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This article was originally published in issue #28
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Fuzz is one of those effects you either love or hate. I fit very much in the love camp, with the tones of guys like Eric Johnson and Jimi Hendrix being right up there with the ones I itch to achieve. I also fit into the camp of never being comfortable actually using a fuzz, so for me it's a constant battle of finding a pedal that both sounds great and feels good to play through. Enter the King Fuzz from British builder Bigfoot Engineering.
Inspired by the modern tones of The Black Keys axeman Dan Auerbach, Bigfoot has designed its pedal from the ground up. This silicon transistor based fuzz has all of the consistency you'd expect with this style of circuit (versus the less predictable response you get from a germanium circuit), but without ever getting too bright or harsh as you kick it up into crazy territory.
In terms of build, we have relatively standard affair, two knobs on a nice sized metal box, a single footswitch and a power input (though you can certainly run it from a battery if you choose). The enclosure has been finished in yellow and features a comical little lion graphic. This won't change the sound of the pedal of course, but it doesn't hurt to have some character on your board!
The most interesting feature of this pedal is that the gain control actually alters the gain of two separate transistors in the circuit simultaneously, which gives the pedal a unique feel compared to say, a Fuzz Face or a Big Muff. From my own perspective I felt the gain had a much more natural curve to it as you turned the knob, kind of like the difference between a log vs. audio taper on a pot.
One of the other key aims of the designer was apparently to retain a thunderous low end in the EQ, without losing any upper mids, which allows you to retain definition in the notes while using such a heavily compressed fuzz.
The thing that struck me most about this pedal is just how much the volume knob (on the pedal) gives you. On most fuzz pedals it feels very “set and forget”, stick all the knobs on ten and ride the volume knob (on the guitar) to get by. That doesn't work on the King Fuzz as the volume knob has a deafening amount of volume in it. You could absolutely roll the gain back and kick the volume up and use this like a dirty boost. So in order to use this as a classic fuzz your best bet is to get your amp where you want it then adjust the volume on the pedal so they're at similar levels, then dig into the gain knob.
Again, most fuzz pedals work best with the gain on 10, and while this particular pedal certainly rocks up there, there are a wide variety of tones to be found as you're turning the gain up. You can easily dial in some softer Zeppelin type distortion before pushing it into meltdown.
From my personal perspective, this pedal excels when the gain is all the way up and I'm instantly presented with a fuzz that actually makes the guitar easier to play, rather than having me recoil in horror when I stand on the pedal. It delivers surprising versatility for such a simple design, and that should be applauded.
Bigfoot Engineering may not be the most widely known name in the pedal business but it already has some interesting users (Marc Ford - The Black Crowes, Brendan Benson -The Raconteurs and Stephen Street - Blur/Graham Coxon) and you can buy either off its own website, or there are retailers in the UK, USA and Australia. We'd like to see more from this interesting company.