For many guitarists, the first thing that comes to mind when they hear the term “fuzz box” is the Big Muff Pi from Electro-Harmonix. With the new Deluxe Big Muff Pi, the company has added some cool additional features to its classic fuzz pedal. read more…
Music is universal — even people in New Zealand, who live down under, play music. They even make guitar stompboxes. And of course, that's what interests us more here at AudioFanzine. Focus on four analog stompboxes... read more…
User reviews on Fuzz pedal products
More than a Fuzz, but an Awesome Overdrive that Offers Plenty of Tones (Cusack Music - Screamer Fuzz Germanium)
By MGR/Brian Johnston, 08/05/2019
Although called a Screamer Fuzz Germanium it’s not strictly a fuzz-sounding device and offers a lot of different tones. Certainly there are some nice thick and grainy fuzz tones, but with the combination of an Overdrive you can create a wide mix of sounds that range from strictly mild overdrive, to heavy distortion and fuzz.
The easiest way to describe the sounds over the three settings (whether using just the drive, the fuzz or both) is that the Germanium setting has a thicker and darker tone, the silicon setting has a smoother and more biting quality, and the LED setting has a louder and more aggressive (punchy) character that blends some characteristics of the other two. The Tone knob has a very wide range, from heavy and dark to somewhat piercing, and so whether your amp, pickups and other gear is on the dark side or bright side it’s easy to dial into a pretty awesome sound. The range of drive is significant, in that turned low (9-o’clock) you can hear some added energy in your tone and when pushed (3-o’clock) you can achieve some very nice ‘breaking-up’ qualities, but without masking the original sound of your amp and gear. However, add in even a modest amount of fuzz (8-9 o’clock) and you not only get into some fantastic distortions, but the volume increases quite a bit, making for an awesome boost. Overall, as you fiddle with the Drive, the Fuzz and the output Level there is plenty of headroom on tap. As an added bonus, the Screamer Fuzz Germanium cleans up exceptionally well – crank up the Drive and Fuzz to about 12-noon each and the sound is fairly massive, but dial back on the guitar’s volume knob (to about half-way or less) and you get a good dirty crunch tone. Of course, all of this pertains to a clean amp channel. When working with a high-gain or dirty channel, the levels on this pedal will be affected by how dirty the amp signal is, but also how high the gain is on that channel. Typically just a touch of fuzz and drive on the Screamer Fuzz Germanium will go a long way to hot-rod your dirty channel and without robbing it of the original characteristics and sound. It’s like modding a 5150 amp head… it still sounds like a 5150, but with an extra set of balls.
OVERALL IMPRESSION: Fuzz is not for everyone, including pedals that sound like a hive of bees (a very particular taste); and I get that sentiment. However, Cusack Music’s Screamer Fuzz Germanium is one of those fuzz pedals for people who don’t like fuzz pedals (and also for those who do). This is a new take on the original Screamer Fuzz but with a Germanium setting as opposed to a Shottke clipping diode. You can use the Drive exclusively (the germanium diodes go into the Drive section, which then affects the Fuzz thereafter), which is a great sounding overdrive that is quite versatile considering the three clipping options (germanium, silicon and LED); and when you add a touch of Fuzz the sound is far more comparable to a dirty, gritty overdrive or distortion. It’s only when you start cranking the fuzz to about 10-o’clock or beyond that you get that mistakenly obvious fuzz tone… although I find on any of the clipping settings the quality of fuzz is more robust and organic rather than fizzy and overly-saturated. Factor in a highly usable Tone control and one of the most dynamic ranges of settings possible among all the options to craft your own sound (or series of sounds) and the Screamer Fuzz Germanium is a solid buy at $205 USD. Regardless, this is a limited production model with about 35 units remaining. If sold out, do check all the other Screamer Fuzz pedals over at Cusack Music since this company is the real deal when it comes to high-end boutique-like pedals at very reasonable pricing.
