Fuzz Pedals That Do More Than Just Fuzz: Dirty LFOs, Filters, and More

Editor's note: In our latest The Five video above, Andy Martin runs through five new next-level fuzz boxes. In the article below, Andy Perrin shares a bit more about these featured effects, as well as five more stompboxes that can bring you into similarly outrageous fuzz territory.

One of my first-ever pedals was the Sustain Punch Creamy Dreamer, an early clone of a Russian Big Muff. I'd heard a rumor that Billy Corgan and James Iha used it on Siamese Dream—a fanciful myth indeed. I picked one up, plugged it in, and was confounded by the seemingly uncontrollable effect. I didn't understand fuzz.

I've since returned to the fuzz and educated myself with several gateway pedals: a few variations of the Electro-Harmonix Big Muff, Jim Dunlop Fuzz Faces, and some takes on the Tone Bender. But where do you go from here in your fuzz education?

Here's 10 modern fuzz picks that innovate the classic effect by colliding it with synth features or combining it with other effects in fresh ways.

Seymour Duncan Fooz

The Seymour Duncan Fooz turns your curvy guitar signal into an overdriven square wave that then acts as a building block for other synthesis elements. Imagine your guitar signal is a turret of Lego blocks and the other parameters of the pedal are additional colored blocks. What can you build atop this fuzzy foundation?

The synth-fuzz sound takes on a variety of modulated effects by different doses of LFO and envelope control. In addition, the warm low-pass filter gives a custom hem to the bottom of the square wave as in a traditional synthesizer, while the band-pass filter sweeps frequencies in a way not unlike a wah pedal. With tap tempo control, the pulse of the wave can go from timid to tidal.

EarthQuaker Devices Data Corrupter

It's hard to describe how happy it makes me to know I can walk into a store with money and buy a pedal like this. Thank you EarthQuaker. Before the Data Corrupter multiplies and splits your signal into a three-voiced modulated synth, it translates and amplifies your guitar's incoming signal into a square wave fuzz. The main oscillator then uses phase and frequency to try and lock onto your input.

From here, the signal is chopped up and reconstructed using a variety parameters and combined controls over things like glide, vibrato, and interval selections. The results are otherworldly, harmonic, multi-faceted, and definitely next-level fuzz.

Death By Audio Evil Filter

If you're looking for a fresh take on the classic pairing of octave and fuzz, Death By Audio has you covered. Using a series of low, high, and band pass filters, the Evil Filter glitches the sound of your fuzz into upper or lower octaves and then folds it all back together in a blissfully, unwieldly package.

The combinations of sounds is multiplied by a waveform selector for the structure of your fuzz, from sinewave type cleaner sounds to choppy, almost bit-crushed, square waves. Toying with the filter resonance allows you to fine-tune the pedal's character from frequencies affected at 0-10.5k hertz. When dime out, prepare for self-oscillation, which you can trigger on or off through sweeps with an expression pedal.

Dwarfcraft Devices Reese Lighting

With some already epic fuzzes under their belt, like the Eua Claire Thunder or Baby Thunder, the minds at Dwarfcraft are no strangers to storm chasing fuzz tones. With the Reese Lighting, however, they've reimagined an old school type of synthesis, called "Reese Bass," and married it to fuzz. In short, this form of synthesis mashes up two low, slightly detuned waveforms to create modest modulations due to the phase relationship of the waves.

When engineered into the Reese Lightning, the result is a rumble lurking beneath a deep, sustaining fuzz. The texture and structure of this fuzz could apply in many situations, especially for those needing some low-end EQ in a guitar and drum two-piece.

Red Witch Fuzz God II

From classic to chaos, the Fuzz God II has you covered. A set of high-gain, silicon transistors are at the core of this fuzz circuit. Still not heavy enough? Flick the lightning bolt switch to double up on the gain or the ear switch to accentuate upper frequencies to cut through a mix. Things get interesting with a twist of the "awake" knob, which dials in degrees of pitch modulation for oscillation.

This ingredient of the mix is accessible on the fly through a second footswitch the kicks the modulation in or out of the circuit. The "sputter" knob also plays well with the modulated qualities of the pedal by giving the sound a sagging effect as if running off a battery whose days are numbered.

Mattoverse Electronics Fuzzy Gates

If a combo effect of tremolo and fuzz sounds like your idea of a good time, the Fuzzy Gates from Mattoverse offers the perfect blend of a classic pair that breaks convention. The tremolo circuit can be dialed in for vintage pulses to glitchy or gated spats. The Fuzzy Gates has two oscillators under the hood that drive the tremolo and interact with one another via a mid-pedal toggle.

When the gain knob is cranked up, the fuzz adds a most welcome disintegrating effect to the tremolo. Yet with all this gain and glitch potential, both the fuzz and tremolo clean up exceptionally well when scaled back to a modest dose as a way of providing a bit of warmth and movement to your playing.

Old Blood Noise Excess

The Excess is technically billed as a distortion pedal, but to my ear, there's fuzz in the DNA of this dirtbox. But drive is only one of three helixes defining the nature of this pedal. Over on the left, there's a separate switch that alternates from a washy chorus of decades past to a slappy or saggy delay.

With routing options for running the fuzz and modulation in series or parallel as well as expression pedal functionality for aspects of both effects, the Excess lives up to its name in the best possible way. (Get an Excess in a Reverb exclusive color now through OBNE's Reverb Shop.)

Electronic Audio Experiments Beholder Aberrant Reverberator

You might think fuzz and ambience are worlds apart, but the Beholder puts them in the same galaxy to create truly otherworldly sounds. How? By breaking the rules and running a soaking reverb signal into the fuzz effect. If you were a fan of the synth-type approach of a few fuzzes above, the Beholder also leverages filter control through a knob that twists across a spectrum of low-pass to high-pass filters.

If the oscillation idea caught your interest, the Beholder offers a unique take through a dedicated "drone" footswitch that when depressed crashes the fuzz into a reverberating black hole.

Stone Deaf Kliptonite

The Kliptonite features a curated combo of fuzz and overdrive that hold their own yet partner up to offer a fuzzy force that's more than the sum of its parts. Where things get really interesting, though, is when tone sculpting using the onboard parametric EQ. This is ideal for finding your own proprietary fuzzy sweet spot or for providing an on the fly performance aspect by integrating an expression pedal.

Depending on how you set the upper and lower limits and the rate of your roll from heel to toe, the results are almost a hybrid of wah and phaser-esque sounds. If your entry into fuzz involved a wah pedal, the Kliptonite might help you up your game.

Catalinbread Antichton

With the Antichton, the west coast crew of Catalinbread engineered an epic tonal tag team unlike any other. The integrated fuzz and tremolo provides a range of sounds from classic, edgy pulses to crushed synth-like chirps, barks, and squeals. The Antichton's diverse sounds evolve depending on the input level from the guitar. Dial in the "gravity" and "time" knobs to a favorite setting and then hear the intensity and shape of the sound change by rolling on and off your volume.

The Antichton checks of all the boxes of a next-gen fuzz: it's responsive for a live performance, reimagines a classic effect pairing, and has a synth-like quality that dissolves any preconceived notions of what fuzz can be.

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