Some of the most recognizable guitar sounds in rock music were created with the fuzz pedal. The predecessor of distortion and overdrive pedals, it alters your guitar’s sound wave into a square wave, producing a fuzzy sound made up of a multitude of complex overtones. Conceived in ‘60s, the fuzz pedal was used on countless classic rock albums, and has since found a place on pedalboards of guitarists in almost every genre.
From a technical standpoint, fuzz pedals are relatively easy to build so numerous pedal makers offer some variation of a fuzz. Technical innovations haven’t changed that much in half a century and component selection and construction create the contrast between brands. Unlike the tempered and regulated sounds of distortion and overdrive pedals, the square waves produced by fuzz pedals can create everything from uncontrolled noise to a responsive gradation of coruscation. In every pedal, there’s potential to experiment and find a unique tone that spurs your own creativity. To start you on the path to your own fuzz sound, we rounded up five of the best boutique pedals available today. They each offer a wildly different perspective, so read up on the differences below before investing in the right fuzz pedal for your style.
Black Arts Toneworks Tres Diablos Ruidosos
The inspiration for the pedal came from Billy Gibbons’ guitar tone on the ZZ Top’s 1973 record Tres Hombres. The pedal has a unique build that features three cascading gainstages. Three master volume knobs of the face of the pedal allow for endless amounts of tweaking, ranging from a minimal warm boost to a gritty overdriven sound to crunchy, saturated metal tones. The pedal responds well when you dial back your guitar’s volume, making for a dynamic pedal that’s ridiculously fun to play through.
EarthQuaker Devices Erupter
If you’re looking to keep it simple, this is the fuzz pedal for you. EarthQuaker Devices spent over two years developing the ultimate fuzz tone that sounds good with any guitar. The knob allows you to bias the Erupter’s silicon transistors to tweak the fuzz to your own liking. Twelve o’clock delivers the ideal fuzz tone. If you turn it clockwise, the tone becomes tighter and more focused, with additional harmonics and sustain. If you turn it to counter-clockwise, the sound becomes more gated and has plenty of sag (approaching the dying-battery tone-world).
SolidGoldFX If 6 Was 9 BC183CC
This is a modern update to the late-’60s style Fuzz Face circuit. Two NOS BC183 transistors give this pedal its character: a warm and smooth fuzz with tons of sustain. It also has vintage-spec carbon comp resistors (adding warmth) and an external bias control and tone switch. This is a versatile pedal capable of a wide range to tones inspired by the classic era of fuzz pedals.
JHS Pedals Muffuletta
A tribute to the legendary Big Muff fuzz pedal, the Muffuletta features five all-analog recreations of classic Big Muff circuits in one small box. Choose between the ‘73 Rams Head (scooped midrange and less gain), the Triangle (more low end and crisper attack), the Pi (more aggressive), the Russian (lo-fi sounds with less low end) and the Civil War (more midrange and less gain). This pedal allows you to find your favorite Big Muff circuit for different applications without taking up valuable real estate on your pedalboard.
ZVEX Fuzz Factory 7
This hand-painted pedal is a grail for the person who wants total control. At its heart: two black glass germanium transistors from the mid-’50s. Its knobs range from the expected — volume, gate, compression, drive — to the wild. The “stab” knob controls the feedback pitch, and the “tone” knob, which acts as a low-pass filter, is activated by a left stop switch. The knob labeled “fat” is a nine-position rotary switch that controls the internal tone of the fuzz ranging from fatter and darker to more nasally and bright. You can spend hours experimenting with wild and complex tones until you find the perfect settings for your next jam.