Back in January, I started on this year’s Fuzz Tone Quest (2018 Year of Fuzz) with 5 articles on key fuzz types - Fuzz Face, Big Muff, Tone Bender, Rat and Unique/Unusual. One category I foolishly overlooked was the mac daddy original fuzz - the Gibson Maestro FZ-1 Fuzz-Tone - most notable for its use on the Rolling Stones’ track ’I Can’t Get No Satisfaction’.
This earliest of fuzzes was made with 3 Germanium Transistors and was pretty raw and rough and generally badly behaved. Modern reproductions can be very pricey as they are using 3 or 4 of those super rare 60’s Germanium Transistors, while there are several Silicon and even OpAmp varieties available too. The original Maestro had the dials on the rear side, but as always - my preference is for more modern and practical variations / applications.
In my list of 12 I have 2 larger-format vintage style pedals from Blackstrap Electrik Co. and D*A*M which are there for those of you who lean more towards the vintage and don’t mind a moody fuzz - which has to be placed right at the front of the chain. The others are largely more tolerant and better behaved, where the North Effects Primitive and Vectra Maestro Clone are 1.5V AAA battery only, and the Reuss uses two AAA batteries (3V).
Over the year I’ve discovered a lot of Fuzz-makers I really like - and 3 of those are represented here by way of the Basic Audio Gnarly, Skreddy Bloody Knuckle and SolidGoldFX Rosie Germanium - the last mentioned is probably my most likely acquisition here, although it is toe-to-toe with the Gnarly. I also like each of the more typical clones - the Black Fudge, George Engineering Clone, Reuss Three Volt Fuzz and the Vectra Fuzz-Tone. The EHX Satisfaction is the lowest cost option here, and does not use anything approximating the vintage specifications, but still comes close, and the Bigfoot FX Spaghetti Western Fuzz is not exactly a clone, but also comes plenty close enough.
I already have a flavour of Maestro in a few of my already-acquired pedals - including the Matthews Effects Whaler and Boss FZ-5. Yet to be fully completist about Fuzz, I should really grab one of the above, and as mentioned, my current front-runner is the Rosie Germanium. Note that you are best off looking for each of these on Reverb.com - some are already discontinued and ’unobtanium’ but for most there are one or two or a few in circulation...
Pedals listed below alphabetically by brand.
A very slightly refined approach here from Basic Audio with an extra Texture dial for roughing up or smoothing out your tone. This is my almost equal favourite with the SolidGoldFX Rosie Germanium - we'll see which one I go for - could change at any moment - depending on price, availability etc. Nice and fat sounding demo from Gearmandude above!
As mentioned above, not exactly a clone, but as you can also witness in the above demo - it gets you plenty close enough. A very basic 2-dial fuzz which will do the job nicely, perhaps not quite as full-throated as some of the others here.
If you're going for a point-to-point hand-wired vintage-style version - then 2 of your best choices are this one with a 'Trio of carefully tested and matched Mullard and RCA Germanium transistors', or the not too dissimilar D*A*M Model:AA below. Not that both these enclosure are somewhat oversized.
Alongside the EHX Satisfaction, these are at the affordable end of the scale - TL022 OpAmp based in this instance for better temperament overall. Not quite as raw and full-sounding as some of the others on this page, but will be easily good enough for most.
Not dissimilar to the Blackstrap Amalia above - both being in that vintage hand-wired category - this one rocking pretty similar 2 X Mullard OC84, 1 X Mullard OC78 transistors. Sounds pretty much identical to the original per above demo, but I prefer some of the more full-throated alternatives on this page. Note also that this is the priciest pedal in this selection.
The one pedal here that has wide distribution and is easily acquirable for most goes down the affordable twin Silicon transistor route - with a very simple but effective circuit. It is a somewhat tamed version versus the original but still has plenty of texture, and will slot in a lot more easily on your pedalboard. This is still a worthy contender, but there are better sounding ones here - for a lot more money - so you make your choice and pay the price - depending on what you value. UPDATE! - I initially featured the stock version here, and in the above visual, but then was reminded of my Modified article, and recalled the JHS modded version of this. A cursory glance on Reverb showed that JHS was selling its last copy I assume of the discontinued mod, and I promptly stepped up and acquired for £65 imperial credits. So from having overlooked entirely and possessing no Maestros, I may end up having 2 or 3.
