EarthQuaker Devices Zoar Review: Grinding Away Expectations
Growing up navigating the world of gear and guitars, I received tons of recommendations for new pedals from friends and peers, and I typically followed their advice. It led me to having a collection of pedals and gear that served me well, but at some point, I looked around and realized that I lacked a personal connection with my equipment because I had little involvement in choosing it.
With a constant stream of new overdrive, distortion and fuzz pedals from various manufacturers, guitar players can sometimes feel overwhelmed by the abundance of options. Selecting the right one for your unique preferences, each with its distinct flavor and qualities, can seem like an endless quest. While the journey of finding the perfect gear is a personal one, the arrival of a special piece of equipment is always an exciting moment in the guitar world. EarthQuaker Devices, hailing from Akron, Ohio, consistently sparks that excitement with each of their releases, which is precisely why we are thrilled to introduce the Zoar.
ZOAR offers MORE
Versatility is what makes this piece of equipment worth talking about, and the six-knob interface is the real attention grabber with Zoar. To be able to EQ the drive or fuzz you're creating from its source, is a huge advantage to dialing the sounds you're looking for. The Level, Weight, Gain, Bass, Middle, and Treble controls allow for extremely nuanced EQ adjustments, making it wildly simple to control everything from jangly on-the-verge-of-breakup tones to walls-out heavy saturation or fuzz. The 3-Band EQ, although appearing simple, proves to be deceptively complex and highly interactive, making it surprisingly easy to find a ton of very cool sounds.
Zoar's heart is its interactive medium-high gain discrete distortion, that's made with no opamps or diodes. The result is a touch-sensitive, amp-like quality, and a unique tone that can be fine-tuned to deliver a broad spectrum of tones, from the defined sparkle of an overdrive to the low-medium gain fuzz perfect for drop-tuned guitars and basses. The Zoar brings forward sounds that are oddly familiar, but also totally unique depending on how you choose to tweak them- so let's tweak them:
Our Favorite Settings
- Level: Noon
- Weight: Adjustable
- Gain: Noon
- Bass: Noon
- Middle: Noon
- Treble: Noon
The Weight knob is a huge factor in dictating the amount of low end passed into the circuit, entirely shaping the character of the pedal. Experimenting with all the settings of the 3-Band EQ at 12 o'clock and adjusting the Weight reveals what its capable of, from a clean boost to high-gain distortion, overdrive, and even crispy hi-fi fuzz territory.
- Level: 2 o'clock
- Weight: 9 o'clock
- Gain: Max
- Bass: 9 o'clock
- Middle: 3 o'clock
- Treble: 3 o'clock
With the low end dialed back, the grit and "grind" the Zoar has to offer is put on full display. For a radio-esque, almost filtered effect that an be used to carve a place in the EQ spectrum of a recording or live performance, this is your ticket.
One of the most unique features of the Zoar is, in simple terms, the pedal allows users to change the amount of power it gets, like adjusting the engine of a car. You can use a regular power setting, like driving a car normally, or you can use a higher setting, like putting the pedal to the metal.
When you use the higher power setting (18 volts instead of the usual lower setting), the Zoar pedal behaves differently. It's not just a fancy feature – it really changes how the pedal sounds. It's like upgrading from regular speakers to high-end, top-quality ones.
At the higher power, the pedal can produce a wider range of clean tones, which means it can make your guitar sound really clear and crisp. For the dirtier tones, when you want that crunch or distortion, it becomes more powerful and clear, making individual notes sound better. The low frequencies, like the deep notes on a bass guitar, become more controlled and defined. The higher frequencies, like the sharp sounds of a guitar solo, become broader and smoother without becoming too harsh. And to top it off, the overall volume gets much louder – it's like turning up the volume on your stereo.
So, running the Zoar at a higher voltage isn't just a fancy extra – it's like giving your pedal a performance boost, making it sound even better and more powerful, like plugging into a really high-quality amplifier system. It takes your music experience to a whole new level.
The Zoar is a totally versatile, special pedal that delivers. Whether you're a guitarist seeking that perfect crunch from a drive, a bassist exploring new places to bring your tone, the Zoar is a great place to start or end up. With its compact design, durability, cool graphics, and a tonal spectrum that covers a ton of ground, the Zoar is a no-brainer for any musician looking to dial in their distortion game.