The widely-praised MXR Custom Badass team has added a groundbreaking new member to its ranks: the Super Badass Distortion. The Custom Badass line’s previous designs—the award-winning ’78 Distortion and Modified O.D.—are suped-up versions of classic circuits for players who want a premium, high quality take on those specific tones. The Super Badass is a different beast entirely.
With a completely new circuit design and specially-tuned Bass, Mid, and Treble controls, the Super Badass is a distortion pedal that provides unparalleled versatility to players who want a more personalized sound.
So how does this distortion pedal stand apart from the rest? Check out our interview with Dunlop Senior Engineer Bob Cedro and Dunlop guitar gurus Bryan Kehoe and Frank Aresti about conception and design of the pedal.
What goal were you trying to achieve when you started this project?
Frank Aresti: We wanted a distortion pedal that could run the gamut from ’70s rock to modern day metal, and we wanted it to nail every sound in that spectrum. Bob Cedro made that happen and then some. This is not a generic-sounding “jack of all trades, master of none” pedal. It’s a different kind of distortion pedal—different from anything we’ve ever done and different from anything else out there.
Bob, how did you make that happen?
Bob Cedro: The Super Badass owes its versatility to two elements: its gain circuitry and its EQ section. It’s got a ton of pre-distortion circuit gain on tap—up to 60dB. At lower gain settings, the pedal’s circuitry reconfigures the frequency response to bring out the presence and clarity of your guitar tone. Lower settings give you an organic, dry-like overdrive. Crank it and you get super saturation.
Bryan Kehoe: Yes—that versatility blew me away. I haven’t seen any pedals out there that display this wide of a range. Cleanish boost, bluesy overdrive, all out metal—the Super Badass sounds like it was specifically designed for any sound you dial-in.
BC: Exactly, that was the idea. And that brings us to the other important element: the EQ section. Rather than a single Tone control, I went with separate Bass, Mid, and Treble controls and tuned them for a very high level of sensitivity.
FA: Each of of those controls is completely responsive across its entire range. The Bass knob goes from tight and focused to huge and pounding, and the Treble goes from smoky to searing while always sounding musical. The Mid control perfectly complements both. These controls really let you give the distortion your own character and personality.
BK: And that’s really what this pedal is about. Can you use it as a multi-purpose distortion box? Absolutely, but it’s so much more than that.
What type of player would be most interested in this pedal? Blues? Hard rock? Shredder?
BK: Roots guys and rock guys, metal guys and country guys, blues, indie and shoe gazing guys—they’ll all dig it.
FA: Weekend warriors in cover bands, aspiring guitar heroes, the Super Badass is for players of any level and playing situation. It gives you a high level of control, but it’s also very easy to use.
What’s the best way to use this pedal? Any particular guitar and amp setup? Will it sound good with active pickups?
FA: We tested the Super Badass with both single coils and humbuckers, with Strats and Les Pauls, and with active and passive pickups. We made sure it sounded great with any combination.
As for amps, we designed this pedal with a clean amp in mind. It sounds great as a clean boost in front of a dirty amp, but mostly we wanted to give players massive control at their feet, where they can tweak each variable to their tastes, independent of any amp grit.
BK: I’m really digging this pedal with a Les Paul through a pushed Marshall type amp. Slamming the input with a bunch of gain and volume, pushes the amp to a great gain stage, a la EVH!
Check out our awesome demos of the MXR Super Badass below, and then go get one for yourself and put the whole range of distortion at your feet, from organic amp-like overdrive to full-on saturation.
Instruments and amps are tools, like a painter’s brush, a writer’s pen or a carpenter’s hammer. Unlike those tools, however, a musician’s tools often carry a value that goes beyond the financial and utilitarian. Maybe you have a guitar that your grandfather passed on to you, or maybe you found a bass at a garage sale for a hundred bucks that feels and sounds like a million bucks. In either case, you want to hold on to it, along with all the rest of your gear.
Do you take the necessary steps to keep that gear safe and sound? Here are some guidelines that you need to follow if you want to keep your instruments and other equipment around for a while.
Don’t make it easy for a thief—watch where you leave your gear
The simplest and most effective way to protect your gear from theft is to be mindful of where you leave it. The following guidelines may seem like common sense, but if you peruse any Craigslist music listings or online forums, you’ll soon come across a poor soul or three who ignored one or more of these guidelines and got ripped off.
