I am Jamie Stillman, President and Product Designer of EarthQuaker Devices effects pedals. AMA!
How did you know that’s what I was gonna say? He’s an amazing player, a super nice guy, gets my sense of humor and always picks the right songs. Blues dudes and experimental dudes can both understand him too, that always helps.
When you gonna call me back?
When you gonna call me before 3am? 😄 I’m confirmed the worlds worst “friend”, I never stay in touch.
Back in 2007, I posted a thread on Harmony Central about some transistors I had found. You, or someone from your company replied to it with some information and said that you/they were looking for some of the ones I had (specifically, 2N1308s). I believe I sent a package of them in the mail shortly after that.
Do you use this particular transistor in a design anymore and if so, can you tell me which pedal? I'd really like to hear how it sounds.
That was me! I designed the dirt transmitter around the epitaxial transistors from that bunch and I used 2n1308’s in the hoof. I ended up tracking down a few thousand of them after that and used them for quite a while. A few hundred of the earlier hoofs (sub 1000 I think) use those.
What do you think about the situation with Digitech's entire staff being put on 60 days notice?
Total bullshit. I don’t know tom but we have a lot of mutual friends and I hear he’s a great dude. DOD was one of my all time favorite companies and it seemed like he was trying to bring it back how it should be. The rubberneck delay is amazing.
Jamie - huge fan of your product as well as the way that you built and run your business. I’m a fellow Ohioan and I hope I get to take a tour someday. I have a few questions:
1) I’ve taken up pedal building and modding and to be honest I enjoy building more than I do playing. I’ve decided I eventually want to build/mod professionally. Aside from just taking the leap of faith you got any pro tips?
2) it’s no joke that your staff is building these circuits by hand, like these aren’t simple builds. How many pedals is a team member building in a day. I’m assuming some of the fuzz boxes aren’t that tough, but like how many avalanche runs can a dude/gal build in a day?
3) when was the first time you were blown away that an artist was playing one of your pedals. Like “oh shit _________ is playing one of my pedals”
OH And here is a picture of MY EQD BOARD that I’m absolutely crazy about, i lose myself in this thing, it really inspires me to play - so thanks for that!
1- that’s awesome, designing pedals is a lot of fun! Just be prepared to be patient and really make sure you love it. It can be very hard and there are soooo many pedal companies around right now.
2- they are all really good at what they do, the numbers really vary. We can make about 1000 pedals on average a week. We are constantly trying to simplify the process without loosing quality. Avalanche runs are too difficult to populate by hand, they are done by robots down the street from our shop but we assemble them all in house.
3- the first time Juan Aldrete got in touch with me, I think it was in 2010.
Woah! Just saw your board... awesome! Thank you!!
What's your favorite Boss pedal?
Either the vb-2, dm-2, rv-6 or blues driver. Can’t decide. The original harmonist should be mentioned too.
If you had to eat one of the Teletubbies, which one would it be?
How much time did you have to spend in front of a fully cranked Sunn Model T to get the Acapulco Gold right?
I played drums in a band where the guitar player used a model T and an or120 though a bunch of cabs. I had that blasting me in the face in a 10x10 room for 4hrs a week for 2 years. I basically did it from memory. Painful memory.
Hey Jamie, Love your devices. Incredible inspirational Instruments.
EQD Ring Mod, when can we expect one?
Thank you so much! I’ve worked on several ideas for a ring modulator but none have landed. The maestro ring modulator is my favorite and it’s a tough one to beat. If I could make something with that sound but more options I’d be happy. Until that happens, I’ll keep trying.
If it can be anything as awesome and in depth as the Pyramids or Palisades then I’m sold!
Where would you point someone who wanted to learn how to experiment and design their own pedals?
Same place I started: generalguitargadgets.com, muzique.com, geofex.com and the book “electronics projects for musicians”.
Hey Jamie this is Cole from Levitation in ATX last month. First off, thanks again for hooking me up with the ticket to see RELAXER! My question for you: Why did you choose 'Earthquaker Devices' as the company name?
