This article was sparked by a number of different recent occurrences - I’m obviously a big fuzz fan and consider these sorts of things all the time - with no less than 135 fuzz pedals now in my Fuzz collection or Fuzz Tone Library as I like to call it. In a series of conversations with Sof Tebboune of Expresso FX, the subject came up as to why I happened to have one or several fuzz pedals from one builder while none from another builder of equal if not greater presumed stature/renown.
As with many things, pedal acquisitions are a confluence of various complex factors including timing, opportunity, exposure, budget availability and serendipity. Pretty much all of the pedals here are made to order or small batch manufacture. I myself acquire pedals via various means - new, used, pre-order, waiting-list, auction and commission - sometimes I’m prepared to wait, while other times I am less patient. More often than not though there will have been some trigger or catalyst - possibly I was exposed to something new on That Pedal Show or one of the other gear channels - that happens a lot - or else something magically materialized within one of my many feeds. Many a fantastic demo has also been a key influence and I follow all of the greats in that area - but I typically have to triangulate too and seek further sources to confirm and corroborate the status quo.
Of my 135 Fuzz pedals, I currently have exactly 25 Fuzz Face style ones already - 14 Silicon ones of various Transistor Types and 11 Germanium varieties. I also have a number - probably around 10 sort of Fuzz Face ’Hybrid’ fuzzes which are part Fuzz Face but also part something else - Tone Bender, Tremolo etc. So the question is why do I have quite so many - and why would I want to add more?
Of the 12 listed above I have 3 to date, with another 3 likely candidates for imminent acquisition - which will make up 3 complete pairs - and which I will reveal as I focus on each builder here. Of these 6 builders featured here - some are obviously better known and have a higher ’Fuzz Cachet’ as such, but weirdly those sort of things don’t typically influence me that much - I tend to ’audition’ the pedals first and foremost - and see whether those individually or collectively appeal to me and my specific / peculiar preferences. Also - if you happen to have bought one pedal from a builder that you really end up loving - you are far more likely to buy more from that same builder - of course depending on how obtainable those pedals are - price and availability, waiting list/times etc.
The interesting thing about Analog.Man Mike Piera is not so much the very many options he lists for his Sun Face type pedals - in fact currently a choice of 21 different Transistor options - 14 Germanium and 7 Silicon, but rather those transistors no longer on offer, like the Newmarket (NKT) 275 and Mullard CV7005 which several other fuzz builders still have on their books. Obviously supplies are limited of each New Old Stock Germanium type - and certain builders will prefer theirs to be of very particular current gain values (often hFE≈100) - so it’s quite understandable that certain specific types will run out permanently eventually and not in the too distant future. We must remember that RoHS restrictions now prevent many of these vintage components from ever being made again - so once supplies are gone - they’re gone for good.
For Silicon Fuzz Faces you tend to have 3 main common and readily available Silicon Transistors - BC108, BC109 and BC183 - with the first two more strident, brighter and aggressive - inherently ’more fuzzy’, while the 183’s can be extremely ’Germanium-like’ and warm in tone and response - but with a much more even temperament. In fact Kyle Chase of Chase Tone Pedals has made a career out of Germanium-like Silicon Fuzzes (BC183 of course) - and I have two of his best examples - the Roadster Fuzz and newer ’68 Red Velvet Fuzz. All of the Silicon Fuzz Faces listed here are of the warmer BC183 type.
For Germanium Fuzz Faces the field is far broader than Silicon - with builders using a huge variety of different Germanium Transistor types - in fact in this listing alone we have NKT Red Dot, NKT275 x 2, CV7005, 2N388 and 106NU70. Some builders also use 2N404, 2SB175, AC125, AC127, AC128, ASX12D, CV5416, CV7003, CV7007, GT2308 and OC42. In fact there are several dozen types with many military spec ones still turning up in Eastern Europe in particular. As these Transistors become ever scarcer Fuzz makers will be looking to unearth further types yet to be ’discovered’ or which are currently being used for quite different purposes.
