Jack the Ripper of all Trades
Find me a fuzz pedal that can play the role of characterful overdrive, splatty electro horn section, smooth crackly lead machine and everything in-between. I want corpulent crunch and experimental zaps from one circuit. Also, this silicon-germanium hybrid must synergize with the rest of my pedalboard without any unwanted volume drops or after-buffer tone blockades. Sound like a tall order? Luckily, Christian from Magnetic Effects has just released the new and improved White Atom and it absolutely slays stodgy old clones, reducing them to smoking emulsified silhouettes in its white-hot wake.
How can a mere fuzz pedal succeed on so many levels? The story behind this circuit goes back a few years. Unlike many fuzz clones on the market, the White Atom was custom created to avoid the common pitfalls of temperature instability, wonky impedance problems, volume drops and strange power requirements. Beyond the utilitarian requirements, it also had to be versatile and sound badass no matter how it was dialed in, or what it was jacked into. After much experimentation and tweaking, the gorgeous fuzz Frankenstein was given life. The White Atom possesses the bubbling rumble of the Fuzz Face, the brassy gated zaps of a vintage Maestro, the smooth sizzling gristle of a MKII Tone Bender and the heft of a crackling Percolator in one small eyeball-grabbing box.
Microcosmic Twilight Tone Zones
The magic of the White Atom is revealed in small, incremental tweaks—hence all the minute markings around the dials. While Volume, Tone and Gain are self-explanatory; they differ from many generic prescription fuzz boxes in their usability throughout the entire twist of each knob. There is more than enough volume on tap and the tone knob is cleverly tuned to avoid all pointless extremes. The gain goes from just a hint of germanium sizzle—which can be a perfect alternative to more predictable boost or overdrive applications – to a sustained yet not overly saturated distortion portion. This thing is just begging to be stacked. Last but not least, is the go-to knob labeled Texture. It seems to starve the voltage, while adding a horny blat of gated sputter butter as I turn it counter-clockwise. At the other extreme of the dial we have a more smooth, traditional sounding fuzz with extra lower midrange seeping through as I turn to the right.
For this review, I had the White Atom on a small board that included my current favorite fuzz boxes—sans my mighty TomKat Muffer, which just went from Martin Youth Glover’s Killing Joke touring board into the studio with The Jesus and Mary Chain. That thing will have some serious mojo if I ever get it back; I digress. I ran the White Atom alongside a Fredric Effects Utility Percolator, TomKat Bender, EQD Park Fuzz Sound and my favorite destructo machine: the Malekko B:Assmaster. What was really interesting is that the White Atom could play the role of each of the vastly different aforementioned stompers, but did it in such a way that was entirely it’s own. I got a searing, Fripp-style laser sustain from ramming the White Atom into the Park Fuzz Sound. With the gain on both pedals set conservatively and the White Atom’s texture knob set to around 9 o’clock, the electro-horn splatting from the initial pick attack was lubricated by the Park’s extra germanium grease on the tail-end. I entered a place not of time or of space…but of sound.
What We Like: If I had to commit to a single fuzz for all purposes, this would be the one. It could kick a few overdrives off a board as well. It stacks beautifully, it sings, it splats, it zaps, it crackles and it crunches. All gripes from vintage fuzzes have been ironed out and this 2015 version sports broader Texture and Tone ranges. Magnetic Effects is committed to improving on perfection, even if it means diving back into an existing design. I also love the B-movie graphics. It looks like a device for jolting patchwork corpses back to life, which in a way, it does. Hybrids are almost always stronger than purebreds. I am blinded by the science of the White Atom.