Craig Anderton’s opus, Electronic Projects for Musicians, spoke of a time when transistors were largely obsoleted, and the day of the IC was upon us. When the book was published in 1975, the movement to integrated circuits seemed like a logical progression. However, like neon clothing, fanny packs and Ecto Cooler, what’s old is new again and suddenly more people were building pedals with transistors than ever before. The bulk of nascent circuit builders on the cusp of the Internet owe their entire hobby to one simple five-part circuit: the Bazz Fuss.
Designed by a man simply known as “Christian” and originally hosted on an Angelfire webpage, the Bazz Fuss represents the dawn of the information age in terms of guitar effects. This bone-simple six-component circuit represents the bare minimum in stompbox design, yet it sounds incredibly good. At a time when companies like Z. Vex, Frantone and Klon were pumping out inspiring designs, those of us without any background in electronics were left to circuits like the Bazz Fuss, and even to this day, it is the first pedal build of many novices. And today, you are that novice.
Because it’s a very low-parts count circuit, small changes mean big differences, and the circuit has been reimagined several times as the epoch of DIY effects has stretched outward. As someone who cut their teeth on this circuit, I’m giving you what I believe to be the best version of it that I’ve ever made. In this guide, I’m going to detail the parts, what types to order, and exactly how to perform every step. You might even use this as a guide in future builds, or at least until you get the hang of it.
For the circuit board, we’re going to need the following parts:
1/4 watt, metal film 10k
63-volt film capacitors, 470nF (also called 0.47uF) and 100nF (0.1uF)
MPSA13 (a black silicon type known for very high gain)
BAT41 (for the curious, this is a “Shottkey” type, renowned for its low clipping threshold)
100kA (The “A” is shorthand for logarithmic taper)
1x stripboard (sometimes sold under the brand name “Veroboard”) cut and prepared according to the diagram
2x 3x1 sockets, optional (these are sold in strips as SIP sockets, and you cut them to fit. These make for easy interchangeability between parts if you don’t like the configuration I’ve specified. Because the circuit has so few parts, even the slightest parts changes yield big results.)
Let’s take a look at the stripboard first. Stripboard is a piece of board where all the rows are connected horizontally by strips of copper, hence the name.
The dimensions on the top specify the rows and columns of the stripboard. We are viewing the stripboard from the non-copper side. There is one cut you need to make on the copper side, so that electricity doesn’t flow where we don’t want it. Be sure to make that cut (with a boxcutter, drill, what have you) on the underside of the board, and keep in mind that it is positioned on the board such that the top layer is invisible. If you flip the board over horizontally, the cut will be on the bottom row, fourth from the left. An easy way to get this right the first time is to get a small drill bit and drill right through the top of the board in the marked spot.
The diagram also specifies a jumper, which is represented by the vertical black line on the stripboard. The black line simply represents a small piece of wire that will be used to connect rows C and D.
I made the circuit diagram such that the capacitors, resistor and diode are the same color as the ones I’m using. The capacitor in the program is orange by default—the point is that color, size and shape don’t matter, as long as one condition is met: The voltage rating is higher than the voltage running through the circuit (nine volts in this case). I typically get 63-volt caps that fit stripboard very well.
Resistors have several numbers associated with them, but the only ones we care about are resistance (of course) and wattage. It’s not that we’re going to be doing some serious electrical work here, where watts are a factor; “wattage” in this case translates to “size.” For our applications, quarter-watt resistors are best from a size perspective. Any wattage will work, but may not fit on the board as easily.
Potentiometers (herein referred to as “pots”) are the foundation of knobs, and all you really need to know is that they vary resistance. They have three lugs, and we’re going by the convention that, when looking at the flat part with the lugs facing up, they’re numbered 1, 2 and 3, left-to-right. When you see wires coming off the board labeled things like “volume 3,” it means that the row connects to lug 3 of the volume pot.
The sockets are a different story. In the future, you can socket literally any component you want. And because only the rows are connected, you can go ahead and use a 3x1 socket, like I did, instead of two 1x1 pieces. Cutting and soldering two small sockets is a real pain and I don’t recommend it.
So, let’s do some building!
Step 1: Determine the top of the board (the cut is situated on the bottom) and place your resistor in its appropriate spot on the non-copper side. Bend the leads outward to hold it in place, flip the board over and solder it. Snip the leads close to the board, and use one of them to make the jumper wire. Bend those outward and solder it in place. Save the other lead.
Step 2: Place the sockets into the board and place something flat on top, like your enclosure’s lid. Applying some force, flip the board and lid over, holding the sockets in place, then solder them in.
Step 3: Insert the capacitors, bend the leads, then solder and clip.
Step 4: Trim the diode and transistor legs to fit, then insert them in the sockets.
