When you need to add some serious dirt to your sound, the Fuzz pedal is the only option. Here's our 5 best fuzz pedals you really need to try before you die
Fuzz pedals. There’s so many of them out there that choosing 5 was one of the most difficult decisions I think I’ve ever had to make. How can you just choose 5?! Well after much deliberation we decided to go for some of the most widely used pedals in the music industry as well as a few little surprise pedals that have really caught our eye (and ear) here at PMT.
We’ve covered the differences between distortion, overdrive and fuzz in a previous blog, so if you’re asking yourself “what does a fuzz pedal do?” it’s well worth reading that, as it will give you a good idea of whether or not a fuzz pedal is actually the sound you’re looking for. However, if you're 'caught by the fuzz' and you love the sound of bands and artists like the MC5, Jimi Hendrix, Smashing Pumpkins and Jack White’s guitar tone in the White Stripes or Raconteurs, then a fuzz pedal is an absolutely essential addition to your pedal board.
Which Fuzz pedal is right for me?
When you’re looking for the best fuzz pedal for your sound, the key thing to think about is whether you like thick, fat sounding fuzz, or more treble biased fuzz sounds that cut through the mix. So in each pedal we’re going to highlight which fuzz pedals are good for lead guitar, which of those pedals are better for chords and riffs and which fuzz pedals are great all-rounders.
So here’s the 5 fuzz pedals you absolutely have to try before you die!
1. Electro-Harmonix Big Muff Pi
Try and find a blog or discussion about the best fuzz pedals without the Electro-Harmonix Big Muff Pi in, go on I'll wait! Very rarely do pedals achieve legendary status, and it’s even rarer that those pedals are both budget friendly and widely available. Like the Boss DS-1, Ibanez TS9 Tube Screamer and the Digitech Whammy, the Electro-Harmonix Big Muff Pi has been responsible for creating some of the most iconic sounds in music, ever. This industry standard pedal is what you hear when you throw Smashing Pumpkins’ ‘Siamese Dream’ album in your stereo or when you listen to Jack White rock out on any White Stripes/Raconteurs record. The Big Muff's thick, warm fuzzy sound is extremely versatile, and can be used to bring an entirely new dynamic to your lead tones or really beef up your chords and riffs. Think ‘Cherub Rock’ or ‘Rocket’ and you’ll get an idea of just how beautiful/brutal this pedal is. This could be a contender for the best fuzz pedal ever made!
With just three knobs to tweak your sound, you have everything you need and nothing you don’t. The Volume knob dictates how loud you want the pedal to be, the Tone allows you to go from treble heavy lead tones to thick bass-enriched fuzz so you can choose whether you want to cut through or add some serious bottom end in to your songs. The Sustain knob does more than just add some sustain to your notes, but sculpt the amount of distortion you want. There are a few different versions of the Big Muff, including the very popular (and space saving) Little Big Muff, but if you want that classic sound and don’t mind losing A LOT of room on your pedal board, this is a great option for Grunge/Stoner/Indie players. Check out our demo below and enjoy having your mind blown as to how many songs you’ve heard this in.
Best for: Chords/Riffs
2. Boss FZ-5
The Boss FZ-5 fuzz pedal is 3 different fuzz pedals in 1 great little stompbox. Wrapped inside this great package are 3 iconic fuzz sounds that are all accurately emulated via Boss’ COSM technology without ever sounding too “digital” and ruining what makes a fuzz sound so good i.e. the unpredictability and untamed sonic beauty a fuzz produces.
Boss have accurately recreated 3 classic fuzz pedals within the FZ-5 such as the Maestro FZ-1A, Fuzz Face, and Roger Mayer Octavia pedals. The sound of the Maestro FZ-1A was most commonly heard on the Rolling Stones track ‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction’, the classic Fuzz Face pedal first designed by Arbiter Electronics Ltd in 1966 revolutionized guitar riffs forever and appeared on tracks by Duane Allman, The Who and The Beatles whilst the Roger Mayer Octavia is part of the reason why tracks such as ‘Purple Haze’ and ‘Fire’ by a little know guitarist by the name of Jimi Hendrix sound so good – it might have something to do with his playing I guess…
All of these original (and slightly unreliable) pedals are now out of production and will cost you a small fortune to get hold of one, so Boss has made it easy to get those classic sounds from the records of the 60s and 70s by beautifully reproducing the iconic fuzz sounds in one easy to operate pedal. Control the level of the mix and how aggressive you want the fuzz to be, from subtle affected tones to chainsaw like riffage. Check it out below:
Best for: Lead/Rhythm
3. Electro Harmonix Cock Fight Talking Wah/Fuzz
We’re breaking the rules a little here, as this is more than just a fuzz pedal – it’s got a built-in auto Wah! The Electro Harmonix Cock Fight Talking Wah/Fuzz allows you beautifully mix the sound of a cocked Wah and fuzz together or even a talking Wah and fuzz to create some seriously cool sounds.
Nailing that perfect Wah sound isn’t always easy, especially if you’re trying to find the sweet spot in the middle of a gig, but the team at Electro Harmonix have made it oh-so-easy with this great little pedal. Simply select the frequency and mix of the wah and cut through the mix. When you’ve found your ideal crying wah sounds, engage the fuzz for some unique sonic capabilities.
Seeing as we’re talking about fuzz pedals here, we better discuss the fuzz aspect of the pedal. The interesting thing about the Cock Fight is that the fuzz utilizes a completely new distortion/fuzz circuit that is entirely different to the likes of the Big Muff. This is a brand new fuzz sound from the geniuses over at EHX that can add subtle harmonics to your tone, or completely take over your sound and provide some unpredictable crunch.
