What Is a Fuzz Pedal?

In altering the sound of amplified electric musical instruments, there are forms of audio signal processing used, such as distortion and overdrive. The former is most commonly utilized with an electric guitar, but can also be used with other electric instruments as well.

The latter is most often used by guitarists who play electric blues as they turn up their vacuum-tube powered guitar amplifiers to high volumes. While overdriven tube amps are still utilized nowadays to get an overdrive, especially in genres such as rockabilly and blues, several other ways have been developed since the 1960s to produce distortion like the distortion-effect pedals.

These effects change or alter the instrument’s sound as they clip the signal to add sustain as well as harmonic and non-harmonic overtones. This then leads to a compressed sound that is often defined as “warm” and “dirty.”

But really, it depends on the type and intensity of the distortion used. The terms overdrive and distortion are most of the time interchanged. However, to differentiate, distortion is considered as a more extreme version of overdrive.

Now, the term “fuzz” is used in describing a specific form of distortion that is originally created by guitarists who use faulty equipment like a misaligned valve tube. This was imitated way back 1960s by a couple of fuzz box effects pedals.

So what is a fuzz pedal? Well, it is referred to as the “real godfather” of the dirt boxes as it arrived way before the booster. Also, it was initially intended as an effect that would help a guitarist mimic the reedy and raspy tone of a saxophone. It is said that one of the most famous fuzz guitar parts of all time is Rolling Stone’s “Satisfaction” signature riff.

Both old and new fuzz pedals owe their tone to a pair of hallowed germanium transistors. And along with a simple network in governing their function and connecting them to a pair of potentiometers for fuzz and volume (or some form of drive and level controls), an ungodly sonic mayhem is produced to your tone.

But yes, it is mayhem with a warm, smooth and furry heart. The best-known fuzz pedals are loved for their playability, which is the extent to which their dynamics and response can be controlled by your guitar’s volume control and pick attack.

There are also the silicon transistor-base fuzzes that followed the germanium units. They are then known for their more crisply defined and slightly harder tones. This does not mean that they are inferior to other types of fuzz pedals.

More often than not, they are only different and a lot of notable players have become fans of each and every breed. In addition, fuzzes kind of “slather a wealth of their own kind of stink” all over your signal, unlike linear boosters. However, they can be used as well to drive a tube amp into clipping.

Eventually, most of the great guitar players with definitive fuzz tones use pedals in both these ways at the same time to make a bigger and more interactive instrument out of the single components in their rig.

Below are some of the all-time popular fuzz pedals:

Fuzz Face

This is known as the classic fuzz that Hendrix and others made famous. It has a very simple design, only having two transistors that are originally germanium.

And since the fuzz is so dependent on individual transistors, it may result in a big variation when it comes to sound. Meanwhile, most of the new generation Fuzz Faces (as well as some reissued ones) are built with silicon transistors, having more gain, but are less smooth sounding.

Big Muff

This big box that also has a pretty big tone. Additionally, this is one of the classic pedals that a lot of musicians use. Most of the Big Muffs are tiny but can be dialed back to get a good sound. As a whole, it has great tone.

Fuzz Factory

An over the top fuzz, this one can be hard to reign in. But if you are looking for that “insane sound,” this is the fuzz pedal worth looking into.

Analog Man

Analog Mike really creates some of the greatest pedals that are worth your bucks. And the good news is that he does both germanium and silicon.

Donner Guitar Stylish Fuzz Traditional Rich, Aluminum-alloy Classic Effects Pedal

A fuzz pedal, on the inside, is a simple circuit that has a lot of gain that clips and distorts a guitar signal. It is very similar to a cranked-tube amp, like when the tubes are breaking up. When it comes to the components in the main circuitry, it does not have that much.

It does not have anything extremely complicated either, electronically speaking. The simplest pedal designs only have two transistors, and many of these designs are sold on the market. But there are those that have more features and advanced designs to further suit your needs, like the Donner Guitar Stylish Fuzz Pedal.

Features

  • Has a traditional fuzz effect and is made of aluminum alloy
  • LED indicator that shows the working state
  • True bypass provides a transparent tone
  • Comes with an abundant and great sound that almost sounds like a violin tone
  • Has a simple appearance together with three knobs

Pros

The Donner Guitar Stylish Fuzz Pedal has a very rich and amazing sound that it can be likened to a violin tone. Its minimalistic appearance is appealing, having three simple knobs so that it stands out among other costly pedals.

It is also considered a classic fuzz pedal that helps a musician’s emotions flow deeply. To add, it has this plum and rich traditional fuzz effect that adds more quality to the sound of a guitar.

