Years ago, in a far away universe, I purchased my first fuzz pedal. It was a Dunlop Fuzz Face. When I got it, I was confused by the sound. It seemed kinda dead and lifeless. Rolling back the volume knob just made it sound more dead. I thought maybe I just didn’t get fuzz. I was trying to imagine what Hendrix did to get those sounds. My Fuzz Face sounded nothing like his.
I sold it within a few weeks. I thought fuzz just wasn’t for me.
Years later, I got hip to real fuzz pedals. My first entries being the ZVEX Fuzz Factory and Prescription Electronics Experience pedals. This is when I discovered I did indeed like fuzz.
Middle of a Memory
Even though my thoughts on fuzz changed, I still had a bad memory of the Fuzz Face. In fact, it took me until this year to try it again.
This past year I got my hands on an Analog Man Peppermint Fuzz. It’s based on mid’60s-style fuzz pedals like the Mosrite Fuzzrite.
I’m really into ’60s fuzz tones. The Peppermint Fuzz really captures it! It made me start thinking again about the Fuzz Face circuits Analog Man built.
I read Mike’s detailed page on the subject: http://www.analogman.com/fuzzface.htm
You don’t have to get far on the page to realize he’s an expert on the subject of Fuzz Faces.
I was ready now to dig into an Analog Man Sun Face. I reached out to Mike to chat. I didn’t know which pedal I should go for. I knew I preferred germanium.
He suggested the 2N Standard Germanium. It was a great suggestion. It’s not overly bright or too woofy. It also wasn’t too gainy. He makes higher gain options if ya swing that way. Don’t get fooled though. There is plenty of gain on this pedal.
Brothers In Arms
The Sun Face was not anything like the Dunlop Fuzz Face I tried years ago. They had almost nothing in common.
For starters, the interaction with the volume knob on Sun Face is so responsive. Not just in cleaning up the fuzz, but with obvious tonal differences.
I remember listening to Jimi all these years thinking, he’s not using a fuzz on this song. Now I realize how often he was using a fuzz but pulling the volume knob back. It’s a very distinctive color. One I like very much.
In fact, one of my fave lead tones is engaging the Sun Face and pulling back my guitar volume two or three clicks. There’s still gain, but it’s not completely compressed.
I often use a boost pedal after the fuzz to push my lead volume louder. This way I can get those mid volume knob tones at lead level.
Center of Gravity
The Fuzz Face is an often misunderstood pedal. Those using a Fuzz Face for the first time are unaware of all the goodies that sit deeper into the pedal. There’s a soft chewy center. Use that volume knob! At some volume settings you get cool overtones sitting above a note. Kinda like a pleasantly subtle ring modulator.
One cool option Analog Man includes that isn’t on the original Fuzz Face is an internal impedance dial. This allows you to adjust the volume the fuzz circuit receives. In other words, it lets you get a volume-knob-rolled-back sound with your volume all the way up.
This is really handy for gigs. There are times when it’s not convenient to always turn my volume knob back. When I need a consistent, predictable volume but I want that special quack. During rehearsal, I just take the back off of the pedal and set the inner pot. I’ve used it quite a bit, actually.
Price to Play
Can we talk about money a little bit here? One other nice thing about Analog Man is, he doesn’t price gouge. So many other pedal builders ask well over $300 for germanium fuzz circuits. Some are even charging $600.
Analog Man isn’t taking advantage of people. He’s making a great product at extremely reasonable prices. The Sun Face is in the $200 range depending on what features you want. That’s a steal!
With all that said, let me dispel a few misleading comments made about pedals.
1: People say transistors aren’t really that expensive. True—if you buy in bulk, the parts are not that much. But how many of you buy in bulk? So it’s not really fair to look at what one transistor costs at bulk or big-batch pricing. If you just bought one transistor, it would likely go for way more than its unit cost in bulk. Pedal builders have to invest a lot of money up front.
2: People under appreciate the labor involved in making pedals. It takes time to put these things together and test them. Most small builders aren’t automated.
Shades of Cool
Analog Man offers a variety of germanium and silicon transistors. He covers all the important eras of the Fuzz Face.
For those who don’t know, the early Hendrix thang is germanium. The Gilmore thang is silicon.
You can also get the Sun Dial option on the germanium models, which lets you adjust the bias. Germanium transistors can be a little cranky in varying temperatures. The Sun Dial helps you adjust. But it also lets you get cool sounds by choking the fuzz.
The Other Side
If you browse a major catalog for a Fuzz Face you’re led to believe there is one flavor. Insert money in slot A, press 5, and receive the Jimi Hendrix Fuzz Face tone.
If you look up Fuzz Face circuits from boutique builders, you’ll find a lot of interpretations.
I really wanted the real thing. I’m not against people getting creative and trying new things. But,when it comes to fuzz, I want those classic sounds. Just give me the real thing, please.
The Analog Man Sun Face is a time machine back to the late ’60s. It’s legit.
It’s also pedalboard friendly.
A few notes about Fuzz Face-style circuits. They tend to not like mid-scooped, clean amps. Mike notes this on his website.
If you’re trying a Fuzz Face for the first time, avoid Blackface or Silverface Twin Reverb amps. Instead, try a British or tweed circuit. The Fuzz Face was designed with British amps in mind. This will greatly change your experience.
It also should be noted that some fuzz pedals (most germanium circuits) prefer to be first in the chain, before any buffers. If you place a buffer before a Sun Face, you’ll lose dynamics and the tone gets brighter. It could be a cool thing on occasion. But you’ll lose all those colors between volume levels.
Anchors and Diamonds
The Sun Face 2N Standard Germanium has become a staple in my setup. Whether I’m playing with Abby Ahmad’s singer-songwriter project, my blues band Fife & Drom, Amy Helm’s Americana band, or Sister Sparrow and the Dirty Birds‘ soul rock vibe, the Sun Face fits in.
It’s the most versatile fuzz I have. I don’t leave home without it.
Here is my pedal board from Mountain Jam 2017
Check out my recent blog on Skill Sets Needed for Gigs