Round-up: 8 great fuzz pedals

4th Nov 2009 | 12:07

Round-up: 8 great fuzz pedals
Round-up: 8 great fuzz pedals
A whole lotta fuzz

Issue 322 of Guitarist magazine is a celebration of the glorious, raucous power of the fuzzbox; an effect that has ruled the airwaves for nearly 35 years since The Rolling Stones fuzzed us into Satisfaction.

If you want a slice of the square wave pie, you've come to the right place. What follows is a round-up of eight of the best fuzz stompboxes on the market, all reviewed and all with audio demos so that you can hear them in action.

What are you waiting for?! Click here as we begin with a reissue of one of the archetypes...

Round-up: 8 great fuzz pedals
Dunlop JH-F1 Jimi Hendrix Fuzz Face - £229
An icon reissued in authentic form

Based on the 1969-70 Dallas Arbiter Fuzz Face that Jimi Hendrix used, this modern reissue accurately recreates the look of that pedal and is built around a pair of BC108 silicon transistors, with handwired circuitry carefully matched to the original specs.

In use

Hear it in action in the following clips, light fuzz:


Heavy fuzz:


The Hendrix edition has the vintage Fuzz Face sound down. With a bright tonality that cuts through, this is a smooth fuzz that oozes sustain and cleans up quite nicely when you roll your volume back. Overall, it's an iconic stompbox that's great if you want to look the part as well as sound it, but it’s not the most practical of pedals.


PROS:
Cool looks. Authentic vintage sound.
CONS: Expensive. Fiddly battery access. No LED. No power adaptor socket.


Find out more here.

Available here: Thomann | Hartnoll Guitars

Round-up: 8 great fuzz pedals
Voodoo Lab Superfuzz - £129
Vintage fuzz with tweakable tone options

The Superfuzz is based on the rare Jordan Electronics Bosstone from 1968, but adds unique tone and resonance circuits to take the sound further.

In use

Light fuzz:


Heavy fuzz:


Designed to provide a variety of both vintage and modern tones, the Superfuzz does just that. You can dial in a nice dose of buzzy, raspy fuzz typical of sixties US garage and psych.

But with a Resonance control that beefs up the bottom end and a Tone control that can scoop out the mid-range or boost it to honkiness, there’s plenty of variation on tap. It’s a fuzz with more available tonal tweaking than most...


PROS: Range of vintage and modern sounds.
CONS: Four screws for battery access.


Find out more here
.

Available here:Thomann

Round-up: 8 great fuzz pedals
Gary Hurst Tonebender - £275
A reissue of the first great British fuzz

Hurst designed one of the very first British fuzzboxes, the Tonebender, back in 1965. This is an accurate reproduction of the original metal cased Mk I, endorsed and signed by Gary, and hand-built by JMI in a limited run of 50.

In use

Light fuzz:


Heavy fuzz:


With three Germanium transistors doing the business, this is a real mid-sixties vintage fuzz that hits the tonal spot just right – fat, rich and detailed, with bags of sweet sustain – making you want to turn the knobs up and play.

It’s got that sound, and it’s a collector’s item – invest in one if you can afford it!


PROS: Authentic vintage fuzz sound.
CONS: Expensive. No power adaptor socket. No LED.


Find out more here.

Round-up: 8 great fuzz pedals
Roger Mayer Voodoo Axe - £200
The Hendrix fuzz tone, but tweaked

Roger Mayer was Hendrix’s effects guru and his Axis Fuzz was developed in 1967 to give Jimi an additional series of tonal colours. The Voodoo Axe’s starting point is the Axis, but it features tonal tweaks to suit modern music styles.

In use

Light fuzz:


Heavy fuzz:


This is a classic tactile fuzz with loads of sustain and good note articulation. There’s plenty of gain for boosting an amp and a useful tonal range, with a Fatness control that tightens up the bottom end, sounding great on lower string riffage and dropped tunings. A very classily engineered pedal with a very usable range of sounds.


