Everything You Need To Know About EarthQuaker Pedals
As it turns out, guitar pedal addiction is a very real thing; and a problem that afflicts 9 in every 10 guitarists. If you play guitar, there is a very good chance you not only know the name EarthQuaker Devices, but you also know the “vibe” of an EQD pedal. What may be even cooler than the sounds these stompboxes can create, is the story of how this company started. More on that below...
EarthQuaker Devices was founded in 2004 by musician Jamie Stillman. Known as a guitarist in a variety of bands, Stillman also operated the Donut Friends record label from his home in Kent, Ohio, which built up a cult following.
Always fond of overdrives and other various boxes o’ dirt, Jamie got bit by the pedal bug after he successfully fixed a broken overdrive pedal. This blossomed into a fascination with electronics and circuit design. It wasn’t long before he began selling his earliest pedals on eBay after spending untold hours late at night dreaming and building them up. Living at a small apartment known as “218 Westwood”, this was the place that Jamie lit a carpet on fire, built his earliest designs for friends, and even destroyed an amp with a pedal. Who knew?! It was also the place where it all started.
After a few years of successful pedal sales, Jamie released a fuzz pedal known as “The Hoof” - the very first Earthquaker pedal to have its own full production run! Inspired by the guitar tones from a live Black Keys gig, The Hoof sought to recreate that massive guitar tone that was so huge, it left no room for a bassist. “Using a hybrid silicon/germanium design and hand-matched transistors, Stillman cracked the code on a crushing fuzz sound that preserves low-end (even on bass!) and retains clarity even when cranked.”
💥 FRET12 PROTIP: Hell, if you’d like to see the video that inspired it all, it’s still on YouTube!
The Hoof became very well-known in the guitar community, as its unique design and great tones led to plenty of chatter on guitar forums. Word spread so well that eventually Jamie was able to quit his day job and go full time into building pedals, where he estimates that he sold around 2000 devices between ‘06 and ‘10.
The earliest ‘proper’ Earthquaker pedals (Hoof, Grand Orbiter, Disaster Transport, Hummingbird, Ghost Echo) were all made in the basement of Stillman’s West Akron home known as 467 Letchworth. To keep up with orders. It was also in this basement that Jamie conjured up a real-deal pedal factory with a team of nine employees. Jamie’s daughters affectionately referred to these electronics wizards as “the basement people.”
It was at this point that they realized that the company was outgrowing its locations, so they set out in 2011 to find some new digs. Jamie’s wife Julie Robbins, (who prior to EQD managed her own talent booking agency) left her position in the banking industry to join the company full-time as CEO. With Robbins’ business acumen backing Stillman’s innovative designs, the team relocated their wizard’s lair to an abandoned glass factory, and then again to a vacant automotive paint warehouse.
In 2015, they renovated the two-story, 15,000 sq. ft. building it currently occupies. Having found a permanent home for 53+ employees and 40+ Devices, EarthQuaker Devices finally has a place big enough to call home, and ideally suited to create their electronics masterpieces.
These pedals aren’t just any old handmade creation, however. These pro-spec devices meet or exceed the needs of any professional touring musician. R&D is performed in-house by the man himself: Jamie Stillman.
In addition to going above and beyond in the quest for tonal goodness, Earthquaker also applies this philosophy to the design and manufacture of their products. For instance, while they could just screen print their artwork on, EQD uses a UV printer to make sure their unique artwork is crisp and will never fade or wear off. They use CNC machines to ensure their metal enclosures are both perfectly-proportioned as well as consistent.
Rather than paint the aforementioned enclosures with pretty colors, they use an external expert in powder coating to give these boxes their look and feel. (In case you didn’t know- powder coating is a color/coating technique used commonly in automotive/industrial applications that is literally “baked-on” - as the dry powder chemicals are bonded electrostatically to the metal using heat or UV light.)
By 2020, as the entire world found itself finding new ways to work amidst a global pandemic, so too did the Earthquaker crew. Being that they work in a setting that requires specialty (and expensive) tools such as solder baths and UV printers, powdercoaters and other logistical issues; the team got creative in finding safe ways to make sure they could keep that earth-moving guitar FX goodness flowing during this crazy time. See how they did it here:
“We believe that effects pedals should be simple and user-friendly, with lots of practical, useable, and musical sounds, but should also be a launchpad for sonic exploration and aural innovation. Most of all, they should always work correctly all of the time, which is why each and every single EarthQuaker Devices pedal is hand built, hand tested, and guaranteed for life. We use only the highest quality components, but if for some crazy reason your pedal does break, send it back to us and we will fix it for you!” -EarthQuaker Devices