Hey Cole!! No problem, thanks for coming out! The name EarthQuaker was from a fake metal band some friends of mine used to joke about. I didn’t really think it would end up being a career and used to be kinda embarrassed by the name. Now I like it, looks nice written out 😄
Hi Jamie! What is your favorite lesser known EQD pedal? Also, do you have specific type of pedals that you enjoy designing more than others (dirt, mod, delay, etc.)?
Oh and thanks for making the grand orbiter!! (Love that pedal)
Thanks! The grand orbiter would probably be my favorite of the lesser known pedals. I also really like the speaker cranker (my favorite) and it’s not really well known. I like working on dirt pedals and reverb the most.
Awesome! Thanks! I have the levitation thanks to the youtube demo you did for reverb/Chicago music which was hilarious but also inspiring. Do you recall the "slapback" riff you played, if so was it something you wrote?
Yeah, every demo I do is something I’m just making up on the spot. I rarely remember them 😄
I love my speaker cranker! Do you run it pre or post fuzz?
I’ve done both but I think I prefer it pre-fuzz. I like the way it pushes the fuzz and cuts through. Placing it after most fuzz pedals tightens them up a bit because it cuts out a fair amount of low end.
I really like the concept of the rainbow machine and how experimental it is. How do y’all go about the challenge of creating a new futuristic pedal? It seems most audio effects have been invented at this point, and now its just a matter of messing with and combining it all. Were there any pedals like the rainbow machine that didnt make production?
Yeah, I have a few things in that category that haven’t come out yet and I’m not sure they ever will. Those types of things come from a lot of experimentation, trying to see how far I can take a part or simple concept and still keep it usable. And working... that’s always important.
Has the market been good? Is the market mostly domestic or international? Also, if I may ask, what's your favorite burger joint?
Market has been GREAT for us. The US is the largest for us. In-n-out or a local-ish place called “the rail”.
Love your pedals!!! Currently saving up for a cloven hoof.
Who is your fav musician that uses your companies gear?
Thank you!! That’s a tough one, there are so many. Boris, sleep, high on fire, Tera Melos, thurston moore, Kevin shields, the Mars Volta to make a few.
Hey from Winnipeg, big fan of your pedals. If you could only use one EQD pedal yourself, which one would it be?
Thank you!! Definitely the speaker cranker, I use it all the time. I always feel like something is missing when it’s off.
Thanks everyone! Doing an ama on a phone is kinda hard... Goodnight!
You make a pretty decent number of pedals that are niche to put it mildly... stuff like the Data Corrupter, Arpanoid, and maybe the Pyramids tend to get a lot of reactions along the lines of "wow awesome... but unusable." (I personally love weird pedals like that, and I think people are too quick to make that judgment, but it does happen.) But you keep making really out-there stuff, so I was wondering how you make the economics of that work. Do the weird and wild pedals end up selling well, or are they subsidized by devices that serve a more conventional use case?
Relatedly: is there a particular pedal that you thought should have found a bigger audience than it did, or that you think players missed when it came out and should go back and take another look at?
We sell TONS of the “weird” stuff, most are several thousand deep. Each pedal carries its self but the stand out sellers are afterneath, avalanche run, dispatch master, rainbow machine and hoof. Most of those are over 10,000 or very close to it. The arpanoid is the one pedal where I thought people would flip out but didn’t. I still have hope. We aren’t really well known for our dirt pedals and a lot of those are my favorites.
I have an Arpanoid on my board! I guess it's up to me to show the world what it can do. Thanks for answering!
Go get ‘em!
the Nightwire is one of my favorite pedals. Thanks for that.
What's your favorite breakfast food?
Thank you! I would say pancakes or hash browns. I’m kinda into oatmeal too, is that weird?
Here's your proof: https://twitter.com/EarthQuakerDev/status/994971597026005000
Do you have different setups you guys use to test your pedals and tweak based on them to make your pedals sound good (or even) across the spectrum or you just stick to a specific setup? And how does it look? (Amps, speakers, pickups, guitar, etc.)