What’s more is that it is made of classic, strong and stable whole aluminum alloy, making it sturdy. An authentic bypass also comes with it in order to provide a transparent tone. Plus, it’s got an LED indicator to show the working state of the product.

Other details include having 490 Ohms for input impedance, and 2K Ohms for output impedance. Its working current is 5Ma, while its power supply requires a 9-V AC adapter. Further, it measures 95 x 44 x 48 mm and weighs 240g (including its box).

There are also precautions that need to be followed for a smooth performance of the product. First, avoid using the pedal in high humidity, high temperature, or subzero environments. Next, don’t use the pedal in direct sunlight. Do not disassemble the pedal by yourself. More importantly, keep the manual that comes with it for future reference.

The volume control gets a thumbs-up because it is flexible and powerful. The tone control, on the other hand, is effective and smooth. And the price? It is probably one of the best things about this product since it is very affordable compared to other fuzz pedals that may not even be as high-quality as this product.

Even its casing and switch say it all, being heavy duty and robust. No problems with space, because it does not take up much; you can place it just about anywhere.

Cons

Some customers reported that it tends to be very noisy even if the guitar is not being played; it is like five times as noisy compared to an overdrive pedal. And if you are looking for light fuzz, this is not the product for you since it has a very heavy one, despite putting it at lower settings. In addition, it has a thin sound, according to some players, making them not use this fuzz pedal for gigs.

Also, its usable range is said to be limited in saturation and tone. If you keep the sustain low or anything more complicated than two notes, a muddy and incoherent mess is made. If you add a delay pedal, you end up with a juicy, but dark saturated tone. Now, its flaws can be covered up if you partner it with other fuzz pedals. However, that makes this product just support equipment.

Verdict

Even though it has minor disadvantages, the Donner Guitar Stylish Fuzz Pedal remains a recommendable product. Aside from its extremely low price, compared to other similar products, it also looks good even if it is tiny.

Somehow, despite its small size, it has weight so it does not feel cheap at all. Even the packaging is kind of impressive, as buyers have stated. Moreover, it is usable and controllable, producing good sound and feel for a player.

You will also appreciate that it is neither harsh nor rough sounding. The tone control is also a helpful feature that changes the tone from stifled into bright. Plenty of volume is available, as well, to accommodate your preferences.

Additionally, this product comes with three simple knobs as part of its minimalistic appearance, making it stand out from all other fuzz pedals. So if you are a musician, you will surely get help from this fuzz pedal to let your emotions flow deeply through to your music.

Biyang Fz-10 Fuzz Star Review

As the pros outweigh the cons, it can be said that the Biyang Fz-10 Fuzz Star is an acclaimed product. It’s got an ideal size, making it save space. It also works great on pedal boards and offers three variables of fuzzy tones that come from its three-position switch.

Fuzz pedals are a bit different compared to other pedals. They produce a tone that is metallic and thick. Also, its tone varies widely according to the brand. Talking technically, a fuzz pedal creates a square wave that is essentially a very heavy and hard clipping.

This may sound compressed with many odd-order harmonics or grit. Some fuzz pedals amplify the signal to overdrive the op-amp, while others send the signal via several stages of diode clipping up until a square wave is produced.

So many technicalities, right? Well, if you want to discover more about it, get your very own fuzz pedal. Perhaps the Biyang Fz-10 Fuzz Star can help you with that.

Features

  • Has an analog circuit design for its three fuzz modes
  • Has tone, level and fuzz controls
  • Contains a true bypass construction as well as stomp switch
  • Utilizes high-quality parts like German WIMA audio capacitance and high precision resistance for a clear signal transaction
  • Measures 2 ½” x 4 ½” x 1 ½” (width, height and diameter, respectively)

Pros

The Biyang Fz-10 Fuzz Star belongs in the new lineup of the brand named “Baby Booms.” This one comes in a smaller casing compared to the Tonefancier line. It is also packs a powerful punch, making it ideal for pedal boards since it saves space.

It measures 2 ¼” length and 4 ½” height. As such, it also offers more tone than similar items. So if you are looking for the right amount of “wail,” this is the fuzz pedal to try. In addition, it has three variables of fuzzy tones coming from the three-position switch, namely: normal, bright and warm.

For normal, the mode is reminiscent of the classic saturated fuzz sound, which can be associated with the Big Muff. The bright tone, on the other hand, has the mode having a much brighter tone, making those power chords sting. Lastly, the warm tone has a mode that is darker and smooth.

Moreover, customers are pleased that this fuzz pedal is a true bypass, sounding much better than a triangle muff with regard to tone. It also uses a 9-volt battery, so make sure you have the right match for its power supply.

