Fuzz might be the most divisive effect not only in terms of high gain stomp boxes, but in terms of all guitar effects.
It’s not for the faint of heart.
But you’re a daring soul. Y
ou’re tired of clean guitar tones and you need an effect that will make your guitar solos sing like a choir of Violins that just got electrocuted by Thor, himself.
There isn’t just one Fuzz to rule them all, however. There are many different flavors to consider and they come in all kinds of shapes, price points, and funny names like Fuzz Face, Big Muff, Fuzz Factory, and more.
So how do you choose?
This week I’m going to take you through some of my favorite, readily available Fuzz pedals that will give you amazing high gain tones.
Snapshot – Top 6 Fuzz Pedals
- Donner Stylish Fuzz – Best Budget
- Earthquaker Devices Hoof V2 – Best for Bass
- JHS Mini Foot V2 – Best Mini
- Orange Fur Coat – Best Octave
- JHS Muffuletta – Best High End Option
- Dunlop FFM2 Germanium Fuzz Face Mini – Best Overall
Fuzz Is All You Need
While Fuzz can be an intimidating effect to tackle, it can also be one of the most versatile on your guitar pedalboard. Choose the right combination of guitar, amp, and fuzz pedal and you can cover the entire spectrum of gain, from boosted cleans to “wall of sound” distortion.
I think the best piece of advice I ever got when it came to making fuzz pedals work for me is to play to the fuzz pedal.
There are a few ways to take this advice to heart. One of which is to experiment with and listen to a wide variety of fuzz pedals, because there are a lot of models out there. There are some that sound big and wooly with loads of bottom end. There are some that have a bit crushing effect and can gate your sound. There are even some that have an octave up effect. The key is to listen to the type of effect you want to have and then tailor your playing to that effect.
When it comes to tailoring your playing, the easiest way to start experimenting is by rolling the volume off on your guitar. No other fuzz pedal shows this off better than the infamous Fuzz Factory by ZVEX. This is one diabolical pedal that takes high gain fuzz to the point of modulated oscillations. The only way to tame this effect and to control it on the fly is by using your volume control and paying attention to your dynamics.
Your guitar choice and amp choice will also have a huge impact on your fuzz tone. Many suggest that the best amp setting is that of “edge of breakup”, where if you dig into your guitar strings your hear the slightest amount of distortion. This sets up a great platform for fuzz to take over.
One last piece of advice I have is that (typically speaking), the best place to put your fuzz on your board is first in line, with no buffers in front of it. Buffers overload the signal to a Fuzz pedal and make it sound like a distortion as opposed to a gritty fuzz.
From there, it’s just a matter of picking out the type of fuzz that works best for you in terms of price, size, and voice. Fuzz is one of the most exciting types of effects because every pedal sounds unique. I’ve even heard some gear heads relate comparing fuzz tones to tasting wines or whiskeys. They all have some common traits, but the differences between each fuzz pedal is what gives them, and therefore you, a unique voice.
With a good fuzz in your arsenal, you could get by with just this effect alone. Let’s find your perfect fuzz.
The 6 Best Fuzz Pedals in 2021
1. Donner Stylish Fuzz Review – Best Budget
- Traditional fuzz effect, plump and rich
- Whole Aluminium alloy classic, stable and strong
- True bypass provide transparent tone
If you’re strapped for cash, you can still have Fuzz in your life. The Donner Stylish Fuzz is a lean, mean, fuzz machine that comes in a mini enclosure, saving you in terms of cash and in real estate on your board. For our “Best Budget” fuzz, I wanted a pedal under $30 that gave you a classic and usable fuzz sound. Mission accomplished.
The Donner Stylish is modeled after a 60’s style, EHX Big Muff circuit. This is a classic fuzz pedal with a wooly, midrange heavy sound. One of the big differences between the original Big Muffs and this pedal is that, well, it isn’t big. Its mini. This is great news for anyone that wants this classic tone but has to keep a small pedalboard.