PROS: Build. Tonal range. Easy battery access.
CONS: Size and shape might be an issue for some.


Find out more here.

Round-up: 8 great fuzz pedals
Electro-Harmonix Little Big Muff Pi - £59
A classic gets smaller for your convenience

The Big Muff has achieved legendary status in some circles but it was always a big cumbersome box underfoot, so Electro-Harmonix has fitted the circuitry into a smaller case.

In use

Light fuzz:


Heavy fuzz:


EHX doesn’t call it a fuzzbox but a distortion/sustainer, and there’s certainly bags of both distortion and sustain here. There’s plenty of gain to drive an amp hard, but the key control is the tone knob, with a wide range that will take you from bright edgy fuzz to creamy-smooth liquid sustain and all stations in-between. It’s a classic Big Muff, but in a more manageable form. What’s not to like?


PROS: Price. Versatile range of tones. Compact size.
CONS: Four screws for battery access.


Find out more here.

Available here:Andertons Music Co. | Thomann

Round-up: 8 great fuzz pedals
Zvex Fuzz Factory - £199
Fuzz on an industrial scale!

Although it makes use of two highly prized New Old Stock sixties Germanium transistors, the Fuzz Factory isn’t a revamp of any classic fuzz pedal design. Instead what you get is a wild beast of a fuzzbox with five knobs to tame it (or not!).

In use

Light fuzz:


Heavy fuzz:


While it can still amply do the conventional thing with harmonically rich edgy fuzz, the Fuzz Factory’s true forté is unbridled sonic terrorism, with staccato-gated fuzz, squeals, howls and resonant droning feedback that you can tune to pitch. Very cool. The ideal tool for the sort of a player who is on his knees at the end of the set manipulating knobs to create a cacophony.


PROS: Versatile. Capable of sounding out of control.
CONS: Careful knob positioning is required.


Find out more here.

Available here:Thomann

Round-up: 8 great fuzz pedals
Boss FZ-5 - £95
Staple sixties sounds modelled

The FZ-5 uses COSM modelling to recreate three classic sixties stompboxes: an early Germanium-transistor Fuzz Face, a Maestro FZ-1A and an Octavia.

In use

Light fuzz:


Heavy fuzz:


There’s plenty of gain available and setting the Fuzz knob past 12 o’clock boosts the distortion to higher levels than the originals were capable of. The Fuzz Face model sounds pretty authentic, albeit a little less rich sounding and responsive than the real deal, while the Octavia offers a useful extra dimension to single notes. The Maestro flies the flag for cheesy fuzz – all farty and trebly. All in all, it offers three quite different fuzz sounds in one pedal for the budget-conscious.


PROS: Build. Compact size. Three sounds in one box.
CONS: Modelling doesn't totally capture the vibe of the real thing.


Find out more here.

Available here:Andertons Music Co. | Thomann | Hartnoll Guitars | Red Dog Music

Round-up: 8 great fuzz pedals
MXR Classic 108 Fuzz - £199
It's a Fuzz Face, Jimi, but not as we know it...

Great sound, shame about the practicality – that’s the Fuzz Face to a tee. So, Dunlop has transplanted its reissue BC-108-loaded Fuzz Face circuitry into a more user-friendly setting – a box that will slot comfortably onto a pedalboard with easy battery access, mains adaptor operation and an LED.

In use

Light fuzz:


Heavy fuzz:


Tonally, it’s pretty much the same as the Jimi Hendrix model but with a touch more gain. The Buffer switch is there to eliminate audible oscillation caused when some wahs are placed in front of a Fuzz Face, but also adds brightness should you want it. A Fuzz Face brought right up to date. Excellent.


PROS: Sorts out the impracticalities of a Fuzz Face.
CONS: We'd like it more if it cost less.


Find out more here.

Available here:Thomann

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