At NAMM 2020 back in January, the worst thing you had to worry about was getting NAMMthrax (or NAMMonia), that is, a bad cold from shaking all those hands. We live in different times now; hope you and yours are healthy.
What this year’s winter show lacked in number of interesting product debuts it made up for in decibels. Complaints were constant about being unable to hear the gear, or talk to the vendors. (You can experience this in some of the videos). That said, there were a few cool releases that should appeal to the modern guitarist. If April seems late for the roundup, consider that many of these products are just now shipping.
NAMM 2020 is next week. I will try and get my report up sooner this year. If you are looking for a distillation of some of the most interesting gear for the modern guitarist to come out of 2019, this is a good place to start. Nick Reinhart, and Juan Alderete always have their fingers on the pulse of what is forward thinking and cool.
Weird spitty fuzz pedals are not the only dirt devices employed by modern guitarists, and Stevie Ray Vaughn imitators are not the only guitarists who use that trusty lime-green overdrive and its clones—that sound has been an industry staple since its inception.
Plumes is EarthQuaker’s take on the type of low to medium gain overdrive that works best in conjunction with a good valve amp. Of course it being the good folks from Akron, this version has a few twists and turns of its own.
For the technically inclined, Plumes does away with the usual JRC4558 OpAmp and the BJT buffers, replacing them with low noise JFET OpAmps for a more robust and precise signal with a significantly lower noise floor. The 9v power input is internally converted to +/- 9v for more headroom. The input impedance has been raised to 10 megaohms for a stronger signal with more clarity and chime. They’ve also adjusted the cutoff of the tone control to deliver a more useful range of travel with more bass on the low end without sacrificing the midrange and top end.
Plumes offers three different clipping modes. Mode 1 is symmetrical clipping utilizing a pair of light emitting diodes. When played through a clean amp, this setting delivers a facsimile of classic crunchy valve amp tone. Mode 2 is clean boost mode, eliminating the soft clipping diodes altogether for straight OpAmp drive. This mode can come in handy for pushing your clean tone to the fore or driving the preamp of an already overdriven amp into further breakup. Mode 3 is an asymmetrical silicon diode arrangement similar to the typical screamer but with more output and clarity; a tone some describe as “transparent.”
Plumes features EarthQuaker Devices relay-based “soft touch” Flexi-Switch Technology for both momentary and latching footswitch operation as well as a very low 25 mA current draw. Since the switching is relay based, it requires power to pass signal.
Plumes is available to pre-order through authorized EarthQuaker Devices dealers, and will be in stores on August 3, 2019.
List Price: $99.00
Measures: 4.75″ x 2.50″ x 2.25″ with knobs
Current Draw: 25 mA
Input Impedance: 10 MOhm
Output Impedance: 100 Ohm
This device takes a standard 9 volt DC power supply with a 2.1mm negative center barrel. EarthQuaker recommends pedal-specific, transformer-isolated wall-wart power supplies or multiple isolated-output supplies. Pedals will make extra noise if there is ripple or unclean power. Switching-type power supplies, daisy chains and non-pedal specific power supplies do not filter dirty power as well and let through unwanted noise. DO NOT RUN AT HIGHER VOLTAGES!
Modern guitar virtuoso, Sarah Lipstate A/K/A Noveller demonstrates how she uses the EarthQuaker Devices Swiss Thing to help her wrestle the pedals she employs for her magnificent soundscapes into submission.