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2020 Best of New Fuzz Pedals for the Year

Big Muff Style FuzzBlammo ElectronicsCatalinbreadChase Bliss AudioDanDrive PedalDanelectroDemedash EffectsDusky ElectronicsEarthQuaker DevicesExpresso FXFjord FuzzFulltone EffectsFunction F(X)FuzzFuzz Face Style FuzzFuzz-Drive and FuzzstortionFuzzrociousGated and Velcro FuzzGermanium FuzzJHS PedalsKuro Custom AudioMad ProfessorMidValleyFXModulated FuzzOctave FuzzOddball FuzzOpAmp FuzzOscillating FuzzPettyjohn ElectronicsRat Style FuzzRed Witch EffectsRedbeard EffectsReeves Electro Guitar PedalsSilicon FuzzSitek Guitar ElectronicsSpaceman EffectsSuper-Fuzz StyleThorpyFXTone Bender Style FuzzToneTuga EffecctsVemuramWren and CuffZander Circuitry+-
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It is fairly evident that my favourite pedal genre is Fuzz - seeing as that of all the pedals I added to the collection this year - 80 of those were Fuzz varieties.

 

This particular selection consists of 31 pedals across different sizes and sub-genres. And of those 31, I personally own 22 of them. All the remainder are of course on my wishlist, these are :

  • DanDrive Secret Machine (I own Secret Weapon edition)
  • Dusky Electronics Augustus Octave Fuzz
  • Fjord Fuzz Fenris Super-Fuzz
  • Fuzzrocious Croak Double Filter Fuzz
  • JHS Pedals 3 Series Fuzz
  • Mad Professor FUZZ32 Germanium High Output Fuzz (in specific colourway)
  • ToneTuga FX Salvage Feedback Fuzz
  • Wren and Cuff J Mascis Signature Garbage Face Fuzz (Ram’s Head Muff)
  • Zander Siclone Silicon Chaos Initiator V3 Compact

Of those I’m not sure I really need the Secret Machine (I have the Secret Weapon), while the most likely next arrivals will be the Fjord Fuzz Fenris (just waiting on Daniel Thornhill to sort me out!), JHS 3 Series Fuzz, ToneTuga FX Salvage, and I’m going to try to persuade Alex Millar to make a slightly plainer Siclone for me. I find the artwork on the current release a little over-busy and it sort of triggers my OCD - while Alex’s more recent pedal artwork teases have been far more streamlined and elegant - and entirely to my liking.

 

I have a healthy backlog of Fuzzes that I’m still chasing up for my reference collection - but that is getting smaller every year. I tend to generally be very opportunistic here, and have a large enough wishlist / target-list that there are almost always bargains to be had in certain areas. Some of this requires just a little patience too - as the prices can fluctuate wildly and you need to move fast when an appealing offer is made available.

 

I believe in 2021 I will be able to pick up a lot of the final stragglers as such - meaning I can take my foot off the gas a little in following years!

 

Pedals are listed alphabetically by brand, and as before they are selected based on a mix of criteria, including innovation, usability, output quality and feature set! :


Blammo Electronics Tomb Sender Fuzz (MKIII) Transparent Lexan Edition - $155

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One of the later releases in this list, this is interestingly the 3rd Transparent / Lexan Enclosure Fuzz I've had the opportunity to acquire - following on from the Lexan Zvex Fuzz Factory and Reeves Electro Lexan 2N2Face (based on my suggestion).

 

This is a 3 Germanium Transistor TB MKIII variety, which though sounds slightly closer to a Buzzaround for me - it doesn't quite have the creamy distortion of my Pigdog Juju Fuzz, but is slightly more textural - which is very much the Baldwin Burns Buzzaround kind of thing.

 

Another area to note is that the circuitboards are prettier for the transparent editions with the 3 transistors all in a row, for the more conventional enclosures the transistors are clustered in a triangle formation.

 

Controls here are Volume, Q2 Bias, Tone, Gain, and a Noise Gate toggle-switch.


Catalinbread Giygas Fuzz - $199/£189

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A great super versatile silicon fuzz with some really smart controls.

 

Its 5 controls are - EQ (Tilt EQ), Mids, Blend, Loud, and Fuzz/Gain. You don't get that many fuzzes with Tilt EQ - and it works fantastically with the separate Mids EQ control to fill out the signal profile.

