ProGuitarShop

Pedal Review: Earthquaker Devices The Warden

June 20, 2013

Review by Ian Garrett

The Pedal:  EarthQuaker Devices The Warden
The Point:  Optical Compressor
The Damage:  $195
Find the Warden at Proguitarshop.com

I’m a fan of EarthQuaker Devices (EQD) pedals, and have used a couple of them over the years. I love that their “devices” are handmade “with sweet loving care” in Akron.  Fairly new to their arsenal – The Warden is a studio grade optical compressor.  Like most compressors, The Warden should be placed first in your chain to be most effective.  I appreciate how both the 9v power supply input, as well as the input/outputs for the pedal, are all placed on the top of the pedal, resulting in The Warden taking up a scant 2 ½ inches of pedal board real estate.

What You Hear and Don’t Hear

Compressors can be a difficult pedal to figure what they do.  Essentially its main purpose is to “compress” the audio signal’s dynamic range.  In other words, it reduces passages that are too loud or amplifies quiet sounds.  A compressor’s job is to make all notes sound fairly equal - nothing stands out too much - while preventing other notes from getting lost. It’s the one pedal that tries to “level the playing field,” so to speak.

It’s often described that compressors “squish” your tone, which to me isn’t all that appealing. Why would I want this?  Obviously there are different levels of “squish” from very subtle to quite noticeable.  The Warden, in my opinion, falls into the first category, even when set fairly high.   For those wanting more squish, a Ross style compressor might be more to your liking.

The Anti-Compressor

I like the way optical compressors sound, especially this one. The Warden is appealing because it doesn’t seem so compressor-like.  Instead it takes your notes and makes everything sound better. Notes ring out clearer, fuller, and with more authority.  You don’t really notice that the dynamics have changed much because everything sounds so alive.  The compression effect is there, it’s just not in your face.   The dynamics are controlled, yet the tone is still natural feeling. 

Perhaps the best feature of The Warden is that it provides added sustain while adding a touch of compression. The Warden will color your tone some, but not in a bad way, while giving you additional control. The tone control is for treble - turn it clockwise to increase treble (without adding white noise, yeah!) or dial it back for less bite – which curiously seems to bring out the compressed effect a little more. Around 11 o’clock is neutral.  The level control adds a nice volume boost should you want it.  The Sustain knob has the greatest overall impact. Moving it clockwise adds more sustain as you would expect – the low end of your sound blooms forward , not quite like a bass boost but in that realm. Dial it back if you want less of the effect.  I liked it best turned up around three o’clock.

Lastly, there are three other controls that need clarification. Ratio, Attack, and Release are all “secondary” controls in fine- tuning the compressor, and I found their effect to be fairly unassuming.  At times I did wonder what the point was - but better to have that control than not have it.  All three controls interact with one another, but you can quickly dial in what you like and just leave it.
• Ratio: Determines how much gain reduction affects the signal. All the way up is full compression - reduce it by turning it counter-clockwise. I tended to keep it around noon.
• Attack: Controls how quickly the compressor reacts to leveling out the signal. Set at the counter clockwise position you get a fast, immediate reaction, whereas clockwise slows down the reaction time. Again, around noon worked fine for me.
• Release: Controls how long it takes the signal to rise back to the level determined by the sustain and ratio settings. Counter clockwise is a fast release that will slow some as you turn it clockwise.  

Final Thoughts:

You might quickly find that this pedal becomes one of those “always on” pedals. If you like its effect, as I did, you may find there’s no need to ever turn it off. It adds that needed sustain and clarity to let your notes ring out, while helping you control the dynamics, yet it doesn’t “take over” either. The Warden is one of those pedals you didn’t know you needed, until you’ve spent some time with it and find it’s indispensable.