Never leave gear in your car. Far too many players have left their instrument in a car overnight and found it broken into the next morning. Don’t do it. In fact, don’t ever leave gear in your car unattended—it doesn’t take overnight to break into a car. You can get ripped off just as easily while powering down a burger and fries at the diner after a show.
Don’t leave your instrument unattended at a gig. You’re done with soundcheck and the guys want to head across the street and grab a burrito before the show starts, so you put your guitar or bass in a gig bag and lean it up against the wall on or near the stage. Who’s looking after it? The bartenders are tending bar, the sound guy is checking sound levels and musicians from other bands are hauling gear in and out. No one’s looking after your stuff but you, and there’s a lot happening. Strap your axe onto your back take it with you into the burrito shop. It may be inconvenient, but it’s worth it if you don’t want someone to walk off with your instrument.
Don’t leave your gear around your home where it can be seen from outside. It doesn’t take a musician to know that instruments are expensive. When a snooping would-be burglar can see your shiny black Strat and Fender Twin amp from your house’s front window or your back porch’s sliding glass door, your home instantly becomes a more attractive target.
Keep detailed records
In the unlikely event that, after following the guidelines above, somebody steals your instrument, you will need certain documents to help police and others keep an eye out for it and verify that it’s yours.
Keep the following records in multiple places, both physical and digital:
-General make and model information
-Distinguishing marks such as scratches or dents
-Any upgrades you’ve made (tuners, pickups, etc.)
-Photos from various angles (make sure logos, serial numbers and distinguishing marks are visible)
Also, write your initials or some other means of identification on a piece of tape and stick it somewhere such as behind the neck plate or inside the control cavity.
Keeping these details on hand, along with being mindful of where you keep your gear, will help you avoid the overwhelming majority of situations that leave people gearless. If you want even more assurance, however, there are further steps you can take.
Sign up with a company that specializes in instrument insurance
Your music gear might already be covered by a general property/homeowner’s/renter’s policy—you should check that out if you’re not sure—but it would behoove you to look into an insurance policy offered by a company that specializes in musical instruments. These companies know players and they know gear, so they have policies designed around the specific mishaps that can befall us. Their policies tend to be much more comprehensive than general property insurance policies.
Before signing up, get your equipment appraised by someone who specializes in instrument appraisal, and get it in writing. If you can, find someone who is certified by an organization such as the American Society of Appraisers. Getting your instrument appraised will help you establish an agreed upon value with your insurance company and help to avoid later disputes. After you get your stuff appraised, do some research—check out the different musical instrument insurance companies and see what works for you. Some specialize in certain types of coverage.
One of our guys uses Clarion Insurance and he’s very happy with it. Some other companies to check out are the Anderson Group and Heritage Insurance. You can check out this article for a more in-depth discussion of this subject.
Put a microchip or a tracking device inside your instrument
OK, you’ve lost your guitar. You’ve given the police copies of your records, but nothing’s turning up. If your guitar has a microchip or a GPS tracker in it, there may yet be hope.
Microchips—the same devices used to ID pets—are relatively cheap, running around $25. Each chip has a unique code that is registered in your name. When you report your instrument stolen to a microchip manufacturer such as Snagg, the company will notify police, property investigators, and pawn shops with make/model information and photographs through numerous databases. If your guitar is found and someone scans the chip, it can be instantly identified as yours. Battery life is extremely long, and microchips tend to only use power when they are scanned, so you should never have to worry about it losing power.
The main drawback to microchips is that they do not track location. Their usefulness relies on someone noticing the microchip, recognizing it for what it is, and then taking it to a police department to be scanned.
GPS trackers, on the other hand, can tell you where your stuff is. There’s a wide variety of quality and prices out there, mostly related to the size and battery life of the devices. Size and battery life, however, are the main drawbacks—the smallest GPS trackers are much larger than a microchip and battery life is limited. Keep one in your gig bag or instrument case and turn it on if you leave for a gig. Turn it off when you get home.
Store your vintage instruments in a heavy-duty steel guitar safe
Vintage guitars and basses can be worth thousands of dollars apiece. Got more than one? It’s probably time to consider a guitar safe. Another Dunlop guy recently purchased a safe from Guitars4Stars.com. Their safes are made from high-grade steel and are built to withstand both high temperatures and drilling, so they’re resistant to disaster as well as theft.
