One advantage of working for a musical equipment review is the opportunity to preview yet-to-be-released pedals. It was with great pleasure that this reviewer took a look at and listen to EarthQuaker Devices’s new signal booster/tone shaper, Bows. It’s a simple pedal in design, but this simplicity allows for easy mid-solo boosts, or even a substitute for an overdrive pedal (simply use the boosted signal to overdrive the amplifier a bit). From chime to thick, heavy grime, the Bows will help to achieve the tone that’s needed.
Aside from its smooth-action footswitch, the Bows features a single large knob and a small tone selection switch. Unity seemed to lie around the 9 o’clock position of the knob, so it’s actually possible to quiet one’s signal, if not totally muffle the sound. Moreover, the rather low unity setting allows for an ample range of boost. The Bows, then, is a loud pedal, one that will push an amplifier to the limits.
Given the power of the Bows, prudence would suggest that users don industrial-grade ear protection. EarthQuaker Devices included no earplugs in the box, so it seemed reasonable to think they came inside the pedal. Alas, when this writer checked the interior of the Bows, he discovered no earplugs, but instead a nine-volt battery adaptor.
However, once the Bows is heard, users will likely not want to place any obstructions between their ears and the sweet sounds the pedal produces. In the Treble mode, for example, the Bows tended toward a chimy profile that didn’t really ever seem strident. Even boosting the output level didn’t seem to sour the tone. In fact, the Bows brought out a bit of subtle distortion on this writer’s small, tube-driven amplifier. An A-B comparison of the “clean” and affected tones revealed clear differences. The “clean” tone seemed somewhat muddy in comparison to the more spacious, clear, and bell-like tone provided by the Bows.
Similarly pleasing results were found in the full mode. Perhaps EarthQuaker Devices would do well to add a “warning” label to this seemingly innocuous mode, because it is the one for which sensitive users will grasp for ear protection. The full mode produces the sort of heavy, thick tones that don’t merely cut through a mix, but plow through it without remorse. That’s not to say that the full mode lacks finesse—far from it. In tandem with a good amplifier, the Bows, in Full mode, will help a player to coax the very best high-gain sounds from his or her instrument and gear. In fact, the Bows worked so well at overdriving this writer’s amplifier that the pedal could very well stand in for another pedal that’s been explicitly designed to produce distortion.
The secret to the Bows, according to EarthQuaker Devices, is a new-old-stock black glass transistor that comprises a germanium preamp. Germanium tends to “act up” if the temperature fluctuates (at least in fuzz pedals), but evidently the pedal resists these sorts of problems. Quality construction is one hallmark of the pedal; excellent tone is another.
What We Like:
It’s probably loud enough to be heard in Portland from its factory in Akron. Delicate chime and thick boost are two of the pedal’s tonal possibilities.
Where are the earplugs?