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Best Fuzz Face Pedals and Clones
Best Fuzz Face Pedal Evolutions (Extra Features)
As you may have noticed, the stompbox market is inundated with Fuzz pedals. If the Big Muff (click link for a sample of its gazillion versions, clones and evolutions) is the most popular device in this effect niche by far, the Fuzz Face deserves to sit proudly on the fuzzy podium, with its more nuanced and dynamic sonic behavior at different gain levels.
A Brief History of the Fuzz Face
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The original Dallas Arbiter Fuzz Face was designed in London by Ivor Arbiter in 1966, and was inspired by the Maestro Fuzz Tone and the Vox / Sola Sound Mark 1.5 Tone Bender pedals. Made famous by Jimi Hendrix, the Fuzz Face’s signature sound is a smooth, singing sustain and dynamic responsiveness to guitar volume.
The iconic smiley-faced design originally came from Mr. Arbiter housing the prototype circuit in the base of a mic stand. Despite its oversized casing, the Fuzz Face is an incredibly simple circuit, made up of two transistors, four resistors, three capacitors, and just two controls: “Volume” and “Fuzz.” Since the circuit is so simple, every component is extremely important in shaping the tone, particularly the transistors.
Silicon vs. Germanium Fuzz Faces
The first Fuzz Faces used germanium transistors, which have a warm smooth tone but are very susceptible to feedback, temperature and voltage changes. Because of the instability of germanium, Dallas Arbiter switched to using silicon transistors in 1968, which are more stable but have a harsher, hairier tone.
Silicon Fuzz Faces are more stable but have a harsher, hairier tone
Engineer Roger Mayer presented Jimi Hendrix with one of the first Fuzz Faces in 1966 and the rest is history. Since then, both the germanium and silicon versions of the pedal have been used by the likes of Eric Johnson, Joe Bonamassa, David Gilmour, and Duane Allman, and cloned countless times. Today Dunlop owns the rights to the Fuzz Face name, but lots of other pedal companies big and small manufacture their own take on the fuzz that started it all.
How We Compiled this Fuzz Face List
Let it be known that we do not claim to have the final word on the best Fuzz Face pedals ever made. This article is simply compiling recent reputable lists from the internet that rank fuzz pedals. Some editorial license was taken when deciding what order to put these in, simply because there are very few articles that rank Fuzz Faces in particular; most just cover fuzzes in general. All of these pedals will give you the Fuzz Face sound, it is up to you to decide how close you want to stay to the original design, and how boutique you want to go.
Without further ado then, here are 18 of the best Fuzz Face pedals, divided into two lists: Clones and Evolutions.
The 9 Best Fuzz Face Pedals (and Clones)
The original Fuzz Face was not exactly pedalboard-friendly, but Dunlop has shrunk the exact same circuit down to fun size for modern use. These come in several varieties, including germanium, silicon, Hendrix signature and Joe Bonamassa signature models. Purists can also still purchase the OG big case version.
One of the most widely loved and vintage-accurate Fuzz Face pedals, the Sun Face is hand-made to order and has a bevy of NOS transistor options available, from germanium BARTs (Big Ass Russian Transistors) to the classic BC108 silicon transistors. Unfortunately, Analogman ran out of the famous NKT275 germanium transistors last year, and these pedals are now fetching insane sums on the used market. Keep checking back though, because you never know when Analog Mike will unearth another batch of rare transistors!
The brand new pedal from Benson is nothing short of a game-changer. This fuzz of the future will automatically regulate its own internal temperature to ensure that the bias of the famously unstable germanium transistors is always set at an appropriate level. In addition to its reliability, the pedal comes with a buffer and passive pickup simulator, which allows it to be placed anywhere in your signal chain, even next to a wah. With this pedal, Benson has solved all the issues that come along with a vintage germanium Fuzz Face, with zero downside.
The vintage quirks of the Fuzz Face make it notorious for not playing well after wahs or buffered pedals. MXR solves this problem by taking the exact Dunlop silicon Fuzz Face circuit and adding a buffered bypass option to it. This way you can place your fuzz anywhere in your signal chain without fuss, and get creative combining it with modulation and time-based effects.
The Smiley is part of JHS’ Legends of Fuzz lineup, and accurately replicates the sound of a 1969 silicon Fuzz Face from Josh Scott’s personal collection. True to the original, it has a two- knob layout, but also includes a “JHS mode” switch which cranks up the gain to the extreme levels, where the fuzz will start to sputter and gate.
A modern, high-end take on the Fuzz Face from the UK, hand-built with the goal of being an “end-all” version of that circuit with an emphasis on fatness at high gain levels and glassy clean-up when rolling back the guitars volume knob. It features a temperature tolerant circuit that allows for a more uniform response.
