If you expect a pedal that’s described as a “Bass Fuzz Suboctave” to be a roaring noise machine, you won’t be disappointed by Red Witch’s Zeus, but you’ll likely be surprised by its versatility. The Zeus is a fuzz voiced for bass, and it has a sub octave function that can be used independently or with the fuzz—neither attribute screams “versatility,” but the pedal’s range is impressive.
The controls are deceptively simple, but they add up to some serious tweakability: four knobs, two toggle switches, two foot switches (and there are internal trimpots, too, which control the output of the fuzz and octave effects). The foot switches turn on the fuzz and octave effect (the indicator light changes depending on whether the fuzz is on, the sub octave effect is on or both effects are on together). One toggle increases the fuzz’s gain, the other increases the treble output. The Octave Mix knob determines how much of the sub octave (a full step below) is in the signal. The Fuzz Mix controls how much of the fuzz effect is in the signal—yes, this means the Fuzz Mix also functions as a clean blend. The Sputter control acts as a bias control, the kind you find on most guitar fuzzes these days—it affects the texture and strength of the fuzz. Fuzz adds, well, fuzz—to be more specific, it adds body (lots of body) and sustain.
In general, I found the second half of the travel was where the most action could be found with the Fuzz and Sputter controls. As you turn the Fuzz control up, the low end really thickens. Rolling the Sputter control back from a fully-clockwise position starts poking holes in the massive girth of the tone, and as it move counter clockwise it gets gnarlier (and here, “Sputter” is apt). In the first half of the Sputter pot’s range, however, I found the fuzz sputtered out almost completely, but that was OK, as the latter half of the knob’s travel had a huge amount of range. So, full-up Fuzz and Sputter is reminiscent of richer ‘70s funk tones. As those knobs are rolled back, and the Mix control heads toward the clean side, the pedal travels back in time to the looser fuzzes of the ‘60s.
However, additional time travel is available via the Octave effect. Adding the sub octave while running Sputter and Fuzz at close to 5 o’clock resulted in some seriously doom-y sounds. The sub octave’s tracking isn’t mind blowing but, as an additive effect, it’s very cool. Similarly when used independently of the fuzz, it adds a rubbery, old school soul vibe. One might not think that the sub octave’s independent mix control would be particularly noteworthy, but, when used with the fuzz, even small adjustments really helped change the vibe, from fat and fun to more subtle and sinister.
Of course, I had to plug the Zeus into my guitar rig. Even with the Treble boost (which I liked with bass), the pedal was dark, but had a nice presence nonetheless. While it was probably too dark for the average guitar player, it absolutely nails Clapton’s “Woman Tone” from his days with Cream.
Finally, mention must be made of the Zeus’s gorgeous chrome finish; Red Witch offers tips on how best to care for the pedal’s cosmetics.
What We Like: Rich, big tone combined with a surprising amount of versatility for what, on the face of it, seems like a pretty blunt object: an octave fuzz…for bass. Also, it comes in a cool denim bag.
Concerns: The range of the Sputter control could (and perhaps should) be greater, although it was still effective. And that beautiful finish … if anything happens to it, the owner will surely be heartbroken.