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EarthQuaker Devices Special Cranker review

An old EQD classic returns with switchable clipping options and a gentle reminder that you might not be getting the best out of your guitar amp... Not without this

EarthQuaker Devices Special Cranker
(Image: © EarthQuaker Devices)

Guitar World Verdict

The Special Cranker is not just another overdrive pedal. Think of it as an extension of your guitar amplifier, adding extra push to make it sing.

Pros

  • +

    Touch-sensitive drive.

  • +

    It flatters your amp.

  • +

    Momentary and latching footswitch modes.

  • +

    Top-mounted jacks.

  • +

    Sensibly priced.

Cons

  • -

    Nothing.

My introduction to EarthQuaker Devices was the Speaker Cranker I reviewed (glowingly) well over a decade ago. I loved the pedal not only for “not coloring your tone dramatically” but for doing exactly as its name implied – pushing a speaker toward the edge of breakup with its one and only knob. 

Even back then, I knew this small boutique company from Akron, Ohio, which hand-built graphic-emblazoned pedals, was going to be a big deal. Well, here we are in 2022, and EQD is a serious heavyweight in the stompbox biz, and I’m feeling pretty good about my clairvoyance. 

Of course, this wasn’t hard to predict because EQD continually creates some of the most sonically immersive effects. And with that impressive track record, I’m excited to now review the Special Cranker, which builds upon the discontinued Speaker Cranker, with a few more knobs and two clipping diode options for some glorious gain.  

To dismiss the Special Cranker as just another overdrive pedal would be totally overlooking what it aims to achieve. Whereas EQD’s noteworthy and excellent Plumes pedal provides varying shades of Screamer-style overdrive, the Special Cranker excels in retaining the organic subtleties of your amp’s character while offering some “special” options of adding more preamp gain color to your signal without getting in the way of it. 

Think of it as a pedal even Nigel Tufnel would endorse by pointing at the Special Cranker’s knobs and concluding “these go to 11” despite no numerical evidence of it. Speaking of knobs, the Special Cranker has controls for Level, Tone and More (gain adjustment) and Diode Selector switch (Germanium or Silicon). 

What’s interesting is that “More” governs the bias of the transistor, so there’ll be some crackling involved as you increase it, which can result in summoning some over-biased saturation depending on the output of your pickups.

I dig that the EQD footswitch employs Flexi-Switch Technology, which allows you to simultaneously use momentary and latching style switching, and that the pedal can safely be operated between 9 and 18 volts.  

EarthQuaker Devices Special Cranker

(Image credit: EarthQuaker Devices )

Whether you use the Special Cranker as a clean boost or to drive the front end of your amp, it’s apparent how much it enhances your signal. EQD seems to have really dialed in the relationship of touch sensitivity and sweetened gain response to the point that the Special Cranker sounds like an extension of your guitar amp

As you inch up the More knob, you’re greeted with strapping tube-like crunch that sounds increasingly complex. I also loved that the Tone control never interfered with my amp’s EQ – rather, it complements it, bringing out the frequencies I was looking for. 

Having the choice of Germanium or Silicon diodes had me second-guessing which I enjoyed more. Sure, the Germanium side drops the volume a degree for a softer, slightly compressed saturation while Silicon brings out all the rich dynamics and brightness for a more pronounced and meaty amp-like breakup. It’s an overdrive for feel players that don’t normally use them, and one you’ll want to leave on all the time. 

Specs

  • PRICE: $99 / £109
  • TYPE: Overdrive pedal
  • CONTROLS: Level, Tone, More, Germanium/Silicon mini-toggle selector switch
  • POWER: 9V DC, ~15 mA 
  • BYPASS: True
  • CONTACT: EarthQuaker Devices (opens in new tab)

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Paul Riario has been the tech/gear editor and online video presence for Guitar World for over 25 years. Paul is one of the few gear editors who has actually played and owned nearly all the original gear that most guitarists wax poetically about, and has survived this long by knowing every useless musical tidbit of classic rock, new wave, hair metal, grunge, and alternative genres. When Paul is not riding his road bike at any given moment, he remains a working musician, playing in two bands called SuperTrans Am and Radio Nashville.