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Expresso FX Delivers 2 Magnificent Custom Germanium / Silicon Switching Compact Enclosure Fuzz Pedals

Effects Pedal MakersExpresso FXFuzzFuzz Face Style FuzzGermanium FuzzSilicon FuzzTone Bender Style Fuzz+-
2020GPXDualExpressoFXCustom700V2.jpg

It brings me great pleasure to be able to showcase more of the great work of my good friend Sof from Expresso FX - whom I frequently refer to as the ’Transistor Charmer / Whisperer’. Sof was one of my first significant pedal builder contacts - and it seems fitting that I’m featuring him again - almost exactly a year on from my first full overview of his Expresso FX Range.

 

I had acquired and lived long-term with 4 of Sof’s pedals before I felt I was sufficiently in a position to write a proper introduction and range roundup feature then. Of those 4 pedals - I particularly liked the CV7005 Germanium Fuzz (Fuzz Face) and highly unique TB MKI with OC75 and 2 x 2N1307 transistors - which was very much a custom one-off version Sof made for me. Sof’s MKI Fuzzes are normally in BB-size enclosures, and most of you will know my preferences for compacts. All those pedals arrived in the pre Gørva Design enclosure days - and that MKI was about the pinnacle of what Sof was building then - in my opinion. This MKI has a very special texture and timbre and is most definitely one of my favourites of that genre as is the CV7005 Germanium Fuzz.

 

This was all before the era of chameleon paint-job Green to Purple colour-shifting Gørva Design enclosures. At that time - around January / February this year, Sof was experiencing some issues with enclosure supply - which led him to reaching out in various different directions - including doing his own powder-coating, as well as making contact with Gørva Design. In any case some samples were sent and Sof was very much enamoured with the colour-shifting boxes that turned up - to the extent that the first Gørva enclosured Custom pedal was released on March 22nd - the BB-size Mullard OC75 / OC84 switching TB MKI.V variant - more of that later.

 

Next came the CV7351 / CV10806 switching Fuzz Face style compact on April 2nd - the exact same model I later commissioned Sof to build for me too. Then we had an OC44 / 2N3906 switching sort of Treble Booster but with a 3-way frequency focus switch. And on June 28th there was the OC75 / OC202 switching MKII style fuzz with Mullard Mustard Caps - which was the original BB-enclosure version of the second compact pedal that I commissioned Sof to make for me.

 

I watched from the sidelines with slight envy as these new Gørva-enclosured Custom pedals were birthed into the world. Sof’s meticulous assembly and component selection had been raised yet another notch - and with those cool custom milled aluminium knobs and densely packed interiors these pedals just looked and sounded next level. I pretty much knew I wanted one or two of these right from the first encounter - but it obviously took a while to decide exactly which those two should be.

 

I had some very involved discussions with Sof over a period of months on the subject of component selection and viability of rendering these same circuits in smaller enclosures. I was quite happy to sacrifice some of the larger components - those beautiful vintage NOS capacitors for smaller-size same-value equivalents. But Sof did his usual magic and was able to accommodate most of those larger parts by very smartly re-arranging re-engineering of the the circuit for the compact enclosure.

 

As Sof is now a good friend of mine I don’t like to apply even the slightest bit of pressure on the build turn-around cycle - and the plan was simply to try to get these worked into the July schedule - for delivery ideally before the end of the month. In fact I would quite happily have waited another few weeks for these. As luck would have it though they were ready early last week, and I had them in my hands by Tuesday lunchtime.

 

Here follow the pertinent details for each :


Expresso FX Custom Gørva Design Chameleon Enclosure Dual-Switching Military Spec CV7351 / CV10806 Fuzz Face Style Fuzz - £229

