Pedals

MC Systems BWI Fuzz

As pedal builders boldly blaze their own paths to the future, some guitarists—used to maybe three knobs, tops—are initially bemused by their innovations. I confess to being one of those guitarists, but I’ve learned that it’s worth taking the time to understand how new and unusual pedal designs work, because choices that may seem mystifying at first blush often turn out to be very useful. Such is the case with the BWI Dynamic Fuzz by MC Systems, which allows the user to select the amount of fuzz applied to his or her signal based on how hard he or she hits the activating footswitch.

To achieve its dynamic response, the BWI uses MC Systems’s “dynamic response V-SWITCH velocity sensitive true bypass switching system,” and I admit to being daunted by the idea of relying on precision stomping to determine how much fuzz I want. Indeed, I initially couldn’t get the function to work with any kind of consistency, but tweaking the easy-to-access trimpot that controls the switch’s sensitivity made a world of difference, and soon I was able to select the level of fuzz with relative ease.

Those who don’t want to worry about how hard they are (or aren’t) stomping can still get two fuzz settings out of one pedal: turning the trimpot fully-clockwise means the V-SWITCH goes straight to the secondary fuzz setting, while a toggle on the pedal’s surface enables the user to deactivate the velocity-based functionality, meaning the pedal defaults to the first fuzz setting. So, to sidestep the velocity-sensitive functionality, users can max out the trim pot when they want the maximum amount of fuzz, then set the V-SWITCH Enable toggle to disable that function when they want the lesser fuzz setting (they can still leave the trim pot at max).

Essentially, the velocity function toggles between two different settings on two different “channels.” The top channel is called plain ol’ Fuzz and it has its own separate volume control. The top row of the pedal also has a tone control, which affects both channels. The bottom row of controls is home to the V-Fuzz, which has its own volume control. There’s also a second footswitch that allows the user to toggle between the two Volume controls whether in straight Fuzz or V-Fuzz mode, handy for switching between rhythm and lead.

I really liked the fuzz character of both channels, and I’d say the fuzz alone is reason to consider the BWI—the various gain and volume options are just icing on a very fuzzy cake. The top channel is like a Fuzz Face, but with more notable gating. The tone control is very well implemented, allowing the user to dial in much sweeter tones that will cut through a mix with ease, without losing the rich body of the fuzz. The V-Fuzz channel offers a lot more of the same—it’s thick, chewy and the gating effect crosses over to a synthy, Tone Bender MKII-type texture. I typically run my ODs into fuzz, to ensure the fuzz’s character isn’t compromised by the OD; this approach didn’t work with the BWI-- the intensity of the gating became overwhelming, and the pedal seemed to struggle to get the notes. However, the BWI worked well running into my ODs and, between the rich fuzz and the tone control, I felt the pedal’s effect wasn’t compromised.

What we like: Cool fuzz tones that are slightly off the beaten path, paired with a similarly unusual feature set.

Concerns: The pedal’s output could stand some goosing.

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