It is well known by now that I’m a considerable fan of fuzz, but I do have hangups about impractical over-sized and unergonomically formatted pedals. This means I really don’t have an affinity for any of those original Tone Bender enclosures and the like - which are pretty much as long and as practical as frogman’s flippers for footwear. When fuzz pedals first emerged they were the very first effects pedals taken into use - and players only ever had a few effects pedals on stage with them at any time then - a half a dozen at most. Fast forward to the present time and it’s common for pedalboards to have 20, 30 or more pedals to cater for different genres and tonalities - and those early fuzz pedals just aren’t in any way pedal-board friendly or practical. In fact if you inspect the insides you will see relatively small circuits surrounded by vast acres of empty space and featuring only a couple of controls - just non-optimal all-round.
I’ve often referred back to the reality that pedals used to be largely made from readily available and typically cheap surplus components available at the time - and the circuits and their enclosures were often relatively raw and crude - and not benefiting from a particularly high level of QA or carte-blanche product design. For some though these traditional unergonomic and out-sized formats still hold some sway / affection - including the rather impractical discus-shaped mic-stand-base enclosures of the Arbiter fuzzes and various pedals with odd out-of-sight and/or hard-to-reach control knob topologies.
So while I love Steve Williams’ Pigdog Pedals output overall - there’s only a handful of pedals which fully properly interest me. I’ve often been fooled by the proportions of a 1590P1 enclosure which are a very similar ratio to proper compact formats - but then you notice how relatively small the footswitch looks - which indicates that those pedals really aren’t so practical after all. For instance The Destruction Department and the Omolon - which at fast glance can look pretty regular in size but are in fact that significantly larger and less pedalboard-friendly format.
To date I have only one Pigdog in my collection - a Black and Gold Juju Mark III fuzz from last year. I would have actually probably have preferred to get my hands on one of the earlier Psychedelic Series ones from around October 1916 - with the more detailed and vibrant artworks - but I actually really like the elegance of my Black and Gold version too - as pictured above. It was acquired at a similar time to my Analog.Man AstroTone Fuzz in the same colourway - so there’s a certain symmetry to it. That symmetry turned out to be fortuitous as a number of Pigdog pedals appear to have been made to the same colour-scheme.
It turns out that Steve Williams seems to have quite an affection for the Black and Gold colourway and he has made a number of his pedals to follow suit - which kind of helped form the above selection and layout. Where I believe I've tracked down the preferred variant or thereabouts of each of Steve Williams compact format types - which by my reckoning is this above selection.
I had initially intended to display prices for each one - but struggled to find reference to most of those earlier pedals - so I've decided to omit that for now - until some authority figure can supply me with all those digits. I know I acquired my JuJu for £349, and the 3 pedals currently listed for sale are at £389 and £459. I believe most of the pedals nowadays are largely priced between £350 and £400 - while there are editions which go as high as £650 or so. So these are pedals in the highest price band - to a degree supported by the fact that Steve sources and references only the very best of NOS components for each of his pedal builds. He is the only one I'm aware that gives you a full blow-by-blow components packing list of everything that is contained in your individual pedal. Something I really appreciate - but obviously you pay for that level of detail and quality. It's something I've criticised JHS's 1966 Range for not doing - in that Josh Scott's narrative was all about NOS components - and then he did not give a single detail on exactly what he was using. If you're going to go that high on your pricing - $400 per unit - you had best have the decency to name your ingredients.
In any case this 8-pedal compact selection is exclusively comprised of Tone Bender, Fuzz Face and RangeMaster style pedals. I would very much like to add a few more of these to the collection eventually - they do come up on Reverb.com fairly regularly, but usually with highly inflated pricing. In the meantime Steve Williams continues to release small batches of his hand-made masterpieces. Usually in production runs of 10 units, but it can be just 3 or 5 too - with some more rarefied single editions at fairly random intervals. And he still makes the occasional custom pedal on commission.