These safes ain’t cheap—they start at just under $1,700—but that’s much less than what most vintage instruments are worth. And if any of your instruments has priceless personal value to you, well…it doesn’t sound like such an unreasonable investment does it?
What to do if your stuff does get stolen
First, you should file a report with the police and provide them with all the information you can (remember what we said about keeping records?). Then, you should take advantage of the awesome power that is social media. Broadcast the theft of your instrument on Facebook and Twitter, with pictures, and ask your friends to spread the word around. Post on Craigslist. Then, go to a website such as Musical Chairs and add information about your instrument to their database. Over the next several days and weeks, check out local pawn shops, used instrument shops, and online listings on websites such as Craigslist and eBay to see if anything turns up. With a police report and the other records you’ve kept, you can probably get a pawn shop or a used instrument shop to sell your instrument back to you at the price they paid for it.
Whether you get your stuff back or not, consider what you could have done to prevent the theft in the first place. Sometimes, there’s nothing you could have done, but in most cases you can avoid theft by thinking ahead, using common sense, taking some key precautions, and always erring on the side of caution.
We’re digging the new Alice In Chains album so much, and we really enjoyed connecting fans with Jerry Cantrell for our recent Dunlop On The Record interview, that we decided to have some fun this week and give away a Jerry Cantrell Signature Cry Baby, along with a JC95 bottom plate autographed by Jerry!
Jerry favors wah-wahs with a wider, darker response, and Dunlop has painstakingly replicated that moody sound to create his signature pedal. It’s custom-voiced for a tight, punchy heel-down tone, and a rugged side-control knob lets you fine tune the toe-down frequency. With its antique, oxidized “road worn” brass casting and custom Alice in Chains tread, this is one pedal that looks as great as it sounds.
Enter to win this pedal: Read the recent Cantrell interview we posted, “Dunlop on The Record: Alice In Chains’ Jerry Cantrell,” in which he answers fans’ questions, and use the comments section below to tell us which Dunlop artists you’d like to see go On The Record with Dunlop next!
We’ll randomly select a winner of the Cantrell Wah this Friday, June 14, and announce it on the Dunlop Facebook page.
One entry per user, open only to residents of the United States.
Last month we asked our Facebook, Twitter and Google+ communities to post questions for Alice In Chains’ Jerry Cantrell. We chose the 11 best questions about his writing process, gear, playing style and other fun stuff, and sent them to Jerry, who recently answered them…
Eric B. asks… I’ve always been a fan of your tasteful and well-phrased leads. Do you write them out before you record them, or just hit “Record” and go for it a few times?
I’ve never been an off-the-cuff solo guy. I’ve always approached solos as a part of the song, so just as I write other parts of a song to make sense with each other, I generally like to work solos out before I record them. Sometimes I make stuff up on the fly, but mostly I like to work them out. A solo is a special part of a song, it’s kind of a vocal line and a unique performance, so it’s gotta say something, it’s gotta sing, and it doesn’t have to be too long either, not for what we do.
Doug W. asks… I noticed that you’ve got the Talk Box back in the mix after going a while without using one. How did you decide to start using it again?
On most of my records, there’s at least one song that I use a Talk Box on. But it’s something can easily be over used—there are few signature Talk Box guys who can use it as much as they want, the obvious one being Peter Frampton, Joe Walsh is another, and one of my favorite guitar players—and I think that’s why I put it away. I just don’t use it throughout a whole show, and I had been replicating that sound, especially on “Man In A Box,” with a Cry Baby. But it’s a good thing to have in there, it sounds killer and it’s fun to play.
Dominic M. asks… How did you find your signature tone? Did it just come to you, or did it take a lot of time experimenting with gear?
I remember reading stories about this in old magazines, but I figured out for myself pretty quickly that it doesn’t really matter what gear you’re playing on—you’re gonna sound how you sound. Gear can color it—I mean a Les Paul sounds like a Les Paul and a Strat sounds like a Strat, so there’s two different tones there, and you can alter some of your tones by your gear—but mostly your tone is in your hands and that’s just the way it is.