Usually all that happens before they go into production. I have tons of different amps, guitars and pedals to test through. I usually stick to the things I know best. If I know how they react there I can pretty much tell how they will work with everything else I have available. My “work rig” in a Nash telecaster into a deluxe reverb.
Hey Jamie, big fan of EQD! Always fun listening to the demo guys play around with something like the Palisades.
What does your signal chain look like on a normal day?
Thanks! Right now: modded spatial delivery>secret booster>speaker cranker >new proto od >Westwood >Erupter >secret proto>rainbow machine > hummingbird >grand orbiter >levitation >afterneath >Avalanche Run.
Thanks for doing the AMA! As a guitarist and PhD student in engineering, I’ve been pretty interested in pedal design as a hobby. It seems like digital is more and more the future of audio effects, and it makes total sense since you can some pretty amazing things with dsp (something that’s clear from the pedals you guys are putting out). I have two questions:
Is there anything in particular that you wish you could do in effects that you don’t think is capable right now, either by digital or analog means? Either because hardware is not capable or it’s hard to conceive a method to do it. Or maybe something that has been done recently that you thinknwas particularly clever, either by eqd or any company?
Also, if someone was interested in exploring dsp (like me), and especially with respect to guitar effects, is there a way to get into it?
I would agree that dsp is still the future in the effects world. I’m actually not very knowledgeable on dsp beyond the fv-1 but I feel like I’ve done very interesting things with what little is available there. That makes me feel like anything is possible with more advanced platforms like the one we designed for the avalanche run and pyramids. I came up with the concept and the hardware was executed by a team of very talented engineers. I’m lucky to have found an engineer who gets my ideas and can execute them. So far we worked on the avalanche run and pyramids together and have a lot of ideas for the future. We haven’t really scratched the surface of what our platform is capable of yet. I wish I could be of more help!
Oh, also thanks for making the Crimson Drive. I found one used in a guitar store and now it's my main drive pedal. Do you have any plans to reissue it?
Thanks!! Well, I’ve released it twice and no one really was drawn to it. The few that were seem to love it. It may see a new life some day but I feel like I have things that could take its place.
Hi Jamie! Love your company, from the aesthetic to the tones. I saw the mini documentary from Knobs and the Hoof doc, and it inspired me to build my first pedal from a kit! I was just wondering if you had any tips or recommendations for someone getting into the pedal building world? Any books that you'd recommend as well? Thanks!
Thank you so much!! I find these to be very valuable resources for learning: generalguitargadgets.com, muzique.com, geofex.com and the book “electronics projects for musicians”.
What's a guitar pedal?
It’s spelled “petal” and it makes the guitar sound different than it did before.
Greetings from Mexico, love your pedals. Why did you discontinued the Pitch Bay? Love mine but seems like it was barely in production. I also have a Monarch that I love but dont see many of those, seems I like the ones not destined for mass consumption.
Thank you! The pitch bay just ran its course. I have ideas for a newer, better pitch bay in the future. The monarch is great on bass. We released it as a diy kit at stewmac.com
Any new delays on the horizon? I love the Space Spiral!
Thank you! I have two pedals that fall into the “delay” category that are nearly finished but I’m not sure when/if they will come out.
Hey Jamie - I love some of the pedals in your back catalog, especially the Dirt Transmitter. Given all the hard work that goes into making them, how do you decide when to discontinue a pedal?
Thank you! Some things just run their course. The dirt transmitter was around for almost 9 years and was never a real strong seller. I felt like I could come up with something better to fit in its place so we let it go. We have been taking the discontinued pedals and turning them into diy kits. You can find them at stewmac!
Hi Jamie, thanks for your time! I'm interested in what it's like to run a pedal-making business. What does your typical day look like? What is your favourite job, and what is your least favourite job? Thanks!