Step 5: Note that the board has six wires that lead from it: Ground, 9v, Volume 1, Volume 2 (as noted below, the pot is part of the circuit), Volume 3 and Input. Clip and strip these wires, leaving extra room. Insert these into the appropriate spots on the board, soldering the ones that lead to the pot. Double check the order of wires and make sure they lead to the right lugs on the pot. Leave the other wires soldered to nothing, including the wire from volume 2.
You’re done with the board, and now we must build the enclosure! First, make sure that your soldering doesn’t bleed across the copper strips and touch other strips. Also, make sure that the cut you made on the bottom of the board has no stray bits of copper connecting it to anything else.
For the enclosure, you’ll need:
1x enclosure drilled for one knob, in and out jacks, one switch, one power jack and one LED (I used 1590B size, you can use anything you want that’s bigger. Since this may be your first build, you may want to stay away from 1590A [mini pedal size] and it just won’t fit in a 1590LB [tap tempo] size.)
1x 3PDT (nine lugs) footswitch (NOT momentary, get the one that says “latching”)
2x ¼” mono jacks
1x LED bezel (the LED holder, and make sure it’s the same size as your LED)
1x resistor between 1.5 and 15k (the bigger the number, the dimmer the LED will be)
1x DC jack (the kind with three lugs)
1x knob of your choosing
Let’s talk about a couple of these components.
Your LED has two legs. They don’t tell you this, but the shorter of the two legs is the negative leg. This will be important to remember. The resistor in the materials list will attach to the positive leg, while the negative leg will be wired to the switch (which will be connected to ground).
The input and output jacks will have two lugs. The one that protrudes outward closest to the insertion point is the “tip lug” and the other is the “sleeve lug,” which is a ground point.
The DC jack’s three lugs consist of two positive and one negative. The two lugs facing the same direction are both positive, while the odd man out, so to speak, is negative. I tend to wire the two positives together in some way, and I’ll be instructing you to do so.
The footswitch wiring is where many people give up when building pedals; it looks much more complicated than it is. We’ll make it through, trust me!
Ready? Let’s go!
Step 1: Mount the footswitch, DC jack, input and output jacks and LED in bezel. I place my input and output jacks like so because you will need to wire the jacks to the switch and this minimizes the wire distance.
Step 2: Make a little loop on one leg of the resistor and slide it over the positive (longer) leg of the LED, then solder that together and clip off the excess. Leave the other leg free. Use the saved lead from Step 1 of the board instructions, and thread it through the switch lugs as shown. Solder the top one, leaving the bottom unsoldered. Feed the LED’s negative leg through the shown footswitch lug. If you need to use a wire, loop it like the resistor.
Step 3: We will begin the grounding now. Having all your ground points connected is called a “star ground,” the most efficient form of grounding. We will wire the footswitch, DC jack, both input and output jack sleeve lugs and the circuit board together. First, wire the footswitch lugs as shown and connect it to the negative lug on the DC jack. DO NOT solder the DC jack.
Step 4: Connect a wire from the DC jack to the sleeve lug on one of the jacks, then solder the negative DC lug. Then, connect a wire from that sleeve lug to the other, soldering the first sleeve lug. Leave the second sleeve lug unsoldered; we will feed the ground wire from the circuit board into it. A-ha! Is it coming together yet?
Step 5: There’s a small metal tab on the side of your pot. Clip it off with pliers, then mount the pot into the enclosure. Mount the board to the back of the pot with something such as double-sided foam mounting tape or poster tack. Feed the other lead from the resistor connected to the LED into BOTH positive lugs on the DC jack, then feed the 9v wire from the board into either of the two lugs, and solder them both.
Step 6: Now, it’s an issue of hooking up wires. Connect the wires from the board to their appropriate spots: two to the footswitch (input and output) and one to the unsoldered sleeve lug (ground).
Step 7: Cut and strip two final wires, connecting from the input and output jack tip lugs to their spots on the footswitch. Solder everything.
Step 8: If you’ve followed the directions properly, with a little luck, the thing should fire up!
Congratulations, you just built your first pedal! Although the circuit is extremely rudimentary, you’ll note it sounds excellent. However, if it isn’t to your liking, feel free to pull the socketed parts out and experiment with them! The world is your oyster! Here’s how my configuration sounds, with Andy plugging it into his Deluxe Reverb reissue!
I hope you enjoyed this as much as I did, and that this inspires you to build more. If this is your first pedal, I can’t say enough how happy it makes me that you decided to try it out. Feel free to revisit some of my past DIY pieces, such as the Maestro Fuzz, Jordan Vico Vibe tremolo, Shin-Ei Companion fuzz and more. Until next time, up the irons!