For being so cheap, the build is surprisingly good as the pedal is made of an aluminum alloy that is sure to hold up on the road. It comes with a silicone transistor, making it really reliable against temperature changes. This is a great pedal to take on the road if you want to leave your high end fuzzes at home.
For more on silicone vs germanium transistors, check out this article.
The controls on this pedal are really simple, as there are only three of them. The first is the Tone switch, which allows you to blend in the right amount of high and low end from the effect. This is great for making the pedal work for whatever guitar you have chosen. The Volume control affects the overall output of the pedal, as you will likely want a little boost in volume when using fuzz.
The final knob is for Bustain (Sustain), which affects the overall saturation and distortion of the effect. The pedal also has an LED light when the effect is engaged. One of my few critiques of this pedal (and many other mini pedals) are the super small knobs on the top. This is sometimes unavoidable, but I do find these controls to be finicky and hard to use.
I have to admit, when I saw the price point and the size of the pedal, I wasn’t expecting much from this unit. It proved to be an unsuspecting monster of a pedal. Like the Big Muff pedals it tries to emulate, the Stylish Fuzz is lush, smooth, and has sustain for days. It has the “violin-like” character of the Big Muff as well. It can be a little tricky to dial in, but it has a number of fun tones in it.
One of my favorites was with the Sustain all the way down, which results in an old school broken speaker type effect.
- Effect Type: Big Muff Clone Mini Fuzz
- Signal: Analog, True Bypass
- Power Source: 9V DC
- Dimensions: 4”x 2” x 2”
- Features: Indicator light, mini enclosure
Final Thoughts on the Donner Stylish Fuzz
I am truly excited and impressed with this pedal. I would recommend it to anyone that is looking to dabble in fuzz and wants to play it conservative with their cash. I also think it is a great option for working musicians who only need fuzz for “that one solo”, as the pedal won’t take up too much space on your board.
While it is in no way as refined as a proper Big Muff, it does the trick well enough to warrant use on the road, for beginners, or for those who want that sound on a budget.
2. Earthquaker Devices Hoof V2 Review – Best for Bass
- Features a hybrid Germanium/Silicon design, pairing maximum tone with maximum temperature stability
- Wide gain range provides everything from amp-like overdrive to monstrous fuzz madness
- Features a smooth, natural and harmonically rich sustain
Fuzz is not just for guitar. Bass gets to join the party too, but not all fuzz pedals are ideal for bass use. The Hoof V2 is famous for being a versatile fuzz for both guitar and bass. For the sake of this article, we’re going to look at how it works so well for the bass guitar. If you’re interested in how it sounds with guitar, check out this video.
Loosely based off the Green Russian Big Muff (often a fuzz of choice for bassists), the Hoof V2 creates its own niche by using a hybrid of both germanium and silicon transistors. This gives great tone and optimal temperature stability, so you can rely on this pedal on the road. The circuit is housed in a traditional pedal casing with hoofs printed on the face of the pedal.
It is powered by either 9V DC or by a 9V battery, which can change the way the pedal sounds. The input/output jacks are located on the top of the pedal, which can help with squeezing it into a crowded pedal board.
The Hoof has four controls: Level, Fuzz, Tone, and Shift.
The Level knob controls the overall output of the pedal and the Fuzz knob controls the gain. What helps make this pedal a great option for bass is the combination of Tone and Shift controls that work together to give you the perfect EQ. Too often, fuzz pedals can cut out all the low end, making a bass guitar sound smaller.
Sometimes this preferred, but with the Hoof you get to have a great amount of control over your sound. Push the Shift control to the left to cut out low end and move it to the right to increase the low end.
I find that the Hoof lands somewhere between a great high-gain overdrive and a traditional fuzz tone depending on where you set the Fuzz knob. This gives you the ability to sound like you have a cranked bass amp, all the way to fully saturated fuzz tones.
The fact that you can shape the EQ in two different ways makes it a great option for any kind of bass pickup. Whether you want to preserve your low end of cut through the mix with a bass solo, the Hoof sounds tight and controlled while remaining organic.