Even though I have BC108, BC109 and BC183 Fuzzes I tend to look at those as just two main groups - I don’t always get the immediate distinction between 108 and 109 for instance. While for the Germanium ones - I simply go by ear - and if I hear a great demo and it triangulates properly - then the transistor spec is far less important to me. For instance when I acquired one of my more recent Fuzz Faces - the Expresso FX Germanium Fuzz - I would typically gravitate towards NKT275 - but much preferred the tone here of the CV7005. So part of me now just weirdly wants to get as many different Transistor types as I can to see if I can figure out the key differences and establish a proper ranking of my own preferences. Buying every type out there is of course an entirely impractical exercise - so I will rather choose to go wherever my ears and eyes take me.
Pedals are listed in alphabetical order by brand as usual:
In the above legends I have listed out all the option costs for a fully loaded version of each - i.e. Transistor, LED, Battery On/Off Fuzz Pot, Power Jack, and Sundial Bias Knob. There is no additional cost for top-mounted jacks, but you do get a slightly larger enclosure. For each Silicon Fuzz here I have selected the BC183 Germanium-like type which has no extra cost here. For the Germanium Transistor I tend to like the Red Dot NKT higher gain one - which is also the current most expensive option at $95. Weirdly while Analog.Man Mike Piera is everyone's typical first stop off for a Fuzz Face I always found the graphics on this pedal somewhat rustic and rudimentary - in particular the Sun Dial graphic on the separate knob which often appears slightly offset and not perfectly centred - which somewhat niggles the OCD part of my brain. I'm not opposed to owning an Analog.Man Sun Face - I actually have Mike's King of Tone pedal which I really love. But regardless of his reputation - and he is most definitely the 'King of the Transistor' - I probably would prefer to get one of his Astro Tone fuzzes with original and super rare Fairchild 2N696 Transistors. I sometimes suffer option paralysis on the Sun Face order form screen - the lack of spacing between all those bulletpoints makes it quite difficult to take in at times. So bizarrely and which is typical I guess of my nonconformist nature - probably the most obvious choice here is the one somehow I am the least interested in. Which is odd really as I totally rate Mike and all his pedals sound fantastic - but it's just one of those weird confluences that mean that I am unlikely to posses a Sun Face any time soon - but if I did - it would definitely be the higher gain Red Dot NKT version as mentioned = obviously while Transistor stocks last! You are probably best off ordering direct via BuyAnalogMan.com - while Danish Dealer EffektPedaler.dk occasionally has stock for those of us based in Europe.
I'm not sure why I selected the NKT275 here - possibly because of the ubiquity/general popularity of that Transistor type - which I find I generally love. Dan Querner - Mr DanDrive himself though tends to favour the AC127 variety (Update! Dan is looking to bring in another alternative here - a military spec CV type still to be finally confirmed after testing is completed!) - but the NKT275 is the version that was in stock at one stage at DanDrive's current only Dealer - Sweden's These Go to 11 (TGT11.com) - which is why it appears here. I in fact initially came across DanDrive pedals courtesy of a Joey Landreth appearance on That Pedal Show. He was rocking a Secret Weapon Fuzz (Enhanced Zonk Machine type - itself a derivation of a Tone Bender MKI) which sounded amazing and which I just had to have. I later clocked that Mick Taylor of That Pedal Show was rocking another new DanDrive pedal - the highly appealing Austin Pride (Cesar Diaz Texas Square Face Fuzz) which actually sort of combines Germanium and Silicon Fuzz Face in the same enclosure where you can switch between two matched pairs of very special Germanium and Silicon Transistors where you can have both of the same type on or one of each - in effect Germanium and Silicon Fuzz Face in one as mentioned. So I currently have two pedals on order with Dan - and one of which in theory covers my Fuzz Face needs here. There is one tiny inconsequential disadvantage in having the Austin Pride - in that you miss out on the separate Diaz Volume boost toggle (fortunately for me it's default in the Austin Price circuit which suits me just fine). You still get Level, Fuzz, Clean-signal Mix, and Bias knobs and Bass Boost switch - alongside the 2 Transistor toggles. The Aequitas and Equilibrium have identical controls to each other - the 4 knobs, and Diaz Volume Boost and Bass Boost toggle switches. I personally selected the Deluxe patterned-cloth-covered editions for myself- which lend the pedals a sort of refined Renaissance look (possibly a little Versace too) - and add €10 to the price as noted in the above legends. Generally though DanDrive makes 3 Fuzz Face style pedals - the Aequitas being the AC127 or NKT275 Germanium Type as selected, then the Veritas as the BC108 variety, and the Equilibrium as the BC183 variety. All of Daniel's pedals are very finely crafted by hand by Dan himself - and he puts more of a premium on his time and effort typically than the exact variety of premium components - so each of his pedals tends to be around the same/similar price - which is fairly high but fair going for the highly detailed finished article you get - his Fuzz Faces are €309, while those 2 I ordered are priced at €339. As a tweaker - I really like the additional controls here and would personally go for the DanDrive Fuzz Faces over the Analog.Man ones as they both sound amazing, but the DanDrives have the edge on aesthetics and features for me. In my case - I am getting the Austin Pride here - which should in theory quench my thirst for a DanDrive Fuzz Face type of both varieties - I may still come back for an Aequitas some day though. The actual DanDrive website is currently being redone, so you are best contacting Dan by email if you want one of his creations - email@example.com.