I remember hearing stories of Van Halen opening for Ted Nugent, and Nugent going out to watch Eddie, saying, “What is this guy playing through?!” Then he went and plugged into Eddie’s stuff, and he sounded like Ted Nugent. I have first hand knowledge of that: When we toured with Van Halen, sometimes I’d be late getting to sound check and Ed would be on stage playing with my band, plugged into my stuff, and he sounded like Eddie Van Halen. And when I played through his stuff, I sounded like me. So gear can only get you so far with tone and sound adjustment, but basically at some point, you are who you are, and that is literally in your flesh. You know, it’s not the car, it’s the driver.
Tim H. asks… Which do you prefer to play: rhythm or lead guitar? Does one dictate the other in terms of writing new material?
I’ve always approached guitar playing from a rhythm guitar standpoint. I grew up being heavily influenced by guitar tandems, and one guy was generally more of the rhythm player. Malcom Young to Angus Young, Rudolf Schenker to Michael Schenker, Smith and Murray in Maiden, Tipton and Downing in Priest… So I always start with the rhythm, and the music always starts with the rhythm, because if you don’t have the rhythm, and you don’t have the riff or the groove, you’ve got nothing to solo over. Soloing is important, but for me, rhythm is always first and foremost.
Shane C. asks… When you write a song, does the music come first, or is it the lyrics? Or a little of both?
Ninety five percent of the time it’s the music first. It’s about the riffs and the body of the sound that generally produces a vocal melody, and lyrics come last. You get the riffs first, you put the riffs together and you get the body of a song, which inspires a melody, and you sing nonsense lyrics to get the melodies right, and when you’ve got a good melody, then you decide what you want to write about. There are exceptions, like when you get a melody line and a lyrical phrase first, but usually it’s the music first and then the lyrics.
Quentin N. asks… After almost 25 years through AIC and solo projects, what do you do to stay original, innovative and keep your signature guitar style without being repetitive?
Half the battle is finding your own unique sound, or your music fingerprint, that people will recognize. But really, it’s just how you naturally sound, so I don’t have to think about holding on to that because I sound how I sound. That’s good, and that’s where you wanna be—you want to naturally sound like you. As for the variety of the writing material in the different areas of the band, I think it’s pretty apparent by all the records that we’ve done. I’ve been in a really great band that’s been able to move in a lot of variant voicings and incorporate a lot of elements from different kinds of music in making our own, from acoustic to the heavy stuff, and everything in between.
But you have to trust in the fact that you’re going to sound how you sound, and the way you keep fresh and moving forward is sort of forgetting about what you did the in past. But I don’t really need to think about that, and I’ve been really fortunate in that aspect, not only with myself but with my band. I trust that we’re going to be okay, and that we’re doing something good. In my opinion, we haven’t done anything crappy yet, which is cool—it’s the best thing I could ask for. Also, we’ve had a long career, we’ve made a lot of records, and every record is different from every other one before it. Keeping fresh just means making another record and writing new songs. Keeping your signature sound? That’s just who you are.
Justin V. asks… Where do you draw inspiration for the quality of your writing? The imagery is amazingly fantastic, and your work always inspires me to pick up a guitar and a pen.
When I first started playing, I was inspired by everybody that I ever enjoyed listening to, and some of them weren’t even guitar players. But you know, you start off emulating your heroes, for me it was learning AC/DC songs, UFO, Black Sabbath, Van Halen—those were a small portion of many bands that influenced me to start—but also had a lot of friends who played in cover bands, and I learned early on that it was not the move I wanted to be making. I wanted to be writing my own stuff, like all those great players and bands were. So not only was I inspired to learn how to play guitar, but I was also inspired to learn how to write songs like those bands were writing for themselves. I knew that was the ticket, rather than playing everybody else’s stuff three sets a night in a top 40 cover band.
But ultimately, you find inspiration where ever you find it. It’s not some big artsy-fartsy, flowery, ethereal thing for me, it’s more of a gut-level thing, and it happens when it happens. I’ve been able to train myself over the years to know at least initially if an idea is good enough to follow, and also to learn to record any idea—because my perspective on it may change over time—and then do what it takes to make that idea happen. You need to sit there with your guitar and hit record and keep doing it and doing it until it happens.
Justin P. asks… What does Jerry the “regular guy” do for fun?
