EarthQuaker Devices Erupter Review
A stupidly simple fuzz delivers artfully complex, chaotic, and controlled distortion sounds.
When you’re in a smash-it-up, search-and-destroy kind of guitar mode, few things sate the inner troglodyte like a one-knob fuzz. One-knob fuzzes historically existed for a single reason—because two knob fuzzes are hideously complicated affairs that obstruct direct expression of the fuzz id.
The problem with EQD’s latest one-knob fuzz—at least from the caveman perspective—is that it feels, well, thoughtful! Here is a stupidly simple-on-the-surface stomp that manages nuance, variation—even touch sensitivity for crying out loud! In fact, you might spend a long time after your Erupter experience reflecting deeply on the rather immense potential and possibilities of the pedal—which might make the Erupter the most paradoxically thought-provoking one-knob fuzz since Colorsounds walked the Earth.
In describing the Erupter design process, EQD founder Jamie Stillman discussed other paradoxes he encountered. The most vexing? The simpler he made his creation, the more essential it became that every part and component value was exactly right. His many-year quest to get everything just so is plain to see on the circuit board, which is laid out carefully and economically, and populated by top-flight components.
Bite From Bias
Erupter’s single knob doesn’t control volume or gain. Instead, it controls bias, or the flow of voltage to the circuit. The gain or fuzz level is effectively the same as a gain knob set to maximum. Volume, meanwhile, is fixed somewhere just north of really loud. That means using your guitar volume to control your overall output. Thankfully that works really well with Erupter—no small feat for a silicon fuzz.
Voltage-starved circuits can sound pretty lousy, or at least functionally limited, when they’re not executed well. Erupter’s lowest bias settings, however, sound amazing at their spittiest and nastiest—especially when bridge single-coils drive the works. Neck single-coils, meanwhile, smooth the output while retaining some of the gated splat on top, which showcases the Erupter's cool knack for delivering full-spectrum fuzz and splatty harmonic decay simultaneously. If you like a more substantial foundation for your mayhem, humbuckers are an even better fit.
Some of my favorite sounds came with the bias control in the 9 to 11 o’ clock range. These settings retain many of the exciting random and fractured qualities of the more voltage-starved settings. But they have a fuller and more harmonically rich foundation, and there are scores of cool, killer compromises between the two voices. One of the more remarkable byproducts of these fat-but-splatty sounds is the ability to play complex or first-position chords with clear note-to-note fundamentals flying beneath disintegrating fuzz tones. What’s better still is that you can taper your guitar tone to effectively and discernably shape and color that chaos. Volume attenuation at these settings also yields awesome tones in the shape of rich, growling overdrive sounds. It’s a wonder how responsive the pedal is at these levels.
Erupter’s magical noon position (a sweet spot marked by a potentiometer detente) showcases the pedal’s harmonic balance. Leaving guitar volume all the way up favors the pedal’s substantial midrange, which can sound a bit harsh with single-coils and bright amps—particularly given how loud Erupter is. But back off the guitar volume just a bit and those high-mid spikes recede into the background and the Erupter becomes less fuzz than distortion. (Steve Jones’ grinding power chord tones from Never Mind the Bollocks are a useful point of reference here.) Even at these lower guitar volumes, lead tones still bite and sting.
Past the magic noon hour, the tones become explosive but slightly less appealing—at least to my ear. And while the Erupter retains lots of harmonic detail clockwise from noon, some of the pedal’s dynamism is blunted by the sheer loudness and the extra headroom, which takes some sweetness and complexity from the distortion. These settings seem most effective when a stage mix is dense and you absolutely have to get a solo out over the din.
Erupter is no boneheaded fuzz. It’s an artfully executed circuit that enables even more artful approaches to fuzz and distortion textures. It’s most rewarding when you succumb to the chaotic pleasures of voltage-starved fuzz. But the ease with which you can blend these tones with rich harmonic distortion—and the pedal’s musical responsiveness to guitar tone adjustments and volume attenuation—make it a perfect point of entry for neophyte fuzz experimentalists and veteran voyagers to the wild side alike.
Watch the Review Demo: