I frequently get asked to recommend a great all-rounder every*man kind of fuzz pedal, and over the years as my own collection as grown - so has the roster of usual suspects in my recommendations, I felt that it was about time to have the definitive list up on this site so I could simply refer people to that.
There’s still quite a few more outliers here - and for reasons of symmetry I judiciously decided to omit them from inclusion on this occasion - but there are certainly a few more valid candidates that will soon enough be added to the list - and this selection will expand further.
I’ve elected not to include the Zvex Fuzz Factory for now as that one is particularly tricky to dial in - I would rather recommend the forthcoming Zander Circuitry Compact Edition Siclone (£150) - while I’m still trying to overcome some mental challenges I have with that pedal’s artwork - where I have several ideas as to how it could be made more elegant and harmonious!
In this listing as the title describes - we have mostly Silicon Transistor fuzz pedals with between 2 and 6 transistors onboard (8), we also have a couple of Silicon + Germanium Hybrids (White Atom and Myriad), a couple of Opamp types (Brothers & Rail), a couple of CMOS IC (Brothers again + Termofuzz), and a couple of Transistor + Opamp Hybrids (Frazz Dazzler and White Atom again!).
And while I would say that the DOD Carcosa and Magnetic Effects White Atom come with everyday price tags, the Vemuram Myriad at near $400/£400 certainly does not - I would say that one is possibly only for the Josh Smith fans.
All of these though have a wide variety of tones - some significantly more than others, while some offer further Fuzz effects like gating, octaves and oscillation. This selection includes my current favourite fuzz of all time - the Dr Scientist Frazz Dazzler, and also my favourite ultimate versatile all-rounder fuzz - the still somewhat peerless yet still discontinued Shift Line Termofuzz.
I own and love all of these listed fuzzes - bar the Clusterfuzz Jr. where I actually own the Mini / Micro edition of that which in some ways is a little more versatile / flexible than the larger Jr. version - while both are very valid choices though.
I hope there is a little something for every fuzz fan here. I guess in many ways the holy grail is to be able to approach the trifecta of Big Muff, Fuzz Face and Tone Bender flavours all in the one box - which some of these can roughly approximate - but none yet get 100% faithful on all the varieties - usually they excel for a couple of key styles and the 3rd variety is a somewhat more distant and somewhat imprecise near-match.
Here follow the usual further details in alphabetical order, and I will try to extract some more salient points in the Final Thoughts below :
This 3-knob fuzz is largely still a rather overlooked classic made by Mike Piera with vintage Fairchild transistors. As Joe Perkins' demo above show - there's a huge amount of versatility and a lot of variety from the tone control - particularly in the lower register. It's warm and dynamic and really easy to dial in - probably the easiest of all of these in usability as such.
John Lyons' fantastic Scarab Deluxe is probably my first must have Tone Bender centric pedal. With those 4 transistors it largely straddles the MKII to MKIII range - while it's 3 smart tone/voicing controls - Tone, Bias and Fat give you decent access to other Tone Bender and and key Fuzz varieties. It's probably the most loved of the Basic Audio pedals and should be your first taste of that great brand.
Recently acquired after some weird initial hesitation - this is actually a really clever fuzz - with its combination of Tilt-EQ, Mids-control and Dry-Blend. In using the Dry and Fuzz controls in tandem you can get all manner of nuances on gain range and texture. You can use both to fine-tune and temper your desired voicing. Because of the degree of interactivity between those controls it's not necessarily the easiest pedal to dial in - but is easily one of the most versatile - and is capable of tremendous range and some tremendous sounds.
