Review: EarthQuaker Devices Plumes

When EarthQuaker launches a new overdrive based on the legendary Ibanez TS808 Tube Screamer, you know it’s going to be more than just a straight tribute.

earthquaker devices plumes

Review Overview

Our rating


Our verdict

Not a Tube Screamer clone, just a terrific mids-focused OD.

First came the Palisades, a multi-mode overdrive from EarthQuaker Devices that took the classic Tube Screamer sound and added lashings of tonal versatility. Then came the Dunes, a stripped-down version designed to be easier on both the pedalboard and the wallet. And now comes the Plumes, which is… a bit confusing, at least initially.

While this is the only one of those three pedals that’s actually green – step one in the ‘how to build a Screamer’ manual – a number of design choices on the inside, including JFET op-amps and much higher input impedance, mean it’s actually heading a little further away from the sonic source than its predecessors. Or maybe more than a little.

The Plumes may lack the switching flexibility of its big brothers, but we’re promised a more refined core tone instead – with more chime, more clarity and lower noise than a standard TS-type. And it’s not purely a three-knob thumper: a single toggle switch in the middle lets you flip between three different clipping modes.

There’s also a ‘reimagined’ EQ circuit, plus EarthQuaker’s clever Flexi-Switch tech – if you hold down the footswitch, it goes back to bypass as soon as you release it. This is a potentially handy feature if your egomaniac lead singer only lets you play lead for two bars at a time.

EQD Plumes top shot white background

In use

There are four things that happen when you stomp on a Tube Screamer. Well, five if you include the little light coming on, but let’s focus on the audible ones: a cut to the bottom end, a bump in the upper mids, a softening of the transient spikes and, of course, some nice low/medium-gain overdrive. The Plumes provides a super-sized portion of number four, but the rest is more complicated.

With tone at halfway, you do get a tightening up of the bass and a moderate boost to the midrange, but the top end is wide open – there’s very little compression here to blunt the attack of fierce single coils. The result can be extremely likeable, especially when giving a leg-up to an already overdriven amp, but it’s not forgiving.

The nature of the drive itself depends on how you set that toggle switch. Mode one is symmetrical clipping with a pair of LEDs and has a Marshall-like boldness with plenty of power on tap; mode two is op-amp drive with no diodes and swaps some of that gain for extra clarity and headroom; and mode three, with asymmetrical silicon diodes, is as close as the Plumes gets to the soft-edged squishiness of the classic TS sound.

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. You just have to pretend it isn’t green.

Key Features

  • PRICE £105
  • DESCRIPTION Overdrive pedal, made in USA
  • CONTROLS Level, tone, gain, three-way clipping mode switch
  • FEATURES Flexi-Switch latching or non-latching footswitch; true bypass; powered by 9V mains supply only (not included)
  • DIMENSIONS 126 x 66 x 57mm
  • CONTACT EarthQuaker Devices

Like this? Try these…


Get the latest news, reviews and features to your inbox.


The world’s leading authority and resource for all things guitar.

Join our mailing list

Sign Up Now

© 2023 is part of NME Networks.