 

This is a modern classic - with amazing extended range - including plenty of volume and oomph onboard. It is definitely the most Fuzz versatility you can get with the fewest number of controls.


Chase Bliss Audio Bliss Factory - $399

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I'm a little bemused by the whole Bliss Factory saga - the hype and furore and just how many customers did not follow my guidance. I warned how you needed to exercise some patience with how you deployed this, and that it wasn't always the easiest fuzz to dial in. You can see by the hoards of players shedding their pedals that this advice was ill-headed.

 

I'm quite the aficionado of Fuzz Factories though, and am aware of their various foibles, and over the years have developed techniques on how best to dial them in. I find the extended Bliss Factory a real joy to dial in and it's extra controllability makes it more fun to use for me. While there is also more scope to generate absolute squealing cacophony too - which is evidently what a lot of those users experienced.

 

I've still to really mess around properly with all the dip-switch options - I've of course experimented with a few, but am having too much fun with the surface controls.

 

The topology is identical to all the previous Chase Bliss pedals, and on this occasion we have :

 

Volume, Gate (Ramp), Compression, Drive, Stability (Voltage Starve), LPF Low Pass Filter (High-Cut), 3-way Aux Footswitch Function (Parameter Focus), 3-way Norm/Fat/Fatter extended Bass Options, 3-way Degree of Resonant Filter, 2-Preset toggle-switch, and of course those rear 16 dip-switches.

 

This is exactly what it looks like a classic Germanium Fuzz Factory with a number of additional bells and whistles for even more textural variety and experimental fuzz tones. It can also produced a very satisfactory straight-up Fuzz Face tone - probably one of my favourites in that regard - more on the nicely searing and slightly gritty side - which is all good for me!


DanDrive Pedal Secret Machine - €339

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This is something of a confusing one as there are 3 different DanDrive Zonk Machine varieties available - the original Secret Engine, then Secret Weapon, and the newest Secret Machine variety which is a little more strident and aggressive, and very closely modelled on Doyle Bramhall II's very own original Zonk Machine Fuzz.

 

I personally own the second Secret Weapon edition / iteration - which is slightly less aggressive than the newest variety. Both of those have 4 controls - Level, Fuzz, Bias, and a Mids/Flat Switch.

 

All sound satisfyingly rich and dynamic and I doubt anyone would be anything but delighted with any of these - do note though that the Secret Engine does not have a bias control. As per my fairly recent Zonk Machine roundup - the Secret Machine is probably still the best sounding one available of all those reproductions.


Danelectro 3699 Fuzz - $199/£174

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This has actually dropped in price recently as predicted by me, and can be had for a very reasonable $160 via Sweetwater.

 

I was wrong in my initial analysis that this was likely an SMT style circuit - it is made with proper full-size THT parts including PN3565 Transistors.

 

You get 4 controls here - Volume, Fuzz, Tone, Stock/Mid Boost toggle-switch, and a second footswitch to activate or disengage the octave effect.

 

There are a few decent Foxx Tone Machine reproductions out there, but this has the best combination of tones, size and usability of any of those sound. I think it sounds great - and for Americans it's quite a bargain now at that lower price point! Thanks to reader Matt G once more for sharing the knowledge.


Demedash Spidola Germanium Fuzz Device - $160/$175 (Gold Knobs)

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This is a great innovation - based on a simple idea which is just beautifully executed. At the core of this is the idea to split out the tone generation of the high and low frequency content. The High Frequency is generated by single Germanium Transistor acting as Treble Booster - and attached to a LPF filter, while the Low Frequency generation is delivered by an Opamp - where you simply set its output level.

 

So separate tone generators each with a single point of control, then a Preamp Push in front - to ramp up gain, and a Level Output control to temper the volume.

 

This is a great sounding pretty simple and pretty special fuzz circuit. I'm looking forward to seeing a 3 or 4 band evolution here with different tone generation components for each stage - with filters and level controls.

 

For now the Spidola Fuzz is the great forerunner to all of that - and is rendered as great sounding and very controllable Germanium transistor infused fuzz device. Obviously much of the Fuzziness come from the breakup character of that particular Transistor - really highly sonically satisfactory.


Dusky Electronics Augustus Octave Fuzz - £200/£199

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I've been aware of Dusky Electronics for a while, but have not quite hit the trigger yet - while the Hypatia Fuzz has been on my wishlist for a while.

