Price paid: $ 95
Purchased from: Musician's Friend
Ease of Use — 10
With a single knob and button, you could get a good tone out of it even if you were mentally handicapped. Even though this is true, Earthquaker was nice enough to package a manual for the pedal in case your dog tried to learn guitar.
After some tweaking around, turning the knob all the way up gets me a modest crunch on a low gain setting. On a clean setting, it gives a nice, smooth bite. On high gain settings, it makes my sound much punchier and solid. At roughly 12 o'clock, clean and mild distorted settings sound like they have a bit more bite but with very little change aside from the standard "cleanup." Similar thing for higher gain settings; I barely notice a difference in gain. At 9-10 o'clock is where the gain is "true" to the original signal. Anything lower than 9 o'clock starts to cut the dirt out of the signal. All the way down, I get a good sounding, mild crunch on high gain settings. On low gain settings, it makes your sound close to inaudible.
Sound — 8
Earthquaker Devices' Arrows is a simple preamp booster. There's not much to talk about as far as features are concerned; there's a really bright light on the front that tells you when it's on or off that bright enough to light up your pedalboard, a jack for a 9v power supply, and a single knob: Level.
The pedal is described as "all-discrete" and that it "boosts midrange, tightens up the low end and makes the top end shine." While I don't think this pedal is magical, it certainly sounds great no matter what the purpose. I purchased this pedal in order to push the gain on my Peavey VTM-60 to a bit further in order to get the sustain and crunch I wanted as well as to clear up some of the muddiness of my signal. For the most part it has satisfied those needs. With the level at max, it pushes the gain far enough to give me a touch more bite and sustain (although not as much as I had wished for). Easily the best part about this pedal, though, is how it brightened up my signal. My riffs went from muddy and flubby to chunky and crisp. Some may want something with more punch or heaviness to push their amp into the metal realm, but for my purposes this pedal got me just far enough to get a nice, distorted metal tone while making every riff sound clearer and brighter. Single notes pop and stick out while chords are still delicious and heavy, the added gain enhancing the VTM's natural bite.
On clean settings, I was a tad bit more disappointed. I had wanted something that maybe colored my tone more and gave the low-gain setting on the VTM more personality, but I ended up just getting a bit more clarity and some dirt for my money. I wouldn't knock this off for cleans though. If you were looking for a bit of grit or volume to your clean tone and you had a nice Fender or Vox amp, this thing would sound fantastic, especially with a touch of delay or reverb.
Just keep in mind this pedal is very transparent. Rather than coloring your tone, it "touches" it up. It gets rid of the subpar bits (the droopy bassy, brittle highs, mediocre mids) and adds gain. For people who like their tone but wish there was a "more" knob or switch, this is a perfect pedal. For those who want something that will fix a subpar or unsatisfactory tone, this pedal may feel like a disappointment. Personally, I was satisfied with how the pedal changed my tone, adding some much needed gain as well as removing the muddiness from my sound.
Reliability & Durability — 9
Being hand build, it's obviously going to have good build quality. The pedal is really light and small but feels like it could withstand a beating. The single knob is big and sturdy and doesn't feel like it'll fall off any time soon without a strong pair of hands and a screwdriver to pry it off. The light on the front has a metal ring around it to protect it from and feet that may accidentally hit it in the process of swapping this pedal on and off. All the screws and washers look and feel like they're put on stiff and strong. While the weight may be deceiving me a little, I feel like this thing is still built like a tank (or about as much of a tank as a small footswitch can be).
Overall Impression — 9
Overall this pedal is pretty great. It sounds awesome on a dirty channel while being able to get a good bite on clean settings. It can clean up a muddy signal real fast and is hard to find a situation where I'd hate to see this pedal in a signal chain. It has cool, simple art and it has a glittery look to it! Who doesn't like glitter?
My only complaints are very minor and have nothing to do with the quality of the pedal itself. I kinda wish it colored the tone a bit more due to the fact that it couldn't bring my dull clean tone to life. I also wish it had a bit more sustain. Otherwise, this pedal is a perfect addition to my collection.