Price paid: £ 100
Purchased from: Private sale
Ease of Use: The Shoe Gazer from Devi Ever combines two of the mad goddess of fuzz's most popular pedals, the Torn's Peaker and the Soda Meiser. Both of these, in their original forms, are simple fuzzboxes with 'volume' and 'texture' pots. These controls don't work in the same way that the controls on a standard fuzz pedal do - 'volume' is a combination of level and gain, whilst 'texture' does just that, a swept EQ pot combined with a density control, voltage starve and even a bit more gain.
As I've always said with fuzz pedals, the best way to see how they work is just to plug in and let rip. The two sides are independently footswitchable and can both be active at once - in this case, it sounds to me like the lower-gain Torn's Peaker is placed first in the chain. You get Volume and Texture pots for each half of the pedal.
The only problem I had was the same problem I always seem to have on Devi's pedals, which was balancing the levels both with each other and with the clean tone. It doesn't help that the Soda Meiser channel seems to be noticeably quieter than the Torn's Peaker channel, despite producing a much more extreme fuzz effect. Unity gain on the Torn's Peaker seems to be the smallest amount you can turn the pot above fully anti-clockwise... // 8
Sound: Be warned, that as with every pedal Devi makes, this is a very loud pedal. If you want a touch of amp breakup-style overdrive, this isn't the pedal for you, but then if that's what you want and you're reading a review for a pedal called a Shoe Gazer then you've probably got too much time on your hands.
The first channel, the Torn's Peaker, is designed to simulate the age before we had pedals to provide our distortion for us and had to be a bit more creative. So it's the sound of shredded speakers, preamp valves crying for mercy and red-lined mixing desks - basically, things that are broken but in a good way. In practice it sits somewhere between the punch and girth of a Russian Big Muff and the garage-rock trashiness of a ProCo Rat. It's possibly the most widely useable and practical distortion I've ever owned. The Texture pot takes it from Big Muffy (fully anti-clockwise) to scratchy, scrambled Fender Blender tones turned fully the other way.
The Soda Meiser is a much more pronounced fuzz effect. It's almost square-wave synth-like in its overall tonality and when the Texture pot is cranked it cracks and spits like a madman as your notes decay, but until that happens you'll get aeons of sustain. Because of the lack of high-frequency harmonics it works well for shoegazey chord work, with no horrible atonal noise arising. I'm not convinced it's as useable and musical as the Torn's Peaker side though.
If you've ever chained up a few dirt pedals or cranked everything on a Big Muff you'll know what this pedal sounds like with both channels switched on. Very loud, feedbacky, buzzy, but when you hit a chord it will sound enormous.
To be honest, the name gives quite a lot away here. If My Bloody Valentine, the Mary Chain or the powerhouse riffs of Mogwai in their louder moments are your game, then you should give this pedal a look. The archduke of shoegazing himself, Kevin Shields, has one of these on his board along with many of Devi's other pedals. That said, the Torn's Peaker side can also take in Neil Young trashy fuzz, US alt-rock, White Stripes-esque garage blues and so much more.
The only reservation I've got is that the Soda Meiser channel might end up being underused because the Torn's Peaker is so much fun, and you might end up feeling that you could have saved half the price and bought a Torn's instead... // 9
Reliability & Durability: It's sturdily built in a standard Hammond diecast ally enclosure - it's big MXR/Electro Harmonix XO size which in practice is roughly the size of a Boss stomper but a little wider, so it will sit comfortably on any pedalboard. Juice comes from either a side-mounted 9-volt barrel connector or batteries, but be warned you'll have to take the back plate off to change them.
Inside, you realise how basic most fuzz circuits are. There's not even a PCB inside this pedal, just point-to-point wiring wrapped in electrical tape. On top the pots and footswitches are nice and sturdy, and each channel's Status is indicated by a brace of sky-blue LEDs that are brighter than the sun. Nice touch. I'd gig this without a backup. Firstly, it definitely feels up to the job and every other Devi pedal I've owned has never put a foot wrong. Secondly, does anyone actually take spare pedals to a gig? // 9
Overall Impression: Devi might have tarnished her name somewhat by recent and repeated outbursts that lie somewhere between trolling and the ravings of someone slowly losing their mind, but regardless of what you think of her she makes very good, and very reasonably-priced fuzzes. Make no mistake, this is a seriously good pedal. I've always wanted to give one a go but the new price ($200 or thereabouts, in fair England they seem to be slightly more - expect to pay about 170 for a new one) but when one came up second-hand I snapped the seller's arm off. Now I've got it, I probably would pay the price for a new one in hindsight. If you like distortion pedals that are in your face, innovative and more importantly loud, rather than endless Tubescreamer and Fuzz Face clones, give the Gazer a try. You'll like it. Just don't neglect the Soda Meiser channel. It'll get sad. // 9