My near equal longest-serving pedal-chain fuzz alongside the Frazz Dazzler - the Brothers is another with an enormous degree of versatility - uniquely here with 2 stackable channels which each have Boost, Overdrive and Fuzz modes. And while this pedal was devised as an all-round drive pedal really, I use it almost entirely as a fuzz - with one or both Channels set to their Fuzz mode/voicing. This is only the second dearest of this selection - but easily justifies its price overall by how much variety it contains onboard. I occasionally wish I had separate volume controls per channel - more like the Strymon Sunset - but mostly it does me just fine. This and the Frazz Dazzler are pretty much permanenty anchored to my pedal-chain.
I actually only acquired this rather recently - I had been meaning to get one in for literally years, but some limited or special edition pedal always took my focus away. This is a fantastic 5-transistor design devised by Tom Cram - then head-honcho of DigiTech and DOD, but now builder in chief and proprietor of Spiral Electric FX. The controls are rather oddly labelled - but once you understand that Before is Fuzz, Output is Level, After is Bias, Hi-Cut is Treble Refine and the Demhe/Hali switch is Low Frequency Boost/Cut - you quickly get to grips with what the pedal is about. Those 5 controls actually give this pedal a huge range and as typically the lowest cost variant in this selection - this would be my recommended entry point for someone new to the fuzz genre.
And so to my favourite fuzz of all-time - Ryan and Tanya Clarke's superbly engineered Frazz Dazzler with no less than 7 controls and a second higher gain channel footswitch for an extra load of gain and saturation. I've always seen this as a Super Rat, while many see it more as a versatile Muff variant - with its inclusion of 3-Band EQ, Mix control and Volts / Voltage starve control - this is in many ways the more highly featured template for the Catalinbread Giygas. I tend to use it for more higher gain fuzz / fuzzstortion applications, while it has some nuance and subtlety to it also. It's many people's favourite as it does so many things and sounds fantastic throughout.
Daniel Thornhill is the master of the modern fuzz - reinventing the classic formats to bring more tone and texture and modern manufacturing techniques to the fore. He liberally mixes up traditional THT and SMT components to universally great effect. And his singular all-rounder is his most iterated Embla Fuzz - originally derived from a Bee Baa Fuzz but quite different in structure nowadays having had hundreds of tweaks made to the circuit over the last 8 or more years. There are 4 interactive knobs to tweak the output - Volume, Gain, Bias and Thickness, and a couple of internal dip-switches to control how much low end is fed into the circuit. I have a fairly rare dual footswitch compact variant which allows you to employ an extra degree of sizzle in momentary fashion!
This is the first time I actually feature the Jr. version on this site as far as I recall - where I've featured the medium-BB-size original numerous times, and most recently featured the Mini / Micro version which is the one I own. The Jr. is pretty much identical to the Micro variant except that the 8-bit knob of the Micro is a 2-way toggle on the Jr., and the Clipping modes on the Jr. are LED and Silicon vs Mosfet and Silicon on the Micro. I would be happy with either here as they are really very similar - lots of different tones onboard and another one that is really easy and effortless to dial in.
I've waxed rather lyrical about this fuzz recently - a beautifully rich and nuanced fuzz with a tremendous amount of harmonic texture. It sits in between and adjacent to a High Gain Fuzz Face, Super Fuzz and Jordan Boss Tone - it really has characters of each that you can lean into. As with all of Giulio's circuits this has an amazing active Baxandall 2-Band EQ - and with the combination of the Fuzz and Intensity controls you can dial in all manner of texture and saturation. A really versatile and distinct modern fuzz - well worth a look-in.
This would likely be my second choice - or probably rather first equal choice for fuzz newcomers. It's very slightly dearer than the Carcosa but in many ways I find this one easier to dial in and slightly more user-friendly with its clearer labelling. They cover similar territories in some ways in terms of overall range - but have quite distinctive characters that make it valid and worth it to own both - like I do. I'm quite the fan of Chris Livingstone and have several of his pedals.
