Black Arts Toneworks Black Sheep

  • By Phillip Dodge @tonereport
  • July 15, 2014

With the biker graphic, you might expect the Black Sheep to be a bright, cutting, razor-like fuzz à la ‘60s biker soundtracks. Oddly, it’s the exact opposite. If I had to describe the Black Sheep in one word, it would be "sludgy." That's the best way to describe the thick, deep fuzz spewing from this box.

The Black Sheep isn't a “sweet” fuzz and it doesn't clean up much. But for dark brooding riffage, it doesn't get much better. With controls for gain, depth, tone, and volume, you can dial in broad range of thick and rumbling fuzz tones. Somehow, the Black Sheep manages to sound both vintage and modern at the same time.

Looking for sonic comparisons, I'd say that the Black Sheep has the brick wall thickness of a Big Muff but with more mids and less highs. As such it's great for drop-tunings and exceptionally cool on bass. The amount of thick, low, grunge this thing kicks out would make the Melvins proud!

Despite the abundance of low frequencies, the Black Sheep never gets muddy. But to make the most of it, an amp with decent headroom and larger speakers is needed. The Black Sheep easily overwhelmed by ’65 Vibro Champ and put the fear of god into my Princeton Reverb. Going into a larger amp and cab, the Black Sheep kicked out drop tuned riffs with gusto.

I don’t often tune lower than Drop-D, but for experimental purposes, I tuned my Reverend Roundhouse down to C-to-C. The resulting sound of low string riffing into the Black Sheep was immense. Where most fuzz pedals would have a hard time handling the low frequencies, the Black Sheep spewed them out with amp (and audience) pummeling authority. I ran a bass through it as well, and the results were just as great. If drop tuning is a must, the Black Sheep needs to be on the list of fuzz prospects.

Along with handling low frequencies well, the Black Sheep holds up well to hot pickups and stacking with a boost pedal. While many transistor-based fuzzes turn to mush when hit with a really hot signal, the Black Sheep retains its composure. It’s also surprisingly quiet when stacked with other dirt pedals. This is not something one would expect from a pedal with this amount of gain on tap.

This is not to frame the Black Sheep as a one trick pony, it can do more traditional fuzz tones as well. Switching over to my Tele, raising the treble on my amp, and playing the intro to “Spirit in the Sky,” I was rewarded with a classic ‘70s fuzz tone that wasn’t too bright but still had a nice edge to it. The only hitch is that switching the Black Sheep off left me with a clean tone that was a little too bright for my tastes. 

What we like: Thick, deep, sludgy, menacing fuzz that holds up well to low frequencies.

Concerns: The Black Sheep is very dark. It’s great with a bright amp and guitar combo. If you have a dark setup, the Black Sheep might not have enough treble for you.

Build quality: The build quality is great. The rough texture of the paint job feels a little unfinished to me.

Value: The range of tones available from the Black Sheep isn’t as varied as some fuzzes in this price range, but if you’re looking for wall-rattling fuzz, you can’t do much better than this.

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