These are all exemplary inspirational tone machines - the JuJu probably the best-known and most renowned - also the one for which most units have been made as far as I'm aware - there have been lots of series iterations there and we still get fairly regular batches. Other pedals like the Peace Fuzzbender came and went very quickly. Of the 3 Fuzz Lords - along with Stu Castledine and David D*A*M Main - it seems to be Steve Williams that I have the most affinity for.
Here follow some further details on each of the pedals :
The vast majority of the compact The Dirty Mac Boosters are simple one-knob editions - and then there is a lesser quantity of the larger 3-knob medium-enclosure varieties which add knobs for Range and Bias. Steve Williams was privately commissioned to build the 3-knob variety into a one-off compact enclosure - and that is what we've ended up with here - with the Bias control on the left-hand side of the pedal. These pedals largely use Mullard OC71 transistors - while I'm sure there is some variation in individual batches - depending on parts availability. I was unable to find any video demoes of any of The Dirty Mac Treble Boosters - I will of course add such a reference as soon as one becomes available.
This is the one pedal here that I own and one that was definitely always going to happen. I long lusted after one of the earlier Psychedelic Series / batches from around October 2016 - which have particularly attractive and vibrantly colourful swirly or paisley pattern artworks. Those just never come up on Reverb.com - you typically see a few of the plainer ones in circulation each year - but none sufficient to attract my attentions. I was lucky to catch both Facebook and Instagram announcements of the Black and Gold edition - and put in an order on PigdogPedals.com just before they were all snapped up. I'm quite pleased now that this was the version I acquired - as it informs the majority colourway of this particular feature. I believe this is the very finest circuit replica of a Tone Bender MKIII you can find - and in this really pedalboard-friendly format. You get that exceptionally creamy saturation / distortion which just sounds divine. The Black and Gold edition came with 2 x Mullard CV5712 + OC75 transistors. I actually have several MKIII pedal varieties - but believe this to be the very best of them all.
Not to be confused with the larger medium enclosure Loony Two - this compact edition is a superb circuit replica of the much loved MKI Tone Bender. It features Mullard OC75 + 2 x AC125 transistors - and is near enough every bit as good as the much larger Electric Eye and Macari's Sola Sound Steve Williams Special Edition (£999). I've not seen many of these come up on Reverb.com - and particularly not the Black and Gold Edition pictured. I love MKI's and probably need one more decent example to complete my reference selection - this is probably one of two Pigdogs I'm most likely to acquire over these next few months and years - alongside the Party Favor.
For the longest time I was trying to figure out what the Hindi script on the front of these pedals represented - as I came to these rather late - and had a hard time finding out what they were properly called. Turns out this was just a somewhat differentiated format of the compact Space Face - in much prettier enclosure and with a different transistor makeup - 2 x Newmarket NKT MT57 transistors rather than the classic Newmarket NKT275 Red Dot of the Space Faces. I have so many exceptional Fuzz Face style pedals that I don't really need another - but I really like the designs of the Pigdog enclosures from around this time - the Psychedelic varieties of JuJu and the almost equally attractive enclosures here in a fairly similar vein. I'd quite like something in this style - but it's still a 'nice-to-have' rather than essential for me. There are alas no demos of this particular pedal - obviously I will add if such materialises at any time. You can refer to the Space Face demo below for rough ballpark of Steve Williams' Fuzz Face style pedals.
I believe the majority of Pigdog Space Faces are still those rather ungainly Arbiter style discus enclosures - while I of course much prefer these compact alternatives. These were typically white with orange stripes - so this Black with Gold Stripes edition seems to be a particular rarity. As mentioned for the Peace Fuzzbender - this is the classic iteration of the circuit and features a pair of properly NOS Newmarket NKT275 Red Dot transistors. Possibly if I came across this exact enclosure I might be tempted to acquire one such, while aesthetics-wise the slightly less authentic above Peace Fuzzbender is somewhat preferable. Every Fuzz collection needs one really decent Fuzz Face - and there are several very good reasons for why it should be this one - including those stellar transistors.