My wife Julie really runs the EQD business and it’s very hard and very time consuming. She’s constantly juggling a million things and managing 50+ people. My typical day is all over the place, I do about a million little things then wonder where all my time went. My favorite thing is designing pedals or running the cnc machine (which I never get to do any more). My least favorite thing is trouble shooting.
I don’t have a question but I just wanted to say hello and thank ya’ll.
I’ve been playing guitar off and on since middle school but got back into it in 2016. In addition to rediscovering guitar, I also fell in love with pedals.
In addition to guitar and pedals, I also love business and seeing EQD and all the other great companies out there building fantastic products, in America, has been a big inspiration to me.
Eventually, I want to bring back Alamo Guitars, a now defunct and forgotten about guitar and amp company from San Antonio, TX. That’s where I live now, haha.
Seeing EQDs continued success shows me that’s possible.
Thanks! I will definitely check those out, I’ve never heard of them. I had an Alamo amp, is it the same company?
Not sure if you’re still in here, but I’m curious how you know when a pedal design is finished. How do you know it’s no longer a prototype and now a product? And how, if at all, has that changed as the company grew?
When I start playing it for hours and it feels like minutes and resist don’t have the urge to change it. I still design pedals the same way as I used to except now I have more fancy testing machines and more people to bounce it off.
I'm yet another person trying to build pedals but I just want to do it to the point where the income pays for my own effects purchases!
I'm about to send a custom pedal to a relatives' employee at his shop. I have no suspicion of anything nefarious (I'm sure he just wants to buy it for personal use) but I would just like to know. What can I do to ensure that my design stays my own, once my stuff is actually out there? I'm cool with copies but it would be tough to see that before I even get off the ground.
What is your process like to design new pedals from a technical standpoint? Do you just start breadboarding? Modding existing designs? Incorporating bits and pieces into a frankenstein circuit?
Thanks in advance!
1- awesome! I don’t really worry about that stuff too much. If someone really wants to reverse engineer something, they’ll find a way to do it no matter what people use for “protection”. I’ve never taken any precautions for it except intentionally confusing trace routing 😄
2- I’ve never really modded any existing pedals except a boss ds-1 and several eqd pedals 😄 lately it goes idea>notebook>breadboard and tweak for endless hours>prototype. I usually go through at least 2 protos before it becomes a “finished” product.
So,any plans for more amps? The sound projector was really cool,I think a 50 watt one would be awesome!
Thank you! Joe Golden did a great job with that amp! No plans for more though, still too busy with pedals. I ageee about the 50 watt version...and 100.
Hey Jamie. I’m a college student getting a degree in mathematical statistics. I found out a little too late that I love guitar effects and synthesizers. I’d like to get a job in this industry someday, and I was wondering what you think the best route for someone like me would be? (being that I have no formal education in electrical engineering or anything that involves building pedals/synths.)
Besides that I just wanna say that I love your pedals and y’all keep doing a great job!
Thank you!!! Compile a resume with any strengths that might lend themselves to audio engineering and start sending them out. People are always looking for someone unique and creative with a passion for engineering. Ask around at namm too.
Hi Jamie, I love your designs!
I build a lot of DIY pedals and I like coming up with my own ideas rather than just building straight clones. I also do a lot of programming/coding for stuff at my day job. But I've never really merged the two (as in DIY DSP).
Do you have any recommendations for someone who's pretty well versed in building pedals to get into DSP? Both on the hardware (what chips to use, separate processor and ADC, etc) and the software side (puredata, assembly, c++, etc). Should I be starting out with a FV1 or something more modular like an arduino?
My dsp knowledge begins and ends with the fv-1 and even that is shaky at best. I know how to make it do wrong things that sound right. I worked with some really talented dsp engineers for things like the arpanoid, avalanche run, pyramids and flexi-switching. I’m really good at sitting next to them and working my ideas out but I’m not the type to get deep in real dsp. I don’t have the brain for it. I’m much more analog but I love working in digital for features sake.
What's your favorite Party of Helicopters song?