 

Perhaps I will try to do a deal on the brace of these - including this recent Augustus - which is a great modern example of an octave fuzz. with 4 smart controls - Heat (Gain + Octave Level), Meat (Bass), Light (High), and More (Output Level).

 

Like many other alternatives of this ilk, I still think it could do with a second footswitch to activate and disengage the octave effect though!


EarthQuaker Devices Sunn O))) Life Pedal V2 - $269/£289

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I expected this to do pretty well, but was surprised to see it right at the top of Reverb.com new pedals bestseller list.

 

This is a smart more pedalboard-friendly V2 iteration of the somewhat over-size Sunn O))) Life Pedal - based around a Rat style Fuzz/Distortion with Preamp Boost, and Octave Up Effect. It sounds suitable rich and textural with everything engaged, and you can apply the octave effect independently which is kind of rare for these kinds of pedals. All in all I think it's a little hyped, but mostly worth the hype as it is a really versatile, richly textured, and actually great sounding pedal.

 

It features those classic 3 Rat Controls - Magnitude (Volume), Filter (Treble-Cut) and Distortion (Gain). Then you have Amplitude (Octave Volume), Octave (Blend/Depth of Octave) and finally ’Clip’ - a 3-way clipping rotary selector with just the OpAmp (no diodes) applied to the left, Asymmetrical 2 x Silicon + 1 x LED diode in the middle, and dual silicon diodes to the right. The core Distortion side is activated by the left-hand Magnitude footswitch, and the Octave side by the right-hand Amplitude footswitch.

 

There haven't been that many of these on the second-hand market - which is a sign that it's a pretty decent pedal for most.


Expresso FX Custom Dual-Switching FF Ge/Si - £229

www.instagram.com/p/B-fGlSJHleg/

This is actually not that dissimilar conceptually to the DanDrive Austin Pride Texas Square Face Fuzz - being a dual Silicon/Germanium switching Fuzz Face where you can select both Silicon, both Germanium, or one of each in either direction - i.e. 4 configurations.

 

Unlike the DanDrive, there is no Clean Blend here, but rather the more classic Volume, Fuzz and Bias, Here featuring really great sounding CV10806 Silicon and CV7351 Germanium Transistors.

 

This is every bit as texturally rich as the DanDrive (I have both), while the Expresso FX pricing is a little less damaging on your wallet.

 

Sof at Expresso FX is still my go-to guy for those classic NOS-populated British Heritage Fuzzes - and these Custom editions to really clever things with those.

 

For some reasons the Instagram Oembed is not working on this site currently - please bear with us while we get that resolved. You obviously click on the link now for sound / video samples, but the embed is not rendering properly currently.


Expresso FX Custom Dual-Switching FF Ge/Si - £229

www.instagram.com/p/CDJ6mPKH3lt/

As mentioned - Instagram oEmbeds currently not working properly - so please bear with us there.

 

This is the second of my incredible Expresso FX Custom pedals - the even more fantastic sounding dual-switching TB MKII type with classic 3 x OC75 Germanium Transistors. We have the same 3 core controls - Level, Attack and Bias, the two toggle switches here are somewhat different.

 

The left-hand 'Buzz' switch introduces mis-biasing on the Q2 Transistor for a slightly spiked buzzy effect. While the right-hand switch allows you to switch the Q3 transistor between the OC75 stock Germanium, and a slightly more attacking OC202 Silicon Transistor.

 

Favourite setting is Buzz off, with Silicon Transistor in - sounds magnificent!


Fjord Fuzz Berserk V2 Compact - $160

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This is a fantastic thick and slightly agressive sounding Muff-style fuzz, very loosely based on / evolved from the Colorsound Supa Tonebender,

 

It benefits from 4 smart controls - Volume, Gain/Fuzz, Thickness and Mids - which offer up some really interesting variations away from the more traditional Muff tones. Generally a very richly textured and thick sounding fuzz.


Fjord Fuzz Fenris Super-Fuzz - $180

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This is an evolution of Daniel's Gjallarhorn Fuzz - which is a real foghorn of a Super Fuzz - with an amazing wall of sound delivery.

 

I own the 2nd iteration which has 5 controls and 2 footswitches, itself a successor to the original 3-knob single footswitch variety.

 

The Fenris flips the script again with a different set of 6 controls and single footswitch, here consisting of - Volume, Gain, 2 x Notch Filters, Passive Gate, and Octaving.

 

I'm still waiting for Daniel to sort me out with one of these for a full review - looks like early next year now.


