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In the Wake of Spaceman's Fantastic New Gemini IV - is it Time for a Sputnik III?

Demedash EffectsFuzzFuzz Face Style FuzzGermanium FuzzOddball FuzzSpaceman Effects+-
2019Gpx4Sputniks700.jpg

For a while now, the Spaceman Effects Sputnik I has been one of my favourite fuzzes and has been rotated in a lot on Slot #5 of my pedal-chain. It’s just a great sounding fuzz with a huge variety of searing tones - which you can then kick up a gear by hitting the Drift/Sync (Sizzle) and Filter (EQ/Tone Circuit) switches - which I can do with my toes pretty much, as those particular toggle switches are sufficiently extended for that (switching on that is!).

 

Like quite a number of my rarer pedals, the Sputnik I was also sourced in Italy - and I was really happy to get a Red Cyrillic edition which I feel is just so appropriate for this particular pedal q.v. The Sputnik II then split out the former’s single Filter switch to High and Low Frequency EQs, and added a separate footswitch to kick in the ’Drift’ (Sizzle). Dimension-wise though that pedal was just enormous, and in terms of pedalboard-friendliness, not really properly practical - certainly not for me. Especially since Steve Demedash managed to get his take on the ’II’ into a compact format enclosure as is also pictured here.

 

Steve Demedash’s Laika Germanium Fuzz seems to have been out for a short period in the Autumn of last year - not sure how I managed to miss that. There were 3 different versions in circulation, a single footswitch variant, and then the dual-footswitch variants with and without the central Diode Polarity Selector. The version I like is obviously the more fuller-featured one - and I really like what Steve has done with this pedal, although it appears only a handful were ever made, and very few of the Diode Polarity version. I might just hit up Steve to see if he can help me source one of those!

 

In any case, extrapolating from what happened to the Gemini pedal - I mocked up my own GPX Deviation of a Sputnik III - which essentially takes the II into the classic Spaceman mid-size enclosure and adds a single unspecified ’More’ switch which I conceived to add even more feedback and harmonics to the sizzle. I know Zak Martin never likes to do the same circuit twice though, and his own Sputnik III would probably differ significantly from versions I and II, as well as my own mock-up deviation. I certainly feel there is call for utilising a more compact enclosure for the next version - and seeing as the BB enclosure size has sort of become the defacto norm for Spaceman Effects, it makes eminent sense.

 

Pedals are listed in reverse chronological order:


Spaceman Sputnik I (3 x 2SB172 / Russian МП25Б) - c£650 on Reverb.com for Mint/Excellent, $349 when new

The first Spaceman pedal I went after hard was the Gemini III as I've mentioned many times on this blog - but when that did not look like it would work out for me, I changed tack to try and source a 'Mint' quality version Sputnik I from Europe (no customs charges). It wasn't long into that particular quest that I came across a beautiful example of a Red Cyrillic edition in Italy - and of course snapped it up quickly before anyone else could move on it. The name is very apt in this instance as it refers to the Russian sourced flying saucer metal can style 2SB172 Transistors - which are pretty high gain Germanium types compared to something like a NKT275 - meaning they don't clear up particularly well with the guitar volume knob. They do sound awesome though, thick and richly textured - especially when you combine 3 together. The Sputnik has 3 main knobs - Signal (Level) | Range (Fuzz/Sustain) | Calibrate (Tone), and one mini dial - Scan (Drift Degree) which controls the degree of synth feedback oscillation / sizzle which occurs when you activate the Drift/Sync switch. The other switch 'Filter' is a different Tone-circuit which pushes the fuzz up a further register. It's just a really great sounding fuzz with tonnes of usable tones onboard - and has long been one of my all-time favourites. It can be best equated to a Fuzz Face circuit, in terms of frequency and tone profile, but these high gain transistors don't clean up well on the volume dial.


Spaceman Sputnik II (3 x 2SB172 / Russian МП25Б) - c£1,000 on Reverb.com for Mint/Excellent, $499 when new

For the MKII Sputnik, Zak split out the Filter EQ switch to High and Low - and converted the Drift/Sync switch to a second footswitch. There were some minor tweaks in the circuit, but the same 2SB172 transistors were supposedly retained from the original. Conceptually the pedal is a significant improvement on the original, but it's really too large for my liking - and I can flip the toggles on and off sort of with my foot. Of course it's more efficient to have the Drift switch as a footswitch - but you are sacrificing serious amounts of real estate for that privilege - and the MKI version is already stellar.


Demedash Laika Germanium Fuzz (МП42Б + МП16Б + 1T308Б) - c$230 when new

Steve Demedash did an excellent take on the Sputnik II at the tail end of last year - and I somehow managed to miss the whole shebang. I'm not ever looking to get rid of my Sputnik I - but it would be great to supplement it with the updated circuit in a similar size enclosure. Readers of this blog will know how much I love compact enclosure pedals with dual footswitches! It took Steve 3 attempts to get this pedal distinctly right - and I of course love the version with the extra Diode Polarity toggle-switch in the middle of the pedal. It's a fantastic take on the Sputnik II - with similar Russian sourced Transistors, and obviously certain tweaks and improvements in the miniaturisation of the circuit. I've no idea how many or few of these were made, but by all accounts they were very fiddly to build, and Steve halted production of them relatively quickly - I guess partly also because he preferred to build up his own range of pedals rather than building more clones. I still feel it's a valid and valiant effort, and would dearly like to get my hands on one such example for the collection! NOTE that the only video I could find was of the earliest single footswitch version - as above.


Spaceman Sputnik III?

I'm pretty sure one of these will materials eventually be it next year or in a few year's time - such is the enduring appeal of this particular circuit - these pedals typically sell pretty fast on the second-hand market. I feel that there are probably a few layout challenges in accommodating all the components - including the larger jewel LED lenses etc. But it should be eminently doable. My own mock-up really just re-formats the Sputnik II into the medium enclosure - and I added a random 'More' toggle-switch - which I imagined would add still further sizzle or chaos mode on top of the Drift and Filter options. Zak obviously like to evolve and improve his circuits - and in seeing the significant updated between the Gemini III and IV, I would imagine he probably has some spectacular ideas in mind for a potential 3rd varian of the Sputnik. As I said - I'm pretty sure it will happen eventually - it's just a question of time.


Final Thoughts and Honourable Mentions

I obviously love the Sputnik I - it's one of my all-time favourite fuzzes; the Sputnik II meanwhile is simply too oversized for my preferences even though I appreciate the functional updates; while I'm a huge fan of the form factor of the Demedash Laika - and would really like to get my hands on one of those too.

 

In Guitar Pedal land there is often something of a hoo-ha about 'clone' pedals even though they are so widespread now that they are firmly embedded into the entire industry. And while I don't see the point of like-for-like copies, I'm always excited to see new and interesting takes on favourite circuits - and I feel the Demedash Laika falls into that category. I don't feel it's cannibalising Spaceman Sputnik sales as you'd typically get a different sort of buyer interested - while for me I would be supplementing and adding to my existing Sputnik - as I would never consider the Sputnik II a viable option - even if I could get it for little or no money.

 

I've always equated the Sputnik sound to Fuzz Face territory even though you have 3 rather than 2 transistors here that don't clean up well! Some would say it's closer to a Tone Bender style circuit - but the output sounds much more like the creamy fuzz of a Fuzz Face - just with more gain and sizzle on tap. I of course think everyone should have one - as this is many people's favourite fuzz circuit - even above the Gemini III and newer more versatile Gemini IV.

 

I will certainly be very happy when I see a Spaceman Sputnik III pop up one of these days ... months ... years ...

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