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The Other King of Fuzz - Marc Ahlfs of Skreddy Pedals

Big Muff Style FuzzDelayDigital DelayEffects Pedal MakersFuzzFuzz Face Style FuzzFuzz-Drive and FuzzstortionGermanium FuzzSilicon FuzzSkreddy PedalsTape Delay+-
2018GPXMarcAhlfsSkreddyPedals700-min.jpg

While John Lyons of Basic Audio has a generally accepted wider range of Fuzz Pedals in terms of tonal palette, Marc Ahlfs has very much become the master of the 4-Transistor-Silicon fuzzes as well as Germanium/Silicon hybrids. Marc has also managed to deliver a trifecta of fairly unique signature pedals - in the form of this Hybrid Fuzz Driver, Lunar Module Mini Deluxe and Screw Driver Mini Deluxe 5-pot pedals. Those were the first 3 Skreddys I acquired. I have in fact 6 of these now in my collection including the very vibrant 4-Silicon-Transistor BC109 Fuzz-Face style one, Gilmourish P19 Muff-style one and most recently the Top Fuel High Gain Distortion one.

 

Marc’s original signature pedal was the Mayonnaise Fuzz - based on the original 1971 EHX Big Muff Pi. There have been a number of versions of this - with new version numbers arising mostly because of declining / used up stocks of rare transistors. In some ways the original Mayonnaise circuit has branched out in two distinct directions - with the 2017-released ’1971’ Fuzz being the closest to the Mayonnaise original, while the Cognitive Dissonance has gone in a more beefed up and high-gain direction.

 

Of those pedals I don’t have yet there are several still in my sights - the BC239 Muff, Cognitive Dissonance Muff and 1971 Muff. There’s no question either that the hybrid Analogue/Digital Echo Tape-style Delay is one of the best sounding ones out there. I’m just waiting for it to come down in size a touch and acquire a secondary footswitch for tap-tempo. As stated elsewhere I have a real thing for tap-tempo on delays.

 

So this is already one of my best loved pedal brands and I have a significant number of these classics already, while I need to catch up a little more on Basic Audio. There is also the question of the Basic Audio Alter-Destiny Muff-style Fuzz versus Skeddy’s 1971, BC239 and Cognitive Dissonance - there’s some healthy competition there and a challenge for me to get my head and ears around.

 

I’ve listed the pedals a little differently here - with the trifecta at the top, the Echo in the middle, and the others is alphabetical order.


Hybrid Fuzz Driver Germanium/Silicon Overdrive/Fuzzy-Drive - $249

This is the second Skreddy pedal I acquired after the Screw Driver MD and is essentially a rather significantly tweaked version of the Lunar Module circuit with different transistors and a number of different components in the mix in order to get the most out of Humbucker pickups. A number of players felt the pure silicon setup of the Lunar Module was a little too aggressive and piercing for humbuckers - so Marc tweaked the circuit appropriately. The inclusion of Germanium gives it slightly different harmonics and makes for a slightly smoother soundstage while I actually really love both variations of circuit - which work just fine for me and my humbuckers.


Lunar Module Mini Deluxe Silicon Overdrive/Fuzzstortion - $249

So the above demo gives you a sort of comparison between the Lunar Module and the Hybrid Fuzz Driver - note that the Lunar Module featured is the larger original - before Marc shrunk the enclosure. You can hopefully hear that the Lunar Module has a slightly more attacking and tighter tone - while the Hybrid Fuzz Driver has that typical Germanium warmth. With the 5 controls on each pedal though you can easily dial in lots of useful tones on both pedals and at all levels of saturation. When I bought this pedal I think it was the last one on sale in the whole of the UK!


