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9 of the Best Spaceman Effects Pedals

Big Muff Style FuzzBoostBoost and OverdriveFuzzFuzz Face Style FuzzFuzz-Drive and FuzzstortionGated and Velcro FuzzGermanium FuzzModulated FuzzModulationOddball FuzzOscillating FuzzOverdrivePhaserSilicon FuzzSpaceman EffectsTremolo+-
2018AfBlg9SpacemanEffects700-min

I have mentioned the Spaceman Gemini III Fuzz several times on this blog, and have even done a specific post about switchable Germanium and Silicon fuzzes in similar territory. I feel though that I may never possess one of those - I was just too late to the party, and that offer has just long gone at anything approaching a reasonable price. Gemini IIIs appearing on Reverb.com are creeping ever nearer the £1,000 mark which is just silly money and ’unobtanium’ really as far as I am concerned. Slightly less expensive but equally elusive is the equally versatile Sputnik (I) which I also have more than an inkling for. This is also sold out, but slightly more recent, and therefore slightly less inflated at the moment in second-hand values.

 

Truth is that despite the bun-fight and overt ’collectors’ nature of Zak Martin’s Spaceman pedals, they mostly sound fantastic and are almost worth the effort to pin them down. Like many a boutique brand, Zak is strong in the area of Fuzzes and they form a significant part of his output. In fact I don’t know my chances of ever acquiring the fabulous Gemini III or Sputnik I - so I recently went for the equally fantastic sounding Titan II, which though lacks the uniqueness and versatility of those others.

 

Where I am right now, I think I’m coming more around to the Sputnik I as my principal future target - whose versatility and unique harmonic characteristics just make it one of the most phenomenal fuzzes there ever were. The larger Sputnik II separates out the Drift switch into a second footswitch and results in an over-large form-factor as far as I am concerned. My preference is always for the compact series, but I really don’t mind the mid-sized Spaceman enclosures - per the Explorer Phaser, Voyager I Tremolo and Wow Signal Fuzz Modulator.

 

I also include the Aphelion Harmonic Overdrive here, and the Mercury III Harmonic Boost as really decent prospects within their relevant categories. I initially had the Orion Spring Tank in the main mix, but that’s just a touch too large to easily fit in with my preferred selection, so I kind of include it as an addendum - it’s also not a pedal I’m every likely to acquire.

 

I really love the 1960’s NASA aesthetic too, and have a preference for standard Silver or Black enclosures and the multi-faceted LED crystals - usually in red. In any case I’ve started down the ownership path of Spaceman, and would dearly like to own at least a couple more of Zak’s fuzzes, whilst I also have a soft-spot for his Phaser and Tremolo too. I lament the fact that so many of these pedals are hermetically sealed away by collectors and pseudo art-piece-investors - while I give all my pedals a proper shift in my pedal-chain on fairly regular rotation.

 

I’d love to know the proportion of active to shelved Spaceman pedals, I fear that the numbers are improbably high. I wholly understand and support Zak’s wanting to regularly switch things up and be able to freely and quickly move onto other projects, it must be tedious making exactly the same pedal over and over again, so this is all quite understandable really - I just hope that we will get more similarly feature-rich and versatile compact fuzzes in the future. In the meantime, I’m going to do my damnedest to try to pin down a viable Sputnik I. To all those collectors I say please release these animals back into the wild where they may find happy homes with players who actively engage with them and play with them on a regular basis.

 

Note that second hand pricing can fluctuate wildly and super-rare colour runs are best left to collectors, as such pricing cannot be justified in player’s terms. I just want the standard Silver or Black versions reasonably and justifiably priced - others are welcome to engage in mock-auctions and bun-fights. Most of these pedals are already long sold-out and can only be found intermittently on the second-hand market - which means mostly Reverb.com.

 

Pedals are listed alphabetically by name:


Spaceman Aphelion Harmonic Overdrive [2011] - c$450 (69 units Silver Ed, c150 total) [Sold Out]

Zak has a wonderful ability to deliver additional harmonic content with his pedals - which seem to give you extra layers of richness and complexity - improving the depth, dynamics and sensory dimensions of that sound. The Aphelion contains those extra bits of jangle and harmonic richness within the core of the pedal which gifts its output with an additional dose of vibrancy and liveliness.