It was poker for a while, and I still love the game—it’s a nice activity for not thinking about anything other than what you’re doing—and I used to fish quite a bit, which I haven’t done lately as much as I should, because I love getting outside. A big part of being a musician is spending time in really confined spaces with a lot of other people, so it’s really good to get out of that environment and get outside. You know, you’re in a studio, in a hotel room, in a van, plane, or a dressing room, a venue—all enclosed spaces—so anything that can get you outside is a good thing. So yeah, I love fishing, especially deep sea fishing. Golf is another great activity. I’m totally shitty at it but I love to play, and it’s more about getting outside and doing something that I can focus on, and it’s a little healthy, and fun and competitive, and I love that too.
Rodney B. asks… If you were on a deserted island with one 120 volt plug, what one guitar and amp would you wish you had?
Hmmm…so I have power and a plug? I’d trade the guitar and the amp for a very large refrigerator full of food.
Mike N. asks… What’s a guilty pleasure fans might not expect from you—a musical taste, piece of gear, hobby, etc.?
I don’t know if it’s necessarily a guilty pleasure, but I’ve always been a fan of learning, and I’ve been curious about and interested in who we are and where we are. I’ve always liked learning about science—geology, astronomy, all that stuff. I’m not a super egghead, but I like to watch the Discovery Channel and the Science Channel, and I read National Geographic and Scientific American magazines. I’m interested in the bigger picture of what’s out there, and the amazing amount of knowledge that’s been gathered over the last several hundred years about the reality of the planet we live on and the system it’s a part of. I’m interested in the cycle of life, and all things related to the truth of existence.
Gustavo F. asks… What’s the weirdest/funniest thing that’s happened to you on stage?
That guy in the wheelchair on stage the other night…that was weird, and I remember there being a raccoon on stage on the last tour. There are so many nutty things that happen out here. It’s like a circus or a pirate ship, and when you constantly come into contact with other pirate bands, you get a bunch of us together, and shit just happens. A lot of pranks get pulled on stage, it’s kind of a tradition to fuck with each other at the end of the tour, especially the opening bands. I remember the Van Halen guys got us like four times in one set, back in ’91, at the end of that tour. When we came out on stage, they had taken a bunch of three-foot strips of duct tape and put them all over the stage face-up, so we walked out and within the couple seconds we were all dragging around huge wads of duct tape on stage. They sent out some strippers, not very attractive ones, who stayed out there for a whole song. Then they sent out one of their techs, I think he was a guy named Zeke, in a Little Bo Peep outfit with some live sheep. And at the very end of our set, we were playing “Man In The Box,” and their crew came out and started dismantling our entire set around us—they left Sean with a kick and snare, left me with one cab, they just unplugged Mike Starr. And that was all in one set! I don’t think anyone has ever topped that commitment to fucking with the opening act.
On the flip side of that, there’s a photo, which I think some people have seen, but I don’t think is necessarily public knowledge… So Van Halen used to do this signature walk across the stage, and at the time they had these skimpy panties that they would sell to the chicks in the audience. Really skimpy panties. So we took some of these panties and put them on—of course they weren’t big enough keep our junk in, so we had to turn them around with the butt parts in front to keep our stuff together—and put on some combat boots, and we made ourselves up as strippers and did that Van Halen signature walk across the stage behind them, and they didn’t know it was happening, except for Alex. There’s a great photo of it, taken right as Eddie turns around and realizes what’s going on, and he’s totally losing it. He’s one of those guys who never fucks up. I’ve seen him play in so many different states, and he’s always on, but hearing him miss a couple notes while getting a laugh out of us was great.
Lamb of God came screaming into Los Angeles on Sunday, May 26th to play the Ventura Theater, where fans lined up hours before the show to catch the band.
They played a crush set, driven in part by Dunlop artist Mark Morton—Dunlop Strings, MXR, Tortex Picks and Crybaby—who absolutely killed it with his riffs and EVH90 phase driven leads.
Here are some pictures we got at the show…
Rock on the Range in Columbus, OH is the premiere American hard rock festival, and Dunlop had a ton of artists on the bill at this year’s show representing our Picks, Strings, MXR, Crybaby, and accessories lines, so of course we were on hand to document the show.