Function F(x) Professional MKI Mini Fuzz - $169

This is my favourite of the mini quartet that Dave 'Pickdropper' Friesema made for me this year - including also a Professional MKIII, a Hive Mind (Buzzaround), and Mini Clusterfuzz. These are all so good that I will commission a MKI.V and MKII next year to complete the TB set as such.

 

The Mini Professional MKI just sounds incredibly authentically a MKI - perfect for that Mick Ronson sound - with an exceptional balance of zing and bite as you would expect. And with a smartly tuned low noise floor.

 

It has my favourite minimum fuzz controls - Fuzz, Level, and Q3 Bias, and makes really excellent use of its 3 x 2N404 Germanium Transistors which Dave tends to favour.


There is a lot of disparaging nonsense written about mini pedals - but I would put these 4 up with the best of any fuzz of any size - they are all immediately identifiable as great examples of each genre they represent. These are beautifully hand-crafted and very delicately tuned by ear for maximum effect. Small can be powerful too!

 

Alas there are no demos currently bar for the Hive Mini - which I've already shared a couple of times on this site. Hopefully by the time I get my full set - there will be some more sound and video references to showcase just how great these pedals are.


Fuzzrocious Croak Expressive Double Filter Fuzz - $189/£179

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This is another cool variation of fuzz which uses dual filters - Formant and Envelope to great effect.

 

You have 5 controls - Pre (Pre-Gain), Filter 1 (Formant), Filter 2 (Envelope) and a Filter 1 Bypass switch.

 

For the dual footswitches the left-hand one is momentary and kind of accentuates the output with a fixed/cocked wah sounding style of effect. The right-hand footswitch is the On/Off / Bypass.

 

I really like the croak-like texture of this very aptly named fuzz, while it's not in my normally preferred compact format enclosure. I might still very well add one of these if I can get it for a decent price.


Fulltone Queen Bee Germanium Fuzz - $238/£249

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This is Mike Fuller's new fuzz - developed while in isolation - which uses those same sort of Russian Germanium Transistors x 3 as the Spaceman Sputnik does - references have been filed off / concealed here in not too dissimilar a fashion as how they have been obscured in the Sputnik - but they definitely have that lovely open searing tonality we Sputnik fans are so used to.

 

With 3 Transistors you would assume this is Tone Bender adjacent, while for me it sits a little closer to Fuzz Face really in how it works - with a little more versatility and range - including 4 controls - Level, Buzz, Treble and a 3-way Min/Half/Max Bass Boost toggle-switch.

 

This is a loverly searing and richly textured Germanium fuzz with plenty of variety and versatility - sort of not too dissimilar to the Sputnik - minus that one's Scan/Drift eccentricities. This was one of my last fuzzes to arrive this year - and I rather like it!

 

The key magic here is really in the degree of cleanup via your guitar's volume knob - where you can get all sorts of different tones and textures just by tweaking that one dial - from crystal clean to heavily textured.


HS Pedals 3 Series Fuzz - $99/£99

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This just happens to my favourite of all Josh Scott's recent fuzzes - better than anything in the Legends of Fuzz Range, and significantly better that that one's Smiley - courtesy of the added fully variable Bias control, and Fat Bass-Boost switch.

 

As I presumed - this is made with the same SMT Silicon transistors as the Smiley - but is a lot more controllable, and actually sounds somewhat more textured too - and obviously a much better proposition in terms of pricing and pedalboard-friendliness.

 

Josh Scott himself has said this is the superior fuzz, and it's the one he uses on his own pedalboard - which is testament to that.

 

This is one I had intended to get this year - when it went down to £85. I still think I can get it for that or less next year - and I will try to pick up one opportunistically the next time I see one at an appealing price point / discount!


Kuro Custom Akuma Fiery Fuzz - €169

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This was another great surprise fuzz for me this year - a superbly richly textured - pretty high gain 6 x BC109 Silicon Metal Can Transistor variety. This has a slightly more focused delivery than the rather more nebulous blooming of a typical Super-Fuzz - which you might expect from the 6 Transistor configuration.

 

Instead this is a sort of mix of Super-Fuzz, High Gain Silicon Fuzz Face, and Jordan Boss Tone even.

 

It sports a really powerful active Banandall EQ, and clever interaction between the Fuzz and Intensity controls - where a whole load of different saturation textures are available.

