EarthQuaker Devices Sunn O))) Life Pedal V3 review

The third-gen signature pedal is a must-have for drone and doom freaks but proves itself a top choice for tone connoisseurs of all stripes, just so long as they like it loud

EarthQuaker Devices Sunn O))) Life pedal V3
(Image: © EarthQuaker Devices)

Guitar World Verdict

A boost, distortion and octave fuzz team up to send your amp into ecstasies and usher in a new era for your more extreme guitar tones. Doom, chaos, and Sunn Model T-esque tones all in a box.

Pros

  • +

    Awesome gain and tone-shaping potential.

  • +

    A versatile platform for all kinds of extreme sounds.

  • +

    Quality build.

  • +

    Expression pedal input.

Cons

  • -

    Not cheap.

  • -

    Not for the timid.

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For aspiring purveyors who relish in sonic mayhem, EarthQuaker Devices has been on a collaborative roll, releasing limited-edition stompboxes that straddle the line between distortion pedal and fuzz while sprinkling in a healthy dose of aural chaos for good measure. 

From their joint effort with Death By Audio to unleash the Time Shadows pedal, to partnering with Boris guitarist Wata for the Hizumitas, EQD is at a creative peak in the dark arts of crushing saturated ecstasy.

Their latest offering is the third iteration (V3) of their collaboration with drone metal doomsayers Sunn O))) for the EarthQuaker Devices Sunn O))) Life Pedal V3 – a triple threat of a stompbox that combines massive distortion, octave fuzz, clean boost and much more. 

The previous limited-run versions have all sold out, but the good news is the Life Pedal has cultivated such demand and online mythos that it will now live on as a permanent production model.

EQD has made it common knowledge that the Sunn O))) Life Pedal is inspired by the Shin-Ei FY2 Companion and FY6 Super Fuzz boxes fed into a vintage white-logo Rat distortion-style circuit, but with the added versatility of including a three-way gain clipping switch (OpAmp, Asymmetric and Symmetric). 

EarthQuaker Devices Sunn O))) Life pedal V3

(Image credit: EarthQuaker Devices)

The two-stage pedal is housed in a substantial black metal textured enclosure and features an “Amplitude” portion of the pedal (designated by a Petrine Cross graphic) that incorporates distortion with a blendable octave up with two corresponding independent footswitches, and a “Magnitude” section (identified by a Christian Cross graphic) containing an all-discrete MOSFET “clean” booster with its own separate footswitch.

Controls for Amplitude (output volume), Filter and Distortion will seem familiar to Rat enthusiasts, while the Octave (octave up) and Magnitude (output boost volume) are self-evident.

The Life Pedal features input/output jacks, EXP jack (for expression pedal control of the octave blend) and a standard 9VDC center negative power input. The pedal also features EQD’s Flexi-Switch technology for relay-based, true bypass switching to simultaneously use momentary and latching-style switching.  

Humbuckers or single coils be damned, because it doesn’t matter what you use – the Life Pedal is a thunderously loud octave fuzz pedal tailor-made for avant-garde noise architects. It certainly tips its hat to the famed big-boxed Pro Co pedal, but its sludgy distortion is far tighter and more defined, even when vaulting the gain toward shaggy fuzz textures.

The key is the Filter control’s range can coax foreboding darkness for doom metal or rolled back for gloriously sharp harmonic overtones that sound like the Brite channel of a cranked Sunn Model T amplifier. Introducing the Octave adds a resounding clang – if you dig that much furriness – but if you want to hear it spit out the upper octave you’ll need to play single notes above the 9th fret.

Its Magnitude clean boost is tremendous for its transparency, and activating all three footswitches will nudge your amp into a “Three Mile Island” meltdown and lingering sustain. I’m sure this won’t be the last collaboration in the works coming from EarthQuaker Devices, but if this is any indication of the results, I genuinely can’t wait till the next one.

Specs

  • PRICE: $299 / £369
  • TYPE: Distortion, boost and octave fuzz 
  • ORIGIN: USA
  • CONTROLS: Magnitude, Octave, Clip, Distortion, Filter, Amplitude, Magnitude footswitch, Octave footswitch, Amplitude footswitch
  • FEATURES: All-analog signal path, Symmetrical Silicon, Asymmetrical Silicon & LED, Pure OpAmp Drive clipping, Flexi-Switch for silent relay-based momentary and latching operation, top-mounted jacks, expression and Footswitch control over analog octave up, designed with Sunn O)))
  • BYPASS: True bypass
  • POWER: 9V DC, 15 mA
  • CONTACT: EarthQuaker Devices

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Paul Riario

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.