Traditionally Steve Wiliams' MKII Professional circuit replicas have come in the rather deceptive 1590P1 format of enclosures - which to the untrained I look somewhat similar to a compact pedal in relative dimensions - but these are actually much much bigger. So thank goodness that Steve saw fit to do smaller Low Pro editions of the MKII variety - mostly in grey or blue enclosures. These tend to feature 3 x Mullard OC82DM / OC75 transistors. The MKII variety is one which I have the most examples of in my reference collection - I'm not sure I really need another - but this is still a possibility. I'm not clear on why we have both Low Pro MKII and Monkey Finger variations of the MKII circuit - I can only assume it is to do with key differences in components other than the transistors - which appear to be the same for both pedal styles.
I had the opportunity to snap one of these up from JoesPedals.com at the time of release - but was alas distracted and diverted by some other priority or concern at the time - and thus this eluded my grasp! I was actually initially after the larger Omolon 3-knob variety - before I realised that was another one of those P1 style over-sized enclosures. The Party Favor is essentially a 2-knob version of the same with the Sustain circuit element set to max. So for the Omolon you have Sustain, Timbre and Balance controls, while on the Party Favor the controls are simply just Level and Filter. I still fully intend to get one of these which is very much a Tone Bender style circuit - albeit distinct in character and somewhat tangential to a MKIII type. I have a couple of Baldwin Burns Buzzaround varieties in my reference selection - and this would round those references off rather nicely. Just need for one to materialise on Reverb.com eventually! The Party Favor features 3 x Newmarket NKT MT57F transistors.
The majority of Monkey Fingers out there are Black text onto yellow enclosures, while I'm not the biggest fan of yellow - so the Blue colourway edition pictured here would be preferable. These seem to feature the same Mullard OC82D transistors as the Low Pro MKII editions - so I'm not entirely clear on the differences. My understanding is that Steve usually only changes the pedal name if the circuit is markedly different and he's run out of a particular batch of components - in a similar manner to what Marc Ahlfs does with his Skreddy Pedals. Possibly there are significant differences with the Capacitors and Resistors - and that's why we've ended up with 2 MKII circuits featuring the same transistors.
As I write this there are 3 Fuzzbound (Buzzaround) pedals, one Heavy Load (Silicon Fuzz Face with RangeMaster Boost) and one Custom Omolon with 4th volume control and different transformer for sale on Reverb.com - the Fuzzbounds variously at around £900 or £1,000, the Heavy Load for £600 and the Omolon for around £909. So all pretty much pricey and somewhat significantly inflated from purchase price.
On the PigdogPedals.com website the store still has reference to the last batches of pedals - long-since sold out of course - these are 2 different editions of a P1 enclosure Professional MKII priced at £389, and a batch of Fuzz Zone FZ-1s highly detailed Gibson Maestro replicas in authentic original styled enclosures. So for sure varieties which don't appeal to my sensibilities.
As noted above the pedal variety which appears most frequently in the store is the JuJu Mark III - while otherwise we get a fairly differentiated selection of classic replicas. I obviously keep my eyes peeled for compact format editions - but besides the JuJu we've had nothing since the Party Favor as far as I'm aware.
My best bet is still to continue stalking Reverb.com where I have a number of Feed trackers in place. As always it then depends on timing, pricing and availability as to whether a pedal offering is appealing. Often the pedals are just way over-priced and over-inflated on Reverb.com, sometimes the delivery prices are prohibitive, and some times the pedals come through in the feed when you might already have allocated your budget for that period - so it's a waiting game with some significant element of chance and luck.
I've already stated that you really can't get better built pedals of these varieties - you need to decide for yourselves if these are too pricey for your sensibilities. They're kind of right on the border for me at original pricing - and frequently ridiculous at the inflated Reverb.com pricing.
I'm still determined to add a few more of these to the collection if and when I can - with a Loony II and Party Favor at the head of that list.
All things considered these are some of the finest, vintage-style pedals you can get your hands on - if the price is right for you. If the pricing is out of your reach I would refer you to brands like Basic Audio and Expresso FX which will have you covered in most of these areas too for significantly lower outlay.
I know we have a lot of Pigdog fans out there - which are your favourite varieties?