Boss FZ-5

You know things have come full circle when modeling technology is used to replicate the sounds of classic fuzzboxes, and that’s exactly what the FZ-5 ($187 retail/$119 street) does. This COSM-based pedal’s Mode knob allows you to select three flavors of vintage-style buzz: Dallas-Arbiter Fuzz Face, Maestro FZ-1A, and Octavia. As with all Boss pedals, the FZ-5 features a rugged enclosure with the battery conveniently located under the footswitch plate, a status LED, and an adapter jack (adapter not included).

Despite having tons of output, the FZ-5 is very quiet. You can hear its noise gate working to keep the hiss under control, and it’s effective without being overly intrusive. This pedal also features a Boost function—which activates automatically when the Fuzz control is all the way up—to provide more distortion than any of the original fuzzes it models. The variety of tones available via the Mode switch is pretty amazing. The middle setting (Maestro FZ-1A) offers pure, old-school fuzz with authentic spittiness at lower settings, while position 1 (Fuzz Face) packs the gnarly punch and dynamics of Arbiter’s classic buzz bomb. Both of these models are based on the originals’ germanium-transistor circuitry, and it’s amazing how over-the-top and rock/metal worthy either can sound—especially when the boost function is operating. The third Mode (Octavia) has a lot of Big Muff-style smoothness and low-end muscle, but not much octave ring could be heard until the Fuzz knob was maxed—and even then it was a pretty gentle impersonation. Still, the FZ-5 rules for heavier applications and is less temperamental than the vintage fuzzes it emulates.

Kudos: Flexible. Powerful. A fuzzy treasure chest of heavy-duty tones.

Concerns: Unconvincing Octavia model

Contact: Boss, (323) 890-3700;