• By Yoel Kreisler @tonereport
  • April 29, 2016

SunFace BC109
REVIEW BY Yoel Kreisler

Among Uni-Vibes, Klons, Big Muffs and Echoplexes, the Fuzz Face remains to be one of the most historically important effects to this day. It’s a deceptively simple circuit that found its way to the hearts of many musicians both modern and classic, and subsequently the forefront of countless hits throughout the ‘60s and ‘70s. Tracking down a vintage Fuzz Face in playable condition that doesn’t look like a post-reentry piece of the Soyuz spacecraft can be quite a feat, and forget about finding one at a reasonable price. Collectors can be blamed for the surge in prices, due to the pedal’s iconic status and association with Jimi Hendrix, David Gilmour, Eric Clapton, and Eric Johnson, to name a few. For us laymen and non-collectors, to achieve that tone we can turn to the multitude of clones available on the market, many of which expand and improve (for better or for worse) on the classic Fuzz Face formula. Tonal purists will only want the best—convenience be damned—and that’s where Analog Mike comes in.

“Analog Mike” Piera, along with Tom Hughes, authored the effects industry’s bible, known as Analog Man’s Guide to Vintage Effects. Mr. Piera is an avid collector and studier of these effects, and almost understands them better than their original designers. He was also one of the very first boutique pedal outfits on the scene in the mid ‘90s, which solidifies his near mythic status as pedal builder. The SunFace is considered by many to be the Fuzz Face formula distilled into its purist form, a simple, primal and primitive scream to which highfalutin “improved” fuzzes cannot hold a candle.

As many of you may know, the SunFace comes in many different transistor flavors, from gut-punch BC183 to warm NKT275. Being the tone hound he is, Analog Man only sources NOS or extremely high-quality new transistors, once that stock is out, it’s done. I decided to choose the BC109 silicon transistor, as it’s close to the classic BC108 but it just gives a little bit more of everything. A fuzz is incredibly temperamental about placement in the chain and proximity to buffers, so I tried placing it on its own. While the sound was admittedly a bit dark, placing it before the Analogman Buffer added a nice lift to the high end. There are quite a few options for the SunFace, but I got the most basic of basic; clock face graphics with no nine-volt adapter, LED, or bias knob— real vintage! There are only two controls, Volume and Fuzz, which can yield a whole range of tones if used right (or “wrong”, depending on what the player is after). This fuzz is a dense and bright blanket of glassy grit; everything about it feels right, from the DIY aesthetics to the beautiful torrent of silicon-fueled screams that come out of this thing. Like many vintage fuzzes, this pedal is reactive to the guitar’s volume knob, and while still remaining bright, it will tame itself to a trebly crunch. Backing off the fuzz on the pedal does the same thing more or less, but who wants to bend down every four minutes to go from rhythm to lead? Adding other effects such as a Uni-Vibe or delay create a thick wall of sound, marred by the movement and action. If you love vintage effects, and are willing to deal with the quirks of one, this pedal is most definitely for you.

WHAT WE LIKE: Authentic sounds, primal attitude and very versatile. Excellent for mixing with other effects.

CONCERNS: Don’t jump on this boat if you aren’t ready for a little rocking; vintage fuzzes are temperamental, and can be trickier for modern rigs.

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