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9 of the Best Steve Painter Buffalo FX Pedals

Big Muff Style FuzzBoostBoost and OverdriveBuffalo FXDistortionEffects Pedal MakersFlangerFuzzFuzz Face Style FuzzFuzz-Drive and FuzzstortionGermanium FuzzMarshall Style DistortionModulationOpAmp FuzzOverdriveSilicon Fuzz+-
2020GPX9BestBuffaloFXPedals700V2.jpg

The above visual actually dates back to July of this year when I composed it in anticipation of what was supposed to be my very first Buffalo FX pedal acquisition - the Reticon Flanger. I had been meaning to do a run on Buffalo FX pedals eventually and the impending arrival of said rare breed of Flanger - limited to only 100 units, seemed like the perfect occasion. In anticipation of said arrival which I pre-ordered along with another 80 or so unlucky souls (less than 20 were delivered to the luckier portion of the 100) - I ordered 3 more pedals in the interim - the Carrera Overdrive, Evolution Distortion and Patriot MKII Civil War Muff Style Fuzz - all of course from Joe’s Pedals.

 

As it turned out. Steve somewhat disappeared off the face of the earth in early July with some kind of serious medical condition, he’s not been seen or heard of since, and the vast majority of Reticon Flanger pre-orders remain unfulfilled. I believe most customers arranged refunds via their banks / credit cards, while I and a few others decided we really did not want to kick a man when he was down - and simply walked away from that calamity €259 to the wind!

 

Buffalo FX pedals have numerous fans around the world - none more so really than Bjørn Riis of Gilmourish.com. In fact there is a significant proportion of pedals here which are inspired by the signature sounds of one David Gilmour.

I still have a few more of these on my acquisition list - the M-1 Stacked Ram’s Head is probably - while I’m actively on the hunt for the discontinued Germanium Fuzz and Supa Driver. In fact the Supa Driver is a somewhat enhanced take on the Power Booster, while the Carrera is sort of a modern more mid-pushed take on the TD-X - I happen to prefer the derivations to the originals in both cases. Actually you could obviously argue that all these are discontinued now as Steve is still in hiding somewhere in France, and all relevant websites, social media pages and commercial presence has been wholly suspended.

 

These are high quality pedals though, and I’m not one to be put off my minor misfortunes. A tiny part of me hopes I will eventually get my Reticon Flanger, while I already pretty much know for certain that this is highly unlikely to occur.

 

Some of these others appear every now and again on Reverb.com - I’ve seen a smattering Of Germanium Fuzzes and Supa Drives - mostly in older varieties though but still the occasional later editions. I’m happy to bide my time until the opportunity arises again. I am sort of aiming to own all bar the Power Booster and TD-X - while I might even be open to a TD-X too eventually - as with everything these exist within a sea of ever-shiting priorities - and right at this moment I have bigger fish to fry as such. Note that several of these are still available at Joe’s Pedals as mentioned.

 

The pedals are listed alphabetically by name, the Reticon Flanger was aborted partway through its run, and the Carrera, Germanium Fuzz and Supa Driver had all been officially discontinued by that point too. I do think that there’s a good chance of most of these popping up on Reverb.com eventually - if you are sufficiently patient :


Carrera Overdrive - €209/£209

I see this as the more modern mid-pushed cousin to the more vintage / scooped TD-X. Bjørn Riis describes it best as follows : "Tonally, the Carrera sits somewhere between the TD-X and Evolution (or a Boss BD-2 and Rat). Whereas the TD-X can sound a bit thin and bright on some mids scooped high headroom amps, the Carrera has that extra mids hump that maintains the character and warmth of the pedal." The Carrera has controls for Bass, Treble, Gain and Level.


Evolution 4 Stage Overdrive/Distortion - €219/£219

This is Steve's celebrated take on the Pete Cornish G-2 with an additional Contour Mids-sweep knob to go with the classic trio of Drive, Tone and Level. The provenance is something along the lines that Pete Cornish started off with a fairly conventional take on Ram's Head Muff before he added 4 Germanium Diodes and changed the circuit up somewhat. Some people liken the tonal character to that of a ProCo Rat, while for me it's kind of a clever mix of Plexi texture with long-tail Muff-like sustain. I like to call the G-2 derivatives / variants Plexi-Muffs where some examples lean more toward the Plexi-side of texture, while others like the Vick Audio V-2 lean more towards the Muff-side. This is currently my equal favourite Buffalo with the Patriot MKII.


Reticon R5106 Analog Flanger - €269

So this is the one that got away and never was for most. 100 of us put in preorders for the limited run at the end of June this year, where the pedals were due to be delivered through July. In fact I believe less than 20 made it to their rightful owners and Steve disappeared from the face of this Earth. I am a huge fan of Flangers and have a number in my collection - none finer of course than Thorpy's Camoflange. I was hoping I could run these two head-to-head and the only way to do that was via acquisition as it was a limited run. I've heard a few indistinct demos of the Reticon to date, nothing though that sways me from believing that the Camoflange is the very finest of its type - particularly with those smart controls and high frequency sparkle. The Reticon would have made a decent almost-there alternative - and in fact that's how it goes down in posterity - an almost there Flanger which never quite fully materialised. I'm really not sure what the future path is here as Steve is wholly AWOL and no rationale has been been forthcoming - it would seem likeliest though that only a few units completed production before Steve took ill as such. This would have been a nice-to-have, but you won't really miss it if you have a Camoflange! There used to be one flakey demo on YouTube, but now even that has disappeared. I will load up further references if and when they materialise. Controls for the Reticon were Rate, Range, Color, Matrix Filter, Treble, Blend and Level - and it operated at 18V.


