What is it?
EarthQuaker Devices has got some incredibly weird and wonderful stompboxes but every now and again it comes up with something like the Plumes – a low to medium-gain overdrive pedal (opens in new tab) with a few clever tricks.
Seeing an overdrive housed in a green enclosure always elicits a Pavlovian association with the most-famous drive pedals of all, and EarthQuaker has designed a circuit that can deliver that sort of gain. But with three distinct clipping modes, accessed via toggle switch, it gives the Plumes hidden depths.
You can use the Earthquaker Devices Plumes Small Signal Shredder as a low-gain overdrive or boost, the sort of thing you have on all the time – in the background, layering, adding heat and grit – or step on it for something bolder.
Choose from symmetrical LED clipping for an aggressive crunch, no-diode OpAmp clipping for the said transparent boost/overdrive, and asymmetrical silicone diode for TS-style drive.
The Plumes has three controls on top for Level, Gain and Tone, and when you bring these into play with each clipping mode, there's a lot of room to manoeuvre.
Performance and verdict
We like pedals like this. There is no need to reach for the manual; just find a spot for it on your pedalboard and get on with it. Three overdrives in one, and three controls to dial in the drive and tone that you need.
Let's look at the first mode first. Symmetrical LED clipping is where you'll find the Plumes operating at the very limits of its crunchiness. Super crunchy, light on its feet, with plenty of midrange character via the tone control should you need it.
Yet there's still plenty of definition, ideal for indie-rock jangle and playing chords safe in the knowledge the audience will hear all the notes.
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Altogether, there is a remarkable lack of floor noise, with EarthQuaker's preference for JFET OpAmps paying off. That second mode is the sort of thing you might leave on all the time. The dynamics are quite something, with the OpAmp just pushing your amp.
If your amp is clean, it'll respond with a little grit. If its gritty, it gets into that musically alive crunch which is so much fun, and so often where the magic happens. As for the third mode, that's where you'll get some of those TS-style drive tones.
The gain is dynamic, tube-like, and classic. Disciples of SRV might park themselves there for the night. But it would be a mistake to think of the Plumes as simply a Tube Screamer clone. It has a lot more going on. The Flexi-Switch performance is excellent if you just need to kick it on the effect for a couple of bars (in bypass, simply step on it and hold your foot on it and when you take it off it's in bypass mode again).
The build is tip-top. As we said, it's quiet, the top-mounted jacks save space. The switching is silent, and for 100 bucks this is an incredible overdrive pedal that's sure to play well with others and guaranteed to play well with your amp.
MusicRadar verdict: The Plumes is a very persuasive drive that offers three great-sounding flavours at a price that makes it a no-brainer.
The web says
"A common complaint about Screamer-style overdrives is that they sometimes sound a bit over-processed. That’s not a problem with Plumes, as its overdrive is very organic and natural-sounding, and provides the dynamic give and take of plugging directly into an overdriven tube amp. While there is a notable (and intentional) midrange boost, it hits an ideal sweet spot that makes the guitar’s tone full, rich and sweet with a vocal-like singing quality instead of a nasal honk."
Guitar World (opens in new tab)
"The Plumes exhibits more clarity and articulation than the typical Screamer, with enhanced string-to-string separation in dirty settings and none of the “TS haze” that many similar pedals slather over your basic tone. The midrange is slightly pronounced, which is typical of a TS-style pedal, though not distractingly so. Both low-end and high-end content are distinct and impressive."
Premier Guitar (opens in new tab)
"The tone control lets you tame the top end without getting woolly – it actually sounds lovely at zero – but there’s no way of pushing the mids without also sharpening up the treble. That’s where the Plumes reveals itself to be, essentially, not a Tube Screamer… but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a fine overdrive in its own right."
Guitar (opens in new tab)
Riffs, Beards & Gear
- TYPE: Overdrive
- CONTROLS: Level, Tone, Gain, Mode, Flexi-Switch
- SOCKETS: Input, output, power
- BYPASS: True bypass
- POWER: 9V DC, current draw 25 mA
- CONTACT: Earthquaker Devices (opens in new tab)