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EarthQuaker Devices launches the Special Cranker, “an overdrive you can trust”

After the tantalising tease of an ‘80s-style TV commercial on YouTube hosted by Cranker & Cranker, EarthQuaker Devices has released the Special Cranker – an updated overdrive pedal based on the out-of-production Speaker Cranker.

The Special Cranker has existed as a special run for the Japanese market, but now it gets a wider release with a redesigned enclosure, offering what the Akron, Ohio guitar effects pedal company describes as “an overdrive you can trust”. 

Given that EQD founder and president Jamie Stillman describes the original Speaker Cranker as his favourite drive pedal ever, the Special Cranker promises to be a pedal worth checking out. But what can we expect from it once it is on the pedalboard?

EarthQuaker Devices Special Cranker

(Image credit: EarthQuaker Devices)

Part of the original Speaker Cranker’s appeal was the single-knob design. Like EQD’s Acapulco Gold, the simplicity served as a handy short-cut to the tone you were chasing. The Special Cranker has an expanded control set. The More knob remains, and is joined by controls for Level and Tone, plus a two-way mini-toggle for selecting silicon or germanium clipping. 

With more controls at hand to shape your tone, the Special Cranker posits itself as more versatile than its out-of-production predecessor, but the idea is the same. As EQD says: it’s like sticking an extra preamp tube in your guitar amp, meaning it won’t step all over your electric guitar tone, but instead flatter it with sparkling drive, sexing up the harmonics, adding depth, crunch and sustain, and all that good stuff.

“The Special Cranker is designed to preserve your tone’s integrity without muddying up the low-end or smearing the midrange,” says EQD. 

The Level control sets the pedal’s output volume, with unity gain found between 10 and noon depending on whether you’re in the silicon or germanium mode. As for those diodes, choose silicon for “brighter and more modern” tones, germanium for transparency. 

The More knob, meanwhile, dials in gain by controlling the bias of the transistor, and how it will react will depend on your electric guitar pickups. Finally, the Tone knob can boost or cut high frequencies, and around three o’clock on the chickenhead dial you should find a flat response.

The Special Cranker uses Flexi-Switch tech that allows you to use momentary and latching switching, and it takes a 9v DC pedalboard power supply. And it is available now, priced $99. See EarthQuaker Devices for more details.

Jonathan Horsley has been writing about guitars and guitar culture since 2005, playing them since 1990, and regularly contributes to MusicRadar, Total Guitar and Guitar World. He uses Jazz III nylon picks, 10s during the week, 9s at the weekend, and shamefully still struggles with rhythm figure one of Van Halen’s Panama.