 

There is a second demo video which focuses principally on using this as a sort of metal-style fuzz, while the earlier demo is a little more varied, and in my opinion better highlights the enormous range of this pedal. It has its own distinctive sound signature to match its striking enclosure design.


Mad Professor High Output FUZZ32 - €290/£299

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This is a neat modern take on a Germanium Fuzz Face - combining vintage and modern circuit techniques - so you get the vintage tones with more output volume and no need for an inverted polarity power supply.

 

This came in 3 varieties - Red, Blue and my preferred metallic Turquoise variant - the last mentioned is the best looking - the one that materialised last, but sold out first.

 

I feel this is quite a pricey proposition for this particular feature set - it's not doing anything particularly clever which hasn't been done before - and I feel something like the Sitek Fuzzie V2 is a more versatile and all-round better proposition - particularly when considering price and range.

 

The FUZZ32 has 4 controls - Volume, Fuzz, Tone, and a Boost switch for even more push.

 

I'm not disputing that this sounds great - and I might just spring for one if a Turquoise one ever shows up again at a suitable price - €290 is quite pricey though relative to a lot of what is already out there.


MidValleFX Ignitor Octave Fuzzstortion - $99

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This is another great sounding Andrew McNicholas fuzz - properly high gain - and yes - densely textured with strong hints of harmonic upper octave. This is a fuzz that sounds fantastic fully cranked.

 

It has 4 highly intuitive and easy-dial controls - Volume, Fuzz, Bias, and Tone. Nothing tricky here - everything works exactly as you might expect. Texturally this closer to some of the fizzier high gain distortions versus say one of those doom sludgy high gain fuzzes - this is certainly not a Meathead style of fuzz - rather closer to a Super-Fuzz or Companion-Fuzz but with a much more focused delivery and more mids to highs heavy versus the augmented low end of those more sludgy fuzzes.

 

This was in on the same slot as the Red Beard Honey Badger for a while, but I went back to the Honey Badger in the end as with its additional controls and second footswitch - it offers a rather more versatile playback potential.

 

The Ignitor will certainly be in on the rotation though as it sounds spectacular.


Pettyjohn Electronics RAIL Fuzz - $199/£199

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This is another innovative fuzz variety which uniquely derives its tone and texture from the voltage rail of the circuit rather than any traditional clipping or opamp gain stage means. There are of course a number of opamps utilised in this circuit for different purposes - including several for voltage control.

 

This generates its own quite distinct fuzz timbre which is superbly served by the 8-Notch variable Drive control.

 

I can't properly explain it unless you have tried this pedal - but there is something just really satisfying in cranking up the Drive texture via notching and clicking the pedal every higher - until it hits the 8th 'Infinity' Mode Notch - which introduces some useful High Gain velcro-style gating.

 

Control-wise it doesn't exactly react as you would expect typical fuzzes to operate - but that combination of Level, Notched Drive, Lows and Highs really delivers something quite magical. I find it rather easier to dial in than the Giygas - and it's very nearly as versatile as that in most ways. A really sold contender no doubt.


Pettyjohn Electronics ROUS Fuzz/Distortion - $199/£199

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This is one that is still incoming - I was hoping to have it by Christmas, but it's no doubt been held up somewhere along the way - so early next year seems more likely now.

 

When I first heard the early demos I wasn't convinced I needed this variety of Rat - I already have over 20 in that category. But it is one of my favourite categories - and I usually pick up 1, 2 or 3 additional ones each year to round out that reference collection.

 

On subsequent demos I was finally able to discern some suitably appealing timbre and texture, and based on my great experience with the RAIL - I decided I should have this too.

It has the same 4 knobs as the RAIL fuzz - Level, Drive, Lows, Highs; and it has a Fire/Swamp Clipping Option switch - Silicon/Germanium for still more texture.

 

I can't do a full breakdown of this yet as it's still to land - I will no doubt include its fine detail points in my next Rat Style pedal roundup.


Redbeard Effects Honey Badger Sub-Octave Fuzz - £199

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The Honey Badger has pretty much made its home on the #23 slot of my pedal-chain - bar for a short 2-3 week stint of MidValleyFX Ignitor. It's a great proper high gain fuzz with some really clever Sub-Octave action / interplay - where you can set the Divide to -1 or -2 Octaves or somewhere inbetween - and a mix of each.

 

The Octave control sets the Depth / Intensity of the Octave Effect - and you have 2-Band EQ to get is sounding just right. Finally Volume and Fuzz controls temper the Output and Overall Gain - and you can really get some proper chunky palm-muting action at full-bore.