- Effect Type: Hybrid Fuzz
- Signal: Analog
- Power Source: 9VDC or 9V Battery
- Dimensions: 4.75 x 2.5 x 2.25
- Features: True Bypass, LED Light
Final Thoughts on the Earthquaker Devices Hoof V2
EQD make some of the most inventive and original pedals on the market, so it comes as no surprise that their improved flagship fuzz has a voice of its own. This could be used in any genre of bass playing, from amped up classic rock, to punk, to metal. If you’re looking for a simple, but effective bass fuzz pedal that sounds unique, you can’t go wrong with the Hoof V2.
3. JHS Mini Foot V2 Review – Best Mini Fuzz
- From gated, low-gain splat to almost infinite sustaining buzz, cover a lot of ground with very little fuss and a whole lot of attitude
- The controls are as simple as it gets with Volume and Fuzz knobs as well as a toggle for high or low gain settings
- Crank the Volume and leave Fuzz down low to give you lower-gain, vintage-style fuzz
Mini pedals are all the rage for their lower price points and minimal real-estate, and there are a lot of great fuzz circuits crammed into these little enclosures. JHS has created what I consider to be the best mini fuzz out on the market today with their updated Mini Foot Fuzz.
Is it just me, or does the pink case and green knobs make this pedal look like some kind of fuzzy Muppet? While the pedal may look innocent on the outside, it is a pedal with serious power under the hood. The original Mini Foot came out in 2009, but this new version has some improvements worth mentioning. First, the V2 has nearly double the volume on tap, meaning that this can be a great boost for solos. It also has a Gate toggle for low and high gain inputs. This makes it a highly flexible little pedal. The V2 also has an indicator light, so you can tell when the pedal is on or off.
As with most mini pedals, the controls on the Mini Foot V2 are simple and straight forward. You only have controls for Volume (Output) and Fuzz (Distortion), but these two controls can take you from slightly added gain, to bit crushed distortion. Combine this with the newly added gate control to kill the decay of the fuzz note for even more versatility. There is not a control for tone, so any EQ shaping will have to come from another source.
Even without a knob for EQ, the Mini Foot has such a distinctive voice that its worth adapting your playing to the pedal (yup, I’m going to keep suggesting this practice with fuzz). What I like so much about this pedal is the way it bites. It takes the initial attack of your pick to the strings and gives a really satisfying bit crunch. Josh Scott (founder of JHS) gets a tone out of the pedal that blew my mind.
By cranking his amp and turning the fuzz down (gate toggle activated), he was able to get the sound of a dimed Fender tweed amp. The high end is explosive and filled with amp-like overtones, so if you want a Fender tweed sound without having to buy the amp you can!
- Effect Type: Mini Fuzz
- Signal: Analog, True Bypass
- Power Source: 9V DC
- Dimensions: 3.6 x 1.5 x 1
- Features: Gate Toggle, added volume, indicator light
Final Thoughts on the JHS Mini Foot V2
I consider this to be the best mini fuzz because JHS has found a way to cram a uniquely voice fuzz into a small pedal, while also keeping the controls simple, yet flexible. JHS made all the right improvements from the previous version in terms of layout and tone. There are few out there that obsess over Fuzz more than Josh Scott, and this pedal shows just that.
4. Orange Fur Coat Review – Best Octave Fuzz
- Loosely based on the 1970 Foxx Tone Machine
- Volume, EQ, Octave, & Fuzz Controls
- Adds octave up as you increase the octave control
From their creation in 1967, octave fuzz pedals have been on the boards of some of the greatest guitarists ever. From Jimi Hendrix to Jack White, octave fuzz takes the world of fuzz to whole new level. There have been many variations of this effect throughout its history, but the Fur Coat from Orange is a killer, new model with modern improvements on a familiar favorite.
The Orange Fur Coat is loosely based off of the 1971 Foxx Tone Machine, which has influenced many circuits including the Danelectro 3699 Fuzz. What I like about this design is the adjustable octave-up effect, but I’ll get back to that shortly. The pedal has two different circuits, effectively making this a two-channel fuzz designed to work with any amp. The enclosure is heavy duty and has a metal bar to keep your foot from bumping the knobs on stage. It also features an optional 12V power option for added headroom.