Keep in mind, as well, that this is not gated fuzz as it may or may not have features that you are looking for. Further, this offers a lot of flexibility with its toggle switch and good tone sweep. And, you will love how it works well with a Fender amp.

What’s more is that this is more affordable than other fuzz pedals. It truly is budget friendly, and it is durable too. Its mode switch also changes the brightness as well as the gain structure (a little), but not the sound.

And yes, it provides multiple fuzz voicings and is built like a tank. Sure enough, this fuzz pedal emulates virtually every standard fuzz box that exists out there.

Likewise, it gives long sustain for leads, making your playing a sure sensation. It also tightens up barre chord rock rhythm work. Humbuckers and tele are good companions of this product as well to produce that great and long sound.

Cons

Some expected this fuzz pedal to be a big muff clone. However, they found it not. It’s got a bad hiss sound as well. Others can’t make much sense out of the 3-way switch since the low end is flabby and bloated in general.

Overall, it seems like a slightly defective muff having lesser noise. To add, it is way too noisy for some users. And what seems to be a contradiction is that it is said to be hand wired, but it’s got a big circuit board in it. Its color and graphics are a bit dull too.

Verdict

As the pros outweigh the cons, it can be said that the Biyang Fz-10 Fuzz Star is an acclaimed product. It’s got an ideal size, making it save space. It also works great on pedal boards and offers three variables of fuzzy tones that come from its three-position switch.

That includes the normal, bright, and warm tones. The first one is similar to the classic saturated fuzz sound. The second has a much brighter tone as it makes power chords sting. The last one is smooth and darker.

Also, compared to the Tonefancier lineup of its brand, it contains a smaller casing. A true bypass, this product sounds a lot better compared to a triangle muff. It is flexible as well, having a toggle switch and nice tone sweep.

It also utilizes a 9-volt battery for its power supply. And if you have a Fender amp, this will work well with it. More importantly, it is affordable. Thumbs-up too for its multiple fuzz voicings and sturdy foundation. Truly, this fuzz pedal is the product to purchase!

Dunlop Jimi Hendrix Fuzz Face Distortion

Fuzzes are considered the grandfather of distortion devices. They were also among the first of the many transistorized guitar effects that were built back in the early 1960’s.

What fuzzes, or fuzz pedals, are known for is their ability to produce a slightly wooly, warm and rounded, but sparkly distortion throughout the guitar signal. This kind of effect gives more sustain, girth and meat to the sound. For the brick-wall type of fuzzes, the resultant sound is normally still and is more artificial than any of the previous kinds of pedals in this category.

But if you want to preserve the critical elements of your touch and tone, you may want to try a more dynamic fuzz. Fuzz pedals are really helpful in creating your signature tones. So if you want one, you can make your own fuzz pedal. Or, you can just buy a good one, like the Dunlop Jimi Hendrix Fuzz Face.

Features

  • Meticulously made
  • Used BC108 silicon transistor and has been carefully matched to the original specs
  • Needs single 9-volt battery for power

Pros

The Dunlop Jimi Hendrix Fuzz Face is considered as a meticulously, loyal reproduction of the 1670’s Dallas Arbiter Fuzz Face that Jimi Hendrix used on classic albums such as the Band of Gypsys. This fuzz pedal is built around the tone-ful BC108 silicon transistor and is authentic in every detail.

It’s got a hand-wired brown circuit board without a solder mask. Also, its circuitry is carefully matched with the original specs. It has a 100 percent accurate look too, with the groovy circular chassis together with the tooled clones of the original Fuzz Face knobs, which are in the rare and vintage turquoise hammertone finish. So if you are a Fuzz Face or Hendrix fanatic, this product is a truly playable collectable for you!

You also just need a single 9-volt battery to make it work. It feels weighty as well, and is dirty and clean at the same time. In addition, it really does sound very close to Hendrix style that it is mainly on bends.

And while Dunlop had some issues in the past regarding their fuzz pedals, they have surely regained their honor with this product, as one customer attested that though it is not totally identical, it sounded close enough to a genuine red Fuzz Face that was from the late 60’s/early 70’s. Moreover, it can be turned up all the way, with the amp still doing fine.

With all this, it can be said that it is the perfect gift for anyone who loves rocking out their guitar. And since it is made of silicon, it generally has a more abrasive tone than germanium since it has more gain, causing various distortion profiles that are sharper with high frequency content.

Plus, it is fuzzier and has a higher frequency distortion. And since it is usually tighter and compressed, it is more modern sounding. With the price, it is more affordable than germanium.

