When it comes to effects pedals, every guitar player can tell you why they use distortion or overdrive, but far fewer can pin down when you’d want to use a fuzz pedal. It’s easy to understand why: fuzz is much more abrasive than other gain effects, and many guitar players shy away from them in favor of their trusty overdrive pedals.

But that doesn’t mean fuzz doesn’t have its place in the world. In fact, it’s one of the most useful gain effects around, and they’re tons of fun to experiment with.

Ever since fuzz first exploded onto the scene with the Ventures classic, 2000 Pound Bee, fuzz has been one of the signature effects of rock and roll. Everyone from the Rolling Stones to the Smashing Pumpkins to even the Beastie Boys have relied on a fuzz effect for some of their biggest songs.

Today, we’re going to help you demystify the humble fuzz pedal, and we’ll also take a look at some of the best fuzz pedals that are available today.

What is the Best Fuzz Pedal?

What exactly is a good fuzz pedal and what does it do?

The best way to understand a fuzz pedal is to look at it through the lens of other gain effects, like distortion and overdrive.

The job of any of these effects is to add gain to your sound to provide you with a chunkier, bigger sound from your amp.

If overdrive is the sound of an amp that’s being driven further than it usually is, and distortion is the sound of an amp that’s been pushed to 11, what does that make fuzz? If distortion sounds like 11, then fuzz sounds like 25.

Many players associate the sound of fuzz with an amp being broken, but in the case of a fuzz pedal, it’s a useful effect that can be applied in tons of different places, either in classics from your favorite bands or in your original songs.

Fuzz pedals work on the premise of square wave clipping. A fuzz pedal takes your dry sound and clips it extremely hard. The sound is then compressed far further than any engineer would ever consider doing to provide a sound that sounds like exactly what it is: a thick fuzz covering your guitar and amp.

Countless guitarists have unlocked the power of the fuzz pedal in some of their most iconic songs. Pair fuzz with a wah pedal and you’ll quickly realize that this combination is the key to some of Jimi Hendrix’s most iconic riffs.

What makes a great fuzz pedal?

When you’re shopping for a fuzz pedal, there are four main factors you’ll want to evaluate when you look at different pedals. Whether you opt for one of the excellent fuzz pedals we’ll cover in a few moments, or you go off the grid for a pedal we didn’t cover, the key to finding a great fuzz is to make sure they deliver on each of the four points below.

  1. Easy to understand controls
  2. Classic fuzz tone
  3. True bypass construction
  4. Road ready build quality

Easy to Understand Controls

A good fuzz pedal should be simple and easy to understand. Most of the best fuzz pedals rely on only two or three knobs to get across that signature fuzz sound that you’re after. Occasionally, you’ll find a great fuzz pedal that provides four knobs, which offer a little extra control over the tone.

Anything beyond that, and you’re in no man’s land. Fuzz is a simple effect with a distinctly lo-fi character that you don’t want to mess with too much. Most of the iconic guitar gods who rely on a fuzz pedal go with a simple box with just two controls. We figure, if that’s good enough for them, it’ll be good enough for you, too.

Classic Fuzz Tone

Probably the most crucial factor to consider is the sound of a pedal. But when it comes to fuzz, it’s not quite as simple as “pick the one that sounds best to you.”

Fuzz pedals can be made with either germanium or silicon transistors. The classic configuration relies on germanium transistors, which deliver a smooth fuzz that sounds very organic. The sound of a germanium fuzz pedal can be heard on some of rock’s most iconic recordings, and it’s what players like Jimi Hendrix and Keith Richards relied on to deliver their signature sounds.

The problem with germanium is that it’s expensive, and it’s not as widely available as silicon. So, many manufacturers now rely on silicon transistors for their fuzz pedals. Silicon fuzz pedals are even more abrasive than their germanium cousins, and they don’t carry that organic, smooth character that the early fuzz pedals are famous for.

You may find that you prefer the sound of this more modern iteration of fuzz, but most players agree, it’s impossible to beat the classic germanium transistors. If you’re after the classic fuzz tones of the ‘60s and ‘70s, make sure you look for a pedal that features a germanium transistor.