This pedal has controls for Volume, Fuzz, EQ, and Octave. The associated knobs are engaged by the foot switches of the same name. The Octave up increases as you turn the knob clockwise, giving you control of how much octave effect you want. The EQ works in a traditional way, allowing for a boost in bass or treble to how you see fit.
The Orange Fur Coat is much warmer sounding compared to most octave pedals, which is why I enjoy it so much. It can be used to thicken up your sound with its woolly and aggressive character. It has extremely good low end response and would be a good option for bass players who want to add an octave up effect. It doesn’t sound exactly like the Foxx Tone Machine, but the goal was to create a pedal that was its own thing, so I think Orange pulled this off very well.
- Effect Type: Octave Fuzz
- Signal: Analog
- Power Source: 9 – 12V DC
- Dimensions: 6 x 5 x 3
- Features: 12V adaptor, blendable octave, true bypass
Final Thoughts on the Orange Fur Coat
Orange has successfully improved upon a classic circuit in my opinion. I find octave pedals to be an even more divisive effect than normal fuzz, so the ability to tastefully blend in that effect is huge. The build quality and innovation make this a great, modern octave fuzz.
5. JHS Muffuletta Review – Best High End Option
- Crammed with 5 all analog recreations of classic Big Muff tones and a JHS exclusive take on the historic stomp
- The JHS Muff is a take on the classic circuit that is more powerful and less compressed, with a more haunting midrange
- The 73 Rams Head is best known for having a scooped mid range, less gain, and being darker
In my quest to find the best high end fuzz pedal, I considered fuzz pedals that cost over $200 only. The pedal had to be innovative and had to offer more than what the maker was asking for the price. No pedal does this better than the JHS Muffuletta, which crams 6 Big Muff voices into one traditional sized pedal for just over $200.
As I mentioned before, Josh Scott might be one of the biggest Fuzz enthusiasts on the planet. As a result, the world can now get 5 of the most sought after Big Muff pedals, plus one JHS original voice, for the price of one. Josh voiced the different modes after his own personal collection of original, classic Big Muffs, so you know you’re getting a high quality effect with each setting. This is done with all analog technology – no digital. Plus, it has the best name for a Muff clone ever.
Three of the controls are the same as any Muff pedal ever made: Volume, Sustain (Distortion), and Tone (EQ). What sets this pedal apart from others is the Mode rotary knob, which allows you to choose between one of six Muff voices represented by a picture that represents their street name. From Right to Left, these modes are called JHS, ‘73 Ram’s Head, Triangle, ’77 Pi, Russian Black Box, and Civil War.
One common complaint of vintage Muff pedals is the Tone control, which often tapers unevenly and is hardly usable. However, JHS used a Green Russian Bubble Font Tone control design across all models. This doesn’t change the sound of the voices, but rather makes the Tone control exceptionally usable.
Jay Leonard J likens the sounds of Big Muffs to that of Pizza styles, wherein there is a wide variety of styles to choose from. This becomes clear when you move your way through the different voices of the Muffuletta. They all share the thick, violin-like sustain of all Muffs, but have tonal variances that are worth taking note of.
The JHS setting is less compressed and has a higher output, making it a great modern take on the original. The ’73 Ram’s Head has a darker tone to it, with scooped mids and lower gain on deck. The Triangle is especially articulate and emphasizes low end response.
The 77 Pi is by far the most aggressive setting and would be great for grunge and metal. The Russian Black Box offers less clarity and has more compression than others versions of this effect. My favorite setting, the Civil War mode, has more midrange and a brighter high end that makes it great for standing out in a mix.
- Effect Type: Big Muff Fuzz
- Signal: Analog
- Power Source: 9V DC
- Dimensions: 6 x 3 x 3
- Features: 6 Big Muff Voices, True Bypass
Final Thoughts on the JHS Muffuletta
The Muffuletta takes five of the most sought after versions of the Big Muff fuzz circuit (a pedal that could easily be awarded Best High End Option on its own) and gives them all to you under one hood along with an original take on the effect.
