I was excited to try out the new Blackout Effectors Fuzz Bear, as I’ve always been a fan of the Musket and Blunderbuss fuzzes. While both of those are Muff-based fuzzes, the Fuzz Bear is its take on a Tone Bender MkII. I’m happy to report, it does not disappoint.
The Fuzz Bear is what I would consider a more “advanced” type of fuzz. There’s a bit of a learning curve to it, but once you figure out how interactive the different controls work with one another, it is amazing the wide breadth of tones that are capable out of this box.
There are a total of five controls; the bottom two are for fuzz and volume. The top three controls are what takes the Fuzz Bear from being a good Tone Bender fuzz, to something completely over-the-top. The top left control is Range, middle is Bias, and top right is the Sag control. Essentially, these three controls interact with one another, and help manipulate the signal in several different ways.
If you want the thickest, heaviest Tone Bender tone, set the Range and Sag all the way counterclockwise, with the Fuzz control turned up all the way. But, if you want something very different, perhaps a Velcro-like ripping, gated fuzz—turn the Sag or Bias clockwise and see what happens. I confess I didn’t notice it at first, but if you turn the instruction sheet over, there are five very helpful diagrams on how to achieve very different tones with the Fuzz Bear. These are some great suggestions, and from here all you have to do is a little tweaking to dial in additional tones you find most interesting. I hear lots of The Black Keys and Jack White inside this pedal.
I’d recommend starting with all of the controls at noon, with Volume to taste—and there’s a lot of it! As soon as you turn up the Fuzz past noon you’ll immediately find out what makes the Fuzz Bear pretty special: controllable, and at times, uncontrollable oscillation. Changing the Bias, Range and Sag controls create different types of oscillation. I almost wanted to mount the Fuzz Bear on a music stand, so I could control things while standing up!
Oscillation with a fuzz pedal might sound like something you would want to avoid—again, this makes the Fuzz Bear a little more advanced. You can easily play notes and the oscillation will disappear, but the moment you pause, the oscillation kicks in quickly. With some practice you can actually incorporate some of this effect into your playing. Also important to note, the Fuzz Bear cleans up easily with just a little roll off of your guitar’s volume control. A great trick is playing a fairly clean part, and then with just a quick flick of the volume control, bam, you get that instant wall of fuzz.
What we like: I liked everything about the Fuzz Bear: tons of fun, tons of great usable tones that can give you many different types of fuzz, and not just the signature Tone Bender type of sound. It has a very cool paint job that makes it stand out on your pedalboard, and while the knobs are not labeled, you will quickly find how they interact will become second nature.
Concerns: I did find that the Fuzz Bear didn’t react well to some buffered pedals, and as such, after some experimenting with my pedalboard, I realized it needed to be placed first. This might not be a problem for you, but I felt it was worth pointing out as you plan for where this pedal should go on your pedalboard.