 

You also have dual footswitches - the second of which activates and disengages the Octave effect - which cannot be used in a stand-alone manner.


When this first arrived I was't sure exactly how I would deploy it or where it would live in the chain - but it has largely made its home in the High Gain slot that used to house the REVV G3 probably for the longest stint there. I use that slot for G3, Metal Zone and other Metal / High Gain applications primarily - as one of a quartet of high gain slots in the chain.

 

I really rate both the Red Beard Effects pedals to-date and look forward to early next year for the next pedal from that range - which Thorpy has already told me will be right up my street as such - so will be exciting to share my thoughts on that when it's ready to be unveiled.


Red Witch Fuzz God IV - $240

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This is the ultimate culmination of many years worth of innovation on the 'Fuzz God' format - for which I own the 3rd, and this 4th iteration.

 

This is the most extended range yet - and truly gives you the ultimate fuzz workstation - combining Fuzz Face, Octavia, and Oscillating Fuzz all in one.

 

Surface controls are rather simple - with 4 straightforward knobs - Volume, Fuzz, Wrath (Oscillation), Sputter (Bias); and two 2-way toggle-switches - Max Gain Fuzz Control Bypass, and Max Treble Tone-Stack Bypass.

 

There are 8 internal dip-switches, 5 of which control the Tone and boost different frequency clusters, and 3 which control the degree of gain. The surface toggle-switches bypass those settings and max out the corresponding parameters - Gain and Treble.

 

You have 3 footswitches - Awaken to engage Fuzz, 8VE to activate Octave, and Wrath to activate Oscillation.

 

I still find the fact that you need to screw off the pedal back-plate slightly annoying, and would prefer for those dips witches to be externalised a la Chase Bliss Audo, Wren and Cuff, and Xotic Effects.

 

Nevertheless an incredibly versatile fuzz capable of generating most every conceivable Silicon Fuzz Face tonality and texture.


Reeves Electro Black Hat Sound - from £239

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This rare dual TO106 TUN 'Blackhat' Silicon Transistor fuzz sounds somewhat TB MKI adjacent and fully textured with the Bias control adjusted appropriately.

 

Rather uniquely here there is no Gain / Fuzz control as such - that parameter is fully dimed, with the two knobs controlling Volume and Bias, and an additional central Bass-Boost switch to give enhanced low-end extension to the output.

 

Most will be familiar with Markus Reeves' essential pedal art-pieces, based on the straight-line-wiring electronic artworks of German installation artist Peter Vogel.

 

Brian Wampler picked up on the elegance of construction, as did Mick and Dan of That Pedal Show - and the order book went through the roof as such - with waiting times in excess of 2 months now as far as I gather.

 

I was fortunate enough to get in on the last batch of the now discontinued TO106 variety (Transistors ran out) - I had taken some ungodly time dithering over what colour insides I should go for - and I was hugely conflicted between having the insides in Copper or Sea Foam Green - and whether or not I actually needed the power-filter / conditioner.

 

In the end I settled on Copper, and had to go back in again to add the power filter to my order.

 

I ordered mine near the start of November, and based on the supposed 6-week turnaround then, I expected this to show up before Christmas. Markus is however shattered after an understandably incredibly busy year - and my pedal won't be on the table until w/c 28th of December. I'm therefore expecting it to land some time in early January - I will do a detailed write-up with pictures then. This is a pedal which sounds just as great as its circuit looks!

 


Sitek Fuzzie V2 Germanium Fuzz - €140

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I actually have the very first edition of this V2 Germanium Fuzz, which my good pal Andy Sitek has honed to perfection now. The earlier V1 model suffered a touch from low output - which is pretty common for vintage-style Fuzz Faces.

 

This newer variety comes with very significant added volume output and a superb Texture/Smoothness control to help you get the most our of this pedal. Those 4 controls are just perfect for a Fuzz Face - Level, Fuzz, Texture/Smoothness, Bias

 

It utilises visibly the same sort of Russian Germanium Transistors found in the Fulltone Queen Bee, and Spaceman Sputnik pedals - but here the HFE values etc./ have been selected for optimal smoothness and consistency of character. You for sure can get a gritty Germanium breakup out of this, but it's forte is very much that sort of smooth Erick Johnson violin style tone - or at least that's how I deploy this.

