In going through all my various favourite mini Drive and Distortion Pedals, I thought I should round out the exercise by updating my preferred Mini Fuzz list which has grown and evolved over the years. The current number is 20 - with some additions, but also a number swapped out for better alternatives.
I haven’t really concentrated on Mini Fuzzes of late for whatever reason, but did put in a recent order with KO Amps for a sort of Skreddy Mayo Big Muff style mini. I’m still waiting for some of these pedals to come down in price a touch / be on special offer - but that doesn’t seem to be happening. If anything the prices seem to be creeping somewhat upwards.
The original core is largely the same as before with the newest Rainger FX Mini Bleep Fuzz preferred over the previous iteration, while I’ve ousted the Outlaw Five O’Clock Fuzz in favour of the pair of Mooer Fuzz Face types, MXR Mini 108, and Germanium and Silicon Mini SviSound fuzzes in gold edition.
Russian Mark Svirkov of SviSound who is now based in Varna Bulgaria (great for deliveries within EU) produces sort of artisinal pedals which have a jewellers and steampunk aesthetic about them, but also make use of the very best parts available. His Reverb.com store is well stocked and I’ve been meaning to hit the trigger for a while - just can’t decide on which pedal I should start with. He does some very rarified iterations which can result in a price differential of as much as 300% - so trying to figure out the gist of that first really.
I had overlooked the pair of Mooer Germanium and Silicon Fuzz Face types but the former in particular is pretty tasty - so of course both get listed here. Finally, MXR has launched a mini version of its sort of Silicon Fuzz Face style - the 108.
There seem to be an increasing number of these mini fuzz pedals around, and a number of these are pretty stellar sounding - so you should not be nervous to go small on these. There is certainly no need to keep buying those old vintage huge frogman flipper style fuzzes which use less than 10% of the internal cavity.
I’ve said before that the mini format does seem to suit fuzzes in particular as there are several stellar ones at this level. And several pedal-makers like Decibelics and Suhr are proving that minis can be your best option for a particular drive type.
Pedals are listed alphabetically by brand:
Somewhat confusingly named South Korean single dial silicon fuzz. It has a lovely creamy fuzz tone which sits somewhere between a Silicon Fuzz Face and a regular Big Muff Pi - gets more distorted as you crank, but can be very smooth and musical too.
I'm still trying to chase down this superbly articulate and brightly textured Big Muff style fuzz. We've seen couple of the larger versions with battery cavity on Reverb.com in the interim, while the more compact truly wee version is proving to be ever elusive. I've loved every demo I've heard of this wee fuzz and am still trying to seek it out my any means!
This was actually the very first fuzz I acquired and I still think it's one of the best of its type. It uses an OpAmp for a sort of hybrid germanium/silicon style fuzz sound which spans the range from Fuzz Face to Big Muff really and is helped by a smart 2-way Fuzzy Drive / Fat Fuzz mode toggle. It's a superbly versatile and musical pedal, and would still probably be my recommendation for 'if you buy only one mini fuzz...'. Quite superb really - as Mike Hermans ably demonstrates in the above demo.
The history of Fuzz is a fascinating subject - as is that of the key types along the way like the various Big Muff types and their clones. The Kitrae site has all the details you would ever want to know including how Maxon and then Ibanez came to clone the Big Muff sound. The 850 Mini Fuzz is just a fairly recent step in their part of that history.
I keep hoping this one is going to come down a touch closer to the £100 mark, but its price seems to be holding firm at the same level it has for a while. Looks like this is a perennial bestseller otherwise it would not hold its value quite so readily. This is a great sounding
Silicon Fuzz Face with that typical silicon rasp. I'm of the old school when it comes to fuzzes - dime both the volume and saturation, and then use your guitar controls to vary tone and intensity.
I first came across this Canadian Amp and Pedal builder by way of Reverb.com - can't recall how exactly - possibly I was seeking out mini Tone Bender style fuzzes. In any case Kevin O'Reilly is sort of the John Lyons or Marc Ahlfs of the mini fuzz - offering up pretty much every sort of variety in those tiny enclosures. I've just ordered a sort Mayo style mini muff from him, and will probably order a couple of more varieties eventually along the way - I do think he could benefit from better graphics - of course it's how they sound that counts!
I used to have just the Mooer Black Secret Rat-style pedal in this listing, and thought I should have at least one more alternative. I actually also have the BYOC Lil'Mouse which sounds great, but could do with more volume and gain. This particular 'Rat' sounds quite superb really and manages to tame some of those more unruly high frequencies.
I was after this one for a while when some old stock turned up at German vendor's Musik Productiv site. I of course have two Tone Bender style minis now - oddly both the MKII variety for some reasons - they are both highly dynamic and articulate with very slightly different tonal profiles and range, but both sound excellent - you obviously get the additional tone control on the KOSound version, but I've also never had an issue adjusting fuzz via guitar volume and tone controls. In fact most of the time with fuzzes I gain the pedal volume and sustain/saturation and manipulate those in a Brian May fashion by way of the guitar controls.
I was lucky to pin this one down when I did as I don't see too many of these around nowadays. Has a really smart 3-way internal voicing switch which allows you to select octave, low-end-boost or both together. This is very obviously based on the Univox Superfuzz and properly captures that slightly gnarly sound. It's yet another really cool fuzz type in mini enclosure with plenty of texture on tap - highly recommended.
