So I did my SGFX Compact Fuzz Range Overview back in January - where I featured my own 9 favourites past and present varieties. I stated then that I really should be looking at the larger pedals - and I’ve already determined a number of these to be acquisition-worthy - it’s just a matter of getting my other priorities and commitments out of the way first. The NAMM pedal releases have become a real waiting game now - and all pedal-makers are seemingly impacted in one way or another by recently evolving trading challenges. I’m still waiting for the majority of the my NAMM pedals to land - in theory some should be with me this week or next, but I have a feeling they will stretch into April or further.
There are 4 pedals in the frame here - the Spanish Castle (Hendrix reference) essentially combines 2 of the ’If 6 Was 9’ varieties - or BC183 and BC109 Fuzz Faces. While the Communication Breakdown (Led Zeppelin reference) offers quite different flavours of Tone Bender to the Rosie MKIII variety - or MKI.V and MKII. The 76 Plus adds a multi-mode Envelope Filter to the Octave Fuzz core. Finally, the Lysis adds a Modulating Filter to its core Sub-Octave Fuzz. As I already have all 3 If 6 Was 9 varieties, I don’t really need the Spanish Castle - even with the added Input Gain Attenuation switches - while each of the others gives me something I don’t already have in such format. As being someone who has a significant preference for enclosure formats - I would really have preferred these in vertical BB style enclosures rather than horizontal, but these as still relatively compact pedals - even though their shape makes them more difficult to accommodate in my pedal-chain.
The 76 is probably my favourite of SGFX’s compact fuzzes - so it should mean that the 76 Plus is uppermost in my attentions - while actually that honour goes to the Communications Breakdown. I seem to be somewhat in the zone for Tone Benders right at the moment - so that is likely the first acquisition here - and then possibly the Lysis, before the 76 Plus. I’ve always said that price and availability are the essential triggers here, but looks also do play into it - and each of these pedals has a number of different colourways - where the visual actually features all stock / default enclosures bar the 76 Plus which is the golden variety.
For my SGFX acquisitions thus far I’ve been quite picky on the enclosure variant as my last overview will attest too. I’m a little late to move on each of these - so some of my options may be more limited - or I will just have to bide my time on Reverb.com. But then again SGFX has a habit of bringing out different limited editions every now and again. Perhaps I will therefore wait for the Communication Breakdown to appear in a more appealing / interesting enclosure before I pull the trigger.
This exercise is also great way to experience RJ Ronquillo’s superior demos all over again.
Pedals are listed alphabetically by name :
The 'Plus' element adds a lovely fluttery filter into the proceedings which can give you wah and auto-wah qualities in manual mode, or otherwise those more choppy sorts of LFO-generated sounds. This adds a cool new dimension to the 76 Octave Fuzz - but you need to apply this cleverly to get the most musicality out of the effect - it certainly involves some degree of playing technique, and rhythm work in particular! I probably have a few alternative means to achieving the secondary effects in my pedal-chain - but it is of course really neat to have all this in one hands-on unit. I quite like the idea of this pedal, but it certainly comes after the Communication Breakdown in my personal pecking order. Controls are Fuzz Volume, Texture (Mids), Fuzz, Speed (Filter Rate) and Filter Volume - the 4 toggle switches are Colour (Hi-Cut), Clip - Max Comp / Less Comp / Some Comp, Shape - 3 sub-types per mode, Mode - Manual / Triangle / Square. Certainly a lot to get your hands on here, and a significant departure from the standard 76.
This is my fast favourite for the next SGFX acquisition - a cool combination of MKI.V and MKII style Tone Benders. Very much modelled on Jimmy Page's tones on those early Led Zep albums - the two sides are both strong independently and combined. You get 10 very straight forward controls - 5 per side, 3 knobs - Volume, Bias, Fuzz, and 2 toggle switches - Colour (Mids EQ), and Input (Input Gain Attenuation). As mentioned in the intro these are quite different flavours to SGFX's solo 'Rosie' compact fuzz which is MKIII in style. Like I've said - both voicings sound pretty great - and yes they are modelled on that signature Page sound - so what's not to like?
Superficially this looks and works somewhat similarly to the 76 Plus, but with a core Sub-Octave Fuzz. Yet the filter element on this pedal is applied quite differently to the 76 Plus and the two toggle controls for that are somewhat diverged. The 9 controls include 5 knobs - Volume, Fuzz, Blend (Filter>Fuzz Blend), Modulation (Range and Depth of Modulation), Frequency (Cutoff Frequency or Speed of Modulation), and 4 toggles - Mode : Fixed/Modulated, LPF/HPF : Low Pass / High Pass Filter, Voice - Mild/Strong Octave, and Warp : Full Dial Sweep / Partial Sweep. You get some slick synthy style tones here - and it's more undulating / vibrato-like rather than the more choppiness of the 76 Plus Filter - each one obviously sounds quite different. It's going to be difficult to decide between this and the 76 - possibly I need both eventually!
This is the easiest of these 4 fuzzes to define and explain. We essentially have 2 of the If 6 Was 9 Fuzz Face varieties - the BC183 and BC109 - Vintage and Modern voicings. The knobs are pretty much the same as those originals - with the addition of Input switches which adjust the input gain attenuation - for more variety in those fuzz voicings. These are pretty much the classic Silicon Transistor pairing - and you can use these independently and in combination. For me personally - as the owner already of the BC183, BC109 and limited edition Germanium varieties (106NU70) I really don't need the Spanish Castle - so that is the least likely to be added to the collection - but then again you never know - if I see a good price, the right enclosure colourway and I'm in the right mood for it - I may just decided that I need this level of completion - it does remain fairly unlikely though.
I went into this exercise thinking that the Communication Breakdown would very likely be the winner here for me, but I hoped to separate and further quantify / qualify and move along my appreciation for the 76 Plus or Lysis - while I'm still actually at odds to decide which of those I properly prefer. I seem to be rather flip-flopping between them. I have fairly concretely concluded though that with deference to my existing collection - it is highly unlikely that I ever spring for the Spanish Castle.
So the question is which is the best of these for your own preferences? Surely that depends on where your sensibilities lie. Fuzz is typically an acquired taste, and in many ways for more experimental players - while the 76 Plus and Lysis are more experimental than most. I sort of have the feeling that the Communication Breakdown is going to have the most takers all-round. There are so many decent Fuzz Faces about nowadays that you can't avoid bumping into a variety of those pretty much every day of the week. Tone Benders are slightly rarer in that regard, and while there has been a slew of MKIII's of late, not so much combinations of I.V and II.
While I have quite a number of MKII and III Tone Benders I have relatively few of the other varieties - and this one just sounds about right to me - in the right convenient sort of package. I would quite like to see a more all-areas fuzz in this sort of enclosure - a spikey silicon with warm creamy germanium and a switchable octave - not altogether dissimilar to EQD's Tone Reaper - but in a far more compact enclosure!