We pedal geeks often go on about the delightful idiosyncrasies of vintage effects: “Sure, germanium fuzz pedals are inconsistent and reactive to temperature, but, man, that sound,” or “Yeah, the original Electro-Harmonix Electric Mistress Flanger was noisy as hell, but, man, that sound!” Modern effect pedals are often sturdier, more consistent, and quieter, but can lack that quirky character that makes the old ones fun and fabulous. Earthquaker Devices new Erupter fuzz brings some of sound and eccentricity that makes us love the pedals of yore.
“The Erupter is the result of over two years’ worth of tone-chasing, tweaking, and experimentation in search of the ultimate classic fuzz tone with a big low end (but not too mushy), a biting top end without being too harsh, and just enough output to politely send a tube amp over the top,” says the Earthquaker site.
It has a buffered input section, transformer-based pickup simulation, new production 5% ½ watt carbon composition resistors, metallized polyester film capacitors, Sprague and BC electrolytic capacitors, and low-gain, hand-matched New Old Stock (NOS) silicon transistors.
The simple single knob setup allows you to bias the Erupter’s NOS silicon transistors. Turning the knob counter-clockwise lowers the “Bias” setting for everything from a slightly spongy feel to spitty gating. As the “Bias” control is increased, additional harmonics stack atop the input signal, producing a stiffer, more complex tone with a tighter response, increased output, and longer sustain. A center-detent set at noon lets you always return to the spot that the makers feel is perfectly biased for best possible fuzz tone. Your opinion may differ as to what setting is best for you, but it is a great place to start. The Erupter uses a fixed master output level and gain setting for the thickest fuzz possible and to push the full frequency range of the guitar out front when you kick it on.
Now about those quirks… For starters, the level of the engaged pedal is way louder than the bypass volume. Going straight into an amp set clean this can be, well, dramatic. You could lament the lack of a level knob, or luxuriate in the glorious fuzz sound that is now pummeling your audience. Some fuzz pedals sound thin unless they are going into a dirty amp or an engaged overdrive pedal—not the Erupter. The sound is fat, and warm with tons of bottom end. That said when I ran it into a slightly driven amp or dirt pedal, (as many players do) the compression of the amp or pedal minimized the volume jump of the Erupter, and it still sounded great.
Quirk number two is a slight electrical click when you engage or disengage the bypass. This is one of those things that will bother a bedroom player more than a gigging one. The ambient noise of most clubs will drown out the click. Also, some of my favorite recorded moments are when you hear the sound of a pedal going on.
Finally, quirk number three: hum. According to Jamie Stillman of Earthquaker, the Erupter circuit is a bit like a single coil pickup, in that if it gets too close to certain power sources it can hum. I found that with proper positioning, the signal to noise ratio was quite acceptable; better than many vintage Big muffs I have used. I mean, people, we are talking a lot of gain here.
Quirks are fun only if the virtues of the pedal outweigh them. In the case of the Erupter, they most certainly do. In addition to its massive but musical sound, the pedal is dynamic in a way few fuzzes of this girth are. [see my video]. It can be cleaned up by turning down the guitar volume knob and responds well to pick attack.
Vintage effects are expensive partly because or their rarity. One reason they are rare is that they were made cheaply and they break; working models can be hard to find. They are also valued for their character-filled tone. The Erupter contains the character and the quirks of a vintage pedal combined with a solid, reliable build and a reasonable price. You should seriously consider it as an addition to your fuzz arsenal, because Confucius says: “You can’t have too many fuzz pedals.”