In the world of boutique fuzz pedal effects, Analog Man Mike Piera’s creations are among the most well-known and respected due to his attention to detail. His Sun Face fuzz is his most popular and based on the original Arbiter England Fuzz Face which was first introduced in 1966, but unlike the original which was built with a range of poorly matched components and haphazard quality control, Piera’s are built like finely tuned machines with every component being carefully measured and tested. Fuzz connoisseurs like Eric Johnson have reportedly gone through hundreds of Face Faces until finding just the right one. In any fuzz based around germanium transistors, proper matching, leakage testing, and biasing are all critical in order to get the most musical and harmonically rich fuzz.
Fuzz pedals are notoriously finicky. Not only can some fuzz boxes themselves sound different based on their own component variances and the environment or temperature they are used in, but they are always dependent on the gear that they are being used with as well. Case in point is the classic germanium Fuzz Face beloved by Hendrix. Sure, when it’s in front of a Marshall that is already overdriven, you’ll get some magic happening by adding those bits of germanium magic. But…
…stick that same Fuzz Face in front of a Fender blackface amp and you’ll hear a whole different, and very ugly, side to the Fuzz Face. And turn on the bright switch on your old blackface and you’ll be pummeled with an even more horrid and brittle sound.
Not every overdrive or distortion pedal has a pedigree that begins with the influence from a Tube Screamer. Many of today’s designers look to other classics to either modify or create their own variations. Today we’ll spend time with the Analogman DS-1 Pro Mod with midrange control, Keeley’s Super Phat Mod Full Range Overdrive and the Totally Wycked Audio (TWA) Hot Sake. Each has its own unique story and tone so join us as we explore them further.
The Boss DM-2w Delay from the Waza Craft series is an all-analog and re-imagined pedal that is inspired from the original and highly-coveted Boss DM-2 Delay released in 1981. Unlike the vintage DM-2, the DM-2w Delay adds stereo output and has a custom switch which extends the delay time from the previous limit of 300 ms. to 800 ms.
In 2014, Ibanez introduced its 35th anniversary TS-808 Tube Screamer overdrive pedal, based on the original it created in 1979. What’s now known as the “narrow box model” by collectors, has returned in its original smaller footprint, with the rare “flying fingers” graphics along with side-mounted 1/8-inch 9v DC adapter jack just like the original. The lightweight aluminum 35th anniversary TS-808 was also changed under the hood to be closer to the original, and is outfitted with a pair of op amp chips. This is a variation that is the main difference between it and the single op amp version of the 1980 TS-808 Tube Screamer and others including the TS-9 that followed. These later TS-808 and TS-9 models deployed input and output transistor buffers rather than the additional chip used in the original and now reissued narrow box model.