Frantone is somewhat of a poster child for the boutique movement of the early ‘90s. Her all-original designs have achieved an almost mythical status since her disappearance from the industry around 2009, but she is now back in full swing, producing her classic pedals in all of their original girth and glory. I had the opportunity to review the return of her flagship pedal, the Peachfuzz, which is still the same hairy beast it was before Frantone went on hiatus. What was once a pubescent Peachfuzz has grown into a full on beard by now, so let’s dive in to what makes this classic circuit so great.
FROM ADOLESCENCE TO MANHOOD
For those of you who don’t know, the Peachfuzz has been commonly associated tonally with the Big Muff, because of its wide and girthy sonic structure. Circuitwise, the Peachfuzz sits somewhere in between fuzz and distortion, utilizing three op amps as its main gain generators. The tone sits somewhere between a Big Muff, a Pete Cornish G-2, and a Klon. It’s got the girth and swathing lows of a good Triangle Big Muff, with the low and low-mid butter and weight of a G-2. What the problem is with both of these pedals is the high end, which on certain settings with the Tone knob can be a bit congested or unclear. The Peachfuzz’s high end sounds almost Klon-like, and reacts in the same way to your dynamics. Klons are known for their top end air, and touch-sensitivity. The Peachfuzz’s tone control seems specifically tuned to not only cut out highs (like the filter circuit on a Big Muff), but to maintain clarity at almost every setting, which is an incredible feat. Even at further ends of the pot which would be eardrum piercingly bright with a Big Muff or a Klon remain useable and even musical, pairing great with darker amps like Marshalls or Blackstars.
When stomping on a fuzz, there is a sort of primal enjoyment that comes from feeling the walls shake and hearing any loose pictures hanging on your wall rattle. Feeling a good fuzz in my opinion, is almost just as important as the tone of it itself. When the tone and the vibration in the air around you come together, it’s a magical experience. The Peachfuzz checked off those requirements, but the experiment didn’t stop there. Running it at lower gain settings opened up a whole bunch of overdrive sounds that were clear, dynamic, and (please forgive me for saying this) very tube-like. The attack on those tones was spongy and reacted naturally to my picking dynamics. Cranking up the gain pulled out all the stops, and produced a fuzz overture heavy in second- and third-order harmonics, with very slight musings of upper fourth and fifth harmonics. As you can probably tell, this fuzz has a very full spectrum sound, and feels as if it was designed by a mad hi-fi engineer.
ROLL DOWN YOUR TROUBLES
Like any good fuzz should, the Peachfuzz is reactive to your volume control. This is almost a requirement in today’s day and age, so it comes as no surprise that it works. What does surprise, is the clarity the fuzz still retains with the guitar’s volume rolled back. Due to the nature of the capacitor in your guitar’s pickups, as you roll the volume down more and more highs are cut out of your signal. Apart from the natural high-end rolloff, the Peachfuzz still manages to stay clear. The tone becomes somewhat bassier; with dark rumbling overtones on the low end and those prominent upper second and third harmonics peeking out for a well-balanced overdriven tone.
When playing the Peachfuzz, you can clearly see that a lot of care and attention has been put into the design and tone. There is a level of quality that comes from handmade pedals that is very evident in this pedal. Frantone takes a lot of what doesn’t work in the classic fuzz circuits, and chucks them to the wayside while adding a few tweaks of their own. A triumphant return of a tried-and-true classic.
WHAT WE LIKE:
Clarity, dynamics, and a wide swathing almost hi-fi fuzz tone that embodies boutique design. Low mid warmth and prominent upper harmonics. Good quality build.