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*** SOLD *** Here\u2019s another special one-off pedal, housed in a Chameleon-finished @gorvadesign enclosure. This is a dual Germanium/Silicon fuzz fitted with a pair of military grade germanium CV7351 and a pair of military grade silicon CV10806 transistors. The former are very articulate and sweet with excellent cleanup, whereas the silicon ones are more agressive with a more pronounced bite. The top controls are Volume and Fuzz, and the middle one is an external Bias pot that works in tandem with an internal trimpot. The toggle switches are for selecting Q1 and Q2 respectively, so you can either go all germanium or all silicon, or one each in whichever order you want. The toggle switch at the back is for switching the internal battery off. NOS Philips Chicklet and electrolytics. NOS AB carbon comp resistors. Alpha pots and footswitch, and Cliff UK jacks. Please swipe left twice to hear a quick demo (phone recording). Signal chain: Fender Strat (bridge, everything maxed out) > Fuzz (Vol 4 o\u2019clock, Fuzz on max, and Bias 12 o\u2019clock) > @carramps Sportsman. Price: \u00a3229 plus delivery. Please DM me if interested, including your email address for PayPal invoicing. #expressofx #fuzz #fuzzpedal #fuzzpedals #germanium #germaniumfuzz #siliconfuzz #fuzzface #guitarpedals #guitarfx #guitar #guitars #guitarist #guitarra #electricguitar #handwired #effectspedals #guitareffects #fxpedals #pedalporn #knowyourtone #gearwire #gearnerds #geartalk #effectsdatabase #thefuzzpage #carrsportsman #cream #g\u00f8rvadesign

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This fuzz is the second example of a Custom Fuzz design Sof introduced on April 2nd. At its core it has 2 transistors each of Military Spec - Silicon CV10806 and Germanium CV7351 types. The pedal has the 3 classic knobs - Volume, Fuzz and Bias, alongside 2 x 2-way toggle switches which select the Silicon transistor to the left and the Germanium transistor to the right - to you can have both Silicon, both Germanium or one of each in either combination. Other key components include Philips Blue Caps, Allen Bradley Resistors, Alpha Pots, and Cliff UK Jacks - and of course those gorgeous milled aluminium knobs. You really need to see the colour-shifting subtly sparkling enclosure in person as the photos can't and don't convey the depth and beauty of that design.

 

This is actually my second dual-switching Fuzz Face alongside my DanDrive Austin Pride - which runs off NTE103 and NTE123 transistors. Both these pedals are stellar sounding and made to the highest level with absolutely the best components. I have a thing for different varieties of transistors - and am always on the look out for relatively unique and special combinations - which the CV7351 / CV10806 certainly is. The beauty of these pedals is that you have essentially both Silicon and Germanium Fuzz Face varieties in the same single compact pedal - with their distinct timbres and tonalities. The slightly richer and creamier Germanium vs the slightly more wiry / biting Silicon. The Custom CV7351/CV10806 sounds every bit as good as it looks - and is actually very reasonably priced for something made to the same exacting quality as a Pigdog pedal.


Expresso FX Custom Gørva Design Chameleon Enclosure Dual-Switching Mullard OC75 / OC202 TB MKII Style Fuzz - £279


The second of my Custom pair is actually an adaption of the Dual-Switching BB-size TB MKII style fuzz that Sof first made on June 28th :
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*** SOLD *** This is a custom version of Fuzz Bender (MkII Pro) with a few extra options. The pedal is fitted with a trio of Mullard OC75 germanium transistors. The toggle switch on the right hand side swaps the third transistor for an early Mullard OC202 silicon transistor. This reduces the noise floor rather dramatically, and makes the tone a bit brighter and snappier. The second toggle switch has an impact on the pedal\u2019s bias; in the up position, the tone is quite buzzy and bright. Flip the switch to the down position and the tone becomes much smoother and a tad darker. I looked into a variety of possibilities for useful mods, and these were the ones that got me excited the most. The pedal is tremendously versatile. The controls are the usual Level and Attack, plus an external bias knob in the middle. The latter works in tandem with an internal full-range bias trimpot. Mullard Mustard caps, AB carbon comp resistors, milled aluminium knobs, and a Gorva enclosure in Chameleon finish. Please swipe left until the end for a short audio demo. Signal chain: PRS 594 (bridge, vol and tone maxed out) > Fuzz Bender Custom > Cornell Plexi 18/20 > UA OX (Greenback and reverb). #expressofx #fuzz #fuzzpedal #fuzzpedals #germanium #fuzzbender #tonebender #tonebendermkii #guitarpedals #guitarfx #guitar #guitars #guitarist #guitarra #electricguitar #handwired #effectspedals #guitareffects #fxpedals #pedalporn #knowyourtone #gearwire #gearnerds #geartalk #effectsdatabase #thefuzzpage #cornellamps #prs #universalaudio #g\u00f8rvadesign

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In our initial discussions I laid down my requirement as to how I wanted this same circuit essentially, but in the compact Gørva Design enclosure. I conceded at the time that we probably wouldn't be able to fit in those beautiful larger-sized Mullard Mustard Capacitors etc. and that I was happy with equivalent value smaller parts. Sof took some time out to consider the build, and indeed figured out how he could accommodate all the Mullard Caps in the smaller enclosure - which was a real bonus for me. This is slightly different in concept to the wholesale Silicon / Germanium switching of the Fuzz Face type pedal described above.

