First Impressions: Earthquaker Devices Dunes Drive Pedal

I don’t have a lot of experience with Earthquaker Devices. Over here, they’re a pretty rare brand, and pricey too. I have had both versions of their Speaker Cranker pedal at various points, and I really liked them.

Am I going to like the Dunes as much?

Let’s Not Mince Words

Within minutes of putting this pedal on my board, I’d stopped exploring what it offers, and was back to simply enjoying my Les Paul once again. Any pedal that gives me that kind of reaction is a keeper.

The other drive pedals that I’ve tried this month have been interesting, sometimes frustrating, and have certainly offered me new options. Well made, definitely usable, but over time, they’re going to end up towards the back of the shelf or (in the case of the Wampler Paisley Deluxe) moved on.

This pedal has everything the other pedals didn’t quite hit: well-balanced tone that works with both humbuckers and single coils alike, some of the best pick dynamics I can remember in a long time, fantastic clarity thanks to excellent string separation.

If the Earthquaker Devices Dunes is going to be my last acquisition until the world recovers from the pandemic, it’s a great bookend for this current run.

What Is It?

At its heart, the Dunes is another TubeScreamer. At least, that’s what the included booklet says. It’s a stripped down version of their Palisades drive from 2014, with their favourite options retained (and, presumably, tweaked a bit too?)

If I’m sounding a tiny bit skeptical, it’s because the Dunes sounds great into a completely clean amp. I can’t think of any other TS clones that I’d choose to use in this kind of setup. I’ll grab some other TubeScreamer-based pedals off the shelf in a moment to compare against it.

Why Did I Buy It?

It’s not so much an unplanned purchase, as one I decided to bring forward on the spur of the moment.

I tried this in the shop last year. I think it was when I tried Fender’s MTG, but I don’t remember exactly. I was definitely A/B’ing two pedals, and the Dunes was the one that didn’t come home with me that day.

At the time, I was impressed at how well just about any guitar sounded through the Dunes – especially guitars that don’t have the most standout sound to them. My plan was to start getting into the Earthquaker Devices pedals later this year.

Today, our shop closed its physical doors for now, thanks to the pandemic. (They’re still doing online sales, for as long as supplies and delivery services hold up.) We didn’t know it was coming; we just happened to be there to stock up on spare strings to see us through the next few months.

I can’t overstate how great AStrings has been for our local community – and me personally – in the last five plus years. I know it’s not much, but buying what I could from there felt like the right thing to do. So, on the spot, I said ‘sod it’ and bought the Dunes now, instead of waiting until when I’d planned to get it.

Stripped Down, But Feature-Packed

The Dunes has three different toggle switches on the front. They all make quite a difference to the end sound.

I really appreciate both the ‘Normal/Bright’ and the ‘Bandwidth’ toggles. So far, I’ve been able to find a combination of these to work with any of the guitars I’ve tried. Not just different guitars, but also both neck and bridge pickups.

That description doesn’t do this pedal justice. This isn’t a pedal that sounds great with one guitar, and simply okay or usable with a different kind. Les Paul, Strat, Tele or PRS: it sounds great with every single one of these that I’ve tried this evening.

Final Thoughts

I know I’m gushing over this pedal. It’s partly because of how well it compares to the other drive pedals I’ve been playing this month. That’s why I like getting my hands on as much different gear as I can. Sometimes, you need to be able to compare pedals to appreciate what each of them offers.

Earthquaker Devices pedals are expensive – even second hand. (I paid full retail for mine!) It’s a lot easier to swallow that cost when the pedal’s as adaptable as the Dunes is.

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