In this instance Sof Tebboune can be grateful that he saw fit to get Harry Holden of YouTube Channel HarryAndGuitar to demo his Germanium Boost pedal. As when researching for my piece on Treble Boosters I came across Harry's demo and immediately loved what I was hearing - and as a result, that Germanium Booster ended up in my overview of 16. At the time it was being offered in OC42 and OC141 Transistor varieties, but just recently Sof got his hands on a small number of original RangeMaster type OC44 Transistors - and I had to have one. That was actually the second Expresso FX pedal I acquired - as the Harry Holden Germanium Booster Demo video led me directly to Harry's even better demo of the CV7005 Expresso Germanium Fuzz - which I absolutely loved on first listen. Again I went away and did my triangulation and corroboration - and the Germanium Fuzz was soon in the collection. Similar to Analog.Man, Expresso FX gives you a number of options - but we're talking about 11 well-spaced-out ones versus 30 crammed together ones. I feel that Sof gets the balance just right. There are challenges though in having a largely modular option approach - in where you place all the different elements if you select all the options - like I am prone to do. The battery switch goes on the top edge which means the power socket is down the left side of the pedal, and if you want the Bias dial - that goes down the right - which obviously eats into some of the spacial gains made by the compact enclosure. For me though I love the elegance of the Hammerite enclosures here - these are very refined looking pedals - perhaps not quite with the same degree of flair that say the DanDrive ones have, but these are aesthetically very pleasing in their own slightly more understated way. In maintaining purity of tone - Sof does not use an internal polarity inverter - so you need to supply your own adaptor or corresponding power lead - which is actually fine with me and is the case for all the pricier options listed on this page - although I occasionally prefer more modern pedals which use internal power conversion and non-period-correct components. I so like my CV7005 Germanium Fuzz that I've decided to get its matching BC183 pair as such - in fact I will likely end up with one of Sof's Triple Transistor Tone Benders too - just need to decided which variety. Most of the pedals on this page can be rather pricey - but there are by and large two camps here - with Analog.Man, DanDrive and King Tone being rather more expensive, and Expresso FX, Monsterpiece and SolidGoldFX being slightly less so. Generally I feel that Expresso FX offers extremely good value for money right now, and as Sof's reputation grows I feel the prices will most likely go up a touch. Overall these are probably the best value optionable fuzzes you can buy nowadays. Value here meaning you get the best tone to investment ratio! I pretty much like to select every option going as mentioned - the Mullard CV7005 Transistors come at a slightly premium £10 - while all other options are priced at £5 - External Bias Knob, Internal Clean Trimpot, LED and DC Socket and Battery On/Off Switch. The only way to get Expresso pedals currently is via ExpressoFX.com.
