I guess out of all the different fuzz flavours, the most well-known and probably best liked is the Fuzz Face. Originally made by Arbiter / Dallas Arbiter and latterly under the control of Jim Dunlop. Of course the ambassador of Fuzz - one Jimi Hendrix played these - well the originals, and we will forever associate the colour Red with Germanium and Blue with Silicon - or not. The initial pedals had Germanium and the latter ones were switched to Silicon which had more gain on tap, but also most importantly was not as sensitive to temperature variations and other minor idiosyncrasies. I however dislike funny shaped and over-sized pedals - including discuses, rocket-ships, large wedges and the like - so all my preferred ’Fuzz Faces’ are within typical rectangular enclosures and mostly within the compact form factor.
Of all those listed I only possess the mini EWS Little Fuzzy Drive so far - which strictly speaking is not exactly a Fuzz Face clone, but certainly overlaps it suitably sufficiently - in any case it’s the best regular mini fuzz I’ve come across! Pretty much all the others listed here are from celebrated makers, and each has its own timbre and tone - as well as specific celebrity musician following.
My one concession to an actual Fuzz Face is from last year’s Jimi Hendrix launched supposed ’2017 Limited Collection’ and which sits very nicely within a regular MXR type enclosure - sporting suitably sleek Hendrix graphics. I also feature the slightly oversized MXR Classic 108 Fuzz from the same extended family - which sounds not too dissimilar. All the remaining ones are boutique, some with very hefty price tags indeed.
I’ve been following the various fuzz videos on That Pedal Show - and boy have I learned a lot about fuzz pedal placement, interaction with buffers and boosts, and the general volatility of Germanium - which most importantly though can sound staggeringly amazing when all conditions are right! - which usually means right at the star of the chain and at even room temperature.
Of all these listed, I am tempted for nostalgic reason to get a Hendrix fuzz, but the ones I best love for their sound are the Analog.Man Sun Face NKT275, JHS Pollinator, ProAnalog MKIV and Vemuram Shanks 4K. That does not mean that the Fulltone ’69, Jam Pedals Fuzz Phrase, MJM London Fuzz, Monsterpiece NPN and Wren and Cuff Your Face (Hot )70’s are slouches - they all sound amazing too!
I have long harboured a desire to get a Sun Face, but I know they can be delicate and difficult to handle, and the Vemuram Shanks is just too pricey - so I’m currently leaning towards the JHS Pollinator and ProAnalog Devices MKIV which I think I currently love the best - If I get just one - it would be the MKIV.
Pedals listed genuine Fuzz Face first and then alphabetically by brand.
Dunlop made a lot of these, and you can find them discounted significantly if you look around - despite the colour deception, they are actually loaded with BC108 transistors supposedly. I'm a big fan of Jimi - so there is a nostalgia pull there for me, and this is actually a really decent pedal; yes there are other better sounding / more dynamic ones on this page. I suppose it's worth getting if you really love Jimi - but like said - other pedals here will likely get you closer to his original searing tones. Note that I dislike the regular discus-shaped Fuzz Faces - they just waste too much pedalboard real estate - these recent compact versions are a godsend really. This particular pedal is also the lowest cost one here -so well worth a gamble as far as that goes. Many - like me though will possibly prefer Germanium flavours.
For a long time I associated Mike Piera more as 'The King of Tone' with a view to his drive pedals, but he is even more active with his Fuzz pedals - carrying dozens of varieties of rare Germanium and Silicon transistors and offering special options on his various fuzz pedals. That Pedal Show did a fantastic feature on Mike Piera and his pedals (above), yet long before that I too had decided that the Germanium NKT275 / NKT type was my favourite sounding. I just did not realise how sensitive these pedals were to their placement in the chain and interaction with other pedals and other elements of the chain. I think it's great you can sort of custom order your fuzz of choice, but it's also a little faffy for me. I think it would be different if I ever visited that studio, but being based in the UK - there are easier fuzz pedals for me to get which get me to those same sonic highs. Amazing pedals though of course and highly recommended too.