Spaceman Explorer Deluxe 6 Stage Optical Phaser [2017] - $399/£399 (199 units Silver Ed) [Still Available]

A gorgeous organic optical phaser with just the right degree of spacey syrupiness - I would personally have preferred more of Chase Bliss Audio style chassis with a separate tap-tempo footswitch per my current 'Wombtone' phaser of choice (I also really like my Alexander Pedals La Calavera). There's no denying the lush output of this pedal - which fully recommends itself despite its somewhat slightly larger dimensions. It's a great sounding pedal which could/should though be compacted somewhat and have a couple more smart features added. I'm still tempted though - and there are a number of these still in circulation in various countries / retailers.


Spaceman Gemini III Dual Fuzz Generator [2011] - C$1,200 (90 units Silver Ed, c215 total) [Sold Out]

I've said plenty about this one already - separate Germanium and Silicon circuits that you can mix up and blend together with different levels of gain/saturation applied. A really smart and versatile fuzz - but truly out of the reach of most now. Does appear fairly regularly on Reverb.com - say roughly once every one or two months. Pricing though is edging beyond the £1,000 mark which is just too much really.


Spaceman Mercury III Harmonic Boost [2010] - c$1,200 (90 units Silver Ed, c120 total) [Sold Out]

Spaceman does a few different boosts, but most seem to be of the opinion that this slightly older model is the best one yet - it sits in a nicely compact enclosure and does wonderful things to your core tone. The newer Mercury IV is also a great example, but it significantly ups the form factor. As always I have a preference for more compact enclosures - the more full featured the better - which is why I am such a fan of the more feature-rich Spaceman Fuzzes and of course Joel Korte's Chase Bliss Audio pedals - both have beautiful aesthetics too. As always, Zak's pedals have a magical way of adding harmonic richness and additional dimensions to the core guitar signal. This Boost does not quite cover all the angles my Jackson Audio Prism does, but perhaps Zak could do his own version of that with full 3-band EQ? - Here's wishing in any case. Note that relatively few of these were created and they are incredibly hard to come by nowadays.


Spaceman Sputnik Germanium Fuzz [2013] - c$700 (c250-300 units made total) [Sold Out]

For the longest time, the Gemini III was my most desired Spaceman Fuzz. Yet now I believe the Sputnik has become my favourite target - it has astounding harmonic richness and versatility and does some really special harmonic flutters which I just love. I've heard quite a few demos of this now, and have decided that I will put all my efforts into tracking one of these down - I'm somewhat surprised to see that no less than 18 have been sold on Reverb.com this year alone (2018) with the latest sold just a couple of days ago - don't know how I keep missing out on these? Wonderful demo above of the relatively rare Red Cyrillic Colourway Edition.


Spaceman Sputnik II Deluxe Germanium Fuzz [2017] - c$1,000 (66 units Black Ed, c100 total) [Sold Out]

This larger deluxe update of the original Sputnik sees the Drift switch separated out to additional footswitch, the filter toggle separated into High and Low frequency boosts, and at the same time the enclosure size increases circa fourfold! I personally prefer the smaller Sputnik, although I can fully understand why Zak has created this one for the additional live-use versatility - I now just need him to shrink it back down to Chase Bliss Brothers style compactness! So let's have all that onboard a more compact Sputnik version III ! As I really can't see myself sacrificing this much pedal-board real-estate for one such pedal.


Spaceman Titan II Fuzz Machine [2016] - $199 to $299/£289 (333 units Silver Ed, c500 total) [Still Available]

There was a Saturday special offer on this which I just had to take up, making this my first Spaceman acquired to date. I initially really wanted the Gemini III or Sputnik I and was determined to hold out for them - but have heard so many amazing demos of this, that I decided it too was definitely worth having. It's a slightly more vanilla fuzz (Silicon) than the other fuzzes mentioned here, but still has that amazing harmonic richness and sufficient versatility to make it wholly worthwhile. Just check out Gearmandude's excellent demo above.


