You could say that there are several masters of the Fuzz circuit - Greg Djerrahian at SolidGoldFX, Marc Ahlfs at Skreddy Pedals, Mark Piera at Analog.Man, Richard Coibion at Monsterpiece Fuzz, Scotty Smith at ProAnalog Devices, and Zachary Vex at Zvex to name a few. In terms of breadth and range of delivery it has to be said though that John Lyons somewhat towers above them all. He has currently 25 all bonafide classic pedals in his range - of which I have acquired 3 to date, with many more on my imminent acquisitions wishlist.
I’ve tried to pick out my 9 favourites here - mostly decided by which ones of these I would like to get my hands on next but also trying to be representative of the full range and trying to present the very best of what John has to offer. This article follows on from my ’King of Drive’ piece on Brian Wampler - if you were to buy only one of his pedals to fully represent what he is about I would recommend the brand new Pantheon Overdrive; for John Lyons - his most celebrated pedal is the all-rounder Scarab Deluxe which is loosely based on a Tone Bender circuit but has so much range to it that it can do nearly everything you would want of a fuzz.
You’ve got the slightly softer and reedier / saxy Zippy at one end of the scale and the full-throated Rat-style Shore Bird at the more aggressive end of the equation. All of John’s pedals are beautifully tuned, and you can guarantee the very best components and tone - there is also pretty much every fuzz genre you might care to mention covered by his 25 pedals. I’m finding it kind of hard to decide which one I get next - the Fuzz Mutant, Orpheum, Shore Bird or Zippy - they all sound tremendous.
As John has not released anything new particularly recently, many of the newer / younger players might not be readily aware of him or his quality. So this article is in part a public service to bring John back to the forefront of people’s minds if they are in any way considering acquiring a fuzz. For those that really don’t like fuzzes - there are probably one or two outliers here that you will like regardless.
Pedals are listed alphabetically by name as always:
I acquired one of these relatively recently - it followed on from the That Pedal Show episode on the Colorsound Power Boost, and my research carried out afterwards to find the best of the modern equivalents. I had not specifically been looking to imminently acquire one of those but came across a Futureman on Reverb.com at a very decent price - which I really could not turn down. All my Basic Audio pedals to date have been acquired by way of Reverb.com - there is a UK dealer - Guitar FX-Direct, but they don't carry a lot of stock so I take my chances when opportunities arise - Reverb.com is always a good source for Basic Audio. This is kind of more of an overdrive than a fuzz, but is really a fuzzy-drive essentially - which is at its best fully cranked and controlled by the volume and tone dials on your guitar. If you tune it right it sounds beautifully richly textured and articulate - and it will go quite dark and tight too if that's what you want.
This is an homage to / clone of a pretty original Brazilian Fuzz circuit from the 70's - made famous by Brazilian rockers Os Mutantes and their lead guitarist Sérgio Dias. It is a beautifully harmonic and textured fuzz - sort of mid-gainey - sounds wonderful when it's opened up and can be quite psychedelic at times. Definitely on my must get soon list!
This was one of the standouts when I was reviewing the Maestro-style pedal category and I acquired this one very soon after. It has a lovely full-throated quality to it which aptly suits its Gnarly moniker - with the Texture dial being particular useful in defining this pedal's tonal output. It's a little rougher and rawer than most of the range, but lots of us really love its general waywardness.
A beautifully voiced 60's Germanium Orpheum style fuzz with a lovely rich and thick mid-gain harmonising saturation which stays tuneful throughout. It sounds tremendous in the above demo and is one of the select Basic Audio pedals that is vying for imminent acquisition. I sometimes forget how great these fuzzes sound and need to be reminded periodically!
This is the 'if you buy only one Basic Audio pedal' fuzz which kind of covers the most ground and ends up being John Lyons' signature pedal and flagship. It was the first one I acquired and is a good introduction to the range. It is based on a core Tone Bender circuit (III/IV) but with additional tweaking and tone-sculpting via Bias and Fat pots - which make it hugely versatile - and enable it to cover everything from a relatively gentle overdrive to a fairly full-on saturated fuzz. It's kind of cool this one ended up in the middle of the above picture - more by accident than design.
I'm a big fan of Rat pedals, and John has made a fantastically balanced version of that circuit in the guise of the Shore Bird pedal - he's tided up and tamed the right parts of the signal to preserve all of the attitude of the Rat without any of the downsides. The highly sensitive Tone and Fat knobs help to dial it in just right - there are tonnes of Rat circuits out there, but this one is distinctively one of the better/best sounding ones.
This is the other side of the Orpheum Fuzz - using Silicon transistors to get a more aggressive and edgier tone - it overlaps into raunchier Big Muff territory but has the bite of a Fuzzrite and Superfuzz - which makes it another firm favourite of Basic Audio fans.
This creamy dual-voiced Muff-inspired circuit brings out your inner David Gilmour with his favourite Ram's Head and Triangle Big Muff style tones. The pedal also has a supremely useful Mids dial which helps you be more prominent in the mix - and particularly within a band playback scenario. I debated long and hard whether to go for this Tri/Ram or the pretty much equally versatile but slightly more aggressive Alter-Destiny Muff - both are superb pedals and deserve your consideration. I just happened to be more in a Pink Floyd state of mind when I came to the decision and went for the Tri-Ram, but I could have gone either way, I still like both and in all likelihood will have both eventually too.
This brassy, saxophone-y, Coltrane-y sounding fuzz is at the more gentle end of the fuzz spectrum and replicates those early fuzzes that were designed to sound like a cross between the woodwind and brass sections of a big band. It has that wonderful reedy sing-song quality that's quite special and you don't get to hear much within the current slew of contemporary fuzzes. I definitely need to add one of these as I have nothing quite like it in my collection - I guess this one is Marmite for some, but those that like it really do!
There are 16 more pedals in the range - various versions of Tone Bender, a few Octave style Fuzzes, Fuzz Faces, Overdrives, Fuzzstortions and other individual pedals. As mentioned above, the best of the rest for me is the properly thick sounding Alter-Destiny Muff style fuzz - which is already on the acquisition list with all of the missing ones above!
This article was composed in part following a request from one Gerardo Ramos - I had kind of considered doing a similar piece, but he was certainly the catalyst in making it happen sooner. Gera - I hope you are satisfied with my selection!
I could have named probably 3 or 4 more that I have considered here, but following on from the Brian Wampler article, I think 9 is a good number, and there will no doubt be other pedal-maker overviews where I might struggle to find / pick out 9 pedals of note. So for now '9' is the magic number and looking back on my selection I think these are truly a great representation of John Lyons' art/craft/graft. I am still in two minds as to whether I prefer the Alter-Destiny or the Tri/Ram as both are exceptional - but on balance I think I was probably correct to go with the latter.
Please let me know if you think I've made any jarring omissions here - I know a number of you have love for the Lucky Number, Solar Myth, Super Fuzz and Wildcat - but I had to select what I felt were the 9 best representatives of Basic Audio - and I feel I have accomplished that. I think my next Basic Audio pedal is a 4-way between the Fuzz Mutant, Orpheum, Shore Bird and Zippy - again I feel I will get all of these eventually, but it depends which I pick up first - right now I think it's going to be either the Mutant or the Zippy - depending as always on availability and price!