JHS is one of the best fuzz pedal makers out there, so it is no surprise that they ended up on this list twice. If you are interested in exploring the history of one of Rock’s greatest circuits, check out the Muffuletta.
6. Dunlop FFM2 Germanium Fuzz Face Mini Review – Best Fuzz Overall
- Based on mid '60s Fuzz Faces with slightly mismatched germanium transistors
- Legendary Fuzz Face tones in a pedalboard-friendly housing
- Status LED, AC power jack & battery door
Time for the main event! It’s hard to choose the best fuzz overall, considering there are so many varieties. I decided that the best overall had to be a tried and true staple and it had to be accessible in terms of price and availability. The Fuzz Face Mini from Dunlop delivers just that. It was good enough for Hendrix, and it will be good enough for you too.
The original Fuzz Face pedals were almost twice as big as this updated pedal, which is only 5.5” in diameter across. You will often hear these pedals referred to as the “Smiley Face” pedals, because the knobs and circular enclosure make it look like… you get it. The FFM2 sticks to the ‘66-‘68 Fuzz Face circuit design by using mismatched Germanium transistors.
There are Silicon versions (the Blue Pedal) that are fantastic too, but this version sound like the recordings of old. Another upgrade is the inclusion of the Bypass LED light so you can tell when the pedal is turned on. One more thing worth mentioning is that these are great pedals to learn how to modify with. If that interests you, check out this video.
The pedal itself has a very simple control system: just Volume and Fuzz. What makes this pedal such a powerhouse and versatile effect is how you work with it through your guitar and amp. The Fuzz Face is very sensitive to your playing dynamics, as well as where your Volume and Tone controls are. Beyond that, the settings on your amp will have a big impact on where you set the controls. It’s worth experimenting with all of these settings to find just the right fuzz tone for you.
The mismatched Germanium transistors give you a gritty, yet smooth and pleasing fuzz tone. It almost sounds like a cranked amplifier. You’ll notice that it sounds much more like an overdrive than a distortion pedal, as some of the Muff style fuzzes can sound. One of my favorite things to do with a Fuzz Face circuit is to set the Fuzz below 9:00, with the volume past noon, then roll the volume off on my guitar.
This turns the Fuzz Face into a great boost pedal. You can use this to increase the sustain, a volume boost, or full out fuzzed madness. It all depends on your guitar and your playing style.
- Effect Type: Germanium Fuzz Face
- Signal: True Bypass
- Power Source: 9V DC or 9V Battery
- Dimensions: 5.5 x 5.5 x 2.5
- Features: Mini Housing, Mismatched Germanium Transistors, LED Light
Final Thoughts on the Dunlop FFM2 Germanium Fuzz Face Mini
The Fuzz Face is one of the original fuzz circuits and is now a timeless classic that has inspired countless modern fuzz pedals. It’s a simple effect that will cause you to focus on your playing to unlock its potential. The fact that it is now in a smaller enclosure, is affordable, and sounds amazing are why I consider it the best overall.
Fuzz Pedals Give Character
Funny enough, Fuzz was first developed to make the guitar sound like a horn for big band settings.
It’s rarely used in that facility these days, but why not try it out?
It’s always fascinated me that one of the first effects to ever be created for the guitar is one of the most extreme. Yet there are countless ways to use fuzz to completely change the sound of your guitar.
There are a number of different kinds of Fuzz pedals worth considering.
While I said this effect isn’t for the faint of heart, I do believe that everyone could find a way to incorporate fuzz into their sound. Of all the effects out there I can’t list one that not only adds more character to your sound, but also reacts to your own personal character.
All you need is fuzz. Fuzz is all you need.
That’s how the lyric goes, right?
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Davis Wilton Bader is a professional guitarist/writer based out of St. Louis, MO. He plays in the bands Lumet and The Outskirts.