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Boss Fuzzology - FZ-2, FZ-3, FZ-5, & TB-2W

BossFuzzFuzz Face Style FuzzGated and Velcro FuzzGermanium FuzzMaestro Style FuzzOctave FuzzSilicon FuzzSuper-Fuzz StyleTone Bender Style Fuzz+-
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With the fairly imminent arrival of the 3,000 limited-run edition Boss TB-2W Germanium Tone Bender MKII, I thought it opportune to do a brief potted history of Boss’s compact fuzz pedals. Note that according to latest updates, the wholly sold out TB-2W pedals will not be going out until late May now. This is a little later than the Late April/Early May date range that was the originally advertised. Each of those pedals requires separate hand-calibration and setup with extensive testing and high-level quality control - meaning that said exercise is taking somewhat longer than originally estimated. Boss engineers are applying some considerable magic to ensure that each of those pedals sound identical to the original reference Masterpiece #500 serial number MKII from Sola Sound’s Archive.

 

Boss has had a single Fuzz pedal variant available within in its range - since 1993, while from 2000 to 2007 there was a break in that lineage. Boss launched the FZ-2 in 1993, FZ-3 in 1997, FZ-5 in 2007 - and of course this year’s limited run TB-2W.

 

The first two pedals are THT discrete Silicon Transistor Variety circuits, the FZ-5 utilises parent company Roland’s COSM (Composite Object Sound Modelling) Digital Signal Processing technology, and the TB-2W uses rare full size NOS Germanium Transistors - most likely 2N404 types or similar, mixed in with high quality SMT circuit components.

 

Pedals are arranged in order of desirability and appeal! :


TB-2W Germanium Tone Bender MKII in collaboration with Sola Sound - sold out! [2021, 3,000 unit limited run] - £312

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This is at least the 3rd time I feature this special pedal on this site - and obviously it has generated almost as much criticism as hype. Not about the quality of its output or nature of format - but rather of Boss's approach, the high price, and limited numbers release.

 

However if you look into just how much due diligence, R&D and manufacturing quality has been put into this run, you quickly realise where the costs mount up. This is largely because of the exacting target Boss engineers adhere to in ensuring that every one of these pedals sounds indistinguishable from the original #500 Sola Sound original MKII benchmark reference pedal that they are each based on. As mentioned in the introduction each pedal goes through quite a complex process of calibration and quality assurance. These sorts of pedals are normally produced in very small limited batches - where there is not as much emphasis on each and every one sounding exactly the same. To get them all to the exact same frequency curve takes considerable effort and expense, and getting components for the full run of 3,000 is incredibly difficult with today's Covid-related Parts Supply impediments.

 

I know many players consider the pricing overly high - in pacrticular when compared to Boss's price point - however many of those would not hesitate to buy a Steve Williams Pig Dog variety for considerably more outlay. Listening to Ant Macari's incredible demo above I would imagine most of us would agree that the TB-2W sounds absolutely amazing - and particular for me at the 7V level. Note that there is a buffer switch also on the top edge of the pedal which gives you some slightly flexibility in placement, while it really should be placed at or very near the front of your chain.

 

I was already sold on the TB-2W by the earliest rough demos of this pedals - listening to the Ant Macari session makes me very excited indeed for this pedal's arrival. Congratulation to all who managed to snag one, and commiserations to those who did not. For those who feel the price is too high - I will have some alternative recommendations for you in the final launch article - where I share my own testing notes.


FZ-2 Hyper Fuzz Silicon Transistor Fuzz - discontinued [1993-1997] - c£200-£400 for decent condition examples on Reverb.com

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Based on the Univox (Shin-ei FY-6) Super Fuzz from 1968 - Boss's FZ-2 has quite a few innovations and additions over and above that - besides of course the superior compact form factor. You get quite a range extension here via no less than 5 controls - including that smart dual-concentric Treble and Bass pot. Then Level, Gain and 3-way Mode switch - Fuzz I (Pushed Mids) / Fuzz II (Scooped Mids) / Gain Boost.

 

As seems to be Boss's way with most of these fuzzes you get quite a few more tone components than the original source models had. So usually the rough reference is 2 Transistors means Fuzz Face, 3 is Tone Bender, 4 is Big Muff, and 6 is Super Fuzz. On this occasion there is a further 7th transistor - 3 x 25K184 + 25A1335 + 3 x 2SC3378 for even more texture and gain.

