The GP Staff Tests 25 Fuzzboxes
Though fuzz is just distortion with a nastier attitude, fuzzes are different creatures than
their distortion pedal relatives, which are designed to cop the “sweeter” sounds of overdriven
tubes. Many think of fuzz as buzzy and little else, but the range of textures possible
from a relatively simple fuzz circuit can be
quite astonishing, and have included some
of the most evocative guitar sounds ever
recorded. You’ve heard ’em a million times
on tunes that span over four decades of fuzz
use—from the Rolling Stones’ “(I Can’t Get
No) Satisfaction” to the White Stripe’s “Icky
Thump.” (See sidebar on page 88 for more
fuzzy favorites.) And with fuzz being so in
vogue these days, it’s not surprising to hear
the effect cropping up in pop, jazz, and just
about anywhere else that guitarists infatuated
by the sound of clipping transistors
As with all things that come under the
guitar geek’s microscope, fuzz pedals, and
particularly the germanium or silicon transistors
that power them, have been analyzed
to an obsessive degree. The result being
that the DNA of such classic circuits as the
Fuzz Face, Tone Bender, and Big Muff Pi has
found its way to a multitude
of boutique and production pedals. Thanks
largely to a wave of creativity that brought
stompboxes back into fashion in the mid
’90s, the sound of fuzz has evolved to the
point where now even the most sickly and
demented tones a transistor can make are
considered a plus.
Many of the earliest fuzzes, however,
were hardly one-trick ponies. Sure, they
didn’t have things like bias and volts controls,
but even with something like the
original Arbiter Fuzz Face, the range of
textures between the fuzz knob’s travel
from zero to fully cranked—not to mention
the way the circuit responds to changes in
guitar volume—opened all sort of doors
to cool sounds, clean and distorted, that
could never have happened by just plugging
straight into an amp.
No question, though, fuzz has come a
long way since the ’60s. That’s why it’s so
important—some might say essential—to
check out new fuzz pedals and see how they
can inspire your playing or at least become
a factor in your tone scheme. Rest assured,
with so much attention being focused on
fuzz these days, whatever box you plug your
guitar into is almost guaranteed do something
interesting to your sound.
This was definitely the case with the 25
fuzz pedals we gathered for this roundup.
Yes, some were wackier and more unruly
than others, and a few sounded more like
distortion boxes than fuzzes, but each
had something we truly enjoyed, and that
in itself is a pretty amazing thing. When
you can’t fi nd a clunker among this many
pedals, it’s clear that the current state of
fuzz design is pretty good!
We put these pedals through their paces
using Fender, Gibson, and PRS guitars,
along with several amps that included a Dr.
Z EZG-50 combo, a mid-’80s Marshall JCM
800, and a ’64 Fender Super Reverb.
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