This post was triggered by the eventuality that my long-serving Emerald Green Distortion Machine - my Boosted Vox style pedal of choice - will soon be yielding its sport for a while to the incoming new Menatone Vertical Top-Boost-in-a-Can.
I’ve always had a soft spot for Bearfoot FX pedals and was somewhat ignorantly collection Bearfoot, Mad Professor and OneControl pedals before being aware of the Björn Juhl BJFE connection. It has to be said that Björn is one of the most prodigious and proliferous circuit designers and I really love his signature frequency profile that is evident in so many of his pedal creations.
Originally everything was put out through his own BJFE operation, but latterly Bearfoot took over the manufacturing of those pedals which derivations had already fused into the lines of Mad Professor and One Control. More recently Björn and Bearfoot have had some kind of falling out - so it seems the licensing deal is coming to an end - and we’re not seeing regular OneControl compact enclosures - like a new version of the Silve Bee Overdrive.
In any case, I’ve collected 4 of these to-date - the Candiru Germanium Edition, Emerald Green Distortion Machine classic Silicon, Model Hs and the Sparkling Yellow OD3 - covering all the 5-knob varieties. The hand-written legends are something of an acquired taste - I really like them actually in retrospect, and I love too the slightly crackly vibrant candy paint-jobs on most of these pedals.
The most classic of Björn Juhl is really some Honey Bee variant - which I currently have in the guise of the Mad Professor Sweet Honey Overdrive Deluxe - but I could really do with an Uber Bee also for sake of completion. And to pair with that I really like the quite different timbre and texture of the Silver Bee.
In the main though I’m mostly interested in Fuzzes typical - and will for sure be adding the Burgundy BossHorn and Pink Purple at some stage - both excellent examples of those genres. I’d also quite like to acquire a Model G+ too - based on those rare early Gibson combo amps.
I originally had the list arranged alphabetically - but then when I realised I had essentially 3 each of Fuzz, Amp Drive/Distortion and then Overdrive - I moved the Pink Purple up a row for the current layout.
Here follows a little more detail on each :
A quite brilliant extended-range take on the Jordan Boss Tone Fuzz - in a similar vein to Björn's take on the Fuzz Face - both having the very useful and versatile 2-Band EQ. I've said several times before that Björn's circuits have some signature magic sparkle to them - particularly in how he tunes the mid and high frequencies - those Mid-bands are often so critical to great guitar pedal tone. This is just a glorious and beautifully textured musical fuzz.
I have the Germanium version of this formerly named Candy Apple variety - where the additional internal Gate trim-pot is externalised as a 5th knob. Germanium brings in some extra warmth and texture to proceeding with a very wide range of harmonic upper octave and gated fuzz tones. This is a really dynamic and wide-ranging often ripping fuzz - often overlooked, but one of my all-time favourites for sure. The Nature knobs here is a sort of bias knob which impacts on the openness / character / texture of the fuzz - you could see it as a sort of 'voicing' control too.
It's not like I need another Germanium Fuzz Face as I have several of those already - but this one is really special. It just has a magical even-handed temperament which makes it so easy to dial in. There's something about how Björn Juhl calibrates his pedals - in that there is always plenty of range and volume on-tap - and these pedals are generally really easy to dial in to sweet-spots - which exist pretty much across all the dials. I actually preferred the candy-coated paint job on the 3-knob varieties of this circuit - a lovely candy Pink to Purple vignette. The flat pink enclosure of the current model is not quite as appealing - but the output certainly is!
To date this has been my favourite Bearfoot FX - in fact Björn Juhl creation properly - I have used it as my Boosted Vox style distortion of choice for all these years - where the Voice control can take you into Marshall territory also. Those 4 simple dials are such an elegant way to tune in the right degree of Brian May style distortion - each of the Drive, Voice and Treble controls seem to be somewhat interactive and you can hit upon some really amazing harmonic distortion spots if you get the combination just right. Brett Kingman really loves this pedal and has toured with it extensively. It will imminently be yielding its spot to the incoming new Menatone Vertical TBIAC - if that ever arrives of course - in the meantime I am still delighted to keep playing this masterpiece. Every home should have one!