 

At its core this unit has 3 x Mullard OC75 Germanium Transistors, where the 4th Mullard OC202 Silicon Transistor can be switched in for the Q3 OC75. That one Silicon Transistor Focuses the tone and texture of the pedal - gives it a little more zing and sustain - which is actually my current favourite setting - with volume at 3 o'c, Fuzz at 12 o'c and Bias at circa 3 o'c. So it's the right-hand toggle switch that alternates OC75 and OC202 on the Q3 transistor slot. The left-hand toggle switch which I've labelled 'Buzz' produces a buzzier timbre and tonality by misbiasing the transistor on Q2 as such. Meaning that on this pedal you have 4 distinct core tonalities like on the above Fuzz Face variant. I really like my fuzzes to have a touch more output volume, so Sof has enhanced both my Custom fuzzes to have a little more volume on tap than their original predecessors. And while the Bias sweep on the TB MKII style fuzz is tailored, Sof has given me full-range on the Fuzz Face Bias - which yields all kinds of interesting tones and textures you don't normally have access to on other similar derivations. In this pedal we have a very high complement of Mullard NOS components - including the Transistors and those Mustard Caps. Per usual - we also have Allen Bradley Resistors, Alpha Pots and Cliff UK Jacks. This MKII is really something special and is quite likely the finest fuzz Sof has created to-date - it has an awe-inspiring texture, tonality and sustain - and is just hugely versatile and truly magnificent sounding wherever you turn those dials. If you are seeking the very best example of a TB MKII style fuzz - then this should most definitely be high on your list of candidates.

 

Note that I put small orange circular stickers on all my reverse-polarity power supply pedals - both on the top surface of the pedal and next to the power socket. Orange as that matches my orange T-Rex reverse polarity cables!


Future Considerations

I think it's fairly evident that I'm exceedingly enamoured by these two new custom Fuzzes - and in particular the MKII variety which has gone straight in on my #5 pedal-chain slot. I still feel that my more standard enclosure variety - and still exceptional MKI is a really special fuzz - but these two new ones are a further cut above that. These are by no means inexpensive pedals - but I really don't think that you can buy better fuzzes at any level than these Custom edition Expresso FX varieties. And much like with any fast-rising brand, I encourage you to get your orders in swiftly before the waiting list starts to get dispiriting. Most of these pedals can be turned around within a month currently, but that is unlikely to remain so for long.

 

Be aware that some of these NOS components can be in very short supply and thus stocks of certain varieties are limited - while Sof is one of the very few builders who is always totally transparent and upfront on what you're getting. It's one of the things that drew me to Expresso FX in the first place - the open honesty on the component parts and the build process - something most fuzz builders tend to obfuscate on and dissemble on. It's something that annoys me about the acquisition of many a fuzz pedal - in that you don't know what you're getting until you receive the pedal and remove its back-plate. In the case of Expresso FX the constituent parts are fully declared in advance for all pedals - and obviously with Custom you have even greater flexibility in what you request.

 

I so like my two Custom Expresso's that I've already decided what my next custom pair should be. I'm giving Sof a while to recover from his exertions, as the MKII was a particularly tricky build for him - which he may apply some restrictions too. He's generally much happier building the Dual-MKII to its original BB-enclosure spec!

 

What I want next is another existing custom design - in fact the veryfirst custom pedal released :


But of course as a compact pedal adaption of the same - much like I requested for the Dual MKII. I have also set Sof the challenge of coming up with a Custom Dual-Switching Zonk I / II variety - i.e. original Germanium flavour, and follow up Silicon derivative which you can switch between in some similar manner. The latter will obviously take a fair amount of R&D to accomplish - so we're probably looking towards the 4th quarter of this year to be wholly reasonable.

 

If you are a genuine fuzz fan, then Sof makes some of the very best NOS-spec circuits in typically the most compact and practical derivations for those components. The Standard Range with its many options is already superb, while the incredibly even better Custom Range is really just magnificent. Sof deserves to be heralded eventually as the 4th of the UK Fuzz Lords - alongside Stu Castledine, Steve 'Pigdog' Williams, and David 'D*A*M' Main. You should start building your Expresso FX collection now - as these pedals are already in high demand, and will be celebrated for many decades to come...

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Stefan Karlsson
Stefan Karlsson
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