We caught sets by, and took photos of, Alice In Chains, Soundgarden, Korn, Stone Sour, Papa Roach, Volbeat, Young Gunns, Steel Panther, Black Veil Brides, Lamb Of God, In This Moment, Halestorm, Ghost, CheapTrick, All That Remains, and Asking Alexandria…
The MXR Prime Distortion will be available on Wednesday, May 22, exclusively at Guitar Center and Musician’s Friend in the U.S. for only $49.99, but in the meantime, we’re offering three lucky players the chance to win one. Read on…
The MXR Prime Distortion conjures up vintage hard clipping that’s raw, powerful and highly responsive to your attack. With its classic Output, Tone and Distortion control setup, this pedal’s huge, articulate sound is easy to dial in. The Prime Distortion packs a huge punch when you dig in, but it also cleans up when you pull back.
We’ve designed this 100% analog distortion with low noise op amps, so you won’t get any extra noise added to your signal. Like all MXR pedals, the Prime Distortion comes in a heavy-duty housing with durable jacks and switches for a lifetime on the road. Watch our demo…
Enter to win one of three MXR Prime Distortions by using the comments section below to tell us your favorite distorted rhythm guitar line — what song, by who, which album it’s on, and why you love it.
We’ll run this giveaway over the weekend, and announce the winner on Monday morning, so we can ship the prizes and have them in winners’ hands by the Wednesday on-sale date. (One entry per user, valid for US users only… but don’t worry global guitarists, we’ll run similar giveaways for other countries once this pedal ships internationally.)
We were fortunate to have the Bottle Rock Napa Valley Festival right in our Bay Area back yard, so of course we were there to catch all the on-stage action, and Dunlop’s Bryan Kehoe was there on Thursday May 9th, and reports…
“The drive up to Napa was fantastic. One couldn’t ask for a better day—it wasn’t too hot or too cold, it was just right. I pulled into the artist parking area backstage, and immediately ran into the Primus crew. I brought Les Claypool an MXR Bass D.I., an MXR 10 Band EQ, and an MXR M87 Bass comp. I also brought guitarist Ler Lalonde a Dime Cry Baby from Hell, which sounded amazing during their set.
Next, LA proto-punkers X came onto the stage and just killed it! After their set, I was able to hang with vocalist/bass player John Doe and lead guitarist Billy Zoom a bit. I dropped off a bag of Herco Flex 75 picks for John, and then we talked about our favorite restaurants in the Bay Area.
I got to meet Joan Jett, which was a big thrill. She was coming out of her dressing room/ tent when I was talking with Claypool, and he Les was kind enough to introduce us. I’ve been a big fan ever since her days with the Runaways. Later, I was able to talk with her tech about the custom imprint Tortex Fin she uses.
Later on, I hung out with the Avett Brothers in their tent. They’re a bunch of really cool, down to earth guys, and they were kind enough to offer me a couple of beers! I dropped off some custom acoustic strings for them to try—I think they’ll like ‘em. Later, I tell you what, when they played, you could barely hear the band over the screams of thousands of nice looking ladies. You’d have thought the Beatles were playing.
Next, I dropped off a prototype Way Huge pedal—hand-painted by legendary rock artists Alan Forbes—to Black Crowes guitarist Rich Robinson’s tech, Doug. Doug popped it in the rack right away and they used it that day! Doug also showed me some of Rich’s killer guitars. I enjoyed their set from the side of the stage. Having this kind of access is KILLER!
As the sun came down, Primus took the stage with their 3D video screen set. It was a true assault on the senses. I’m sure the audience was well lubricated by that time, and we all enjoyed the show. I, myself, was a bit blurry due to my extended stay at the Tipsy Roadie Lounge, where I had a number of Triple Rye shots with a pickle juice back. Sounds crazy, but it was surprisingly good!”
Dunlop staff photographer Mick Waller stayed on throughout the duration of the festival, and captured a ton of great images of acts like The Black Crowes, Primus, X, The Black Keys, The Flaming Lips, Bad Religion, The Avett Brothers, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Ben Harper, Rodrigo y Gabriela and more…
We dropped in on the Carolina Rebellion festival last weekend to enjoy a bunch of good music, and to catch up with friends and all the Dunlop Strings, Picks, MXR and Crybaby who were on the bill, including Alice In Chains, Halestorm, In This Moment, Papa Roach, Deftones, Bullet For My Valentine, Young Guns, Steel Panther, All That Remains, and more.
We snapped a ton of photos throughout the event, so we thought we’d share the best of them here…
Up next: Rock On The Range, so stay tuned for more photos!
