The pedal market is overcrowded with an abundance of great overdrive, distortion, and fuzz stomp boxes that for the most part are variations on one theme or another.
The Earthquaker Devices Acapulco Gold comes from an entirely different place and is truly unlike any other distortion device out there. Earthquaker describes it as a power amp distortion effect that’s designed to sound like a fully cranked Sunn Model T, and to my ears it sounds a lot like fuzz Jim, but not as we know it.
Featuring just one, solitary big honking knob that’s the size of a channel changer on a 1965 Philcomatic color TV, the Acapulco Gold pedal is as simple as it gets. Earthquaker didn’t even bother giving the knob’s function a name, probably because it does several different things simultaneously as you turn it up. Similarly, the 1/4-inch input and output jacks aren’t labeled either, but it doesn’t take a genius to figure out which is which. A bright white LED lets you know when the effect is engaged, and the pedal operates with a standard 9VDC power adapter or 9-volt battery.
The Acapulco Gold is an unusual device. With the big knob all the way down it produces no sound at all, but as you turn it up the volume gradually increases (unity is around 9 o’clock), a layer of fuzzy distortion emerges, and the tone gets big and warm. At about 12 o’clock the guitar signal begins to compress, but unlike traditional fuzz it never sputters or gets raspy, instead delivering remarkably smooth, violin-like tone that seems to sustain forever. Turning down the guitar’s volume control cleans up the tone, but that big, luscious character remains even as the distortion is tamed. For many connoisseurs of crunch, this could be the ultimate fuzz.
STREET PRICE $117
MANUFACTURER Earthquaker Devices, earthquakerdevices.com
THE BOTTOM LINE Don’t let the single big knob fool you—a rainbow of dark and dirty fuzz-like tones with massive bass and singing sustain exist within the Acapulco Gold, and dialing in the sounds you want couldn’t be any easier.