Though guitarists rarely regard it as such, equalization is among the most potent effects. Consider how many guitarists chase some elusive fuzz tone, only to discover it was EQed within a inch of its life in the studio, transformed into some unrecognizable version of itself that even the most profligate vintage tone chaser can never own.
Yes, EQ is a powerful thing. It’s also nothing new. Pedalboard EQs have been fixtures for years—simple, surefire tools for coping with an unruly fuzz, guitar, or amp. But Flex Waves Flex EQ7 makes the case that pedalboard EQ can be much more interactive. Through the crafty use of presets and banks, it puts copious EQ flavors at your feet, letting you radically transform and expand your palette without adding scores of pedals.
A 7-band EQ lies at the heart of this little machine, occupying the middle third of the pedal’s face. The skinny frequency-band sliders are smartly spaced—you can adjust each one without errantly changing the position of its neighbors. The firm but smooth fader action also helps prevent accidental shifts and specify precise settings. A small black button switches between preset and bank modes (plus a link mode for connecting additional Flex Wave pedals). The EQ7 is well built: The jacks feel near-bulletproof, and even the enclosure’s interior is painted the same glossy white as the exterior.
Flexible Shape Shifter
Once you get the hang of the EQ7, it can become addictive. Whether you want to use profound tone shifts to define sections within a tune, or switch EQ profiles to accommodate multiple instruments, you may wonder how you lived without it.
I jumped in with a Fender Jaguar with Seymour Duncan Jaguar Hot pickups—a guitar I have a love/hate relationship with. It sounds great for bubbly, bluesy solos and crunchy rock, but it can be muddy on more traditional/trebly Jaguar applications. It didn’t take long to dial in an EQ setting that transformed the Jag: +10 to12 dB boosts at 1.6 kHz, 3.2 kHz, and 6.4 kHz, plus a 5 dB cut at 40 Hz. This setting recaptured the guitar’s sparkle, with a cool Gretsch/Rickenbacker character in the high-mids. Indeed, this setting introduced an almost semi-hollowbody “aura.” It was the first hint that the EQ7 can unlock the colors hiding in your guitar.
The EQ7 was similarly transformative on my somewhat thin-toned E Series Stratocaster, which sounded fuller and more resonant with a little extra level and 5dB bumps in the 100 Hz and 200hz bands. The pedal is also fantastically useful for fine-tuning fuzz or overdrive, and for such less obvious applications as emphasizing hard tremolo pulses. Adding a few dB at 1.6 kHz, 3.2 kHz, and 6.4 kHz made my Wattson FY-2 clone sound fat and lacerating on the top end. It also added midrange heaviness to my Fuzzrite. Meanwhile, the exceptionally quiet EQ7 added no perceptible noise to those already hissing and spitting fuzzes.
The keys to fully utilizing the EQ7 onstage are the eight presets and the banks to which you assign them. You switch between preset and bank modes via the small black mode button. If you only use a single preset per song, preset mode is an easy way to navigate using footswitch clicks. (It’s simple to save presets by holding down the footswitch.) If you require multiple presets per song, you’ll probably use bank mode. While assigning presets to a bank takes time, it makes it much easier to navigate a set of them on the fly.
But as easy as it is to load presets and banks in a controlled environment, doing so in the heat of a performance requires practice and attention. While the single-footswitch layout makes the EQ7 space-efficient, it presents real-world challenges when navigating in the adrenalized environs of the stage.
The EQ7 may be overkill for players who don’t switch between disparate-sounding pickups over the course of a performance or use radical EQ shifts as an expressive tool. But if you regularly move between hot humbuckers and thin single-coils, utilize tone contrasts as a compositional tool, or just want a solo to pop in a particular way, you’ll find the EQ7 to be a potent piece of hardware. Using presets and banks on the fly takes practice, and the process doesn’t always sound or feel perfectly seamless. But transparent, noise-free performance and sheer tone-shaping power make this pedal exceptionally useful and expressive.