This piece features our selection of the best fuzz pedals of all time organized by circuit type and is a recap of all the articles we published about fuzz. These articles are updated more than once a year with the addition of new entries and changes in the rankings.
What is the Best Fuzz Pedal?
There isn’t ONE best fuzz pedal for all occasions… the best one is the one that gets you most excited, right now, or the one that works best in the song you are playing.
Any pedal lover knows that the history of fuzz started with a handful of early devices from the ’60s and early ’70s whose circuits and sound inspired most fuzzes to this day.
Even though the difference between a Tone Bender and a Fuzz Face may sound irrelevant to the non-converted, each fuzz circuit has its own character and sonic signature, and the variations from version to version, even among different batches of the same pedal built by the same company, are significant – not to mention the thousands of clones and evolution out there!
With so many flavors of fuzz, finding consensus about which one is the “best” fuzz is a fool’s errand. This is the reason why we feel like it’s not only pointless but actually misleading to compile an overall chart of the top 10 fuzz pedals of all time.
A more honest approach is to ask the question…
“How Do I Choose a Fuzz Pedal?”
To make an informed choice, it’s important to understand how the various fuzz circuits differ from each other sound-wise. The main two categories of fuzz hanker back to the ’60s and could be called “Classic” and “Octave Up” – with the latter being a version of the former with an added higher octave that confers the sound a more piercing edge.
Big Muffs are considered High Gain fuzzes, together with a few other circuits like the older Tone Bender models (and their clones). They offer a huge tone but famously lack in mids, which makes them less than ideal for solos.
Then there are Modern fuzzes, which represent a conglomerate of devices built by companies large and small that try to perfect the sound of those classics and, in some cases, add some experimental features.
Best Fuzz Pedals: Our Categories
In this article, therefore, we decided to highlight the most popular three pedals for each of the main fuzz types, in the hope that this approach will help you figure out which one works for you, and maybe convince you in exploring the fuzz world more in depth!
For those interested in exploring each category more in-depth, at the bottom of these top 3 lists, you’ll find a link to a comprehensive article about that specific fuzz niche.
Best Crazy, Weird, and Unusual Fuzz Pedals
Initially, we thought about starting this article with the classic fuzz circuits and their clones – Tone Bender, Big Muff, Fuzz Face… but then something seemed wrong with that approach. As old as fuzz is, it’s a niche that’s still vibrant with innovation! There are companies out there that are putting out original fuzz circuits that are creative, weird and inspiring, without being pure clones of existing circuits. Let’s put them on top of this article! Here are 3 of the best boutique fuzz pedals with experimental features – you can find lots more here.
Best Tone Bender Pedals
Listen to a vintage Tone Bender.
Hairy, spitting, and aggressive the Tone Bender is a fuzz that, unlike the scooped Muff-style pedals, can make itself heard also in a dense mix. While it doesn’t clean up as nicely as other fuzzes, it has a unique compression and bloom when responding to pick attack. It found a place in music history thanks to players like Mark Ronson, Jeff Beck, Brian May, Ernie Isley, Syd Barrett, Kevin Shields and Jimmy Page.
Best Fuzz Face Pedals
Listen to a vintage Fuzz Face.
With its two transistors, four resistors, three capacitors, and just two controls (Volume and Fuzz), the Fuzz Face is one of the simplest fuzz circuits there is, but also one of the most loved ones. Made famous by Jimi Hendrix, it produces a smooth, singing sustain and it’s more dynamically responsive than most fuzzes.
Best Original Big Muff Pedals
Listen to a vintage Big Muff Pi.
The Big Muff has a unique place in the history of fuzz because it’s the only fuzz circuit that has consistently been produced by the same company (Electro-Harmonix) since its mid-’60s inception and, at the same time, the one that saw the most in-house variants and evolutions. We actually let the NYC-based company compile this list since they know a thing or two about Big Muffs!
Best Big Muff Clones
There were so many Big Muff releases over the years that a sub-fauna of clones of discontinued models has slowly emerged. Catering to a restricted circle of fanatics, these are boutique devices that tend to have a higher price tag than the originals because – in most cases – they are hand-built and feature better components.
