Updated Sep. 14, 2022

Wonderful Audio Nivicola Fuzz

The Wonderful Audio Nivicola is a Muff-style fuzz voiced after the Black Russian Big Muff. It uses Russian KT3102IM transistors and some KD521A diodes.

Company owner and effect designer Ralf Gottschalk delayed the scheduled March release because of the Russian assault on Ukraine, but, faced with a longer than expected war, he then decided to release it anyway, diverting 50% of the profits to a humanitarian entity active in Ukraine (more in the description under the video).

This fuzz allows for a fair amount of tone-sculpting thanks to two EQ knobs:

Tone controls bass and high frequencies, tilt-style.

Voice controls the midrange frequencies, providing scooped and boosted mids.

The Nivicola features high quality components, true bypass, DC power jack, LED with adjustable brightness.

Wonderful Audio Nivicola Fuzz, Builder’s Notes

I originally wanted to release this pedal back in March, but I decided to pull it when Putin decided to start a pointless and horrific war. Unfortunately, the war in Ukraine is still going on. So, let’s use this pedal to do some good.

I recently got an email from the World Central Kitchen and in it they stated that there are very few humanitarian aid organizations left in Ukraine, and with the coming winter, damaged infrastructure, people will be in need of heat and food. So…

50% of the sale of this limited pedal will go to the to the World Central Kitchen to support their own going effort to provide meals to the people of Ukraine.

?Nivicola is a recreation of my own personal Black Russian Big Muff. I really spent a lot of time trying to achieve the tone of the original. Sure… I could have found a schematic on the internet and used those part values for the pedal, but it wouldn’t sound the same. It wouldn’t have same texture, the same low, or even the same compression. It wouldn’t be a tribute.

?History

The Black Russian BMP has a bit of a lesser reputation compared its older Green Russian sibling. The “on paper” component values are pretty close, so why would the greens be preferred? My guess is that the Black Russians were built a little cheaper. Cheaper components means lower tolerances, which results in a different and highly variable sounding pedal. But as with all of the BMPs, throughout the history of that glorious circuit, there are “good ones” and there are “bad ones”. The components of yesteryear did not have as tight tolerances as the components of today. And the actual listed values could drift over time. So… unless you play the pedal, you really don’t know what you are going to get.

?Some years back I took the plunge and bought a Black Russian BMP. Nothing special, looked to me like a v8 small box, but I figured if I didn’t like it, I’d have a cool enclosure to mess around with. I plugged it in and was completely floored by its gnarly, woolly, and thick fuzz sound. It even sounded amazing at lower gain settings. I got one of the “good ones”. I wanted this thing on my pedal board, but it didn’t seem road worthy. It’s not true bypass, which is fine if it was buffered, but it’s not even that, so you get massive tone suck when bypassed. The pots were fairly flimsy, it’s big, and it only runs on a battery… not a fan. All of these issues were fixable, but I didn’t want to mess with my original. So, I whipped out the breadboard and began tweaking values till I was able to mimic the sound of my original unit. I tried many different transistor and diode combos, but none really nailed the sound. I just couldn’t get that nice top end, without any sizzle, it’s deep lows, and a pronounced low mid snarl. It wasn’t until I found some Russian KT3102IM transistors and some KD521A diodes that I was finally able to nail the tone. It’s not magic components, it’s about tuning the circuit to bring out the best of the components.

?So here it is… Nivicola. I did do some upgrades of course… high quality components, true bypass, DC power jack, LED with adjustable brightness, a Voice control which allows you to control the mids content of the pedal, more volume, better jacks, better pots, and a better switch. This is a tribute.