Spaceman Voyager I Optical Analog Tremolo [2015] - c$450 (150 units Silver Ed, c500 total) [Sold Out]

I have several great tremolos already in the mix (including Chase Bliss Gravitas and Stone Deaf Tremotron), and were this a slightly more compact size, it would be much further up my wishlist. It nevertheless is about as feature-rich as tremolos come and sounds just as suitably wonderful as you would expect a Spaceman tremolo to sound.


Spaceman Wow Signal Alien Fuzz Communicator [2012] - c$350 (20 units Silver Ed, c120 total) [Sold Out]

This Dandy Warhol signature fuzz has been released in a few batches and takes fuzz into some new and interesting directions - more along Death By Audio lines with some frequency oscillation added into the mix. This one is also just a touch on the larger size for it to be high on my wishlist, I do though admire its output and aesthetics as is common with most Spaceman pedals. It's a nice to have, but not quite essential for me.


Addition! : Spaceman Orion Analog Spring Reverb [2015] - c$450 (199 units Silve Ed, c430 total) [Sold Out]

These have really only recently sold out - there were several in stock around the world when I did my piece on spring reverbs late last year. This is probably the neatest and most compact of the real spring-tank pedals out there, but some reviewers complain that the shorter length of springs required for this - does not convey quite the same degree of nuance as some of the larger / longer tanks/springs. This is probably the only fully / even slightly pedal-board friendly true spring reverb, but for my liking is still way too large. My current reverb pedal of choice is the Source Audio Ventris, and I have the Boss RV-500 and Strymon BigSky in reserve to give me all the reverb action I need - oh and an Eventide H9 Max. I reckon the Orion is only properly viable if you really truly have to have real spring reverb, and want it as compact as possible in the spring-tank format. So a clever pedal yes, but not quite suitable for me.


Final Thoughts

Pedal obsessives can totally get themselves twisted up chasing after Spaceman Effects pedals - if they weren't in on the original release rounds. I only came back to guitar in late 2016 so I missed pretty much most of these initial public offerings. I think you have to exercise some proper due diligence and rational thinking in the acquisition of some of these, as their prices frequently cannot be fully justified in material value. There are also a number of original Klon Centaur pedals on sale on Reverb.com for over £2,000 which is just totally insane money - just ask the maker Bill Finnegan what he thinks about it.

 

Zak Martin has cottoned onto the fact that most of his pedals are serially in sort of round-robin auctions, so his newish Spacelab Orbital Workshop shop on Reverb.com is a manifestation of those bun-fights - with limited run pedals going to the highest bidder. Again I don't begrudge Zak for making a decent income, but surely he does not need to persistently make the buying of his pedals akin to gladiatorial combat - and the spoils go to the man with the biggest wallet - to then sit on a shelf for the next 10 years.

 

There is an objet d'art quality about Spaceman Effects pedals, and the whole limited run thing makes them doubly appealing to collectors and investors, but surely these are musical instruments meant for playing? As a player, I sort of prefer the fairness of the Analog.Man waiting list approach, but I do understand that certain components do run out, and mass-manufacturing fatigue can creep in on extended product runs, so I'm not sure what I would recommend here.

 

I had long harboured a desire for the Gemini III, but that is now too over-inflated by my judgement - I just cannot justify spending £1,000+ on such a pedal. Yes I do have an Eventide H9 Max in a Barn3 OX9 enclosure, and a full-fat Origin Effects RevivalDrive - both of which cost more than all of the conventionally sold new Spaceman pedals, but even those multi-taskers pale in the face of the more inflated second-hand and auction-sold Spacemen.

 

As I sit here writing these final lines, I have already totally disqualified the Gemini III as 'unobtanium' (even if I win the lottery - probably), and I am currently trying to justify acquisition of a Sputnik I - as and when the next one materialises on Reverb.com. Looking at the Price History Chart on Reverb.com I can see that for Mint / Excellent rated condition, the lowest price so far for 2018 was £234 and the highest of £563 is the most recent sale - June 1st. I need to decide where the limit lies and whether it's already over that perceived ceiling? Decisions Decisions ...

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Stefan Karlsson
Stefan Karlsson
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