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.
Jimi Hendrix reaches the end of an already incendiary set at the 1967 Monterey International Pop Festival, when he takes off his black Stratocaster, and straps on another Strat. This formerly red Strat now features a hand-painted white base and personal designs applied with nail polish by the young guitarist earlier in the day. As he plugs in, strumming it to get in tune, he laughs and makes a seemingly offhand remark to the euphoric crowd about sacrificing “something I love,” before summoning a wall of feedback to start the set-closing “Wild Thing.” Unknown to everyone but Jimi, the Strat is now an offering to the audience and his destiny, the guitar a legendary piece, and then pieces, of modern history.
Arriving in a suave black velvet bag, the latest offering from effects Guru Robert Keeley, the Keeley Monterey Rotary Fuzz Vibe pedal strikes with immediate eye appeal adorned with its groovy painted enclosure, very reminiscent of the painted guitar Hendrix sacrificed at the pedal’s namesake festival in 1967. It’s a very appealing aesthetic, very ’67 and still contemporary enough to look great on a modern pedalboard.
It has been some time since we wrote our Fuzz Feast series about both vintage and recent fuzz options on the market. After seeing the prices of original fuzz units climb, I wondered what the boutique market now had available in 2015 as far as the most accurate of Fuzz Face clones. During my search, I stumbled across Sonus Pedals based in the Netherlands and its Fuzz Face 1966 replica.
In part one, we spent some time with some vintage fuzz classics. Now let’s move forward in time and take a look at some Fuzzes that are currently on the market (with the exception of one which we’ll get to).
Fuzz, more than any other effect, really comes down to personal preferences. As a result, there is no judgment here with regards to what is the “better” fuzz unit – Just sonic descriptions and details that can help you make some choices depending on the direction that you’d like to go with your fuzz tones.
I have a confession. As a guitarist for well over 25 years, I had always been an “anti-fuzz” person. In fact, I can honestly say I hated and despised the sound of fuzzes that I had heard. I couldn’t understand the point of purposefully making a guitar sound as atrocious and “lo-fi” as possible in mind. A fuzz tone after all, sounded nothing like an electric guitar should.
During this period of time, my search for the epitome of rock tone had to do with capturing rock guitar tones from the likes of players like Angus Young of AC/DC and of course Edward Van Halen. In my mind, any tone that deviated from those was simply bad tone, or at best, “sub-par.”