This was actually my second mini Rat type pedal after the BYOC Li'l Mouse which I felt had insufficient amounts of gain and volume really. I much prefer to use the Mooer in that role as it has more range to it, as well as a voicing toggle switch for a more aggressive 'Turbo' mode which is right down my street. Both this and the above KO Amps Pocket Mouse are worthy representatives of this genre, and obviously there is something of a gulf in price - while the Mooer is pretty much equal to the task but not quite as well balanced as the former - which can be a blessing if you're after a more attacking fuzz.
An actually proper Silicon Fuzz Face type with plenty of range of texture and saturation. I feel Mooer often get a bad rep about being cheap 'digital' pedals which cut corners to achieve the right sort of sound at that low price. But there's actually many a Mooer which is a real gem and punches way above its humble origins. This Silicon Transistor fuzz is one of the better Mooers, albeit it is not quite as good as its Germanium sibling which sounds really great.
This proper Germanium Transistor fuzz is something of a secret weapon. It is based on the Arbiter English Fuzz Face and really does amazingly well in delivering those genuinely warm and vintage-style fuzz tones. I really don't know how I overlooked these two Mooer fuzzes before - with the Grey Faze being a particular surprise / highlight.
Funnily enough aptly described in its name - this is a classic BC108 Silicon Transistor Fuzz Face stye pedal - very much in that Jimi Hendrix vein. It has a neat Input Buffer switch which both alters the tonal profile somewhat and allows the pedal to get on a touch better with upstream Wah pedals. A really nice addition / innovation by MXR.
This is a really neat fuzzy-drive pedal with beautifully warm, rich and often subtle textures. I can't decide whether it's supposed to be based on the Hudson Broadcast or the Crazy Tube Circuits Starlight - neither actually - it's based on the Alan Yee Fuzz Nuts - but in any case it sounds pretty spectacular either way. I've always described this as a sort of fuzz for players who sort of really don't like fuzzes!
I still think this is one of the best overall versatile mini fuzzes as clever interplay between Tone and Sustain dials allows for a huge variety of tones - which allows you to target sort of Ram's Head and Triangle styles as well as more textured and aggressive types. If you buy only two mini fuzzes - I reckon you should get the EWS Little Fuzzy Drive and this one for the greatest degree of utility. These are both great examples of what these little fuzz pedals are capable of.
Some would argue that the Pigtronix Disnortion Micro should also be listed here - but even though it is a sort of fuzz-based circuit, I still see it as more of an overdrive and distortion type. This diminutive pedal comes with a load of controls which include a blend dial and a Fuzz button - so you can run it as just an octave pedal too! I keep meaning to get one of these soon, other priorities though seem to get in the way!
This latest updated version of the previously named Dr Freakenstein Dwarf Bleep is a greatest hits of sort of its two predecessors now with more control of those crazy spacey sounds. Comes with the usual Igor expression pad for some really cool fuzz modulation. This won't be to everyone's taste necessarily, but is a great addition to the fuzz sound library - and one I will definitely add in the near future.
Mark Svirkov makes exceptionally finely crafted pedals with an almost Fabergé style steampunk aesthetic. His Reverb.com store is well stocked but you can also order direct from his site, and the mini pedals seem to come in several varying designs of intricacy. The ones pictures are the simpler looking gold-faced ones which are under £100, while the one in the above video is priced at £280 - so a pretty wide range of price tags depending on the level and degree of finish. There's no doubting the sonic credentials thought as the insides are uniformly made from the finest parts available including vintage Russian sourced transistors.
And the equally impressive sounding but slightly less expensive Silicon version which I still think leans towards the Fuzz Face even though it's capable of some quite full-throated tones. I feel there is slight confusion at the moment on the website in terms of the different styles of pedals on offer, and what the major differences are beyond aesthetics. In any case both SviSound mini fuzz pedals together make for an enviable pair.
This diminutive Zvex gives you a tiny flavour of the Fuzz Factory - which is a sort of Fuzz Face based gated fuzz. Here you just get 2 dials Volume and Pulse Width - the latter which allows you to crank up the texture and gating of the square wave that underlies this fuzz. This is a great way to get your foot in the door of Zvex - a really versatile pedal for what it delivers.
There has never been a greater choice of pedals, nor has the quality bar been as high before as it is nowadays. Moreover you are getting more and more boutique and specialist makers moving into the mini pedal marketplace which for a long time was reserver for Mooer and myriad cheaper Chinese copyists.
As it stands, players can easily be confused by the plethora of choices that present themselves - yet the old rule where larger pedal size used to indicate more quality really does not apply any more. There are now numerous mini pedals some with 6 or more dials which are equal to the task of much larger pedals - particularly in this fuzz sector. Traditionally fuzzes used to only have a couple of dials - so there is no reason why you can't utilise a smaller enclosure. Look inside one of the older Colorsound style pedals and it's 99% empty space!
This Mini Fuzz list will continue to shift and change depending on exactly what I've run across and have been influenced by. A number of the featured pedals do more than the majority of their larger alternatives - I never saw the need to equate size with value or worth, but it seems like a lot of vintage buyers only seem to want something which weighs about as much as a gold ingot. I say if you can fit the same circuit into a smaller enclosure then go for it - just as we now have complete computers miniaturised into smart phone format. My phone has near enough the same degree of computing prowess as my laptop - so smaller does not need to mean compromised.
I stand behind all of the above choices, and those of these I still don't have yet are still very much on my wishlist - with SviSound probably next in line for acquisition.