This was another fairly recently acquired fuzz, and another which I was somewhat reticent about initially. I can't really explain why as I loved it almost immediately when I got to actually playing through it. It's another fuzz which has an enormous range and versatility - and it has a really clever 8-notched Drive control which adds density, texture, gain and saturation as you crank it up to its maximum 'Infinity' gated setting. It starts off as a beautiful warm open overdrive and fuzzes things up from there. It's largely opamp based but has a unique way of generating distortion via its voltage rails. There seem to be a number of smart voltage controller chips in the circuit which underline the pedal's somewhat different approach. This is another pretty distinct and great modern fuzz which is surprisingly easy to dial - in fact second here only to the AstroTone in ease of use.
This has to be the most texturally versatile fuzz of all time - covering a myriad of varieties via its sweeping variable Mode dial - including Arpeggiated, Bitcrushed, Fuzzstortion, Gating, Octave, Oscillating and Velcro tones along various points of the dial. The 'Dirt' dial further exaggerates some of the tonalities at the various sweet spots you hit - and you have a 3-way Harmonics selector / enhancer - do go with the more standard Level and Gain knobs. Few fuzzes are as much fun as this - you do though need pen and notepad handy to record the combinations of Dirt and Mode dials in particular - it would be super helpful if this pedal was remade one day with presets onboard!
Engineered to deliver that Dark Side of the Moon 'Time' tone - or David Gilmour's silicon fuzz lead tone specifically - this pedal has a lot more breadth and some pretty smart controls. Volume and Fuzz are self explanatory, while Body is Bass, Brite is Brilliance - knock it back for more darkness and smoothness and Range sets the gain of the input transistor for more aggression and fuzziness! I also have the Hybrid Fuzz Driver which adds in a Germanium Transistor for a little more warmth and texture.
I've said several times on this blog that you need but witness Andy Martin's demo to be fully onboard with this really great visceral fuzz - which gives you superb texture - including gated tones - which you can then temper or boost via 5 controls and dual footswitches. The second footswitch is a Tone Stack Bypass - which takes the Tone control and Mode toggle out of the circuit as such - so you can have two very different types of tones set up on the pedal - and Balanced with the knob of the same name - such that each mode is at unity volume, or the bypass acts more like a boost. Texturally this is another really interesting fuzz - which is capable of some really cool cutting fuzz tones.
I'm a big Josh Smith fan - so I kind of had to have this pedal - while I don't unequivocally advocate for it really as it's pretty expensive and I'm not sure everyone would necessarily feel the benefit or value of the transaction. For me this is a fantastic Hybrid Fuzz Face - with Silicon and Germanium transistors and some unusual controls that really help you get the most out of this. It's probably the loudest fuzz you will every own if you ever feel the need to fully crank the Level - for me it just sounds immense every way - and the Feel (balance between feedback of Silicon and Germanium Transistors), Tone and rear-accessible Bias control give you all the Fuzz Face variety and more that you might want - this is essential a 5-control super-hybrid Fuzz Face! It's highly capable, but possible not quite worth it for many because of its high ticket price.
I thought that once I got to the end of this roundup / review I would be in a position to pick out an outright favourite here - but there really isn't one in any sort of object way - apart from possibly the enormous variety that the Termofuzz delivers.
My two mainstays in my pedal-chain are still the Brothers and Frazz Dazzler - but actually all of these are long term favourites of mine, and all my recent additions have fallen well into line too for regular rotation.
For beginners - my advice is still Carcosa and / or White Atom, then AstroTone, Embla and Rail.
For the adventurous and experimentalists - you have the Brothers, Frazz Dazzler and Termofuzz.
And for those who love texture you have the, Akuma, Clusterfuzz Jr, Field Marshal, Giygas, Lunar Module, Myriad and Scarab Deluxe
I obviously advocate that you get your hands on as many of these as you can (to try not necessarily to buy!) - all here are sufficiently distinct and individual to be valid for me, and no two really overlap each other too much - these are seriously all pretty great extended-range fuzz pedals for everyday use! Which ones here do you prefer? And do you think I've overlooked any?