Fuzz comes in many flavors, and this article covers just one of them. You can find a list of our articles about the various fuzz circuits and their modern reinterpretations in our Fuzz Category Page.
List updated on April 11, 2022
The Original: Baldwin-Burns Buzzaround
The Buzzaround Fuzz was designed by Gary Hurst in 1966 for the Baldwin-Burns company. It featured 3 NKT213 Germanium transistors and was meant to be a competitor to the Sola Sound Tone Bender. The circuit is very similar to the Tone Bender’s but the controls are a bit different: Sustain (fuzz), Balance, which acts as a Bias starve control to one of the transistors, and Timbre, a volume/tone contour in one. Apparently, it was the first pedal to offer a tone knob.
With its tight low end, strong mids, and prolonged sustain, the Buzzaround is a kind of fuzz that cuts through the mids better than others (like the Big Muff, for example). According to some, it has a dynamic range and feel that the Tone Bender does not possess. Robert Fripp famously used the Burns Buzzaround on classic records like King Crimson’s Court of the Crimson King and David Bowie’s Heroes.
Hosted in a wedge-shaped case, it features only the footswitch on the top of the pedal, with the three knobs and in/out connections placed on the back plate.
The Best Burns-Buzzaround Fuzz Clones/Evolutions
It is said that only about 100 original units of the Buzzaround were manufactured, which explains the exorbitant prices they sell for.
But when a vintage pedal is rare and expensive, you can rest reassured that modern version will start popping up, designed by contemporary boutique builders as either clones that replicate the sound of the original or evolutions that develop it, employing the perks of modern circuitry to solve problems found in the original units or expand on their sonic possibilities.
Here’s a list comprising some of the best stompboxes inspired by the Burns-Buzzaround Fuzz you may be able to find on the market (all these pedals are built in limited batches because of the scarcity of the components).
1. PigDog Omolon or Fuzzbound
London’s veteran Steve Williams has been designing top-notch vintage-inspired dirt boxes for several decades now, building in small batches and prioritizing unmatched quality over quantity – while growing a stellar reputation. The man’s two Buzzaround clones are out of production but sell used for a small fortune in part because they feature rare components like the Phillips OC75 metal can transistors in the compact Omolon or the NKT MT57F transistors in the vintage-looking Fuzzbound. But mostly because of their superior tone and build quality.
British Pedal Company is developing an increasingly good reputation for their faithful takes on vintage effects. Their Buzzaround clone is a detailed replica of the original, that also keeps the (rather bulky) wedge-shaped casing, with controls and connections in the back panel.
This vintage accurate take on the Buzzaround features electrolytic capacitors and a trio of NOS germanium transistors, hand-wired upon a tagboard just like the original. If you want you can order it with extra-rare NKT212 transistors or with an added master volume.
Dave Friesema of Function F(x) builds some mini fuzz pedals with painstaking attention to detail using through-hole construction. The Hive Mind is a Buzzaround shrunk to mini size, with the addition of a Master Volume control as the other knobs are highly interactive with one another and none control the output volume directly.
John Lyons, aka Basic Audio, has been hand-building every flavor of fuzz pedal you can imagine since the early 2000s. The Nonts is his version of the Buzzaround, but with more stable Silicon transistors rather than germanium. Differing from the classic design, the Nonts features 5 knobs: Volume, Tone, Fuzz, Starve, and Bias.
A reiteration of the Uber Fubar Fuzz, which was based on the Buzzaround but employed 3 Motorola Germanium PNP transistors in place of the NKT213 Germanium ones of the original. The Mordant uses that exact same circuit embedded in a much smaller compact enclosure, also offering two different voicings through a Shape toggle switch that gives you the stock BBBA sound and a looser fuzz sound.
This occult-themed Buzzaround features 3 NOS AC125 germanium transistors. The runic symbols under each knob actually make sense, since the Buzzaround’s controls are so interactive with one another it is difficult to definitively label what each one really does. But if you had to, there is master volume, mids, fuzz, and treble. Massive takes the already-unruly Buzzaround and punches up the gain and volume for a seriously wild fuzz.
Mike Thompson of Seeker is building custom vintage-style fuzzes at accessible prices. If you’re willing to wait a month or two, he will hand wire you a Buzzaround with enclosure and knobs of your choice. Want silicon transistors instead of germanium? Easy. 3 knobs? 4 knobs? Mike can make it happen.
This is not a Burns Buzzaround clone and neither an evolution of it, but it can get you close to that sound, in case you can’t find (or afford) anything else. It’s a high gain fuzz pedal with 3 voicings (Silicon, Blower, Special) born from a rib of the company’s Brute Fuzz, but taking a life of its own. It can sound like a Muff or a Buzzaround, but wilder, more compressed and prone to feedback.