Cons

Some were a bit dismayed that there is interference when plugged in. One user even reported about hearing the neighbors’ radio and even phone conversation thru the amp. Others found it okay, considering that it sure is a great fuzz, but its parts seem to be worth $3, maximum, meaning, you can make a fuzz pedal like this yourself without joining the hype about Jimi Hendrix.

And while some see it an advantage that it only uses a 9-volt battery, others treat it differently since batteries may easily run out.

Verdict

Some love it, some do not. As a result, it can be said that the Dunlop Jimi Hendrix Fuzz Face is somehow a so-so product. Positively, it is really similar-sounding to the Hendrix style, making it the perfect gift for all the Hendrix and Fuzz Face fans.

It is also built around the BC108 silicon transistor. What’s more is that it has authentic details and a hand-wired brown circuit board with no solder mask. With its look, it is 100% accurate having that groovy circular chassis as well as tooled copies of the original Fuzz Face knobs.

Additionally, it has this rare and vintage turquoise hammertone finish. Its sound is great too that it matches well almost any guitar.

But its flaws can’t just be ignored. The interference that occurs when it is plugged is a concern since a customer even shared about being able to hear radio stations and even phone conversations of the neighbors through the amp.

Also, its parts look very simple, like you yourself could create your own fuzz pedal. For its power source, the 9-volt battery can either be a pro or con. While it is true that you do not need much battery to make it work, it is not that reliable compared to connecting it to an outlet.

ZVex Effects Vexter Fuzz Factory Guitar Effect Pedal

If you have tried a fuzz pedal before, you perhaps encountered some bad ones. There can be several reasons as to why the quality is bad. It can be that the fuzz is too fuzzy to use since the circuit has excess gain, or that the circuit networks inside do not properly pass the frequencies of a guitar.

It may also be that it is able to pick up radio stations in the local area because the pedal has so much gain, but is also nonlinear that it produces distortion. Or, it just sounds bad since it is cheaply made.

Whatever the cause, you must avoid this kind of pedal. Thus, good thing that the ZVex Vexter Fuzz Factory Guitar Effect Pedal is nothing like those other products!

Features

  • Made of two new “old stock” 1960’s germanium transistors
  • Has gate, compress and volume controls
  • Drive and stability controls as well
  • Aluminum chassis that is hand-silkscreened and hand polished

Pros

The ZVex Vexter Fuzz Factory Guitar Effect Pedal contains five knobs with two (2) new old stock (NOS) germanium transistors. It also comes in a hand-polished aluminum chassis, complete with hand-silkscreened and two-color text.

It delivers tones straight out of the 1960s as well, despite that fact that the circuit is not modeled after any one certain classic fuzz. The product’s five knobs control its parameters at several operating levels.

This lets you shape your own personalized fuzz effect. What’s more is that ZVex designed this fuzz pedal to consume less energy compared to other effects pedals, having a current less than 3 mA.

To add, this fuzz pedal is hand-painted and assembled. And though there are squelch noises at the end of sustain, it can be solved by turning the control volume to the right, which also eliminates squeals, buzzes and hisses.

When you turn it to the left, it opens the gate controls. The compress controls add an attack characteristic when turned to the left, and gets softer when turned right.

Going all the way to the right results in a pinched tone. This product tunes in feedback and fat fuzz too. Just lower the stability and see what happens to this kind of control.

Furthermore, some customers attested that what makes this product great compared to similar items is that it is a very warm and driving fuzz that retains a surprising amount of tonal separation and clarity.

And to be clearer regarding the three adjustable parameters (gate, stab and compressor), users reported that the purpose of a gate is to set a minimum volume threshold, requiring a specific amount of input before any signal is output.

That means anything that is very soft will get cut out. Moreover, any background noise is cut out when you are not playing, and any note that is sustained gets cut short once they begin to dip below the set level.

Cons

Customers reported that only a few types of guitars work well with this fuzz pedal. Such guitars even sound better with other pedals that are less expensive. Also, there is not much dynamic quality on the output signal.

The circuit introduces a lot of non-musical artifacts more than the notes that overwhelm the intended sounds, like that of a thin and popping recording that is played through a hissing radio. As a whole, it is noisy.

Others experienced how great this product sounds, until the stomp switch stopped switching to a clean channel after one day of use. And despite its multiple controls, it does not appear to be versatile.

Verdict

There are more positive than negative reviews about this product. Thus, it can be said that the ZVex Vexter Fuzz Factory Guitar Effect Pedal is recommendable. It comes with a lot of controls, with the compressor among others.

It attacks from the other end of the volume as it sets a max threshold, over which any input will be cut by a factor of a compression ratio. All of the controls working together help the product pinch your sound between the gate and the compressor.