This faithful Fuzz Face replication is a modern classic that uses NOS transistors and comes in germanium and silicon varieties. You have the option of a two-knob or three-knob layout with bias pot for more tonal control and aggression. A boutique-quality pedal that doesn’t cost all that much more than the Dunlop minis.
About as boutique as you can get, the suede-enclosed Fuzz Phrase justifies its price tag with hand-wiring and rare military-spec CV7003 germanium transistors, which are more stable and heat resistant than the famous NKT275. Jam Pedals themselves are running out of these transistors, so this pedal won’t be around forever, at least not in this incarnation.
We would be remiss not to mention Dave Fox, who was responsible for the creation of the first Fuzz Face reissue in the 1980s. His Hot Silicon is a replica of the very reissue he designed for Crest electronics (formerly Dallas Arbiter) in 1986. He also makes the CCHybrid, based on a classic Fuzz Face but with one silicon and one germanium transistor for the best of both fuzzy worlds.
A super simple take on the original germanium Fuzz Face, the only differences being an internal bias trim pot and a resistor with a slightly different value to add more volume output. Straight to the point, vintage-accurate, affordable and couldn’t be easier to use.
The 9 Best Fuzz Face Style Evolutions (Extra Features)
The Fuzz Factory on a list of Fuzz Face style pedals? Yes, they are different animals, but Zachary Vex created his original design by replacing the resistors on a Fuzz Face with four potentiometers, as well as adding a preamp and a third transistor. The result was an entirely unique fuzz that squealed and ripped like velcro and went onto become one of the most famous boutique pedals ever. The Vexter series contains the exact same circuit as the hand-painted version at a more affordable price point. Check out also the 2020 Bliss Factory, an uber-tweakable collaboration with Chase Bliss Audio.
This entry into the JHS $99 pedal lineup features the familiar volume and fuzz controls of the Fuzz Face but adds a bias control, which can starve the voltage going to one of the transistors to enable some chaotic gating sounds. It also comes with a “Fat” switch for thickening up the low end of your signal and like a good Fuzz Face, it cleans up with the volume knob of your guitar.
ZVEX’s most well-known creation gets the Chase Bliss treatment. All the controls of the classic Fuzz Factory are here, plus a new resonant low pass filter knob, and two three way toggles for fattening up the tone and setting auxiliary knob functions. In classic Chase Bliss fashion, any parameter can be saved to a preset, and controlled by midi or expression pedal using the dip switches on the back. It isn’t cheap but this is probably the most versatile fuzz pedal on the market.
Mike Fuller’s ’69 is a Fuzz Face clone that stays true to the original design but with two extra knobs that allows you to vary the input impedance and midrange contour. The ’69 MKII puts the same matched germanium transistor circuit into a smaller box. Fulltone also makes the ’70 mkii, a silicon version of the Fuzz Face that uses BC108 transistors.
This vintage tone machine uses the highest quality components and comes with tons of tweakable options so that you can capture any classic fuzz sound you’re looking for. The huge volume control allows you to crank the pedal onstage with your foot while the bias knob lets you starve the voltage for extra spittiness. The three-way toggle switch lets you choose between Fat/Full for smooth muff type sounds, Zonk for hairy bender-style, and Vintage for a mid-focused cutting tone. On top of all that you get internal dip-switches for bass and overall output levels.
Brian Wampler, like Jimi Hendrix, understands that Fuzz Faces just happen to sound better when played through Marshall stacks. So he took his famous Plexi Drive pedal and combined it with a Fuzz Face circuit to give everyone access to that legendary pairing of gear. The Velvet fuzz adds to the original Fuzz Face design with a brightness control and two custom clipping options, Fat and Tight.
A company that is known for its rare Muff clones, Wren and Cuff also make stellar versions of the germanium and silicon Fuzz Faces. Many of the issues with classic Fuzz Faces are remedied, such as low volume output and uneven gain range on the fuzz knob. The Your Face pedals also come with an internal bias pot and a low-cut knob for cleaning up any muddiness.
This take on the Fuzz Face uses silicon BC183 transistors, which are considered to be less scooped and muddy than germanium transistors, but not quite as harsh and jagged as other silicon options. It also includes the bias control, which can vary the voltage going to your pedal a la Eric Johnson, whose signature sound came from running his Fuzz Face off a partially-drained 9 volt battery.
This hybrid Germanium/Silicon fuzz is highly tweakable to account for any environmental changes that could affect your fuzz. Comes with an internal bias pot, as well as a Tone knob that increases the treble output level, and a Body knob that increases the bass before the gain stage.
Useful and Interesting Videos about the Fuzz Face