While the Dallas Arbiter Fuzz Face, Sola Sound Tone Bender, Electro Harmonix Big Muff, and Univox Super Fuzz are widely regarded as the four titans of Fuzz, there are many lesser-known Fuzz circuits that still left their mark on guitar history. This series will round up some of those less famous Fuzz circuits with cult followings and suggest some modern versions of them, starting with this article about the best Best Harmonic Percolator fuzz clones & evolutions.
Updated on May 05, 2023
The Original: The Interfax HP-1
The HP-1 lived in obscurity for decades, but thanks to the co-sign of Nirvana / Pixies engineer and Big Black / Shellac frontman Steve Albini, the Harmonic Percolator has seen a massive surge in popularity over the last few years. The HP-1 was invented in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in the early 70s by Ed Geise, who ran a small electronics repair business but sometimes built his own devices. The HP-1 was only released in a few limited runs, making the originals very hard to find. The Percolator has a splatty sound different from a Fuzz Face or Tone Bender. Albini would use the HP-1 on noisy, clangy guitar passages when he needed some intense feedback.
Best Harmonic Percolator Fuzz Clones/Evolutions
Partially responsible for the hype surrounding Harmonic Percolators over the last couple years, Land Devices’ best-known pedal is a beautifully tuned and designed HP-1. Land adds a toggle switch for removing clipping diodes, allowing for more output and a less compressed sound.
A dual gain pedal inspired by the work of indie rock producer Steve Albini. On the right is a Harmonic Percolator clone, and feeding a circuit inspired by an IVP “Tube Voice” preamp, a solid-state preamp from the ’70s responsible for a large part of Albini’s signature clangy guitar tone. Each channel has its own footswitch, but the Percolator also has in/out controls (Harm and Balance) to fine-tune the amount of saturation and fuzz. A Diode switch selects between the original settings from V1 and a more traditional, highly compressed mode, while a Hi/Lo switch changes the gain range of the Tube Voice channel.
A highly tweakable evolution of the HP-1 by a UK builder that has developed a reputation for improving vintage circuits, the Utility Perkolator employs Russian Germanium transistors for a tighter and more controllable fuzz that also features higher gain and lower noise than the vintage unit. A toggle switch lets you choose between Silicon and Germanium diodes, while the Ring toggle activates a ring modulation circuit for splattery octave effects.
UK-based Latent Lemon shoots for the sound of Steve Albini’s personal HP-1, but adds several tweaking options. A sputter control biases one of the transistors, and a diode switch chooses between Silicon or Germanium clipping diodes. The deep switch adds more bass into the signal, generating a lower octave effect.
5. Catalinbread Karma Suture (Ge or Si)
This fuzz attempts to make good on the legend that the HP-1 only generates pleasing even-order harmonics. Catalinbread adds knobs for diode tuning and fuzz density, allowing for more tonal shaping. The pedal comes in Germanium and Silicon varieties, the former sounding warmer and closer to the original HP-1, while the latter ups the gain and brightness to definitively cut through a live mix.
A Ukrainian fuzz that greatly extends the limited range of the Harmonic Percolator, making it one of the most versatile pedals of this kind on the market. It adds two more knobs (Compression and Symmetry) delivering respectively a more compressed fuzz sound and a blend of symmetrical and asymmetrical diode clipping. At noon you get the closest setting to the vintage unit. The toggle switches select Germanium or Silicon components for both the transistor and the diodes in the circuit.
If what you are after is an exact replica of the Interfax HP-1 (including the huge footprint), this is an exact, part-by-part duplicate of the original, using the same obsolete type number Germanium transistor and same number Silicon transistor and other New Old Stock parts.
An impressive multi-mode, analog Harmonic Percolator evolution with tone and starve controls and an extra boost footswitch with separate level knob. All in a compact box. The eight modes greatly expand on the limited tone range of the vintage circuit, offering Germanium, Silicon, LED, and MOSFET diode options with both symmetrical and asymmetrical clipping modes. The starve knob delivers sputtering gated fuzz tones, while the input “sweeps the input capacitance from low to high which alters the bass response.”
This is a circuit that stands out from the pack for delivering a Harmonic Percolator-inspired pedal that allows the player to recreate any variation in sound – and beyond – found in the original units, which were famously sonically unreliable. It’s an extremely tweakable stompbox with eight knobs and four toggle switches. If their abstract names (or rather, codes) confuse you, there’s a reason, as the builder explains: “…each control changes a specific part of the circuit and the sound is but a byproduct, hence the vague labels. There are many settings that yield “unmusical” sounds, but that’s the cost of this level of flexibility.” Just use your ears!
Other Fuzzes Inspired by the HP-1
Here’s a list of other fuzzes inspired by the Interfax Harmonic Percolator.