Screw Driver Mini Deluxe Hybrid Germanium/Silicon Overdrive/Distortion - $249

A slightly Tweedy sounding Overdrive and Distortion - with a very obvious transistor clipping sound, but tending slightly away form the out-and-out fuzz spectrum. It's 5 sensitive controls give you lots of tonal options and the range of gain is significant. I find that there is quite an identifiable core tonality within this trifecta of pedals - obviously tuned to Marc's tonal preferences although each of these circuits is quite a different direction from a possible once upon a time common starting point. These pedals are fairly unique and distinctive and well deserving of being the Skreddy signature pedals.


BC109 4-Silicon-Transistor Fuzz-Face-style Fuzz - $214

This is one of my favourite Fuzz-Face style pedals with a tone of rich and thick harmonic content within the tone. The toggle allows you to flip the EQ profile between HumBucker and Single Coil - with significant tone-sculpting on tap via Bias and Voice dials. This is a really versatile and full-sounding Fuzz-Face style pedal - well worth consideration.


Echo Digital Tape Delay with Analog Dry Signal and Filtering - $279

This is really highly in-demand Tape-style Delay pedal which mixes up Digital and Analog really cleverly with the core tone-generating elements and filters and dry-signal being analog with a digital clock chip keeping it all under control. This pedal has numerous accolades for its wonderfully organic warble-capable core tone, while I really need it to be in stereo and to have a tap-tempo footswitch to fit my rig - I would also like for it to come down in size a touch. There's no doubt though that this is still one of the finest tape-style delay pedals on the market - just listen to the amazing demo by Dennis Kayzer above.


BC239 4-Silicon-Transistor Ram's Head Muff-style Fuzz - $229

It's amusing how different 2 4-Silicon-Transistor pedals can sound - with the BC239 firmly in Ram's Head Muff territory vs the Fuzz Face stylings of the BC109. Marc is very much a Muff specialist - and it will take a lot of research / trial and error for you to decide precisely which one of the Muffs are more to your preference - some are sweeter, open and more singing as such, while others are rougher, darker and more distorted - this one sort of tends towards the latter.


Cognitive Dissonance MKIV Silky 4-Silicon-Transistor Muff-style Fuzzstortion - $249

I intimated in the intro that this one is derived from the original Mayonnaise circuit - using slightly more aggressive transistors for a rougher and rawer fuzzstortion tone. As mentioned before, I am in a real quandary as to whether I prefer the sound of this one, the BC239 to the newest derivation - the 1971. The MKIV is the latest iteration of the circuit with no doubt slightly different transistors in position - I've included one of the earlier MKIII demos above.


P19 Gilmour-esque Muff-style Silicon Fuzz - $214

This particular Muff-style pedal is based very much on the Ram's Head type fuzz tones found throughout Pink Floyd's 1979 album - The Wall. This is essentially a later version / revision of the earlier Skreddy Pig Mine pedal, possibly with slightly different transistors. In any case - if you're a fan of David Gilmour's late 70's era tone - then this is a great option - I of course have one of these.


Top Fuel Silicon High Gain Distortion - $214

This is my most recent Skreddy acquisition - there was only one of these left in stock at Joe's Pedals and I had come across a number of great demos of this pedal - it's a really cool crisp and articulate distortion which is achieved by some equally clever circuit tweaking with input from Ed Rembold of Toneczar Effects. Marc had discontinued earlier versions of this pedal as he wasn't quite happy enough with how it sounded, but it seems like persistence has paid off in the end!


The Rest of the Skreddy Range

I am very happy with my selection of 9 above, similar to my Basic Audio overview - there's a 10th pedal in particular here I really like the look of (no decent demos yet though!) - and that's the most recent addition to the range - the '1971' sort of homage to Marc's first pedal - the Mayonnaise. It obviously uses slightly different components, but is intended still as a very authentic replication of the classic original Big Muff Pi sound. I also have a soft spot for the two optical phasers - the Swirl and Little Miss Sunshine - I have considered both of those on several occasions - with the Swirl sounding particularly lush.

