Pedals

Here Come da Fuzz

1

During the fuzz-mania of my first few years of electric guitar (when as far as I knew tremolo and reverb only came in amps, and the only pedals there were were fuzz and wah), I started with an off-brand bitenspit fuzz (the LRE Fuzz Sound), looked with envy upon buddies' Fuzz Faces and Tone Benders, and thought the Muff was the end-point of evolution of the species. Then after about 1975 I just forgot about fuzz.

It's back with a vengeance in my lab over the last couple of years, and I've made friends with virtually every permutation, crossbreed, improved clone, and lost soul I can lay ears on. Thing about fuzz is that there are no even remotely objective standards of good or bad - and a mysteriously infinite range of gain structures, textures, dynamic responses, envelopes, and grit which might work for someone in some context.

There are also builders with ears and sonic taste in all sizes and shapes, and the best put a distinctive stamp on their designs which only fits the aural receptors of particular players, in particular situations. For everyone else, it's nails-on-chalkboard; for the right guy (in the moment, with the receptor for it), it's nirvana. This scattershot mating process makes fuzz-shopping an endless gamble, with plenty of disappointments but amazing finds.

It's an odd effect category that includes everything from spitting, spiky, broken-sounding blatts of next-to-noise and the super-smooth, über-compressed sweet singing sustain of Muffdom.

Also, 50 years on, a fuzz is still the best way to annoy people.

Always fun.

2

Never met a fuzz I didn't like

3

Never met a fuzz I didn't like

Fuzzes that can’t handle more than one note at a time. Those always trip me up. I get how it could be fun, but I always accidentally play more than one note at the same time and they sputter.

Lately I’ve been getting back into the Fuzz-Ray. Ray Butts pickups really make it sing.

Any ideas on why some fuzzes always sound the same no matter what you play them with while others are super sensitive to pickups? My tone bender always sounds the same (not to complain, I love that sound), while my RYRA Fuzz A-Matic sounds like a fuzzy version of whatever is plugged in to it.

4

There’s a guy on guitarscanada.com trying to build this circuit into an effects unit but is running into problems.

and on bass, see 1:30 here.

5

My Basic Audio Spooky Tooth is one of those rare fuzzes that does sound good for rhythm playing. The "Texture" knob all the way to the left is a really great overdrive sound and it also covers lots of 60's fuzz territory. Worth checking out. Like all Basic Audio pedals though it has a ridiculous amount of gain but not at all noisy, luckily it is also Volume knob friendly.

To be honest, I use a treble booster more with my Gretsch's and Fender type amps.

6

I don’t need fuzz very often, but when I do ...

  • my go-to is the discontinued Duncan Lava Box ... pretty versatile, easy to dial in useable sounds w hums or singles

  • for that over-the-top “earthquake, carpet bombing” sound I enjoy my EHX Green Russian (but only when my wife is out LOL).

7

LRE fuzz sound ... best one ever.

8

Never met a fuzz I didn't like

Fuzzes that can’t handle more than one note at a time. Those always trip me up. I get how it could be fun, but I always accidentally play more than one note at the same time and they sputter.

Lately I’ve been getting back into the Fuzz-Ray. Ray Butts pickups really make it sing.

Any ideas on why some fuzzes always sound the same no matter what you play them with while others are super sensitive to pickups? My tone bender always sounds the same (not to complain, I love that sound), while my RYRA Fuzz A-Matic sounds like a fuzzy version of whatever is plugged in to it.

– jarrodtaylor

Tavo's FuzzRay and Seltzerado are really good. Been on a Fuzzrite kick for awhile. Have one here now built by da67 audio. And had a few from Chris Mahoney. For one project I went a bit crazy on octave fuzz pedals. My fav in that category was the electric smile from addrock pedals. Back in early 2000s Bob Sweet from Sweet Sound sent me all of his fuzz pedals 2 demo for a Telecaster Jam in LA. Bob had a great ear for fuzz.

9

Any ideas on why some fuzzes always sound the same no matter what you play them with while others are super sensitive to pickups? My tone bender always sounds the same (not to complain, I love that sound), while my RYRA Fuzz A-Matic sounds like a fuzzy version of whatever is plugged in to it.

I found these three videos quite helpful and they'll keep you off the street for a while in this crazy times. Germanium vs. Silicium/Silicon, 2 transistors vs. 3 transistors... it's all in there.

11

For primitive but surprisingly vocal sounding fuzz I like my Marshall Supa Fuzz clone. It's pretty much just a 3-transistor Ge Tone Bender, but it's a much bigger sound. Basic Audio fuzzes are fab - they're usually his take on all the favourites but he tweaks them a little to make them more usable. Same with Skreddy, who make some of the best Big Muff clones I've heard.

As I've mentioned before, I like a Big Muff with the diodes on the second gain stage disengaged. Still lovely and Muffy but more touch-sensitive. The Magnetic Effects Solar Bender is a great take on a Tone Bender too.

But right now I am loving my home-made Expandora. It's a surprisingly good overdrive at lower gains, being based a little on the Rat I guess, but when you use the "forbidden" setting it goes all gated, spitty goodness which sounds killer with finger-picked chords. Being home-made I could add a bass control which makes it even awesomer. It's a lot of fun.

12

I’m far from a fuzz expert, but do have a Hartman dual fuzz. Fuzz Face style with germanium on one side and silicon on the other. I tend to like the Ge side more.

I have read there is an internal trim pot to adjust the bias. Anyone have any tips on why/how I might use this feature? I tend to like more extreme fuzz sounds.

13

Some fuzz have the bias knob on the outside. It can be fun for dialing in different tones and textures, but on a practical level if it has GE transistors and you play Outdoors in the heat it can play Havoc with the transistors. The external bias knob can help stabilize the transistors in the heat.

14

The Magnetic Effects Solar Bender has a bias pot externally, as does the Fuzz Dog Pitbull Fuzz (kit form fuzz - and it's great!)

By decreasing the bias you are lowering the operating voltage of the transistor which makes it distort more and can get you a "gated" sound - where you have to hit hard to get any sound, and as the sounds trails off it sputters and dies. It's a cool effect - some people call it the "broken pedal tone". Raising the bias gradually reduces the sputter until you get a big fat singing fuzz. Raise it too far and it doesn't sound good any more. Bias is usually set at half of the input voltage to start with, so if a pedal has 9V coming in you start at 4.5V on the collector. Ge transistors vary a huge amount from one to the next so measuring is important. Or else have a bunch of transistors and keep trying them until you find one which works in your circuit.

The Solar Bender uses Ge and Silicon transistors so has a fat, classic tone. The Pitbull is all silicon and has lots of control and sounds quite close to a good Ge fuzz. If you can solder it's well worth building - it has some fantastic classic and broken sounds in there, and being all silicon means it doesn't need lots of transistor swaps - it will just work.


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