EarthQuaker Devices Pyramids Review
There’s no end to the adventures in flanging made possible by this deep, DSP-driven modulator.
Huge range of unique flange sounds. Smart, well-executed control layout. Immersive stereo sounds.
Can take time to get a feel for controls. Could use a deeper, chewier analog-style voice.
Ease of Use:
If EarthQuaker Devices has managed one thing in the last decade (and clearly they’ve managed many impressive pedal tricks), it’s a magic mix of the weird and the practical. And though they’ve made stranger pedals than the Pyramids DSP stereo flanger , it’s hard to think of one that better embodies EarthQuaker’s walk in the shadowlands between the odd and the approachable.
As the compliment of eight knobs, two footswitches, and a lone mini toggle suggests, it’s deeper than the average flanger. At times—especially in the get-to-know-you phase—that complexity makes it tricky to find flanger recipes that are easy to coax from simpler units. But if Pyramids isn’t always exactly intuitive, it’s forgiving—offering accessible points of entry useful for old-school flanger fans and the multi-function averse. And for those willing to take the trip, Pyramids willingly moves between familiar flanging textures and more intense, synth-like sound worlds.
A Deep and Sensitive Soul
Sometimes the trickiest thing about Pyramids is not the number of knobs, but the sensitivity, nuances, and intricacies of the controls themselves. The eight voices (accessed via the rotary mode switch) include a “classic” flanger, a through-zero mode (a rich voice derived from a modulated signal preceding a dry signal), barber pole up and barber pole down modes, trigger up and down modes (where pick attack, the tap tempo switch, or a side-chain external source triggers a return to the beginning of the phase cycle), a sequencer-like step mode, and a random phase mode that will please chaotically aligned spirits and weirdoes. Between these eight modes, Pyramids generates innumerable voices. But the differences can be very subtle—especially at low volume and at nuanced wet/dry mix levels.
Two controls are especially critical to understanding, unlocking, and managing Pyramids’ sensitive side. The first is the mix knob: a simple wet/dry control that helps you foreground or duck the modulated signal as needed. It’s positively invaluable, especially when wilder phasing textures are in the mix. It’s also very satisfying to use in a painterly sort of way, enabling subtle shifts in shade and color with small, incremental adjustments. The feedback control is equally critical, but it’s a trickier-to-wrangle function—especially if you’re accustomed to the more gently tapered and nebulous shifts you get from an analog phaser’s feedback control. Keep in mind: This sensitivity is a good thing when you master it. And the ability to dial in small amounts of positive or negative feedback on either side of the 12 o’clock position enables pointillist-level detail when you’re shaping a radical phase tone to suit a specific instrument, amp, or effects chain. But it is highly interactive with the other controls and it takes practice to master it.
Another challenge is navigating the sheer number of sounds Pyramids’ very interactive controls create. It’s a pedal with a lot of personalities. The classic voice is slightly reedier than most analog bucket-brigade flangers in my collection. But that’s a good thing given how many modifying textures you can stack on top of that basic voice. If it was too gooey and dark, it could muddy radical feedback settings, which can be very valuable in dense mixes. The less bossy flange voice also means you can extract really pretty and understated chorusing and ADT-style effects that add beautiful traces of atmosphere at lower mix levels—particularly in stereo setups. It’s easy to imagine these effects sounding fantastic in spare band arrangements and recordings.
The through-zero mode is even more immersive in stereo applications, and though more extreme versions of this texture will be a major selling point for players that prefer consciousness-warping flavors of flange, it, too, adds lovely shading at low mix levels as long as you’re careful with feedback and width settings. It’s also the ticket to the most vintage- and tape-style flange textures. “Itchycoo Park” visitors sign in here. The barber pole settings, meanwhile, are a thing of beauty—particularly in dreamy, ambient, reverb-heavy settings. The subtle, mysteriously spiraling flanging fits well with moody and melodic chords.
Though the trigger settings can be tricky to control at first, they give you a much greater measure of control of where your phase passages begin. At high intensity levels, it can enable theatrical death-ray effects that you can time to riffs or a stomp on the tap-tempo switch. When used in a side-chain setup, it helps build tightly arranged phase effects that move with rhythmic passages in a song. Step mode adds a cool, sequencer-style, rhythmic underpinning to the flange and is among the modes most flattered by high mix rates. Random mode is especially effective in the slow toggle setting and at slower-to-medium tempo rates that showcase the fractured intricacies of the mixed modulation signal. It’s killer for enlivening stale or simple riffs and sounds, and especially awesome and expansive with a generous helping of reverb or carefully synched delay on the back end.
Pyramids is a deep, capable, fun flanger with more voices and sounds than could possibly be covered in this review. In fact, we barely touched on Pyramids’ most radical sounds, which any sound sculptor chasing unusual modulation shades should explore. It’s complexity means you’ll want to spend real time getting to understand its intricacies—particularly if you’re chasing very specific textures and expect to use it in a live situation. But it definitely rewards intuitive exploration. It’s also easy to imagine Pyramids shining as an outboard effect in a studio, and particularly if you’re into active, performative mixing. Pyramids is not always easy to master. But for users who put in the homework, it offers uncommon sounds, unusual tone recipes, and extra dimensions to an already colorful effect.
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