Germanium Fuzz - €209£209

Steve has built a a number of Germanium Fuzz variants over the year with - essentially a more feature-rich take on a Fuzz Face, and utilising a variety of rare NOS transistors including 2SB175 and 2N404 varieties - earlier models has different names including Stiletto, while the most recent have been V1 to V3. Only a few batches are made of each, and then reproduced later on with different transistors and a new designation. For a Fuzz Face style Fuzz this is fairly unique in having a Pre-Gain control alongside Fuzz, Level and Bias. Each batch ovbiously sold out at the time - and I evidently had other concurrent priorities. As a Fuzz fan and a Fuzz Face fan - I would quite like to own one of these Germanium Fuzzes - not particularly bothered which - although it would be nice to own a V1 Matsushita 2SB175 variety if that ever materialises again on Reverb.com.


M-1 Stacked Ram's Head Fuzz - €239/£239

This is more of a Pete Cornish / Gilmour Hybrid derivative (P-1+) as its core tone and texture emulates a Ram's Head Fuzz being stacked with / juiced by a Power Boost. The obvious difference versus a standard Muff pedal is the distinct split of Tone function into separate Bass and Treble Controls - of course accompanied by the typical Sustain and Level. Generally I have a slight preference for the somewhat more tonally versatile Patriot MKII (more P-2 / Civil War Muff) where I somewhat weirdly tended to prefer Pete Cornish's P-1 to his P-2. These are not exact tone-replica matches but rather near-sound-matches with some distinguishing and different character in the tone.


Patriot MKII Civil War-style Fuzz - £199/€199

This is somewhat adjacent to the Pete Cornish P-2 or smoother Civil War style Muff. Steve Painter has really upped the tone-shaping potential here with Tone, Mids and Lows controls, alongside the more conventional Sustain and Level. As mentioned - this is vying for my current favourite Buffalo FX pedal alongside the Evolution. They're pretty much running neck and neck in my preferences and on any given day I may name either one over the other - very much depends on mood. The combination of controls here gives you exceptional control over the tone and texture of the pedal - and it's one of the very finest of its genre.


Power Booster 18V - €199/£199

This is of course Steve's take on that most essential David Gilmour pedal - the Colorsound Power Boost / Overdriver - here as an 18V edition. This is of course based on later Master Volume 4-knob examples - where that extra Master Volume dial was located on the right-hand-side of the pedal. So you have controls for Bass, Treble, Gain and Level. I of course included this in my Power Boost roundup a while back and is one of my favourite candidates of this genre. While I personally prefer the little bit extra that the Supa Driver delivers - that essentially being a slightly more gainier and extended range version of the Power Booster.


Supa Driver - €219/£219

As mentioned, this was essentially an extended range version of the Power Booster with additional Preamp stage and control knob - otherwise the same Gain, Volume, Bass and Treble equivalents of the Power Booster. It really depends what application you are looking for here - if you want more headroom in a style that is more in line with David Gilmour - then the Power Booster is obviously the best choice for you, while if you rather prefer some more gain extension and texture (like me) then you would more likely want to hunt down a copy of the Supa Driver - which appeared in two editions - the former possibly a little too close to the Pete Cornish look-and-feel!


TD-X - €199/£199

And finally onto the quintessential Buffalo FX Pedal - the TD-X, or Steve Painter's take on David Gilmour's other essential pedal - the BK Butler Tube Driver. The TD-X is the Buffalo FX pedal I have featured on this site the most, and is probably most people's first stop-off on the Buffalo FX journey. While I elected to go with the more mids-pushed Carrera derivation. I've mentioned before that the TD-X and Carrera are sort of two sides of the same coin - a very tube-amp-like preamp - where the TD-X is more vintage and scooped in frequency profile, and the Carrera is the more modern mid-pushed variant. Which you prefer will depend largely on what tones you seek, and which guitar/pickup combo you play through. I chose the Carrera, as I felt that would better appeal to me - while shortly after acquisition I also got the Chase Bliss Audio Automatone Preamp MKII - where the very first tones I landed upon were almost identical to how I'd set the Carrera - so however great the Carrera is - it was very rapidly subsumed and ousted as such by the Automatone Preamp. The TD-X in the meanwhile is the leading all-time best seller Buffalo FX pedal.


Final Thoughts

I thought at one stage that I would likely want to collect all 9 of these, while I've indicated there is some overlap between Carrera and TD-X, and Power Booster and Supa Driver - which means you can sort of cover the range really in 6-7 moves depending on whether the Reticon Flanger ever becomes available again - which seems highly unlikely currently.

 

I really like all 3 of my current acquisitions here - Carrera, Evolution and Patriot MKII - while the Carrera is somewhat outmatched by the prowess of my Chase Bliss Audio Preamp MKII which can replicate those tones with ease.

 

Most likely next acquisition for me here is the M-1 Stacked Ram's Head - and I will be patiently waiting to pounce on a Germanium Fuzz and Supa Driver if and when they next hit Reverb.com or Ebay.

 

Much of what's currently available can be acquired from Joe's Pedals - albeit stock is obviously starting to run low. And there are a few examples still on Reverb.com. These are all exceptionally well made and really great sounding pedals where every collection could really do with having one or two. I would of course tip the Evolution and Patriot MKII - but there will be many who still love the TD-X the best - so by all means make your choices and take your chances. These are all on their way to becoming collector's items as it's currently fairly questionable as to whether any more Buffalo FX's will be made. Steve Painter may return to the fray some day in the distant future - but we have no way of knowing in what guise.

 

Update - there's one less M-1 Stacked Ram's Head in stock at Joe's Pedals now - I could not resist the temptation - and it does seem that the remaining Buffalo FX pedals out there are being increasingly snapped-up!

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Stefan Karlsson
Stefan Karlsson
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