GENERAL USE: The clipping setting determines if you’re looking for a fatter and darker tone (Germanium), a tone that cuts through the mix a bit better (Silicon) or a tone that has an aggressive boosting quality (LED). The Tone knob works as it should, and with a wide range of dark-to-bright it’s easy to dial into something that works with any gear – fatten up that thin sounding Strat or brighten up those muddy humbuckers. The next consideration is what type of tone you are after, since you can use a lot of Drive, a lot of Fuzz or a combination of the two in various amounts. When focusing on Fuzz the Drive adds some saturation to smooth the signal, but at the same time makes the Fuzz sound a bit angry (a fuzz-distortion type of mix). When focusing on the Drive you can achieve a very classic amp-pushing quality with a lot of Drive and only a hint of Fuzz (you would not think this a fuzz pedal with such a mix, but a fantastic sounding drive/distortion). Add in even more Fuzz and you begin getting a fatter distortion and eventually an unmistakable fuzz tone. The results are even more widespread depending if you are adding the Screamer Fuzz Germanium to a clean or dirty channel. Depending on how ‘clean’ the channel, you can really crank up the pedal with awesome results. With dirty channels that verge on high-gain it is best to add low amounts of Fuzz (8-o’clock) and Drive (9-10 o’clock) for that extra dimension so that you get a super high-gain result.
OTHER DETAILS: A standard sized pedal made of heavy duty, lightweight aluminum with an attractive and textured Terridium finish, the Screamer Fuzz Germanium’s graphics on the pedal reminds me of the Periodic Table of Elements, giving it a unique look and style. Measuring 112 mm (L) x 60mm (W) x 50mm (H) (4.4 x 2.36 x 1.97 inches), the footswitch is a soft-switch, which means it does not ‘click’ when engaged or disengaged. The three-position clipping toggle switch is solid when moved and is sandwiched among the four proprietary milled aluminum knobs. The four knobs controlling Level, Tone, Drive and Fuzz all have good quality pots (smooth and solid when turned). The cable input and output are located in the back of the unit, whereas the power input is located on the side and about mid-way long the pedal (far from any foot-stomping that may take place). The LED to indicate on (red) and off (green) has a nickel plated brass bevel around it, and is located at the top of the pedal. You can disengage the green LED (when the pedal is not in use) by holding down the footswitch for a second. However, I like this feature, particularly for dark stages, since you know where this pedal is even when not in use (via the green light). The Screamer Fuzz Germanium can work on a standard 9V battery or via a standard 9VDC (center -) power supply, while consuming only 7mA of power.
From modest warmth to full-blown Doom Fuzz (Keeley Electronics - Fuzz Bender)
By MGR/Brian Johnston, 10/05/2019
This is a fuzz for fuzz lovers… and definitely not for the faint of heart (or those who dislike fuzz).
With the Bias down low (less agitation or burping) and the Fuzz as low as it can go, you start off with a good dose of fuzzzzzz (the extent depends on how low or high the Bass and Treble knobs are). Some fuzz pedals are more subtle, and they add some warmth, saturation or grain to an already clean or slightly dirty channel, e.g., David Gilmour’s tone. The Fuzz Bender, on the other hand starts off noticeably and simply continues to climb into thick and boisterous proto-metal, psychedelic doom. And because the Fuzz Bender has both Silicon and Germanium gain stages, you get a more subtle fuzz tone when the Fuzz knob is turned more toward the left, whereas you get a thicker and more saturated tone with the Fuzz knob turned toward the right. There is an increase in volume as you crank the Fuzz knob, but nothing excessive (which is good, and which means you don’t have to constantly adjust the Level knob every time you tweak the Fuzz knob). The Bias knob increases the spit to the point of splatter – so much so that the Fuzz Bender almost sounds gated as you riff out some choppy double-stops while in that position. The two tone knobs, Bass and Treble, add some great impact in the overall tone, from thick heavy bass to a sizzling treble, and definitely add to the volume (they act as boosters to the main signal). I suspect there is such great range in the Bass and Treble (from fully off to up fully) to accommodate muddy vs. thin pickups, but also to accommodate bass guitars. The Fuzz Bender offers some serious tone sculpting and unique, wide- ranging fuzz sounds from smooth to breaking-up obliteration.
