What are the Best Guitar Fuzz Pedals?

blues telecaster pickupsLet’s take a look at a few of the best Fuzz pedals on the market today to see if we can find the perfect one to suit your needs.

Fuzz pedals are often a great substitute for other solid state, and sometimes even tube-driven, overdrives and distortions. Fuzz was actually the first solid state distortion available to guitar players and it has been around long enough to have a vintage sound to it, as well as a long list of big name users. Fuzz is usually created with either germanium or silicon fuzz-based transistors. The germanium-based fuzz boxes produce a warmer sound, more like a tube amp, and you can also change the fuzz level by adjusting your guitar’s volume.

Germanium-based fuzz boxes are affected by the environment and can sound differently on warm and cold days. A silicon-based fuzz pedal will sound brighter and sharper, and since silicon transistors are cheaper than germanium, the pedals are usually cheaper as well. The level of fuzz is not affected by the guitar’s volume knob and silicon is much less susceptible to the environment. Both types of distortion are capable of going from just a hint of fuzz to massive levels of tone-changing fuzz at any volume level. Right now we look at the best of the best so you can see which one is right for you.

Fulltone ’69 mkII

The Fulltone ’69 mkII is a recreation of the original ’69 Fuzz pedal. It uses matching germanium transistors to get a a warmer and smoother fuzz, and there are four knobs to help you dial in your tone. A large “Fuzz” knob adjusts the amount of fuzzy delight, and a large “Volume” adjusts the level of signal coming out of the pedal and into your amp. A small “Contour” control adjusts the mid-range, and sustain, a small “Input” knob sets the bias of the signal going into the pedal and driving the fuzz. If you don’t mind opening the pedal up, there’s an internal control for adjusting the clipping symmetry, harmonics, and tracking, for a completely unique feel and tone. The mkII has a true bypass switch and LED “On” indicator.

Each pedal is handmade, to preserve quality and guarantee perfection. Only 15-20 pedals are made each week, so they can be a little hard to find. Besides being the fuzz pedal used on the first two Jimi Hendrix records, you can also hear it if you listen to The White Stripes, The Rolling Stones, The Black Crows, Queens of the Stone Age, Led Zeppelin, and many more. There is no question that this pedal deserves a look.

Zvex Vexter Fuzz Factory

The Zvex Vexter Fuzz Factory is a rather colorful little pedal that is smaller than it looks. The Fuzz Factory uses two NOS ’60s germanium transistors for a smooth warm fuzz. Even though the more modern fuzz circuit isn’t modeled after any specific vintage fuzz, it still has a very vintage sound. The pedal has five control knobs, allowing unprecedented control over fuzz and the ability to create totally new tones. The Vol knob controls the output level of the pedal. The Gate controls a squelch to eliminate noise between notes, and Comp affects the attack. The Drive control increases fuzz and thickness, and Stab adjusts feedback pitch and adds an oscillation to the signal.

The creator of this pedal states that the names of the controls are only approximations of what they do and that you actually need to turn the knobs yourself to get their full range. These pedals are designed to use much less power than most others, leading to increased battery life. Each one is painted and assembled by hand, making it unique. Players who use this pedal include Jack White, Trent Resnor, J Mascis, Steven Malkmus, Annie Clark, and Dom Simper — just to give you an idea of its popularity.

Fulltone OF-2 Octafuzz Fuzz

The Fulltone OF-2 Octafuzz Fuzz is an exact replica of the vintage Tycobrahe Octavia, and it’s the only copy of the pedal being made today. It has two modes: FUZZ and OCTA, and as expected, FUZZ is the normal fuzz effect. OCTA is the fuzz effect, mixed with an octave up effect. The Fulltone OF-2 Octafuzz Fuzz pedals are handmade in Southern California, with the finest components for the highest quality. They use custom made brass-shaft pots in a proprietary “thru-PCB” design that greatly reduces control knob failure. The wiring in each of these pedals is done with solid 22-gauge copper and Fulltone-designed 3PDT switches. The whole pedal is housed in a 14-gauge steel enclosure, and the paint job is as authentically vintage as the tone it emulates.

Each part is built for quality, and to ensure years of reliable operation under harsh conditions. The Octafuzz keeps things pretty simple with just two controls: Volume and Boost, and one switch to change between FUZZ and OCTA. There is an LED on/off light and the on/off button is a true bypass. Players who use this pedal include Joe Satriani, Ian Moore, Jean-Paul Bourelly, Rusty Anderson, Lou Reed, and Tom Petty.

Friedman Fuzz Fiend Tube Fuzz

The Friedman Fuzz Fiend Tube Fuzz is unique in that it is one of the few pedals that uses a real tube as part of it’s circuit. The Fuzz Fiend uses one 12AX7 tube to give the pedal it’s signature tone, and it has a FUZZ control and a VOLUME control. The Fuzz Fiend also has pretty extreme BASS, MID, TREBLE controls that can eliminate frequencies altogether, and really help you shape a unique sound, one not easily found elsewhere. There is an on/off switch with an LED indicator, as well as a RAGE button. Press the RAGE button and what you’ll get is a very aggressive, full on, almost pixelated fuzz that needs to be heard to be appreciated.

The tube needs a solid and steady current, so the Fuzz Fiend comes with its own power adapter. The circuit is housed in a solid metal case with plenty of air vents to help keep the tube cool. The tube itself protrudes from the unit and is exposed to the air, protected by metal roll bars for a really distinguished look. With this pedal, you can go from a heavy fuzz effect to a much cleaner tone, just by rolling off the volume knob on the guitar.

Earthquaker Devices Spires Double Fuzz

The Earthquaker Devices Spires Double Fuzz pedal is actually two different fuzz pedals in one box: the Green Channel and the Red channel. The Green Channel is a cranked fuzz effect inspired by the Rosac Electronic Nu-Fuzz and is a “sonic clone” of that pedal. With the Green Channel the fuzz is constant, and the Tone knob adjusts the brightness of the overall tone. The Red Channel is a recreation of the now discontinued Dream Crusher, but with a modern design that is more stable and less temperature-sensitive, yet it still has the classic two-transistor fuzz. The effect on the Red Channel always has the same tone, but you can change the amount of fuzz using the FUZZ control. There are two foot switches, one to turn the unit on/off and one to switch channels, and each has its own LED indicator.

Each of these pedals is handmade in Akron, Ohio, and they use a relay-based “soft touch” switching. The pedals require a standard 9 volt DC power supply with a 2.1mm negative center barrel that is not included. The people at Earthquaker Devices recommend pedal-specific, transformer-isolated wall wart power supplies or multiple isolated-output supplies, to keep pedal noise to a minimum.

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