Based on the early Gibson combo amps - of which the most celebrated is the GA-40. This is somewhat adjacent to Fender's Tweed Style Combos - but sort of has its own character to a degree. This is certainly a very rarely tackled genre, and the latest G+ with improved Nature and Compression controls really makes it easy to hit the sweet-spots. The Nature is essentially the character of the drive which does have a degree of tonality to it - but this is definitely more a Voicing control. If you already have the Sparkling Yellow OD you can get into fairly similar territory in most ways, while I would still quite like to have one of these in the collection some day - an interesting, but possibly not sufficiently unique for some.
The controls of the Hs and Sparkling Yellow are very similar really - with the lower left knob being various named Body or LoMid - essentially defining more of the lower frequencies vs the highs of the Treble control. The Mode 2-step rotary control gives you two slightly different gain ranges which also impact the character slightly. In higher gain this pedal tends more towards HiWatt tones, and lower down the gain register it is more in Dumble territory. This is a somewhat under-the-radar delight which is actually really versatile in use - and it occupied by Dumble pedal-chain slot for quite a while at one stage - while it still puts in the occasional rotation.
This is a significantly more nasally sounding cousin of the Honey Bee / Uber Bee - and gives you a lovely kind of twang to your tone really. Based on the early Silverface and Silvertone amps this is a useful mid-range overdrive that I really rather like the sound of. As noted OneControl is putting out pretty much the same pedal in its livery now - as it has become the main licensee of Björn's BJFE line.
The third of the 5-knobbers here and layout-wise very similar to the Hs as mentioned. This covers a plethora of tones from Fender Blonde, through Tweed and onto Marshall Plexi style delights. I have used this in the main as a Tweed style drive, and this has been a frequent understudy to my True North Tweed Drive which I probably use the most in that role. Another great somewhat unsung highly versatile Bearfoot FX overdrive!
When you think of Björn Juhl, you have to consider his flagship Honey Bee pedal series - which is the most distinct of his signature circuits - and has influenced so many different varieties - including Mad Professor's Sweet Honey editions which are variations of the same circuit. It's probably at its best in this 4-knob Uber Bee edition which give you significantly extended range via Volume, Drive, Nature (Character/Voice) and Treble. You also have the Honey Beest variant with a different Pregain control option - but I think I prefer the Uber Bee overall. As mentioned I already have the MP Sweet Honey Drive Deluxe - but I really should get one of these too for sake of completion. A really classic and classy overdrive - rightfully lauded, but somewhat overlooked nowadays.
The Dyna Red is another one of Björn's classic circuits - his take on that prime Marshall tone - and it has just the right chewy character for its mids. There are so many great Marshall-style pedals out there though that I did not think this should be in the main featured listing - but it certainly should be considered if you are seeking out that classic chewy Marshall tone.
This is another of Björn's celebrated circuits - it is a really delicately balanced and suitable glorious water vibe versus a Uni-Vibe - so more specifically of a Vibrato nature in character. It's not necessarily a flavour I believe I need a separate box for - and have several more multi-fx style boxes to cover this sort of territory. While if I was really into watery vibrato's - then this would certainly be at the top of my considerations.
As mentioned, it seems certain that the Bearfoot / Björn association is coming to an end - and most of these pedals are listed as Sold Out on the Bearfoot site - while there is still a smattering in distribution. I believe I acquired most of mine from Joe's Pedals here in the UK - and there is a decent selection still on Reverb.com for now.
I am delighted with my own quartet of Candiru, EGDM, Model Hs and Sparkling Yellow - and will be looking at least to add the two remaining fuzzes here - the BossHorn and Pink Purple at some stage in the near-ish future. I also really want the pair of Silver and Uber Bee Overdrives - while I could get the Silver Bee too from OneControl, but would prefer to have the same BJFE style livery. The Model G+ here is a nice to have really - it's fairly unique in its genre coverage, but I don't feel it's necessarily essential - more of a nice-to-have.
Overall though I'm really happy with this selection and feel it well represents the best of that Bearfoot and Björn collaboration while it lasted. Do you guys have any favourites amongst these? Drop me a line and let me know what your preferences are in this area - are you also fans of Björn Juhl?