When you move the gate high enough, while the compressor is low enough, they fight for control that emulates a good kind of dying pedal. Now add in the stab, and you’ve got yourself an oscillating glitch machine.

It is indeed an incredible and fun fuzz pedal. And with some practice over time, you can learn how it responds, dialing in that glitching so that it becomes predictable and moldable to what you desire it to be.

With this product, you can also use delay and reverbs as they sound good. And it is not an exaggeration when users describe it as something not suitable for those who have weak hearts, because it is designed to produce whacky sound stuff, really insane, that it may be too much for you if you can’t handle something crazy.

Electro-Harmonix Deluxe Big Muff Fuzz Pedal Review

There are those that can work great on their own, especially if they are that good. But sometimes, even the greatest people need the help of others to create even a more spectacular job. The same goes with musical instruments.

So if you happen to play guitars, you most certainly have encountered a fuzz pedal. Now, if you are looking for an incredibly flexible, powerful and rich sound processor, you do not need to look too far. That is because the Electro-Harmonix Deluxe Big Muff Fuzz Pedal will provide you with all the sounds you want and need!

Features

  • Produces all of the classic sounds from the original  Big Muff Pi together with additional features
  • Has a foot-switchable MIDS Section to help cut through when recording or playing live
  • MIDS Section contains four controls to fine tune the midrange boost or cut
  • Comes with a noise gate as well as an adjustable gate control to remove noise and hum while preserving your original tone and attack
  • Its adjustable attack control adds punch to single notes and chords

Pros

For over 40 years, the classic three-knob Big Muff Pi has helped define the rock guitar sound through its sweet singing tone and violin-like sustain. And now, the brand has put in additional features for players who crave for more sound shaping control.

Thus, the Electro-Harmonix Deluxe Big Muff Fuzz Pedal! It offers classic sounds of the original NYC Big Muff Pi with more features, so it sure does promise amazing guitar playing sessions for you.

One of its features is the volume knob that acts as a master volume control for the whole fuzz pedal. There is also a tone knob that provides an array of sounds from high treble to deep bass. When you turn this knob clockwise, the treble increases while the bass decreases.

The sustain knob is for adjusting the amount of sustain and distortion, just like in the original Big Muff Pi. It comes with an attack knob too, which is a volume control for the attack effect.

Then, turning the attack knob clockwise results in the attach volume increasing. To turn the attack off, just go all the way down or fully counterclockwise.

In addition, this fuzz pedal has a gate knob wherein if you turn it clockwise, the gate threshold rises, requiring greater input amplitude to be able to open the noise gate. This then allows your notes to be heard as well as your instruments to pass through.

If you turn the gate knob all the way down or in a fully counterclockwise direction, it will disable the noise gate. Another knob is the MIDS frequency knob that sets the center frequency of the MIDS EQ circuit stretching from 310Hz to 5.0kHz.

You can turn the MIDS level knob up past 3 o’clock to hear the range of the MIDS frequency knob. Just make sure you enable the MIDS, which you can verify once the LED near the MIDS foot switch is lit, then play your instrument while turning the MIDS frequency knob.

Cons

The only negative comment that this product got is that it did not work even after two tries, and that’s it. Perhaps such customer got a defective one. But really, no other disadvantage has been pointed out by anyone who bought this fuzz pedal.

Verdict

With no cons reported, it is pretty obvious that the Electro-Harmonix Deluxe Big Muff Fuzz Pedal is a much-acclaimed product! Aside from all the knobs mentioned, it has a MIDS level knob that either boosts or cuts up to +/-10Db, at the frequency set by the frequency knob found below it, once the MIDS is engaged.

To boost the center frequency, turn the MIDS level knob clockwise from its center (or 12 o’clock) position. To do a cut, turn the said knob in a counterclockwise direction. Also, this knob’s got a notch found near the 12 o’clock position to help in identifying the center of the knob’s travel. Then, in the center position, there is the flat MIDS EQ that does not cut nor boost.

What’s more is that the product comes with a bass boost or normal switch. When you set it to normal, the circuit is similar to the NYC Big Muff. But when you flip the switch up to the bass boost, the volume level of bass frequencies through the Big Muff circuit rises.

And although the bass boost function is kind of subtle, you can use it the most when the tone is set at the center position. The MIDS Q switch is a thumbs-up feature too since this sets the resonance or bandwidth of the MIDS EQ.

Meaning, the EQ sounds broader or rounder when it is in low mode, affecting a bigger range of frequencies. When it is in high mode, the EQ sounds peakier or sharper, affecting a narrow range of frequencies.