OVERALL IMPRESSION: A 3-transistor hybrid fuzz with bias control, I consider this pedal to be an ‘over-the-top’ fuzz when you want some thick, massive tones, whether smooth or broken-up (via the Bias). Even with the Fuzz turned all the way down (and the pedal engaged) there is an obvious moderately-heavy fuzz tone, which only accentuates as you crank up the levels. The only way to keep it subtle is to keep the Bass and Treble controls low and while dialing back on your guitar’s volume. The Bias offers anything from ‘off’ (no effect) to slight breaking up, to a splattering and almost gated type effect, making it ideal for choppy syncopated rhythms. The Tone controls are fabulous, in that you can get that searing trebly fuzz tone or that deep and heavy Doom metal type of quality. There is a massive amount of headroom with this pedal, and you can feel the air being pushed – particularly as you crank up the Volume and Bass. Robert Keeley is known for making quality pedals (at great prices) that sound darn good, and the Fuzz Bender is no exception. At $149 this pedal is both affordable and a must-have for Fuzz aficionados. I have tested, played and reviewed several fuzz pedals and the Fuzz Bender has carved its own niche for sound, diversity and uniqueness.
GENERAL USE: Volume or output is controlled by the Level; turn it down when first engaging the Fuzz (and powering up your gear). The Fuzz Bender has a lot of headroom, and so I find keeping the Level around 9-10 o’clock sufficient in most cases. The quality or nature of the Fuzz is relative to where you place the Fuzz knob – the more you turn it counter-clockwise, the more subtle the fuzz flavor, whereas the more you turn it clockwise, the more saturated and heavier the fuzz. Obviously there is a mixing and meshing of the two, with the extent depending on where you dial in your sound. The Bias offers a lot of splat, and it produces a breaking-up quality even when turned up slightly to about 8-9 o’clock, and then burps like crazy from 12-noon onward. The Bass and Treble knobs are awesome; you get sizzling bright fuzz that cuts through the mix, but also a super heavy Doom and Gloom fuzz that is dark, but still defined in its character (or anything between). The heaviness of the Bass becomes apparent around 12-noon and beyond, whereas that cutting-edge Treble seems to hit hard at 3-o’clock. Of course, these specs are based on a thick and warm preamp (The Countess V4 by Victory) and the Petrucci MESA 4x12 cabinet (which is considered ‘dark’) that I used in the demo.
OTHER DETAILS: A medium-sized pedal the Fuzz Bender measures 112 mm (L) x 90mm (W) x 55mm (H) with knobs (4.4 x 3.5 x 2.16 inches). The heavy duty chassis has a feel of steel (by its weight), although it could be aluminum. It has a powder coated white paint job with orange lettering/graphics. Coupled with the extra large knobs (the Level and Fuzz seem large enough to turn with a foot) the pedal definitely has a retro vibe to it, as though working with an old transistor radio. The footswitch produces a solid click when the pedal is engaged and disengaged. All five knobs, controlling Level, Fuzz, Bass, Treble and Bias are heavy plastic and could withstand any foot stomping that may drift in their directions (adding a ‘tallboy’ Barefoot Button would have a foot tower over the knobs). All knobs have good quality pots (smooth and solid when turned). The cable input and output, as well as the power input is located in the back, which saves on pedalboard space, but also keeps them in a more secure location. The Fuzz Bender does not work via battery power and requires a standard 9VDC (center -) power supply, while consuming only 15mA of power.
Thick and Heavy Fuzz that Mimics the Tones of Led Zep, The Who and The Stones (Doc Music Station - British Bender)
By MGR/Brian Johnston, 15/07/2019
An aggressive fuzz with an edgy distorted quality, British Bender definitely is more boisterous than it is smooth, although that depends largely on how clean your clean amp channel is.