 

I think I have near 30 Germanium Fuzz Face style pedals alone now - and each of those has a distinct timbre and voice - as this one very much does.

 

Considering Mad Professor are asking for €290 for their Germanium Fuzz Face - this one is a steel at half the price - and I dare say has even greater versatility.


Spaceman Sputnik III - $269/£269

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The Spaceman I - which I have in Cyrillic Red enclosure is one of my favourite fuzzes of all time. And I was doubly excited to see this latest iteration of that format - with the Drift Switch of the former now applied as second footswitch.

 

The Scan/Drift Chaos Scrambler is one of my favourite things about this variety - and you get an insanely good searing yet warbly output. My Spaceman I is a custom variety, while my III is the standard - which sounds equally magnificent.

 

That combination of 5 controls is just ingenious - Scan (Chaos Scrambler), Mids Switch (Mid Scoop/Flat EQ), Signal (Output), Calibrate (Tone), Range (Gain); then Drift Footswitch (Activate Scan), and a regular Bypass footswitch.

 

I was convinced that this would end up on the #5 pedal-chain slot at year end - while that honour has been taken by the even more versatile Chase Bliss Audio Bliss Factory!

 

Still a magnificent searing Germanium Fuzz though - one of the very finest of its kind.


Thorpy FX Field Marshal Fuzz - £190

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In many ways this surpasses Thorpy's other legendary Fallout Cloud Fuzz - having a more searing intensity and that cool textural versatility into gated tones.

 

You have 5 controls here - Volume, Fuzz, Tone, Mode, and Balance - where Mode gives you Scooped Mids, Enhanced Mids and Gated timbres. The right 'Cheese' footswitch is a Tone-Stack Bypass which give you a volume and gain boost that you can temper with the Balance control - either raise for solo duties or lower for a more even output.

 

The pedal features 3 x BC549C transistors and is a superb modern evolution of the Lovetone Big Cheese, and far superior to Josh Scott's take on that original.

 

Andy Martin's demo here is as magnificent as it is perfect to demonstrate the full prowess of this great new modern classic fuzz.


Tonetuga FX Salvage Feedback Fuzz - $165/£130

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In the midst of pandemic isolation, and with heavy restrictions on component sourcing - Mr Tonetuga FX, one Michael Verala, decided to make the best use of what he already had in his parts bins. This meant using Transistors which is many ways were not of the very best quality.

 

The challenge was getting the best tones and range out of such Transistors - by solely using what was already in the stock room. And hence Michael was compelled to innovate, and engineer a sort of feedback circuit which doubled and layered up the fuzz texture for a far more pleasing output than he could initially have perceived as possible.

 

The nature of how the fuzz tone and texture is generated - means there is incredible range on the Fuzz dial from subtle to very full-on. And you additionally have a handy 2-Band EQ to further enhance the output.

 

The nature of the process gave the pedal its name - and thus the Salvage Fuzz was born. I actually really rather quite like it's tone - and hope to pick up one with the right flavour of artwork - fairly early on in the new year.


Vemuram Josh Smith Signature Myriad Fuzz - £389

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This is actually just a super high-tolerance Hybrid variety of Fuzz Face with concealed Germanium and Silicon Transistors - one of each.

 

This is about the loudest fuzz you will encounter anywhere - its potential output level is immense. It's also very shapable courtesy of its 5 controls - Level, Fuzz, Feel (Ratio of Silicon>Germanium Transistor), Tone, and a rear surface-accessible Germanium Bias.

 

Josh Smith likes his fuzz loud and textured and this is a pretty magnificent variety of that - with some great textures achievable courtesy of the unique Feel control in particular.

 

I was able to score one of these fairly early in the year, and with a sizeable discount as such. It enjoyed an extended period on slot #5 - while there has been so much activity on that slot over the year - that said period is almost lost to the mists of time past!

 

Well worth snapping up if you can get one at the right price.


Wren and Cuff J Mascis Signature Garbage Face Fuzz - $350

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This is yet another signature fuzz for Dinosaur Jr's J. Macis - and once again based on his favourite Ram's Head Muff variety. It combines a vibrant artwork with some pretty extended tone-shaping abilities for a Muff.