This was the first fuzz pedal I acquired and it's wonderful and way beyond its diminutive size in output. A voicing toggle takes you from Fuzzy Drive to Fat Fuzzy and the pedal responds well to guitar volume roll-off. It uses neither Germanium or Silicon, but a more controllable Op-Amp chip which means its extremely pedal-board friendly. It's not directly in the Fuzz Face category but overlaps well with Silicon-type Fuzz Face sounds and then adds further range to gain and tonal profile. Highly recommended.
Another Germanium Fuzz Faze -style pedal which sounds slightly darker than some of the Germaniums here, but has great tone-shaping ability via its 4 dials - so you should really be able to get a tone to suit. It's versatile for sure, but has some really serious competition in this listing - its tonal profile is slightly different, so depending on what you're seeking you may like this, I prefer the more open and searing Germaniums - while this is somehow distinctly darker in places.
Yup - you guessed it another Vintage-sounding Germanium Fuzz Faze special - this time from Greek specialist Jam Pedals - and using CV7003 transistors for suitably Hendrix style tones as the Silhouette hints. It's very musical and even sounding, yet I typically prefer my tones a little more searing - so this one may not be for me. It still sounds fantastic in its own way - more warm and rounded really and will appeal to those looking for a slightly more overdrive profile / softer fuzz.
A lovely vintage Germanium Fuzz Face style pedal from Josh Scott with some really smart controls. The above video does not do it justice - it can sound truly wonderful and really sweet, but I fear its modern graphics may put off some buyers. These are widely available which is a significant advantage, but there are others in this listing that I find sound even better to my ears - well worthy consideration.
Great Germanium Fuzz Face-alike with 3rd Bias dial - not in wide circulation at all, best to buy from site - mjmguitarfx.com. It's a great sounding Germanium version - sizzles in all the right place. Not the best demo in the above video, and that is the 2 dial version rather than 3 - Fuzz Faces tend to sound a lot better with single coils - the video does not really do the pedal full justice. I've heard lots of other sound files, and this pedal is capable of sounding amazing too.
Monsterpiece is a total fuzz specialist, but unlike say Wren and Cuff - its pedals are not in wide circulation - they very occasionally appear on Reverb.com - but you typically need to buy direct from monsterpiecefuzz.com . The NPN is a really versatile Silicon type FF coming with either BC183, 108 or 109 transistors - worthy of consideration - and with some really clever tone-shaping features - and at a good price!
Slightly more BC108 style transistor fuzz - sounds totally different to the Wren and Cuff 70's - slightly more angry and gainier, but capable of some sweet tones too if you roll off your volume. The magic ingredient here is the Buffer switch which has a significant impact on the tone - nice.
My current favourite Fuzz Face -alike - with a huge range of dynamics, tone and drive through just 3 dials. Uses a clever combination of Germanium and Silicon transistors to create the most beautiful and searing of fuzz tones. Not many dealers around, and does not appear too often on Reverb.com - possibly best to go direct - proanalogdevices.com
Yet another beautiful Germanium fuzz - hand-build in Japan. I love its tone, but boy is it pricey - that alone discounts it to a large degree. Love the solid brass enclosure it comes in too - adds a really classy touch and a heft to it - but it does not justify 4 large notes in my opinion - especially when there are equally great sounding pedals at around half the price - possibly more affordable in Japan?
Nothing wrong with this one either - really lush sounding and warm for Silicon - obviously the profile of those BC108 transistors is pretty sweet. Another really viable option - and particularly pedal-board friendly.
With the Fuzz Face you can get totally overly detail-obsessive - checking out batch numbers on specific rare designation vintage Germanium transistors for instance. You also have Germanium pedals which sound like Silicon and vice versa - so there are infinite tonal variations often even within the same pedal - as is the case with Mike Piera's Sun Face - which comes in a huge number of alternative version / with options galore.
To be honest - apart from Hendrix really, I've always been more familiar with the Big Muff - more overdriven fuzz sound, but I have come to really like the sound of Fuzz Faces - just the difficulty really of deciding which one/s to go for. I really like pretty much all the pedals in this listing, and apart from recommending the mini Little Fuzzy Drive which I already have - I would most likely be looking to add one of either the Monsterpiece NPN or more likely possibly and my current favourite - the ProAnalog Devices Mark IV. The Vemuram sounds great but is too expensive - so my winner here is the Mark IV - now just to get hold of one - in green!