By Tobi Parks
When I first got word I’d be reviewing the newest EarthQuaker Devices pedal, I was beyond excited. I have 3 EarthQuaker pedals on my board already as they are one of my favorite manufacturers. Not only is every pedal handmade, but the EarthQuaker team is creative, artist friendly, and truly a one-of-a-kind operation. Needless to say, I couldn’t wait to find out what I was getting!!!
Then, I found out I was reviewing a vibrato pedal…and my heart sank a little. I love EarthQuaker pedals, so I was expecting something unique, but the Aqueduct is a vibrato pedal. How crazy could it be? Oh, how wrong I was!
When first plugging in the Aqueduct, I knew from its initial sounds I was not dealing with a “standard” vibrato pedal. The Aqueduct has compiled a diverse range of sounds in only 3 controls: Rate, Depth, and the Wave Selector. With 8 modulation modes, you can go from traditional vibrato to otherworldly sounds with a few minor adjustments. Sine, Triangle, Ramp, and Square modes offer pitch modulation that adds subtle textures; The Envelope settings – Depth, Rate, and Pitch- allow you to modulate those features by how hard you strike the strings; and the Random mode couldn’t be a more apt description. On lower settings there is a “warped record” sound, but increasing the Depth lends itself to insane pitch bends.
The simplicity of the pedal allows for quick and easy experimentation for pedal novices to create unique sounds that fit most any style. Even though navigation is simple, it does not disappoint the true pedal geek. Those that spend enough time playing with the Aqueduct can really expand the pedal’s tonal qualities to include chorus, flange, and tactile tremolo bar-like pitch bends.
One of my favorite features is EarthQuaker Devices’ proprietary Flex-Switch feature; allowing users to press and hold the footswitch for momentary bursts of effected sound. Pretty convenient if you’re looking for cool bursts, blips, and synth-like stabs without sloppy double clicking.
The only potential drawback of the Aqueduct is its True Bypass technology. Many folks love this technology as the signal bypasses the pedals circuitry in the off position for a true, unaltered signal. For some, the buffering provided by pedals without True Bypass helps condition the signal allowing it to flow through longer chains without degradation. This is really based on a player’s taste and preference. I use 10 pedals on my most robust board and didn’t have issues when integrating the Aqueduct.
I have already integrated the Aqueduct on a number of different applications on both guitar and bass. Even though I was initially skeptical, the Aqueduct is simply one of the most versatile and easy to use “vibrato” (quotes because it’s so much more than that) pedals on the market. EarthQuaker Devices has come through again with a pedal that can be used in both traditional and experimental settings with just a few knob twists. True to form, EarthQuaker Devices has released another pedal that has exceeded my expectations.
Tobi Parks is a composer, bass player, and music business entrepreneur. She’s been in a number of bands including the bands Bambi, The Cliks, The Star Death, Is That You?, and Grandpa’s Ghost. As a solo performer and session player, she has worked with Cyndi Lauper, Margaret Cho, Darin Gray, Tim Garrigan, Keith Rowe, Mark Shippy, and video artist James Fotopoulos among others. She has composed for both television and film. She currently plays with the indie chanteuse Lily DeTaeye and is the founder and Executive Director of Station 1 Records, a non-profit artist entrepreneurship and development organization.
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