Best Super-Fuzz Pedals (Octave-Up)
Listen to a vintage Univox Super-Fuzz.
“Brutality” is a word that gets some appreciation in the world of fuzz pedals – together with “gnarl,” of course. The Super-Fuzz, originally designed by Honey/Shin-Ei, is the most well-known of the octave-up fuzzes, and its uncompromising tone triggers descriptions of that kind. Its aggressive sound is delivered through a two-germanium diodes circuit and full-wave rectification, and the octave-up becomes more dominant the higher you turn the gain knob.
Best Octavia Fuzz Pedals (Octave-Up)
Designed in 1967 by Roger Meyer specifically for Jimi Hendrix, the Octavia is based on a circuit using ring modulation and frequency doubling to create an octave above the signal, sending the results to a fuzz. Since the tracking system can only detect single notes, chords won’t work with this pedal, and it will work best on notes played above the 10th fret.
Best Maestro FZ-1 Fuzz Tone Clones & Variants
Listen to a vintage Maestro FZ-1.
The Maestro FZ-1 was the very first fuzz ever released commercially, back in 1962. It can be famoult heard in the immortal riff of The Rolling Stone’s Satisfaction. With its three germanium transistor circuit with RCA 2N270 devices, it was very temperature-sensitive, but maintained a brass-like quality and a more polished tone compared to other devices in this list.
Best Harmonic Percolator Fuzz Pedals
Listen to a vintage Harmonic Percolator.
The Harmonic Percolator HP-1 was created by a small Milwaukee company in the ’70s, but raised to prominence twenty years later when producer Steve Albini made a name for himself recording iconic alt-rock artists like Pixies, Nirvana and PJ Harvey (among many others) and started telling folks how much he loved that pedal. Based on a silicon and a germanium transistor circuit, the HP-1 produces a distinctive sound that is often described as a blend of fuzz and distortion.
Best Foxx Tone Machine Clones & Variants (Octave-Up)
Listen to a vintage Foxx Tone Machine.
Warm and thick-sounding, and with a controllable octave-up effect, the Foxx Tone Machine was introduced in 1972, and came in a rectangular shape covered by a striking furry enclosure available in several different colors. It was designed by the man who went on to become the founder of guitar and pedal company Danelectro.
Best Mosrite Fuzzrite Clones
Listen to a vintage Mosrite Fuzzrite.
The Mosrite Fuzzrite is definitely a contender for the gnarly fuzz crown. Raw and buzzy, it was introduced in 1966 by Californian company Mosrite upon request of the beat band The Ventures, but became immortalized in the recording of the Stooges’ I Wanna Be Your Dog. The circuit blends in a 2nd gain stage through the Depth knob, allowing this circuit to deliver a range of tones from trashy distortion to full-on fuzz with hints of upper octaves.
Best Jordan Boss Tone Clones
Listen to a vintage Jordan Boss Tone V3.
OK, OK, the original Boss Tone was NOT a pedal, but a little box that would go directly into your guitar plug. But it was a fuzz, and a pedal version of it came out, eventually. Its circuit, comprised of two transistors and two capacitors, produced a wide range of fuzzy tones with long sustain, from smooth to piercing, often carrying a hint of a lower octave.
Best Baldwin Burns Buzzaround Clones
Listen to a vintage Burns Buzzaround.
Another mid ’60s fuzz (1966, to be precise), but one that remained semi-obscure, having lost the battle with its intended competitor, the Sola Sound Tone Bender. Its circuit, based on a 3 NKT213 Germanium transistors design, is quite similar to that pedal, with slightly different controls – including what’s in all likelihood the first Tone knob in the history of pedals! It’s an effect that cuts through thick mixes thanks to its tight low end, strong mids, and prolonged sustain.
Relevant Videos about Fuzz Pedals
The History of Fuzz Pedals in 4 Minutes (Guitar Nerds)
5 Levels of Fuzz (Rhett Shull)
The Origins of Fuzz (The JHS Show)
A Guide to Choosing a Fuzz Pedal (Reverb.com)
How to Find the Fuzz You Need (The JHS Show)