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

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

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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

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