Guy on Reverb had a run of bad transactions and decided to close his "store." Either our tastes or experimental appetites seemed to coincide, and he had a bunch of stuff I wanted to try. I made him an offer. I think I got a good enough deal at least not to lose money if any of these don't find a home. Otherwise not even I would buy 5 fuzz pedals at once.

Don't bother me for a couple hours, OK?



What are we looking at?


Basic Audio is a guy named John Lyons in West Virginia. His website shows 36 pedals at the moment. (He makes several others not shown; you have to know about them and ask.) Of those, 33 are fuzzes of one sort or another. More accurately, of every sort known to guitarkind. That is, he builds tweaked and expanded versions of, literally, dozens of "classic" and "standard" fuzz circuits - both well-known and obscure.

So OK, you might think, but can 35 or so fuzz pedals really sound different from each other, and what makes his versions of any of the circuits better than clones or other peoples' versions? The answer to the first is yes. The answer to the second is I don't know. But he's got a great ear, and he's really really good.

I started with one Basic Audio pedal earlier this year, the Spooky Tooth, which I saw on member BirdsNBats' board, and which sent me down John Lyons' rabbit hole. Three of today's new pedals are Basic Audio, which brings my BA inventory to a dozen pedals. A dozen fuzz pedals from one builder, I know.

There are probably a couple in that bunch that I'll let go - but virtually all offer vistas deep and wide of textures, tones, and response. It's just that, of the sonic territories each opens up, some are more attractive to me than others. Like some people like the southwest, and others prefer the Great Plains.

I just haven't been remotely disappointed with a Basic Audio pedal yet. Every one is an evil grinfest.

So three of today's haul are Basic Audios:

• the Double Beat, John's take on the fuzz section of Roland's 70s Double Beat Fuzz-Wah, one of the pedals not shown on his site;
• the Wildcat, his tweaked and improved version of Gretsch's Contro Fuzz from 1973 or so;
• and the Orpheum, taken from a 60s fuzz of the same name.

Elsewise, the pedal that drew me into the guy's Reverb store is the GearGasStore Trumpeter, a commercial build around the circuit board available at PedalPCB, itself cloned from the Paul Trombetta MiniBone. Look up any of the Trombetta bones, and you find they're insanely expensive - and prized mostly for their ability to emulate (or at least strongly suggest, in a fuzzy guitar way) the blatty brassy articulation of trumpets and trombones. (Apparenlty depending on pickups - 'buckers are said to work best - and the player's ability to tweak in the settings and play appropriately. I sense what is meant about a trumpety fuzz tone, and hope to get it from this pedal.)

The last of the five is the Spiral Electric FX Black Spiral Fuzz, the one I've just received being #5 of 5 from a special run (comprising the cool color and bronze-lookin' knobs). Spiral Electric is the boutique business Tom Cram founded after leaving DOD/Digitech, where he had been their #1 pedal guru since forever. The Black Spiral is inspired by the Carcosa fuzz he designed for DOD - itself based on the 70s Maestro fuzz - but built around Nanolog Devices' ( N2 Molecular Junction, both by itself and combined with Germanium and Silicon diodes for variety.

WTH is an N2 Molecular Junction, you ask? Apparently it's the first transistor-like device to employ carbon as the active ingredient, because it's taken till recent years to get technology precise and sophisticated enough to create layers of carbon only a few molecules thick...which in turn give up the goods by employing and controlling the effects of quantum tunneling. (Or so says Nanolog Devices.)

It just happens that the two post-doc physicists at Nanolog were looking for an industry to prove the viability of their new device, and (one of them is a musician) fuzz turned out to be it. (In the same way that every new publishing technology from the printing press to the internet experiences growth to critical mass via pornography, apparently guitar pedals have become a great platform to throw new hi-tech at. They aren't life-or-death devices, they aren't terribly expensive, and musicians can be convinced to buy anything.)

I already had one fuzz built on the N2 - Nanolog's own Orbital Fuzz - and like it. (In any case, there wasn't going to be a fuzz pedal that works via quantum tunnelling without my having one.) But I also like the Carcosa, and wanted to see how Cram would deploy the N2.

In general. the N2 fuzz sound is very fast in attack, extraordinarily responsive to dynamics, and wide open through all frequencies - and without a hint of constipating compression. If there can be such a thing, it's hi-fi fuzz. Subtle in that its characteristic tone is not to impose a spectral signature, it is - by virtue of that linear transparency - its own distinct fuzz type.

And, with an hour or so of spearminting, I find I really like Cram's implementation: it's both more tonally distinctive (quirky, if you will), and more variable in tone and texture than the Nanolog Orbital, simply because it has more controls.

It also comes in very classy packaging.


i would be quite curious to hear sound samples. not that i don't already have at least a dozen fuzztortion devices.


Yes, well. That's a fine idea. It sounds like accretion disk around a middling-sized black hole, though. A deep rabbit-hole where I get stuck at the edge for fear of never coming back out.

Maybe I could automate at least part of the process by playing a few fuzz-testingly representative licks into a looper to feed through the pedals. But it remains that each pedal has different sounds (and sometimes wildly different) at various locations on their dials, possibly requiring several passes for each.

I fear that way madness lies. You're welcome to come over to my house (wearing a mask, natch) and go through them as you will.


I fear that way madness lies. You're welcome to come over to my house (wearing a mask, natch) and go through them as you will. Proteus

How about next Sunday evening, maybe Mrs. Proteus could whip us up a chicken dinner! A fuzzy chicken dinner sounds like fun!


that's a common practice with pedal demos/shootouts...loop a short phrase and then switch settings/pedals.

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