This pedal is ideal for lead guitarists and those who lean towards the riff heavy end of the musical spectrum. Think Peter Frampton meets Richie Sambora meets Billy Corgan and you’re in the right area.
Enough talking! Check out how awesome this thing sounds when Starts mixing the fuzz and wah together.
Best for: Lead guitar lines
4. Ibanez OD-850
Ibanez are one of those brands that have managed to create both world class instruments and pedals and absolutely nail both aspects to become an absolute powerhouse within the music industry. The iconic TS9 Tube Screamer is by far their most famous pedal and one of the most widely recognised overdrive pedals in the world today. Yet the Ibanez OD850 is a lesser known (but still very important) cousin that made quite the impact back in the mid-70s for its unique growl and extensive gain and became one of the best fuzz pedals in the world by accident.
Ibanez have re-released this limited-edition pedal for 2016 sending fuzz geeks (like me) into “overdrive”. Using the exact same specifications as the original pedal, the OD850 re-release sounds as good as it did in the 70s.
The keen eyes out there will notice the word “Overdrive” plastered across the front of the pedal, but it’s more than that. So much more. This pedal harks back to when no one really knew how to describe pedals accurately and way before the term “fuzz” would become a thing, so it was named an overdrive pedal – fair enough. Although this pedal will significantly drive your tubes, the higher gain parameters within push your sound firmly into fuzz territory.
The limited edition Ibanez OD850 can go from high gain fizzy, spattering sounds to all out doom laden riffage and everything in between. Adjust the sustain of your fuzz, the balance in the mix and the overall tone – simple yet effective.
Although this pedal can take whatever you throw at it, it’s highly compressed and heavy gain sounds lend themselves to riffs and lead lines more so than chords. It’s hard to tame, but sounds amazing when you let it off the leash.
The OD850 is back for a limited time and has been re-released in extremely limited quantities – once they’re gone, they’re gone! The Japanese made OD850 will definitely become a collector’s item. Check out the review below!
Best for: Lead/Riffs
5. Dunlop Fuzz Face Mini Germanium
The Dunlop Fuzz Face Mini Germanium is a mini version of one of the most iconic fuzz pedals ever created – the Fuzz Face. This fuzz pedal is based on the mid 60s pre silicon era models that use a pair of mismatched germanium transistors to get a warmer and more unique sounding fuzz.
The fuzz face was perhaps most famously used by Jimi Hendrix as it was a pedal he consistently relied on throughout his career and can be heard on tracks like ‘Foxy Lady’. Unfortunately, an original 60s model will cost you the price of a small island, but the good news is, the team at Dunlop accurately recreated one of the best fuzz pedals ever created and updated it with a host of modern appointments such as a bright LED, convenient battery door and AC power jack. They’re also a lot smaller than the original 60s models, which were the size of a dinner plate! It’s essentially the sound of the 60s in a small pedal!
The Dunlop Fuzz Face Mini Germanium is probably the warmest sounding fuzz in our top 5 fuzz pedals series, and is a fantastic all-rounder able to sound great for both lead and rhythm style playing.
Whether you want subtle lead tones, or all out gritty riffage, the Fuzz Face can do it all. Check out Sam’s review below.
Best for: Lead/Rhythm
Top 5 Fuzz Pedals Sound Comparison
If you want to hear the difference between all these pedals, check out our top 5 fuzz pedals comparison video below. Here, Sam pits the Big Muff, Cock Fight, FZ-5, OD-850, and Fuzz Face against each other to showcase the different sounds you can get from each of these pedals.
Of course there are a hundreds of different fuzz pedals out there begging to be played, and unfortunately we couldn't fit them all in this blog. However, we simply had to wedge in 2 more honourable mentions. Although these particular fuzz pedals aren't as "well known" as the other 5 are, they're quickly becoming some of the industry favourites. We recommend checking them out!
DOD Carcosa Fuzz
Up until now, the DOD Carcosa Fuzz pedal has been unavailable in the UK, causing gear geeks like me many headaches in trying to get my hands on one. Fortunately, these amazing fuzz pedals are now available in the UK providing your pedal board with some seriously thick and warm fuzz. The interesting thing about this pedal is the 'Before' and 'After' knobs. The before offers more of a distortion/overdrive sound, whereas the 'After' allows you to pump your sound full of juicy fuzz tones! Check out the video below and see why this is regarded as one of the best fuzz pedals available:
EarthQuaker Devices Hoof V2 Fuzz
EarthQuaker Devices make some of the coolest "boutique" pedals on the market today. These nifty stompboxes are hand-made in Akron Ohio and designed by ex Black Keys' tour manager Jamie Stillman, so you're in good hands when you pick any of these up. They're built beautifully and made for years and years of hard use. The EarthQuaker Devices Cloven Hoof V2 Fuzz Pedal is a dirtier, more unpredictable and overall more aggressive fuzz pedal than it's predecessor and by far one of the best fuzz pedals out there today. This unique stompbox offers far more gain than most fuzz pedals offering a heavier, tone that can cut through the mix easily.
The use of Silicon transistors and NOS Carbon Comp resistors allow for a wide range of tones and can easily flit from fizzy, spitting fuzz to a heavier bass driven distortion. A great pedal that offers a huge amount of control over your sound.
View a full range of Fuzz Pedals over at PMT online today.