Welcome to our regularly updated guide to the best Jordan Boss Tone clones and evolutions! If you are interested in in-depth guides about other legendary fuzz circuits, you can find an index of all our fuzzy coverage in our fuzz pedal category.
List updated on April 21, 2022
The Jordan Boss Tone came onto the scene in California in 1966 and was one of the first guitar effects (and the first fuzz) that could be plugged right into your guitar jack (yep, it wasn’t originally a pedal!). It had an on/off switch that needed to be toggled by hand to activate the effect.
Although other fuzz pedals like the Maestro FZ-1 and the Tone Bender were already around, the Boss Tone became so popular that its sound ended up becoming iconic for the sound of the ’60s, found in evergreen recordings by bands like early ZZ Top and Norman Greenbaum, who famously used it in the guitar riff of his hit single Spirit In The Sky.
The Original Jordan Boss Tone
The circuit of the Jordan Boss Tone was incredibly simple – just two transistors and two capacitors – and tweaking its two knobs (named Attack and Volume) would produce a variety of fuzzy tones with long sustain ranging from the singing and smooth to the piercing and hissy, often carrying a hint of a lower octave.
A common critique of the Boss Tone circuit is its lack of low end, but this is also what makes the Boss Tone great for stacking with boosts, EQs or drives, and why it remains in the arsenal of modern players like Dan Auerbach today.
Jordan Electronics, the company that manufactured the Boss Tone has a fascinating story dating back to the ’20s – you can hear it in the video below by The JHS Show.
Jordan released several versions of the Boss Tone in its original form factor, all with slight variations in tone. You can hear a shoot-out of the various versions here.
The Best Jordan Boss Tone Clones and Evolutions
For mysterious reasons probably related to taste and marketing, after the initial “boom” the Boss Tone didn’t maintain the level of popularity other vintage fuzz circuits like the Big Muff or the Fuzz Face have enjoyed. Nonetheless, it is still considered a unique fuzz, and although it now exists in pedal-shaped reissues released by the original company, several other builders big and small have been trying to replicate, perfect or develop its sound through their own releases.
Here’s the list of our favorite Boss Tone Clones and Evolutions, starting with the reissue by Mahoney, current owner of Jordan Electronics.
Mahoney is the company that bought Jordan Electronics and owns the original circuit. Their Buzz Tone is a faithful recreation of what’s known as the “Nashville” variation of the Jordan Boss Tone, which was the final version and the longest in production. The Buzz Tone retains its smoother voice with a hint of low octave harmonics. The same circuit is also available in the original plug-in form factor for $40 less.
A bit of a red herring of a name (Keith Richards used a Mestro FZ-1 on Satisfaction), the Satisfaction Fuzz is nonetheless tuned to perfectly capture that 60s honky, buzzy flavor. 70 dollars and two knobs are all you need to go back in time to the golden age of fuzz – with added true bypass.
Another misnomer! This is not actually a Univox Super Fuzz, it’s a Boss Tone clone! Voodoo Labs adds Tone and Resonance knobs to shore up any tonal shortcomings of the original circuit, and pumps up the output volume to bring the circuit into the modern era.
Germain builders KMA are never short on creative fuzz ideas. For their Fuzzly Bear, they started off with a Boss Tone, but brought back the low end and added a bias control for sputtering, gated chaos. Like many good ’60s-style fuzz circuits, the Fuzzly Bear will clean up with your volume knob and turn into a crunchy overdrive at lower levels. V2 adds updated electronics, top-mounted jacks, and a soft switch upgrade for the footswitch.
As is custom with Basic Audio pedals, the Texsur stays true to the past while adding modern features. Tone and Starve controls allow for versatility and gnarly gating. An octave-up toggle switch brings out that iconic ring mod-esque octave sound. Combining the octave-up with the Bias control introduces a whole world of gating fuzz possibilities.
Let’s just ignore the name and focus on how this hand-built pedal sounds. And it sounds fantastic! A faithful recreation of the original California”v1 Boss Tone and the later Nashville-made models, beloved by lap steel players. A toggle allows the user to switch between the buzzy, honky California mode and the more bass heavy, compressed Nashville mode. See also the (sigh) “Double Dick” version that includes one of each circuit with separate footswitches for stacking.
An older, out-of-production, hand-made clone of the Jordan Boss Tone fuzz that’s still sought after for its unique tonal flexibility and quality constructions, with used units selling for a small fortune on Reverb. It can sound like an Octavia at lower fuzz settings and get close to a fuzz face at medium ones, without losing the Bossaround’s typical long sustain and cutting edge.
St. Louis’ Bearfoot FX made two models inspired by the Boss Tone, both using Silicon clipping diodes: the now discontinued Burgundy Bosshorsne and the more recent (but also hard to find) Gnarwahl, which is available in a compact case with just three knobs and one footswitch or in “Plus” version, hosted larger case (like in this picture) with six knob and two footswitches. Explosive and, as the name suggests, as gnarly as it gets, the Gnarlwahl Plus is one of the most flexible Boss Tone evolutions, thanks to controls like “Hair” and “Balls” and an extra footswitch to switch between two fuzz settings.
This is a faithful clone of the Boss Tone in the same plug-in format as the original, launched by JHS for the launch of their 2021 video episode fully dedicated to that circuit. There are only 100 units on the market, and currently sell for around $200.