 

Considering how much in-demand these are, it's somewhat surprising that Boss hasn't yet deemed it time to produce a revival Waza Craft edition of this pedal. I can only hope that with the launch of the TB-2W Boss will be putting more of a focus on its fuzz line - and that we might see a few more additions over the coming months and years.

 

Prices have ballooned over the last few years, I was lucky to snag a pretty pristine example off Ebay back in February of 2018 - for just £120. In fact I acquired each of my early Boss fuzzes from February to June 2018. Prices currently are two to three times as much - often with less pristine examples up for grabs. This should definitely be Boss's next Waza Craft revival - it just makes so much sense with all that pent up demand!


FZ-3 Fuzz Silicon Transistor Fuzz - discontinued [1997-1999] - c£200-£350 for decent condition example on Reverb.com

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This is actually another fantastic Boss Fuzz - somewhat overlooked and underrated for a while, but not really in the last few years where more and more players have wised up to this pedal's prowess. There still seems to be some confusion out there as to what genre of Fuzz this is - somewhat confused by Boss's innovative approach here.

 

I'm led to believe that this is actually closest to a Fuzz Face circuit in its component selection, while it has 5 x 2SC2458 Silicon Transistors onboard compared to the usual 2 of a classic Fuzz Face. There is a very famous high-gain Fuzz Face variant know as the Os Mutantes Regulus VIII - also a la El Musico Loco Wee Beaver Fuzz and Abracdabra Audio / Chase Bliss Audio's Ayahuasca Trem-Fuzz.

 

I actually view this pedal as sitting somewhere between Regulus VIII and Tone Bender MKII territory. The added transistors and smart Tone pot give it the extra range to cross over from high gain silicon Fuzz Face into Tone Bender style distortion territory. The realisation of how great this pedal is has propelled its price ever upwards, and currently this is in almost as much demand as the ever popular FZ-2. Boss would do great business too in reviving this particular gem.

 

I acquired mine off Reverb.con in May 2018 - for a very fair £116.


FZ-5 Fuzz COSM - current [since 2007] - £95

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This is quite a departure to Boss's more typical output - relying this time around entirely on parent company Roland's COSM Digital Signal Processing technology (Composite Object Sound Modelling) for its tone generation. Fuzz snobs tend to turn their noses up at non-discrete component variety fuzzes, and while this is the least good of Boss's fuzzes, it still has its moments.

 

I personally find the Fuzz Face voicing a little muddy and undynamic - and a very poor sibling to Boss's previous FZ-3 - in fact I don't use that voicing at all myself. The Maestro FZ-1A and Octavia voicings are rather more punchy and actually you can get some pretty great tones out of those for those respective genres. I still feel there is a Tone pot missing on this pedal - which could have saved the Fuzz Face voicing. This is nowhere near as impressive a fuzz as its other 3 siblings, but for the level of outlay, you get quite a lot of bang for you buck - and as I've reported, the Maestro and Octavia voicings are pretty decent, and nicely extend the Boss Fuzz Family range.

 

Considering just how much tone and texture you can get from this COSM variety, and the further innovations and improvements made more recently - I feel that Boss could further improve this pedal. Please add a 4th knob - Tone control!

 

For $95 outlay this is a decent highly versatile fuzz, and an even better proposition at the £66 I paid for mine back in June of 2018. So Boss's least impressive Fuzz but still one that has its moments.


Final Thoughts

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I actually put Boss's 3 Discrete Component Variety Fuzzes on the same level of appeal for me - while of course I'm currently most excited about the TB-2W, but those other two classics are pretty great too - and deserve a revival.

 

I also feel that several players could avail themselves of the FZ-5 which is a pretty decent Fuzz, but with some flaws and limitations.

 

I understand the negativity for the TB-2W release as yes it is rather pricey, but as I've detailed here the time and due diligence that have gone into the making of each and everyone of those are what justify the pricing. Listening yet again to Ant Macari's demo - I can't see how anyone would failed to be impressed, and wouldn't be proud to own one such. I think equal pride overall for the FZ-2 ad FZ-3, while the FZ-5 is nowhere near has bad as some critics say it is.

 

What say all of you?

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Stefan Karlsson
Stefan Karlsson
Guitar Pedal X
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