Precious and Grace-like Muff and Face
Here, we have another no-frills sparkling blue buzz box from ModTone. It sports a familiar control set of Volume, Tone and indeed Fuzz, but under the hood is a fine-tuned custom circuit that to my ears, straddles the line between classic silicon Muff and Fuzz Face circuits. The overall tone is that of a lower-midrange growler with just enough sizzle on top to sparkle and rise to the surface of the mix. Unlike a typical Big Muff tone sweep—where one has to perform tiny tweaks to get the balance from lows to highs right—The Fuzz’s Tone control keeps just enough chime in the high end throughout the entire sweep of the dial to be usable at all times.
Within the first minute or so, the range of tones through a semi-clean amp platform burned into the ‘70s tone-zone of my guitar brain. I was hearing shades of ZZ Top’s Tres Hombres, T-Rex’s Tanx, and even some early Buzzcocks started to chainsaw through the speakers as the Tone knob rolled past midnight. This circuit has been well thought out and exhibits a much more refined raw edge than most vintage fuzz units—which may or may not be what one is after. The lows aren’t as flabby and the highs avoid the puppy-teeth-piercing, tinnitus-inducing screech. This is a very sociable fuzz that gets on well with single coils and humbuckers, whether it is plugged into a pristine, high-headroom amp structure or a Class A crumbling foundation. This is a fuzzy overdrive machine with the guitar’s fundamental frequencies intact.
Big Buzz, Big Fuzz and Sparkle Blue
With the Tone and Volume set fairly neutral and the Fuzz control set to just around 11 o’ clock, the volume control on the guitar acts a throaty gain attenuator—much like a good full-frequency low-gain overdrive might. The guitar purrs like a cabaret cougar in a sultry vocal fry at lower knob settings and starts gruffing up the lung butter as the guitar volume is wound up. Dialing the Fuzz control to the further extremes injects more pebbly cascading gain waves into the mix, but stops saturating just shy of total meltdown. This is great for amps that are already cooking without the addition of pedals. Introducing the full Fuzz whack to a Marshall-like classic rock platform yields a J. Mascis-type searing lead tone that is totally “Out There” if you get my drift. It can be a revelation to have a less-gainy fuzz box in the tone arsenal if one prefers the amp’s breakup as a tonal foundation.
What We Like
Low noise, low price and high build quality make The Fuzz a winner if one is after a versatile, usable fuzzy overdrive for not much cash. This chameleon of a circuit blends in with many different guitar and amp combinations and doesn’t completely color one’s full rig. In ways, it is as non-descript as it’s graphics and title, but this is exactly the strength of The Fuzz; it imparts just enough sizzle, gravel and heft to add intrigue when a simple boost or OD sounds boring. The Fuzz can also yield a fantastic core tone on it’s own in lower-gain settings as well—it is more amp-like than many more notable and twitchy fuzz boxes that often need a certain kind of amp to partner up with.
At this price point, one would be crazy to scoff at such a great sounding and robust pedal. However, if one is after total coloration and haywire frequency abusing filth oscillations, look further. I know sound and reliability is the main criteria for a great pedal, but I do think a unique name and some kind of eyeball-grabbing graphics would help separate this fine buzz box from the legions of options out there right now. How about “The Soar Throat” with a depiction of a square wave caught in the esophagus of a little cartoon head? Anything, really…