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This article was originally published in issue #37
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Back in issue 30's Bassment we looked at the Red Witch Factotum 'Sub Octave Drive' pedal and were highly impressed. Now the New Zealand based FX company has come right back with another corker. We're giving one away in this issue too, so read on!
The story goes bassists have been raving to Red Witch about the company’s Fuzz God II guitar pedal and had been looking for something that would work with bass guitar. Ben Fulton, company owner and designer, took the Fuzz God II's key ingredients and melded them in to a new pedal featuring not one but two separate effects that can also be blended together for an aural onslaught that will have your guitarists running for cover, or being unable to stop themselves from boogie-ing on down with some tasty retro groove sounds. That is - always assuming they don't try to swipe it for themselves!
So, check out the video to hear how it sounds and here's a run through of the details.
On the left hand side of the front panel is just a single control and its related footswitch. Press the button and a blue LED lights to show that you have engaged an all-analogue circuit octave effect. The single octave mix control allows you to go from a completely dry bass signal to just hearing the octave down effect on its own - and of course everything in between as you sweep the knob around its travel. Find that sweet spot for some Pino Palladino-style cool fretless bass work, or max the knob out for a dubby almost synth like earthquake for your dub step band!
On the right hand side, three knobs govern the ‘filth’ department! Disengaging the octave effect for a moment, then stepping on the right hand foot switch, the same LED element emits a red light instead to warn you things are about to get hot. The fuzz circuit is built around a pair of BC109 transistors and absolutely nails that classic retro fuzz sound for me when you hit that 'sweet spot'. The fuzz mix control governs your blend between dry bass and fuzz sound and on the far right hand side, you have access to exactly how much fuzz saturation you want to add. Everything from the slightest 'digital clip' to an all out face-melting sizzle comes your way at the turn of this single control. It doesn’t end there though. Here's an interesting inclusion. In between those two knobs sits a little chap called 'Sputter'. It's sort of hard to describe in words what this control does to your bass sound, but it affects the operation of the second transistor in the circuit. Turning the knob creates a bit of noise on its own which designer Ben mentions is completely normal as it adjusts the DC Bias on said transistor. The effect is a sort of gating or 'chopping' effect to the notes as you pull the control counter-clockwise. Your fuzzy sustain seems to disappear. Notes when they drop below a volume threshold suddenly stop giving you a sharp staccato sound. I love it!
Across the top of the pedal are a pair of switches. The left one operates a gain boost for the fuzz and the other is a 'top boost' changing the treble character of the fuzz effect. If all of this tweaking isn't enough for you, under the bonnet the Zeus has a pair of trim pots that can set the master volumes of the octave and fuzz effects either below or above unity gain should you need it.
The fun just doesn’t end there - as both effects can be enabled simultaneously, the LED glows a super purple colour - call it 'fabulous mode' if you like – but for me, the octave and fuzz effects running inline with each other sounds superb. Much like the Red Witch Factotum, it's one of those pedals that seems to be greater than the sum of its parts when engaged. Especially as you get two great effects in one small box rather than shelling out for an array of separate pedal board dwellers.
This one is also finished in a shiny mirror casing which won't help you read the lettering under bright lights on stage for each control, but this thing doesn't need a degree in electronics to operate. No problem there.
The signal path is full range; engaging the pedal will not eat up your low end in the same way that using a dedicated guitar type distortion will do when you stamp on it mid-performance. The key functionality of this pedal that I love is the ability to blend your clean bass sound in to the mix of each effect half
Being two pedals in one box and that they are equally equipped to serving the low end, the pedal of course scores highly. Add to that the ease of use, tones available and the dashing good looks, there's a recipe for success. Now all you have to do is keep your guitarist's hands off it. Did I mention that it works with guitar? Don't let on...