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FUZZ has the bragging rights in this triumvirate of gain – it’s The Don and it was first to the pedalboard, dating back to the early 60s.
But it’s no old codger. It makes a statement and polarises the opinion of some players, but fuzz can be a gain effect full of attitude – and the dirtiest filth – that has enhanced everything from The Rolling Stones’ (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction to The Smashing Pumpkins’ Siamese Dream.
A vintage fuzz tone is warm, woolly and fat, and increases sustain. These classic units tended to use germanium transistors to clip the signal, but back in the 60s their tolerances were inconsistent, hence old Arbiter Fuzz Faces often vary wildly in gain. Modern examples often use silicon diodes for harsher clipping.
So what makes the fuzz fuzzy? The clipping threshold is lower than a distortion pedal – and the resulting wave is almost totally square. With that comes a series of strange and abrasive harmonics, and in extreme pedals an almost synth-like squarewave sound.
There are different ways to achieve this kind of clipping depending on the model of fuzz, and that makes them popular with DIY builders and modders.
TOMORROW: Pitch Pedals