In that regard, I tried putting the British Bender (with Gain all the way down) before a dirty channel and it sounded better on clean channels. Bear in mind that I use three different preamps in the Victory Amp line – The Sheriff (plexi), The Countess (thick and chewy) and The Kraken (intense and edge). Perhaps a dirty channel from less aggressive dirty amps (like a Vox) would sound better, but I seemed to like the British Bender best on The Countess’ clean channel, which is very clean and glassy. Like most fuzz pedals the British Bender has Fuzz and Bias controls, for tweaking both saturation and that breakup quality. Even with both controls up relatively high the signal remains very clear in the mix and not muddy or muffled – and even with both controls up high heavy rhythm may sound a bit much (unless you like that thick Doom or Proto-Metal quality), but leads do sound absolutely velvety with great sustain. As for riffs and rhythm, I found middle register playing sounded better than deep drop-tuned type stuff (which makes sense, since this is based on a vintage pedal long before drop-tuning was in vogue).
OVERALL IMPRESSION: A faithful reproduction of one of the most iconic fuzz models in guitar history, British Bender is characterized by its heavy sound and its ability to go into feedback. It consists of three Germanium NOS MP41 transistors to reproduce the sound of the classic Colorsound Tone Bender MKII. If you’re looking to get that grainy break-up rhythm effect or saturated and sustaining lead tone of Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones or The Who, the British Bender should be on your pedalboard. This fuzz sounds best on a clean channel, as the detail in the notes come through vividly and without competing with the dirt on higher-gain amp channels. Straight forward in use, add as much fuzz as you want (even with the Fuzz control down completely there is plenty of signal) and then make it smooth or edgy with the Bias. Overall, British Bender is highly unique in its tone and is not a typical fuzz pedal – as well, the characteristics of the sound whether playing rhythm or lead stand out very differently. British Bender is very aggressive with power chords, but sounds incredibly smooth and velvety when playing lead (ideal for those with a single clean amp channel in need of a solid lead tone). At 189 Euro the British Bender is not an inexpensive pedal, but its quality in parts and uniqueness of sound makes it a worthy consideration.
GENERAL USE: Straight forward in its use, start with the Level around 9-o’clock and increase thereafter. There’s enough headroom with this pedal, and so start low. Presuming the Bias is down low (all the way counter-clockwise) the signal will be its smoothest. The Fuzz is very intense, even when turned all the way down, and sounds plenty heavy around the 10-o’clock mark. Increasing the Bias obviously adds a heavier, broken-up quality. For rhythm purposes I prefer a low Bias with Fuzz around 12-noon or less, but when playing lead I like both Fuzz and Bias around the 1-o’clock position. Obviously individual preferences may dictate otherwise, and I’m basing this on a very clean and glassy amp channel. Amps with more or less aggression will determine proper settings of the British Bender.
OTHER DETAILS: A standard-sized pedal measuring about 113 mm (L) x 67mm (W) x 48mm (H) or 4.4 x 2.5 x 1.88 inches, British Benders weighs 235g/8.28oz. The heavy-duty metal chassis is powder coated dark blue shades/design with white lettering and white knobs. The three knobs (Level, Fuzz and Bias) are heavy plastic and will withstand normal use and abuse. All knobs have exceptional quality pots (smooth and very solid when turned without any static or noise). The footswitch (on/off) produces a solid click when engaged or disengaged without any unusual popping or noise. The chassis is a Hammond 1590B aluminum case that provides shielding of the electronic card. Under the cover is an internal voltage inverter so that the British Bender can be powered from a 9VDC power supply with isolated outputs or not. As well, the British Bender also includes high-end audio components (carbon resistors and Panasonic, Wima and Silver Mica capacitors), true-bypass Neutrik jacks, Alpha 16mm faders, and is protected against overvoltage and reverse polarity. The cable input/output and power supply all are located along the sides, and so some modest care is to be taken when used (to prevent foot slippage and possible chord input/output/power output damage). The British Bender does not run on batteries and requires a 9VDC power supply.