Reviewed: EarthQuaker Devices Westwood Overdrive

Global Vintage | globalvintage.com.au | Expect To Pay: $275

A word of warning before I dive in: this review will be chock-a-block full of the most mercurial and indefinite adjectives in the thesaurus. This, ladies, gentlemen and others, is a review of … an overdrive pedal.

What do SRV, Pearl Jam, Foals, and Periphery all have in common? Reliance, nay, dependence upon the humble yet hotly debated Tube Screamer-style stomp box. These little green meanies have been the secret weapon of enough guitar heroes to put any holy grail amp to shame, as have many of their ilk. Klon clones, TS try-hards, blues drivers, OD oddballs and variations on the pushed amp theme litter the ground in pedal world, and it has officially come to the point where every last pedal manufacturer on the planet has what they deem the one to rule them all. While EQD is the proud progenitor of one of the more flexible and nuanced contenders to the title, the Palisades, they have never been the types to throw their hands in the air and proclaim, ‘Eureka, we’ve done it!’ The Westwood sees them dip their toes in the clear, glassy end of the overdrive pool and, as always, pip the competition at the post in doing so.

 

As ever, EQD have equipped their unit with a simple set of controls with almost unlimited capability. Classically, overdrives need little more than input gain, output level and maybe a bit of tone shaping capability for good measure, and that’s just what we have here. The 80Hz region is wrangled by the Bass knob with the everyday ease of a foreman on a worksite, while the Treble control dances around 2kHz like a toreador in full and fancy flight. With the former steadying proceedings at 12 o’clock and the latter pushed to its peak, there is an openness and clarity that even the original Maxon and Ibanez versions would be jealous of. If you’ve ever slaughtered a Bassman, even a reissue, with a good Les Paul you’ll be familiar with what I mean. With the Gain knob dimed there is enough juice on tap to satisfy the more leather clad among us without veering into ugly, tight distortion territory.

 

The problem with writing about, and I assume in designing, an overdrive is the arbitrary nature of the descriptors used to hone in on the magic therein. Adjectives like ‘transparent’, ‘glassy’, ‘bell-like’ and ‘clear’ abound and offer deceptively little in the way of light in the tonal pathway. We all know what we’re hearing because we’ve heard it before, either in the recorded works of the aforementioned guitar heroes or when we’ve been cheeky with the floor stock of our favourite vintage gear emporium. We want to hear what Neil Young hears when he tears a ’65 Princeton a new arsehole, but we don’t want to have to live in a cabin in the woods to achieve said bristling nirvana. In the last few years a subset of smaller companies have become tastemakers thanks to the success of their designs, not the least of whom is the one and only Earthquaker team. While fashionably late to the transparent OD party, the Westwood is by far one of the nicest sounding iterations I’ve come across. Annoyingly fluid adjectives be damned, the proof is in your ears as soon as you kick it on.

Hits and Misses

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Hits the OD nail right on the head with no mess or fuss

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