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Scott McKeon SM Fuzz review

A unicorn stompbox returns for a limited run bringing with it the Germanium fuzz sounds from the 60s

  • £299
Scott McKeon SM Fuzz
(Image: © Future / Olly Curtis)

Our Verdict

That germanium fuzz you like is back in style. Don't sleep on it because once it's gone, it's gone, and finding a fuzz with similar dynamics won't be easy.

Pros

  • A welcome return for a top-performing fuzz.
  • Classic 60s fuzz tones.
  • Dynamic response.
  • Temperature-tolerant circuitry.

Cons

  • Expensive.
  • Side-mounted knobs will divide opinion.

MusicRadar Verdict

That germanium fuzz you like is back in style. Don't sleep on it because once it's gone, it's gone, and finding a fuzz with similar dynamics won't be easy.

Pros

  • + A welcome return for a top-performing fuzz.
  • + Classic 60s fuzz tones.
  • + Dynamic response.
  • + Temperature-tolerant circuitry.
  • +

Cons

  • - Expensive.
  • - Side-mounted knobs will divide opinion.

Scott McKeon SM Fuzz: What is it?

Scott McKeon’s SM Fuzz is back and that’s big news for anyone looking for an old-school germanium fuzz pedal without any of the associated reliability issues.

A bonafide pedalboard unicorn, the SM Fuzz was first released a decade ago and soon made fans of Doyle Bramhall II, Gary Clark Jr, Tyler Bryant and of course Scott McKeon himself, before falling out of production some time ago and going for eye-watering sums online. But is all that enough to spend 300 bucks on a limited edition two-knob fuzz pedal? 

Well, setting aside the economics that would suggest its value will only rise, especially given the collector’s delirium that has taken hold in pedal culture, this is a top-quality fuzz that looks to replicate those late 60s germanium fuzz sounds and to do so no matter the temperature. 

Yes, that’s right, a germanium fuzz with a temperature tolerant circuit is something to celebrate indeed. After all, a germanium fuzz’s tendency to behave erratically when the temperature changes was always the sticking point for many players. 

SM Fuzz

(Image credit: Future / Olly Curtis)

Scott McKeon SM Fuzz: Performance and verdict

The enclosure is dominated by a bright blue LED and a footswitch for engaging/bypassing the effect, while McKeon has mounted the Volume and Fuzz control on the side of the unit. 

Unconventional, yes, but positioned over the input and output jacks, this arrangement should not take up too much space on your ‘board. The Volume control also acts as an on/off switch, allowing you to power down and save battery life.

Also consider...

Fuzz Factory

(Image credit: Z.Vex Effects)

Z.Vex Fuzz Factory
A five-knob fuzz that uses pair of NOS 60s germanium transistors and then offers guitarists heaps of control over the circuit.

Earthquaker Devices Colby Fuzz Sound
A great-sounding late-60s fuzz that's surprisingly versatile in its range - thanks mainly to the tone control, which to the right adds low-end warmth for fat, sustaining vocal leads that'll sustain forever.

Dunlop JDF2 Fuzz Face
The SM Fuzz, with its germanium transistors, two-knob format and touch-sensitive performance recalls a vintage Fuzz Face – but you can get a regular one for just over 100 bucks.

The big draw with germanium fuzz pedals is that there tends to be a little bit more warmth to them than their more aggressive sounding silicon – or indeed the blissed-out fizz of op-amp Muffs – and the SM Fuzz certainly has some heat baked into its sound.

But its sound doesn't just park itself in the realm of fuzz. This is very much a touch-sensitive and dynamic fuzz that allows you to clean it up as you roll back the volume on your guitar.

This, allied to a fine tube amp, can make for a very satisfying playing experience indeed, and taking the sound just to break up and adding some hair via the SM Fuzz will reward players whose picking dynamics are on point. Dig in and it'll bite back, but tickle the strings and it'll be a little cleaner.

Gunning the Fuzz control, however, is also a recommended course of action, with the SM Fuzz retaining a sense of the guitar's musicality without skimping on the fuzz. 

There's an impressive amount of detail even at more extreme settings, and if the setup seems a little minimalist at first, the wide range of dirt and fuzz to be found between its two knobs and the controls on your electric guitar will soon present this boutique little beauty in an all-new light. Welcome back!

MusicRadar verdict: That germanium fuzz you like is back in style. Don't sleep on it because once it's gone, it's gone, and finding a fuzz with similar dynamics won't be easy.

Scott McKeon SM Fuzz: The web says

"Particularly notable is the pedal’s finely nuanced response to guitar volume, with smooth gradual clean-up – if you run the Fuzz knob flat out or somewhere near, you can roll back your volume from a full-on lead sound through shades of drive to clean as needed."
Guitarist

Scott McKeon SM Fuzz: Hands-on demos

Scott McKeon

Larkin Poe

Sam Vilo

Scott McKeon SM Fuzz: Specifications

  • ORIGIN: UK 
  • TYPE: Germanium fuzz pedal
  • FEATURES: True bypass, on/off volume pot, temperature tolerant circuitry
  • CONTROLS: Volume (with integral power switch), Fuzz, Bypass footswitch 
  • CONNECTIONS: Standard input, standard output 
  • POWER: 9V battery or 9V DC adaptor 
  • DIMENSIONS: 93 (w) x  120 (d) x 55mm (h) 
  • CONTACT: SM Fuzz