  • 1971 Vintage Silicon Triangle-Muff-style Fuzz - $289
  • Dual Loop A/B Switcher -$99
  • Dynamic Mids Enhancer EQ/Boost - $169
  • Hybrid Germanium/Silicon Overdrive (Essentially Screw Driver Jr) - $169
  • Little Miss Sunshine Uni-Vibe-style Analog OpticalPhaser - $249
  • Major Overdrive Variac-style Overdrive/Distortion - $169
  • Rover Silicon Tone Bender-style Fuzz - $169
  • Rust Rod Silicon Ram's Head Muff-style Fuzz - $169
  • Supa Tone Silicon 1974 Colorsound Muff-style Fuzz - $214
  • Swirl Phase-90-style Analog Optical Phaser - $249

Discontinued Pedals

The difficulty with creating rare-sounding fuzzes is that you have access to a very limited supply of vintage transistors which are capable of creating specific textures and tonalities. Even when you have decent supply of transistors - matching them up in pairs, triplets or quads is a tricky process - particularly so with Germanium which sas a high degree of infallibility / failure and wastage. When you run out of certain transistors you can on occasion get near-ish matches, or otherwise tweak and tune the circuit/s to accommodate for the variations. Most of these great pedals though fall out of production once no more suitable transistors are available.

  • Bloody Knuckle Germanium Maestro-style Fuzz
  • Cephalopod Germanium Octave-up Fuzz
  • Cognitive Dissonance MKIII 4-Silicon-Transistor Creamy Fuzzstortion (>MKIV)
  • Ernie 1973-era 4-Silicon-Transistor Muff-style Fuzzstortion
  • Kusanagi 1966-style 3-Germanium-Transistor Fuzz
  • ? Lady 1973-era 4-Silicon-Transistor Fuzzstortion
  • Mayo Aggressive/Sweet Silicon Fuzzstortion
  • Mayonnaise / III 1971-style 4-Silicon-Transistor Fuzzstortions (note slightly different transistors between versions) (>1971)
  • Paradigm Shift OpAmp Classic Watery Phase Shifter
  • Perestroika Silicon Civil War / Green Russian Muff-style Fuzzstortion
  • Pig Mine Tight Aggressive Muff-style Fuzzstortion (>P19)
  • Pink Flesh 4-Silicon-Transistor Triangle-Muff-stule Fuzzstortion
  • Zero 4-Silicon-Transistor Cutting and Sustaining Fuzzstortions

Final Thoughts

Marc Ahlfs' Fuzzes are a slightly different proposition to John Lyons' Basic Audio ones - but just as desirable really. There's obviously a certain concentration here on Muff-style pedals, but Marc also has his trifecta of distinctively signature pedals that I feel most players would benefit from owning one or two of.

 

Ironically I don't yet own one of his proper signature 'Mayonnaise' derived pedals - where I really need to make up my mind about exactly which voicing of those is The right one for me - i.e. 1971, BC239 or Cognitive Dissonance. I am currently leaning slightly away from the cognitive dissonance, but still contemplating which of the other holds more appeal. I have also touched on the Swirl Phaser which has an amazing liquid vintage sound, but is not quite as versatile as say the new Zvex Vibrophase.

 

I always consider pedals in a mix of high-level criteria - which include pricing and availability, and one of the reasons I have acquired quite so may Skreddys so soon is that the market stock seems to be somewhat dwindling - particularly in the UK. The main dealers have been waiting for more than one year on restocks of pedals like the P19 - which means I has to use Reverb.com and pay for the extra delivery and customs duties. There are three UK dealers and they are all running low on stock - in fact I think Wunjo has pretty much next to nothing left.

 

I have to say here also that those that really don't like fuzzes - may really quite rather like one of the Skreddy trifectas - in particular the Screw Driver and Hybrid Fuzz Driver, which you can pretty much tune the fuzz out of entirely. As with many fuzzes there are rare pedals here with rare components - so several of these are not always going to be around - you do need to be diligent though about second-hand market pricing and actual pedal condition - as there are several on offer which are somewhat inflated.

 

I think my core Skreddy collection will be complete with just a couple more acquisitions.

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