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 seems 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 pedal. 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 explore.
Over the past year, I got my hands on an Analog Man Peppermint Fuzz. It was based on mid 60’s style fuzz pedals like the Mosrite Fuzzrite.
I’m really into 60’s fuzz tones. The Peppermint fuzz is really great! It made me start think think 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 one 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 one this pedal.
Brothers In Arms
The Sun Face was not anything like the Dunlop Fuzz Face I tried years ago. They almost had nothing in common.
For starters, the interaction with the volume knob and the Sun Face is so responsive. Not just in cleaning up the fuzz, but 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 fav lead tones is engaging the Sun Face and pulling back my guitar volume 2-3 clicks. There is 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 that use a fuzz face for the first time are unaware of all the goodies that sit below. 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 pleasant subtle ring modulator.
One cool option Analog Man included that isn’t on an original Fuzz Face is an internal Impedance dial. The allows you to adjust the volume the fuzz circuit will see. In other words, you could 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 roiled my volume knob back. Where I need a consistent, predictable volume but 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 of that being said, there are 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 then what their value is per transistor in bulk. Pedal builders have to put a lot of money upfront.
2: People under appreciate labor. It takes time to put these things together and test them. Small builders aren’t automated.
Shades of Cool
Analog Man offers a variety of germanium and silicon transistors. He covers all the important era’s of the Fuzz Face.
For those that 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.
If you browse a major catalog for a Fuzz Face you would be led to believe there is one flavor. Insert money in slot A, press 5 and receive jimmy 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 60’s. It’s legit.
The pedal is 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 a 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 you’re experience.
It also should be noted that some fuzz pedals (most germanium circuits) prefer to be first in the chain and before any buffers. If you place a buffer before a Sun Face, you’ll loose dynamics and the tone gets brighter. It could be a cool thing on occasion. But, you’ll loose 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