I think I first noticed these around the start of the year - and I initially had just the Germanium type one (NKT275) on my wishlist, but have since added both to said list. Something about these two just really appeals. Jesse Davey has got the aesthetics here spot on - with that large volume dial taking centre-stage, and then the two smaller dials - Bias and Fuzz sitting either side of the footswitch. You also get a 3-way voicing selector - Fat/Full | Zonk | Vintage, and a smart triple-LED and Germanium biasing sensor! So feature-wise these are pretty rich too. There are no options here - just the standard MiniFuzz which happens to be the NKT275 Germanium type or the MiniFuzz Si which is the BC183 Silicon type. These seem to offer something a little different - which is why I am interested in them - I also love the way they look obviously. There are no options here - and the Germanium type will require a polarity inverter if you use standard power supply. These have obviously found quite a lot of love recently and are appearing on a number of pro pedalboards of late - and I'm definitely intending to invest in a pair of these at some stage! King Tone don't have a whole lot of dealers - but they do have Peach Guitars in the UK, These Go to 11 in Sweden - and 440Hz in Italy - who also list on Reverb.com - US Dealer Amelia Island Fine Guitars also seems to ship to the UK - and you can indeed buy direct from KingToneGuitar.com when they have those pedals in stock - funnily right now near enough everything is sold out on the King Tone Store!
I've known Monsterpiece / Richard Coibion pedals for quite a while now - ever since I did my earliest research into different Fuzz Face and Tone Bender types - and picked out Richard's NPN and MKI pedals for my overview selections. The one of his I've been most after is his MKI Tone Bender style fuzz - but it's one of those that hasn't happened quite yet. In fact the only Monsterpiece pedal I own came about quite by chance (From Singapore via Reverb.com) - and it's quite a special one at that. I came across a 6-knob Scratchy Snatch pedal - which is a very unusual version of the sort of enhanced NPN dlx type Fuzz Face that has additional Tone Control and Tone Control Bypass Switch versus the NPN here. My 6-knob edition has no Tone Defeat toggle switch, but instead splits out the one Tone Control to separate Low and High frequency dials - so I already have in effect one of Monsterpiece's most formidable Silicon Fuzz Faces - mine uses BC108 Transistors. For this piece and to keep everything consistent - I went for the same matching style of pedal design for Germanium and Silicon Monsterpiece Fuzz Faces - which are named Ge and NPN varieties. For Monsterpiece you really just pay per edition type of pedal - which is sometimes dependent on Transistor and/or extra controls. Richard is fairly flexibly on requests though - and you are best placing orders with him courtesy of MonsterpieceFuzz.com. I quite like these pedals - even though they are a little rough and ready in some ways with their hand-written style legends - somewhat reminiscent of BJFe / Bearfoot FX pedal aesthetics. For my selections here I selected the rather unusual special edition Germanium NPN 2N388 Transistor variety - and of course the usual BC183 for the Silicon Transistor type. I may be tempted at some stage to acquire the limited Germanium one here - but my wishlist preference for Monsterpiece currently is the MK1 Fuzz. Like the majority of fuzzes here - these are made individually by hand - by the owner/builder himself. You don't get as many options as Analog.Man - and possibly Richard should remodel his website closer to what Sof at Expresso FX pedals does - as that is the cleanest and clearest interface yet for selecting Fuzz pedal options that I have encountered.
I have quite the coincidental relationship with SolidGoldFX - where it is currently my 2nd equal largest supplier of Fuzzes after Basic Audio (7), and alongside Magnetic Effects (6) - I also count the Tone Mob Model 001 Germanium as SGFX as they made the pedal! It all started with research on Octave Fuzzes - where rather surprisingly to me at least - SolidGoldFX's 76 Fuzz kind of won that category at the time - probably much to do with the 4 x 2SC536N + K30 R-J04 Transistors that power that pedal - but there is a huge range of different tones available in that pedal - and it can be really rather smooth - which is somewhat unusual for a Super Fuzz type. In any case the 76 was my first SGFX and put me on their mailing list / trail. Where I've been tempted by a succession of limited edition Germanium varieties - First the Copper Germanium Rosie, then the Copper Germanium If 6 Was 9, and the Imperial Germanium special edition. In fact when I started this piece I had only 5 SGFX pedals - but in going through each of the pairs here it hit me that I had not yet a single pair of these to show for my troubles - so some quick searching and cross-referencing - and I soon had the Black BC183CC variety in the bag. There's something I really like about Greg Djerrahian's pedals - there are no options here as such, just colourways and pedal types - and the special / limited editions that are batch-released in 20 or so units each year or so. So in some ways I was lucky that I was sharp and on the case and able to snap up each version as it was available. Right now most of the SGFX Germanium varieties are sold out and no longer available - although you could still strike lucky on Reverb.com. Funnily enough I believe I have acquired every single Solid Gold FX pedal courtesy of Reverb.com - either direct from the maker or from one of its dealers. There don't seem to be any properly active dealers remaining in Europe - the UK-based Coda Music doesn't seem to have any in stock at all currently - so I've had to rely on Canadian and US Dealers as well as SolidGoldFX themselves - who have a decent Reverb.com presence as well as their own direct store at SolidGoldFX.com. The If 6 Was 9 BC183 is available currently in both Pale Slate and Black/Grey versions - while you will need to wait for the next random batch of 20 If 6 Was 9 Germanium variety. Greg Djerrahian is fairly unique in favouring the Czech Republic originated Tesla 106NU70 Germanium Transistor variety - which as far as I can recall - and recently inspected - appears in all his Germanium edition pedals or certainly the ones I have! In many ways the SolidGoldFX ones here are the most similar in approach to King Tone - in that small standardised batches are put on sale when available. You can also get an If 6 Was 9 BC108 Transistor pedal - and in fact I've just noted that the Imperial Germanium Edition is still available on the SGFX Store! So if you want a quality Fuzz Face in a hurry - then SolidGoldFX may be your best choice here. I really value all these pedals highly and they're all worthy of equal consideration!
