that creates slight variations on a theme. I continued to come back to how much flexibility EQD crammed into the Plumes without introducing complexity. And at $99… I’m shocked.
I wouldn’t go so far as to say the Plumes would convert a life-long TS hater, but if you’ve ever given that sound a moment’s thought, I am confident the Plumes is the most approachable, affordable, and adjustable take you can check out of this genre of sound. I hate to keep coming back to price, but really, they could have set retail price at 2x what it is and sold these like hotcakes (the breakfast food, not the pedal). -HC-
The Earthquaker Devices Plumes is a top contender for low-to-mid overdrive or the venerable TS sound at any price point. There is enough flexibility between the clipping modes to tailor it to pretty much any amp or application, the pedal is priced at half of what its contemporaries are at for a similar featureset, and it sounds phenomenal. Seriously, you should probably just buy this pedal.
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.