Catalinbread Fuzzrite

  • By Eric Tischler @tonereport
  • November 16, 2016

The world of fuzz can be confusing—facts lost to the mists of time, overlapping designs, names and sounds—so let me get this out of the way: the Mosley Fuzzrite is the one that weaponized the sound of a dying battery. It’s buzz-y, with extreme, interesting overtones, and Catalinbread is taking a second shot at this legendary effect, this time working in conjunction with the family of the original builder.

This time around, Mark Moseley (nephew of Semie, son of Andy, the founders of the legendary Mosrite) provided Catalinbread with additional “new old stock” Fuzzrite models to study. He also put them in touch with original designer Ed Sanner, who provided some tips—notably on what to look for in terms of finding transistors that would capture the sound of the originals. This may sound a bit like marketing mumbo jumbo, but having recently played Catalinbread’s first attempt at the Fuzzrite, I’ve noticed some improvements in the new version.

The Fuzzrite still has two controls—Volume and Depth—but both have a lot more to offer. For better or worse, Catalinbread’s first stab at the Fuzzrite seemed to have vintage-correct output, which is to say, not much. Depending on where the Depth is set, the Fuzzrite now has lot of output, or at least just enough.

However, the Depth knob is where the real upgrade lies. This this control offers variations on the splatty distortion heard on Iron Butterfly’s “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” and The Stooges’ “I Wanna Be Your Dog.” Now, those songs actually have fairly diverse fuzz tones but, in my experience, Fuzzrite’s offered either or: my original Fuzzrite kinda did “I Wanna Be Your Dog,” and the original Catalinbread kinda did “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida.” This version offers both—and more—in the sweep of the Depth control.

Catalinbread’s manual is wonderfully accurate in its description of the effect: when fully counterclockwise, there’s thick, dark fuzz, kinda like a Fuzz Face, but brash despite the darkness. I really preferred single coils in the first quarter of the knob’s sweep, where the fuzz’s inherent darkness and the brightness of the pickups really complemented each other. Adjusting the volume at my guitar or advancing the knob a bit added brightness when I needed it.

Moving the Depth knob forward, the Fuzzrite became friendlier to humbuckers, offering great, scuzzy rhythm tones on the bridge pickup and, yes, horn-like fuzz on the neck. By noon on the dial, I’d hit the sweet spot, which extended to at least 3 o’clock. The serrated attack and sputtery decay married to a muscular note offered just enough body to be musical without sacrificing an ounce of raunch.

Within that same range, single coils lacked focus. The breakup was there, but was somewhat undermined by a very diffuse body. However, at that 3 o’clock mark, the guitar came alive again, bratty and aggressive. Maxing out the gain, the fuzz still sounded great, like the notes were being compressed and run through an extreme bandpass filter, again leaving just enough of the note between the attack and decay to keep the music going. At this point, the output dropped noticeably, if not dramatically. Certainly useful in the studio, possibly problematic live.

Catalinbread warns about using the Fuzzrite with buffers, and they have a point. In my rig, buffers rendered the pedal significantly mellower, which wasn’t necessarily a bad thing: notes had more focus and body throughout the first half of the Depth’s sweep, offering a fuzzy, low-gain overdrive before getting into a distinctly distorted fuzz at noon, but the beast had been tamed. However, when pushed by an actual overdrive, the Fuzzrite came alive again, offering a slightly less raw--but more forceful—effect that was still, unmistakably, Fuzzrite-ian.

What we like: A great range of classic fuzz tones with a lot of character, and it stacks well.

Concerns: Doesn’t play as well with buffers and it could still benefit from more output at more extreme settings. Also, a little noisy, which I would think is par for the course for a fuzz pedal, but I know this concerns some people.

Leave a Reply