I have to start my recap by stating that all of the above are fantastic pedals and great ambassadors for the Fuzz Face Genre. What you yourselves end up with depends very much on how much you have to spend and how long you are prepared to wait - also which feature sets and aesthetics appeal to you the most - or which specific Germanium Transistor variety captivates your listening. There are many that prefer a slightly more gritty / harsher sounding Fuzz Face - where you're best checking out the BC108 and BC109 Silicon Varieties. For those who generally like the Germanium tonality - then the way to go is one of the many original NOS Germanium Transistors or smooth and warm Silicon BC183's. A lot of the time you will be led by great pedal demos too - so it depends when you are looking and what hits you first that resonates. Note also that I have a slight dislike for / aversion to what I deem over-size old school enclosures (not pedalboard-friendly) and could therefore never own one of the original disc-shaped Arbiter Fuzz Faces!
I just happened to have acquired mostly SolidGoldFX pedals of these listed - but there was no particular plan to that - I just really liked the first one I acquired from SGFX - the 76 Octave Fuzz, and the others kind of just followed along. I will likely end up with one or two more Analog.Man pedals in any case - as I'm interested in the Astro Tone Fuzz, but I may never get the most obvious of the boutique Fuzz Faces - the Sun Face - we shall see.
For DanDrive I'm still waiting on delivery for the Secret Weapon and Austin Priced Fuzzes that I have on order - those are due some time in August (12 weeks production time typically). Depending on my experience and reaction to those (I'm expecting great things) I will likely acquire one or two more from Dan - I really like his combination of engineering choices, feature set and aesthetics. I see he also has a brand new Fuzz out called the Osiris - I will need to check that one out too no doubt.
For Expresso FX I've pretty much decided on two more from the range - I just need to come to a final conclusion on the Tone Bender variety - that will mean I will have 4 Expresso FX in the Tone Library. For King Tone as mentioned, I really like both Germanium and Si MiniFuzzes - I also quite like Jesse's Octaland Mini Octave Fuzz - so I might go for one of those too and have 3 overall from King Tone eventually.
For Monsterpiece - I've featured a number of Richard's pedals on this site in various categories, while the only one I'm really actively chasing is his MKI. I really like these pedals - even though the 'graphics' are somewhat rudimentary. I feel I will probably have one or two more here eventually - pending especially what turns up on Reverb.com where I have feed watches on a number of different brands - including all of these listed here! I also have an inkling that I may get the 2N388 Germanium variety eventually too.
Finally - for Solid Gold FX - the fact that I have 6 of Greg's Fuzz pedals already means that I'm not really looking to add any/many more any time soon - but if another special comes out - who knows?
Generally though I don't think you can go wrong with any of these - and it will largely depend on your own preferences and influences - which of these you are likely to acquire. We all have our own peculiar foibles and hang-ups and aesthetics in particular can be a very significant factor. I also feel that price and availability are a couple of the more significant factors - but it really depends on what sort of fuzz fanatic you are!