Looking to take control of your pedalboard? Read on for our review of Earthquaker Devices' Swiss Things.
Written by George Van Wagner, Musician's Friend Staff Writer
I love pedals — pedals that make rich, lush textures, pedals that honk, squawk and make rude noises, subtle pedals, blatantly obnoxious pedals — I love them all. I may even have a “pedal problem,” at least if you ask my bandmates and/or wife. For me, the biggest problem is keeping all those pedals under control, and not having to spend too much stage time recreating famous tap-dancing routines instead of just making music. Earthquaker Devices’ Swiss Things pedal is designed to help unrepentant pedal freaks regain control over their board full of devices and cut back on the frantic clog dance of getting ready to start the next song.
The Swiss Things is intended to fit neatly in a corner of your pedalboard and provide versatile, seamless loop switching, as well as some other interesting options, all while occupying a minimum of precious real estate. It more than delivers on that promise. Let’s take a look at a typical scenario for many players.
Setting up Swiss Things — Here we go loop-de-loop
Swiss Things has two switchable loops, both of which are controlled with Flexi-Switch™ technology. What this means is that the footswitch can act as both a latching switch, toggling on and off simply by a quick press, or as a momentary switch, changing state from on to off (or vice versa) when you press and hold the switch, then reverting to their original state when you lift your foot. The first loop is non-buffered, intended to be used with pedals that respond dynamically to the changing output of a passive instrument like a guitar. This is great for old germanium fuzz pedals, old transistor-based distortions and the like, that react strongly to a simple roll-back of the volume knob. The second loop is buffered, and is intended for modulation and delay pedals that want to see a more consistent input impedance. If you have, as many players do, pedals that are “always-on,” like an EQ, preamp or compressor, Earthquaker recommends that you set them up in the chain before the input of the Swiss Things pedal.
To sum that up, gain and fuzz pedals in loop 1, delays, modulations and other time-based effects in loop 2. If you like to stack overdrives or combine multiple time-based effects, you can simply turn on the combination you like, then kick them in all at once with the loop footswitches. That’s super convenient, and Swiss Things takes up a lot less pedalboard real estate than most loop switchers. For that alone, it’s a valuable pedal. But, were only getting started here.
Make it louder, make it softer — Using the Boost and Expression
Beyond the simple loop switching, Swiss Things has a lot more it can do. There’s an adjustable built-in clean boost that’s placed after the two loops. With up to 20dB of gain available, you can use it for a quick lead boost to help push your amp just that little bit extra, or to provide makeup gain to compensate for the occasional loss of apparent volume something like a tremolo or modulation effect can sometimes cause. Once again, the boost is on a Flexi-Switch, so you can even use it as just a temporary accent in the middle of a line.
In addition to the boost, there is an always-on tuner output, convenient for those quick checks in the middle of a song when you’ve been hitting the whammy bar a little heavy. There’s also an input that turns any TRS output expression pedal into a “no-tone-suck” volume pedal. Earthquaker did the smart thing and placed this between the two loops so that it doesn’t affect the response of any gain-based pedals you’re using in loop 1.
Switch things up — Setting Up for Multiple Outputs
Finally, Swiss Things is also an A/B/Y switch. You can easily use this feature to feed two channels of the same amp, or set it up with two different amps. The B output has a phase reverse switch to correct for phase issues if the two inputs you’re plugged into aren’t in phase. This is a great feature, as many amps with multiple inputs that share a preamp tube end up being reversed in phase from each other. Once again, smart thinking on Earthquaker’s part. These are also on the Flexi-Switches, so you can do momentary changes that combine or swap amps for just a second, or just use it to switch back and forth the normal way.
On board — The Swiss Things pedal in Use
Hooking it up with a group of pedals snagged from my closet, the basic functionality was totally seamless. All of the switches are on silent relays, so there’s no clicking or popping as you bring things in and out or switch from one output to the other. My Mission Engineering expression pedal made for smooth, even and conveniently transparent volume control when plugged into the Exp. input. The boost is transparent and clean with easy adjustability. The more I used Swiss Things, the more I started thinking of ways to make use of the momentary capability of the Flexi-Switch features — bring a delay or mod in just for a moment, do a sort of “call and response” thing between two amps, use the boost to bring the tail of a note up just a little as it starts to die off, and more. Once you start using it, ideas will occur.
Wrap it up, I’ll take it
Even though the name was obviously chosen to reflect the versatility and multiple uses of the classic Swiss Army knife, none of these functions are implemented halfway, or good for emergency use only (I once tried to cut kindling on a camping trip with the “saw” from a Swiss Army knife. I wouldn’t try that again). For any player who’s as much in love with pedals as I am, this is almost a must-have item for a pedalboard of any size.