Long time fan. Awesome looking pedals.
Thanks! “Reduced to Rubble” is my favorite poh song.
Does EQD need an Electrical Engineer? Asking for a friend.
For real, though, I have too many questions, especially after watching the little history video. My interest in electronics, and ultimately my decision to study electrical engineering, was sparked when I took apart my first amplifier and electric guitar. What's the circuit design process like, from concept to final product? How do you prototype circuits? I noticed in the history video, you had what looked to be breadboards stuck on a thin box.
What resources were the most helpful for you when you first started out?
Where there any stories that you wanted to tell in the mini history video that didn't make it in?
I have the Data Corrupter, and it's one hell of a beast to tame. Do you have any tips or tricks for that pedal?
Maybe! I’ll try to answer all these...
Lately it goes idea>notebook>breadboard>proto>”product” but sometimes I just pick a part to be the “heart” of the effect and see where it goes. I like to experiment a lot but I usually need a concept first.
I build the circuits on a breadboard. They usually go through at least two rounds of production prototypes and a lot of testing by multiple people around the shop before I call it a “product”. The breadboard you saw was a powered breadboard.
General guitar gadgets and the book Electronic projects for musicians were the most valuable resources when I started out. Still are.
I didn’t really talk too much about why I do it which is to play guitar in bands. I have a fairly long history in touring diy “punk” bands that I kinda passed over too.
Thanks! Keep it on glide with the rate just below maximum, play single notes on the neck pickup.
Hi Jamie, thanks for doing an AMA!
Do you use any sort of reusable prototyping rig when making your pedal designs, or do you just start from scratch on a blank breadboard? I just started building DIY pedals within the last couple weeks, and I was thinking some sort of reusable rig might be handy for testing new designs.
Any additional tips you might have for DIYers would be greatly appreciated!
Also, I recently purchased an Avalanche Run, Acapulco Gold, and Erupter, and now I'm thinking about buying a Speaker Cranker since you've talked it up so much in this thread, so you can definitely say this AMA has spurred interest in new sales...
I always start with a blank breadboard. I don’t recycle too much from other pedals in terms of building blocks so I couldn’t really have any set starting point. I guilty of using the same wet/dry mixer and buffer a lot but that’s about it. Lately I’ve been saving my completed breadboards even after the design becomes a product. I have a whole table and cabinet full of them.
Love the Elevation Reverb, it's my always on reverb. Just curious how the build it yourself models on StewMac are doing? Really frustrated with some other ones I've tried lately. Looking to build a Disaster Transport.
Thank you! The kits did really well, the first batch was 100 of each and they all sold out. They made amazing, fool-proof instructions that are way nicer than the ones we use 😄
Why didn't you make the boost independent on the Palisades V2, and when are you going to release a Palisades V3 with an independent boost? Also, can you please make a Cloven Hoof Reaper that isn't a special run through CME?
I get that question all the time, lol. When I was prototyping the new version with relay switching I toyed with the idea of making it independent but decided to keep it as-is. My intention was to keep it a compact closed circuit meaning there is only one switch to worry about when you turn it all on or off. Turns out not everyone thinks like me 😄
Hi thanks for doing this! Just bought 4 of your guys pedals and they sound amazing! Any pedal recommendations for the blues? Also how do you go about researching and selecting new pedals?
Thank you so much! What did you get? I would recommend the hoof, speaker cranker or Westwood. The ideas are usually just things I wish I had or come from experimenting along the way.
How did you get into the product design side of what you do? Any advice for the aspiring product designer?
I was (I guess still am?) a graphic designer before eqd. I kinda look at it as package design. I just try to make the pedals look like something I’d like to pick up and play with before I know what it sounds like.
Why does my depths pedal suck ?
I don’t understand the question and I won’t respond to it.
Who is your favourite person to demo your pedals on YouTube and why is it Andy from Tone Report? His demo of the Avalanche Run (particularly of the Coldplay song he chose) was what put EQD on my radar.
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