Based in Hollywood, BAE is perhaps best known for its vintage-style mic preamps and equalizers. However, the company has entered the stompbox arena with the Hot Fuzz and now the British-inspired Royaltone fuzz on deck here. This pedal features a steel enclosure with chassis-mounted jacks, pots and switches, along with a PC board that grips the four low-noise transistors and selected mix of ceramic, electrolytic, film and mica caps. There’s also a built-in holder for a nine-volt battery (included) in case you don’t want to power it with an external supply.
What makes the Royaltone a little different is its footswitchable three-band EQ. This adds a lot of variety to the sounds, although the attack and level controls by themselves allowed for a good range of fuzz textures when I played the pedal through a Fender Deluxe Reverb using a P90-equipped ’63 Les Paul Junior and a Les Paul from Gibson Custom. The attack knob’s sweep is quite colorful as it goes from ’60s-style buzz to a more mids-forward sound near the middle to a very saturated tone with some darkening of the highs and a more compressed feel as the knob reaches the full-clockwise position. The output is very strong, and by setting the attack knob on the low side and using the level control to force-feed the amp, a lot of other cool fuzz flavors start to emerge in the dynamic interaction between pedal and amp. I preferred using the Royaltone like a fuzz/booster when playing with a band because it reacted so well to picking dynamics and didn’t squash the feel when laying into it.
Switching on the EQ section lets you adjust tones to the nth degree, allowing you to dial things in for just the right response with humbuckers and single-coils, and veer into more metalloid kinds of sounds with the mid control in a cut position and the bass and treble knobs cranked up. Just realize there are fuzz boxes out there that are better optimized for thrash if that’s what you want. You can also use the EQ by itself, although because the level control is disabled, it’s not possible to do clean boosting.
In a nutshell, the Royaltone is sort of like an old British fuzz (think Vox Tonebender) with a ton more tone-shaping ability and less noise too, courtesy of being designed and built by a company dedicated to high-end studio gear.
PRICE $225 street
CONTROLS Attack and level (fuzz section) mid, bass, treble (EQ section)
KUDOS A flexible fuzz with a footswitchable EQ. True-bypass switching