I was fortunate to come across a ringing endorsement of this brand new fuzz pedal on the Fuzztopia Facebook Group some days ago. The post appeared on the day of launch I believe (May 14th) and I was immediately struck by the the highly appealing geometric design of the enclosure (and sparkly green colour) - a little reminiscent of some of the cool Custom Beetronics stuff - but very much its own thing. The supposed visual turned out to be an excellent sounding demo video - which rounded off a perfect introduction - where something actually sounded as good as it looked.
From the first encounter it sounded distinct from all the known fuzz varieties - it has a sort of gutsy muscular core signature character / timbre which gives it a really tight and modern yet still saturated tonality. I came to find out that ’Akuma’ is a Japanese Fire Spirit / Fire Demon - and this manifests in the core voicing and tonality of this fuzz as if the circuit is some sort of a physical embodiment of said metaphorical fire-demon - that you can either attempt to tame and subdue or otherwise fully unleash!
Conceptually you have twin-burners here - the ’Fuzz’ transistor gain, and the ’Intensity’ input gain. Using the two together allows you to temper or fan the flames. This is matched by a beautifully elastic Baxandall dual-band active EQ - which makes this one of the most versatile fuzzes you are likely to come across. Dialling back both Hi and Lo controls results in a very pleasing mids boost for instance.
As mentioned - the ’Fuzz’ and ’Intensity’ controls are used in tandem to temper or unleash the full force of the fuzz - with a sort of controlled yet roaring saturation at full throttle. I quite like to start off with the ’Intensity’ dialled right back and the ’Fuzz’ control at around 9 o’clock - ’Hi’ and ’Lo’ pretty much at mid-day and volume adjusted to taste. You get an almost Fuzz Face like quality - but with that sort of inner rumble set very slightly back in the mix for the lowest levels of gain.
This Akuma Fuzz runs on 6 metal-can BC109 transistors - which may make some individuals think of Super-Fuzz territory - but this has quite a different core tonality to that and no upper octave per se. I would place it somewhere in between a high gain Silicon Fuzz Face and a Super Fuzz - with elements of the Jordan Boss Tone in there as well, but a core character all of its own. You still get a quite magnificent sort of blooming saturation, but it is most definitely not the slightly wilder ebb and flow of the Super-Fuzz - but rather a tighter, denser and more modern sounding delivery that is pretty distinct. The muscular nature of this fuzz means it also kind of encroaches on Muff territory - while its signature character always makes you aware that you’re dealing with something somewhat different here.
With the 5 controls - the range of fuzz tones and textures you can achieve is enormous - and marvellously it works excellently with the clean-up effect of your guitar volume knob too, not altogether dissimilar to a Fuzz Face. So you can fully fluidly and dynamically just roll back the volume if you wish to temper what you’ve got dialled in on the pedal.
Almost best of all - this exceptional hand-made masterpiece is yours for just €169 (plus delivery). With all the hype going around for the JHS Legends of Fuzz Series - this is the genuine innovation you should have your eyes and ears focused on right now!
I’m delighted to pronounce this a unique and distinctly spectacular sounding circuit - a modern-day classic in the making for sure. Hand-built in Italy by Giulio with the finest components - top quality metal can BC109 transistors, Panasonic, WIMA and Silver Mica Capacitors, Alpha pots, Switchcraft jacks and genuine Hammond enclosure.
The above demo features guitar and amp combinations as follows :
The attention to detail on this fuzz is just immense - matching green LED to enclosure colour, matching black fixing-screws for base plate, super neat wiring and assembly - everything in the right place. The fuzz can also be placed anywhere in your chain and suffers no ill-effects from a buffer or buffered pedal.
5 Controls :
Giulio has actually been going for much longer than I thought he had. I mentioned his exceptional T120 Matamp-style PreAmp in my Matamp pedal overview a while back - which I acknowledged sounded phenomenal (per the above demo) while it's a little large for my preferences - I'm hoping Giulio finds a way to making a more compact version eventually as it's a monster distortion that everyone should want to get their hands on.
I somehow unwittingly overlooked Kuro for my Best of Italian Builders Feature from further back - for which I need to make amends. Giulio has produced some amazing pedals over the years - while he's looking to focus more on his key creations ongoingly and do less custom projects. Some of his custom projects - in particularly a heavily modded Big Muff and Drum Machine are out of this world. While his Facebook and Instagram posts go back to 2015 - he first started dabbling with fixing and modifying pedals back in 1995. The first sort of official product was the Kurodrive in 2014, while the Kuro we know today wasn't fully established as an independent entity until 2018.
For now Giulio wishes to concentrate on the aforementioned Akuma Fiery Fuzz (€169), T120 Monster Matamp Preamp (€210) and P.h.A. Compact Boost, Overdrive, PreAmp and Distortion (€169) per the exceptional demo above. He also has a mind to bring back his first ever design - the former mid-humped Kurodrive in some format. There are a further half-dozen or so prototypes in breadboarding phase - so plenty on the horizon.
I first contacted Giulio on the Fuzztopia Facebook Group, then courtesy of the Akuma YouTube demo; we had our first proper dialogue on Saturday - and the Akuma was in my hands this last Tuesday - 19th May - barely two full days after our talk.
All three of the featured pedals - Akuma, P.h.A. and T120 are exceptional - and as luck would have it the P.h.A. gets its first fully representative demo today as above. I that feel the P.h.A. needs its own Guitar Pedal X Feature - to properly explain just how extended-range it is and how well it covers familiar ground - from Clean Boost to Natural Overdrive, satisfying Crunch and onto beautifully saturating lead-line distortion. Giulio and I will be doing the P.h.A. coverage as our second collaboration - which should appear on this site within the next couple of weeks.