By guest contributor Darrin Fox
In stompbox lore, the Fuzz Face® Distortion reigns supreme. Its uncanny ability to add harmonic richness and “hair” around clean tones at lower settings is as satisfying as the full-on roar it wields when dimed and raging. With a roster of power users that includes guitar legends and modern heroes from David Gilmour and Jimi Hendrix to Eric Johnson and Joe Bonamassa, the Fuzz Face has a unique, unmistakable sound no matter the player.
The only thing more identifiable than the sound of the Fuzz Face, however, is its appearance—the classic round enclosure is quite possibly the most rugged piece of musical housing ever devised. Legend has it that the iconic design was inspired by the circular base of a mic stand. Due to its size and shape, though, the Fuzz Face’s round enclosure takes up a hefty chunk of pedalboard real estate. Sure, you can get the same circuit in a small, square box, but that’s just not the same, is it?
Well, if you crave the Fuzz Face’s unique character but don’t want to make room for the standard models, look no further than the new Fuzz Face Mini line. With housings less than half the size of the original, the first round of Fuzz Face Minis features three different flavors of fuzz: Silicon, Germanium, and Jimi Hendrix.
Dunlop didn’t stop with reducing the Fuzz Face’s footprint, though—these pedals come with several upgrades for modern convenience. Each Fuzz Face Mini features a status on/off LED and an AC power jack, and the input and output jacks have been flipped to accommodate modern pedalboard layouts. And they’re all still true bypass.
Each of these tiny pedals provides its own distinct take on the classic Fuzz Face recipe. To test them, I used a variety of Fender Strats and Teles as well as a Gibson SG Standard, an SG Special, and a Les Paul. For amps, I plugged into various Fender combos, a 50-watt non-master mid-’70s Marshall, and a late ’60s Sound City head, both running through a Marshall 4×12 loaded with Celestion Vintage 30s.
FFM1 Silicon Fuzz Face Mini
Drawn up from a 1970 Fuzz Face and sporting a matched pair of BC108 silicon transistors, the FFM1 is an aggressive sounding fuzz with a hefty amount of attitude and punch. With an abundance of detailed top-end, the FFM1 takes nicely to humbucker-equipped guitars, contributing a fire-breathing brand of kuckle draggin’ riffage and honking solo lines to the hallowed Fuzz Face gene pool. The FFM1 also shines with Strats and Telecasters, yielding searing, yet classic-sounding fuzz tones that are easily customized via your guitar’s volume and tone controls, as well as your playing attack.
Of the three Fuzz Face Minis, the FFM 1 is the toughest to tame—it wants to rock with abandon as it stays snarling even in its cleanest incarnations. But like a good vintage Fuzz Face, the FFM1 will respond to your sonic wishes, no matter how devious.
FFM2 Germanium Fuzz Face Mini
The FFM2 is based on ’66–’68 era pre-silicon Fuzz Faces; early units that are renowned for their smooth, warm response and dynamic clean tones when you roll back your guitar’s volume control. Much of the FFM2′s sonic mojo lies in the fact that these units are equipped with two mismatched germanium transistors, so its tones are darker and more rounded. The bass response is big and woolly, while the midrange and treble speak with a burnished, even chewy, timbre that really shines with single-coil-equipped guitars. Back off your guitar’s volume, and the FFM2 reacts just as a vintage germanium Fuzz Face should—with great sensitivity. If you want a timeless sounding fuzz with unmistakable woof and corpulent rasp, the FFM2 is your pedal.
FFM3 Jimi Hendrix Fuzz Face Mini
The FFM3 features the same silicon transistor complement as the FFM1, but with a bit less gain, a thicker midrange character, and a more defined top-end slice. This translates to an open-sounding but still bad ass fuzz tone. Backing off your guitar’s volume control yields some very impressive clean tones—especially with my humbucker-equipped guitars, as it kept them bright and even chimey. With single-coils, the FFM3 lets loose with a stunning palette of textures and tones that borders on innumerable—this fuzz responds differently depending on how your guitar’s controls are set and the intensity of your attack. When running full on, the FFM3 is replete with fat raunch and sustain. It’s dense, tacitly satisfying, and bursts through the speakers with a roar that is unmistakable. Very cool.
The sheer utility of the Fuzz Face Mini line makes it almost a requirement to have at least one on your pedalboard. The size-to-tone ratio is simply off the charts, as each pedal delivers the legendary Fuzz Face sonics in a bite-size, indestructible, enclosure. What more could you ask for?