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?