This is a great hand-made clone from Athens Greece, made by George the Engineer and available on Reverb.com. It features no less than 4 vintage transistors, whether Silicon or Germanium is not specified, but it sounds great, and is available at a very reasonable price for a one-off type build.
A real back-to-basics pedal made with the minimum of fuss for an affordable price. Works from a single 1.5V battery only, and makes use of 2 x NOS AC188 and 1 x GT108 Germanium transistors for its properly vintage-voiced output. There is no demo video to date, but sound examples can be found on the product page - north-effects.co.uk/primitive. This UK company focuses on value, and delivers primo components at a very reasonable price.
A great sounding fairly recent compact clone from Denmark - making use of 3 new old stock 2N270/AC125/GC301 germanium transistors, and running solely on internal 3V battery power courtesy of two AAA batteries. Sounds great, and many will love it, but I do like the convenience of using isolated power supplies and not having to disengage pedal from chain and open up to regularly replenish power. Had it been mains lead usable also it would likely have been more of contender for me. Also for EU materials compliance reasons one of the transistors is shipped to you separately and you have to slot it in yourself!
Mr Skreddy himself - Marc Ahls states that he would rather save the rare AC127 Germanium Transistors for his Screw Driver and Hybrid Fuzz Driver pedals as they only use one each of those, while the Bare Knuckle needs a trio. Price from new for these was around $195, and there are currently none in the wild! Last Reverb.com reference is one ended listing in 2017 and 3 sold in 2016. So they are super rare, but may show up once in a blue moon - you would need to react very quickly though. No video demos or sound examples currently available for this pedal - but it's a Skreddy so you know it will be good.
Much like my SGFX '76 - this takes the original inspiration in a somewhat different directions and gives you sweet and smooth, as well as a flavour of the more raw voicings. There's also a useful Tone toggle, alongside an additional Bias dial. Tesla-branded Germanium transistors are used here to great effect. I initially thought this was my favourite one here, but I also really like the Basic Audio Gnarly - they both do quite different things really and both sound amazing.
Another great battery-powered Maestro Clone which was out around 5 years ago but is now rare as hen's teeth. Variously labelled either Maestro Fuzz-Tone or Vectra Fuzz-Tone - the last recorded sale I can see on Reverb.com is May 2016 - so a while ago. Seems very similar to the George Engineering one above, only that one works of a power lead, and thus has the advantage for my preferences at least.
When I started down this particular rabbit hole, I had already kind of decided that my collection of 30-odd fuzzes was probably sufficient, but as always, I discovered a couple more that I really like the sound of. The Basic Audio Gnarly is more true to the original, but gives you full-throated power with control and even temperament, while the SGFX Rosie Germanium smooths things out for a really honeyed tone - I have to concede I like both equally really. I had other pedal preferences already on my list, but I feel I may veer in the direction of one or both of these first.
I am so bored of reading about people saying they hate the sound of Fuzz - these people really don't have a clue! So much of classic rock history was recorded with fuzz pedals, these people just don't realise it. And players like David Gilmour can make a fuzz sound sweet as you like - so many a time I'm not entirely clear on exactly what it is I'm hearing, I just know I love it.
This proper fuzz odyssey of mine is now in its 5th month, and shows no signs of abating, I am forever discovering something new and interesting. Note that I really did try to find a Mini Maestro Clone Pedal too, but was unsuccessful - there probably is one out there somewhere, but I was unable to track it down. If you are more vintage-minded there are a plethora of more faithful odd 60's and 70' Maestro variations and clones of each in every shape and size and with as peculiar a power supply requirement as you could want. It's just for me that pedal space is at a premium, and I like to go compact and versatile wherever I can. I also like the benefits of more modern pedals - where you can choose where you place them in the chain, and how you stack them. Most of the vintage Fuzzes can only really sit at the front of your chain. So as always - you make your choices and pay your price.
I said I was going to get possibly one or the other of the Gnarly or Rosie, but already jumped on a brand new JHS Modded Satisfaction, and have decided I will likely go for both of the aforementioned pedals - just need to decide which one first.