 

Rating:  4.0

5 – Tremendous product; among the very best
4 – Great value overall; exceeds expectations
3 – Definite contender, but look closely at the competition too
2 – Average at best; probably better choices exist
1 – Not ready for prime time

Comments

  1. Fred says:

    How does it compare with the Keeley 4-knob?

    posted on June 20, 2013 at 11:03 pm
  2. Ian says:

    Hi Fred,
    I have not used the Keeley, so I can’t comment on it. I have more recently owned the Mad Professor Forest Green Compressor which I liked a lot too - had it for several years. That one had the option of being more of a sustainer or a compressor, and seemed to be able to compress/squish the notes more, if you wanted that. I personally don’t. The other one that seems to be in the same camp and gets tons of praise is the Diamond Compressor. I haven’t used it, but it would be on my short list. But the Warden is great, I won’t be happy when I have to return this little gem. Having the in/outs/9v outlet all on the back of the pedal is great for saving a little room on the pedal board too.

    posted on June 21, 2013 at 4:57 am
  3. Mister Vertigo Musik says:

    Hi Ian,
    So you like the Tone @ 11 o’clock
    Sustain @ 3
    Level depends on the volume one wants obvo
    Ratio @ noon
    Attack @ noon
    What about the ‘Release’ control?
    I just ordered on from EQD so I loved this review for some good places to start :)

    Best,
    Matthew (guitarist & songwriter @ Mister Vertigo Musik)

    posted on June 21, 2013 at 8:31 pm
  4. Ian says:

    Hi Matthew,
    I think the release can be about noon too. Really the Ratio, Attack and Release seemed to be more fine tuning controls to me. Now maybe if you’re playing with a lot of volume you may hear these nuances more. In my little controlled environment it was less noticeable. The sustain control does the most, with the volume and tone making key differences too. It’s a great compressor though, for both as a more subtle compressor but also as a boost pedal too, it can drive your dirt pedals a little bit too which can be helpful as well.

    posted on June 22, 2013 at 3:55 am
  5. Stephen says:

    Hi Ian,

    Thanks for the thorough review and your followup on comments. I’m curious whether you’ve compared the Warden to Effectrode’s optical compressor? Any comparisions to share or other info?

    All the best,
    Stephen

    posted on June 22, 2013 at 11:08 am
  6. Ian says:

    Hi Stephen,
    I have not tried the Effectrode. They make great stuff though for sure. A bit pricier than the Warden though.  If I were you (and you have enough credit card limit!) is to try out 2-4 of your top compressors from PGS, and do a shoot out - keep the one you like best, and return the others.

    I’ve used a few lower end compressors, one thing I hate is the noise some will add to your signal, especially when used with other dirt pedals. Cheaper components = more noise, most of the time. Diamond, Mad Prof, CMATMODS, Empress, BearfootFX, Walrus, and this Warden are all pretty good, you won’t get a loser here at all, just different features/options that might or might not be important to you.

    posted on June 23, 2013 at 12:40 am
  7. Mister Vertigo Musik says:

    Thanks Ian!

    posted on June 23, 2013 at 8:05 pm
  8. terryg says:

    I’m always interested in new compressors, since it can be such a critical tool and many I’ve tried are disappointing.
    I would be curious to hear how The Warden compares with the Carl Martin Comp/Limiter or the EBS bass compressor; you mention you haven’t tried the Keeley or the Diamond, which tends to dilute your review here (for me, at least).
    thx

    posted on June 25, 2013 at 3:04 am
  9. Ryan says:

    I auditioned the Warden - it’s very clean and transparent, but almost to a fault. The tweakability is certainly there, but even at the most extreme settings any squash I got out of it was almost too subtle, certainly not a funk compressor that can add a little dirt to the sound. I ended up exchanging it for an Xotic SP compressor that can do both the clean and the squash. I suppose for more refined ears this might be a great pedal.

    posted on June 25, 2013 at 3:30 am
  10. its a shop says:

    never trust a pgs pedal review.

    posted on June 25, 2013 at 6:21 am
  11. Bebop says:

    I have one, its a fair review.

    For those who seek a near transparent optical compressor, this one is for you. Great sustain, still very subtle, can do very nice clean tones or stack with other effects.
    But if you like the colored tone or the dirt compression, best look elsewhere.

    The one i have won’t leave my board :)

    posted on June 25, 2013 at 10:58 am
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