 

Its 9 controls are as follows:

  • Volume : Output Level 1 - toggled by Volume 1-2 Footswitch
  • Tone : EQ Dark > Bright
  • Gain : Degree of Gain / Saturation
  • Volume 2 : Output Level 2 - toggled by Volume 1-2 Footswitch
  • Full / Treble Switch : Select Full Frequency or Treble Booster Boost Modes - further controlled by 'Boost' dial
  • Boost : Boost Level
  • Fuzz Footswitch : Engage Core Fuzz
  • Volume 1-2 Footswitch : Toggle between Volume 1 and 2 as set on corresponding dials
  • Treble Boost : Engage Boost

At the time of release I was also looking at the second iteration of the KHDK Unicorn Fuzz and I was so conflicted that I could not figure out which I preferred - so in the end I acquired neither - as sometimes happens. I'm still conflicted actually - even today when I compare those two. It's not like I'm lacking in fuzzes anyway- and so I will patiently wait for my brain to resolve the conundrum eventually - which will then determine my path to acquisition.


Zander Circuitry Siclone V3 Silicon Chaos Initiator Compact - £150

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Alex Millar's Siclone Fuzz is a superb evolved Silicon Fuzz Factory of sorts - at least that's how it started off, but now in its 3rd and smaller compact iteration it's really very much become it's own thing - even while it shared some similarities of function.

 

I'm still determined to acquire this some day, but I'm not overly fond of the current over-busy artwork. Alex's new pedal artworks have been far more streamlined and elegant, so I'm hoping he iterates the artwork of this pedal too - or else I will need to commission a plainer enclosure with just text labels and logo. The forthcoming compact pedal artworks are spot on - so I hope this means Alex will eventually do something about this one - as I to really like it.

 

The various controls, including the 8 knobs, are as follows :

  • Shunt : this acts like a gate of sorts, taming any feedback and turning endless sustain into a sharp & stuttery decay
  • Squash : compresses the attack of the fuzz as you turn it up, giving more of a synth-like sound
  • Starve : restricts the voltage to the circuit as you turn it up, allowing you to create dying-battery like fuzz sounds
  • Bright : controls the tone stack, a high and a low pass filter running together to let you dial the sound in just right for your rig
  • Level : Output Volume
  • Body : controls the amount of low end the circuit lets through
  • Punch : controls the mid range characteristic
  • Fuzz : Degree of Transistor Gain
  • Tone Off Footswitch : Tone Stack Bypass which results in an audible boost
  • Fuzz Footswitch : Engage

Final Thoughts

I guess if you have the Fuzz bug, it doesn't really matter how many fuzzes you already have - there is always room for one more at the ranch. There are so very many different types and varieties of Transistors and Diodes - British, Mainland European, American, Japanese, Russian - and each can render a slightly different texture and character.

 

There are so many different sound signatures and so much movement within the frequency / output profile of the best Transistors - in terms of bloom, harmonics and searing intensity, or deep and gloomy treacle-like sludge. Each one of these speaks to me somewhat differently and inspires different modes of playing - much like the ebb and flow of certain modulations encourages different playing.

 

Depending on the circuit makeup too - you can get something creamy smooth and flowing, or harsh, raw and raucous out of the same core components. All the fuzzes in this selection have elicited some sort of subconscious reaction of delight in me - where I feel some attachment to that particular variety of flavour - something in its makeup and output reels me in.

 

And I'm one of those who loves all the genres - the classics and the odd-ball outsiders - rough and smooth. I really struggle to understand why so many people aren't switched onto Fuzz - it is after all the original and best guitar effect as far as that goes and it was so formative in the creation of proper rock and pop music, and in fact the fabric of popular culture from the sixties onwards.

 

In fact my only prejudice here is in the area of oversized enclosures - where I really don't tolerate a compact circuit being installed in a box the size of a small coffin - yet still we have these weird over-sized 90% empty boxes that keep being thrust into the spotlight - they're just not pedalboard-friendly darnit! They need to be relegated to the scrapheap of obsolescence as far as I'm concerned - surely just unnecessary dust magnets!

 

Your typical anti-fuzzer has no clue for instance that it's a TB MKII on 'Whole Lotta Love' and that fuzz underpins most of the classic 60's and 70's rock. Fuzz is the spice here really - most other things are just vanilla!

 

I obviously love this particular selection, of which I own around 2/3rds to-date - while I would imagine several of the remaining ones will end up in the collection before too long.

 

Did I manage to include some of your favourites here? Or did I overlook a modern classic or two. Do let me know - but be careful not to feed my addiction - for that would make you culpable too!

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Stefan Karlsson
Stefan Karlsson
Guitar Pedal X
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