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The EP+ is a ‘boost’ version of the ever-popular EP-PRE, producing an obvious clarity and polished tone difference, but also with a very good boost range. Tone-wise, the improvement is like removing cotton from your ears as harmonics and note definition that were not there before emerges and breathes life. More polish, more sweetening, more quality. Another way to think about it is like comparing an economy-based stereo system to a higher end hi-fi sound system – certain nuances in the music emit from the higher-quality speakers and electronics. Like the EP-PRE, the EP+ has a ‘dark’ and ‘bright’ setting, based on the Echoplex 3 tape delay preamp’s ‘late’ or ‘early’ tones’ serial numbers. I often prefer the bright setting with my current amps and guitars, although the dark setting does compliment some of my reverbs and delays better. As well, brighter pickups and amps do prefer the dark setting better, such as combining a Fender Strat with a VOX AC30.
The Boost function on the EP+ is noticeable at about the 9-o’clock position, and providing upward of 18dB when turned up full. With clean amps I did notice some ‘hair’ in the signal, but nothing excessive, and with drive pedals/dirty amps there appears to be a super-charged tone with a bit more added dirt. However, that occurs only with a higher level of boost and not so much with the Volume knob turned low. The sound quality of reverb and delay does not seem to change in the mix. There are a few things to consider about the Boost function. First, the boost stage in the EP+ is different than a buffer, in that it retains the tone-enhancing qualities for which this pedal is known, like the EP-PRE. Second, if input levels are excessive, there is no clipping with this pedal, as it creates a softer type of clipping that maintains quality control in the signal. Check out the included demo for clean and dirty samples to hear this relationship.
Engaged via the footswitch, and with the Volume knob all the way down, there is no sound or signal. With the Volume knob turned slightly – about 8-o’clock – the ‘polish’ and some volume can be heard. Keeping the Volume around the 8-9 o’clock position keeps everything around parity or slightly louder than your amp, and then anything greater than 9-o’clock provides a more noticeable boost upward of 18dB. In this manner, you can keep it on all the time if you want improved tone, and then you would need to turn the knob for the boost; otherwise, if you want the boost during a lead solo, for example, you can step on the switch (although you only get that ‘polish’ when lead soloing). Another option is to keep it on all the time, with the boost set where you want it, and then roll off the guitar’s volume for rhythm work, followed by turning up the guitar’s volume when soloing. When increasing boost you also will hear that famous EP-PRE tone enrichment become more prominent. Placement of the pedal is based on individual preferences and gear, but typically it is placed after drive pedals and before delay, reverb or modulation.
A standard sized pedal, the EP+ has a silver aluminum chassis with black writing/graphics. With high quality parts, from the footswitch and a full ground plane circuit board to improve noise immunity, this pedal operates from either 9VDC or 12VDC power (or 9VDC battery if preferred) while drawing only 5 mA of power. The EP+ has a charge-pump power supply that converts 9V to more than 17V, or 12V to a little over 23V, thus providing an abundance of headroom for clean boost, via the JFETS. Further, the EP+ has a second JFET boost stage (same as the EP-PRE), but with reduced output impedance that acts as an active boost stage and not a unity gain buffer (the value of reduced output impedance is that the EP+ can drive longer cables without losing high frequencies). As a finishing touch, the bright/dark toggle is protected by a bezel, housed to prevent unwanted and accidental switching. Current pricing is $149 USD, including shipping to all of North America (pricing is different in Europe, and so check the ClinchFX site for order in Europe, etc.). Two thumbs up!