True Bypass Construction

True bypass is something that most guitarists struggle to understand, so we’ll try to demystify it quickly to show you why it’s a feature you should be after.

In short, true bypass circuitry allows your pure, unbuffered signal to pass through the pedal without any alteration to your tone as it travels to your other pedals, and ultimately to your amplifier. This ensures that the sound of your guitar remains pure and unadulterated as it moves through your chain.

Most pedals do not employ true bypass circuitry; they use a buffer to drive your signal through the effects circuit and out to your other pedals and your amp. Buffers do have some advantages, but they also have a clear disadvantage, and it’s one you’ll want to avoid when you’re shopping for pedals.

Pedals with a buffered bypass will always alter the tone of your guitar. It may not be as noticeable if you’re just using a pedal or two, but if you’re using a full pedalboard of buffered pedals, the true tone of your guitar will never make it through to your amplifier.

The solution to this problem is to opt for pedals that offer true bypass circuitry whenever you can. That way, you’re assured that the tone you end up with is the true tone of your guitar and amp.

Road Ready Build Quality

The final factor in evaluating is how well the pedal is built. Even if you’re only rocking out in your bedroom, chances are the time will come when you’re lugging your gear to practices, shows, or even on tour.

When shopping for any pedal, you’ll want to make sure that it’s going to be able to stand up to the demands of the road. Look for features like diecast metal casings, heavy duty inputs and outputs, and durable potentiometers. Also, make sure that the pedal doesn’t have any buttons or switches which protrude from the case and could easily be broken or bent.

While less durable pedals can still sound great, the dangers of the road will often catch up to them. The last thing you want to do is have to replace a perfectly good pedal because it couldn’t handle life on the road. Instead, look for effects that offer road ready construction as they’ll be able to stand the test of time.

Fuzz Pedal Reviews – Our Top 5 Recommendations

Dunlop FFM2 Fuzz Face

Best Overall

What Makes It Special?

It’s hard to argue with a classic, and it doesn’t get much more classic than the Dunlop Fuzz Face. This model features the same mismatched germanium transistors that were characteristic of the iconic fuzz pedals of the ‘60s and ‘70s.

  • Germanium transistors
  • Heavy duty build quality
  • Simple, intuitive controls
  • True bypass

Dunlop took their iconic Fuzz Face and updated it for the modern age. This model features the same characteristic germanium transistors that drove the original ‘60s Fuzz Face, so you can rest assured that this pedal delivers a classic and warm fuzz tone.

The pedal is straightforward to adjust and includes fool-proof knobs for volume and fuzz, and nothing else. True bypass switching ensures that your guitar tone remains pure as it travels through your signal chain.

This pedal runs off a 9V battery or standard 9V power supply, and its compact shape is a perfect fit for crowded pedalboards. Best of all, despite all the vintage bells and whistles that are included, this pedal is still one of the more affordable high-end options on the market.

What Customers Like

  • Classic fuzz tone
  • Built like a tank
  • True bypass switching

What Customers Dislike

  • Battery box is tightly sized, and it’s difficult to insert batteries
  • Doesn’t provide a broad range of tonal options

Electro Harmonix Big Muff Pi

Best For the Price

What Makes It Special?

One of the most iconic fuzz pedals of all time, the Big Muff Pi offers classic tones and robust build quality at a price that’s tough to beat. While there have been dozens of Big Muff iterations over the years, this is the original, made in New York City.

  • Volume, tone, and sustain controls
  • True bypass switching
  • Road ready build quality
  • Made in the USA

The Big Muff is one of the most historic pedals in the world, and we recommend reading up on the history of these pedals, from the classic Big Muffs of the ‘60s to the Russian built models of the ‘70s and ‘80s.

This pedal delivers classic fuzz tone thanks to its four transistor stages. While the Big Muff employs silicon instead of germanium transistors, it still manages to provide a classic, musical tone that’s instantly recognizable as the sound of a Big Muff Pi.

The attractive price point of the Big Muff Pi makes it easy for guitarists on a budget to add classic tones and the reliability of a pedal that’s hand built in New York City to their arsenal.

What Customers Like

  • Classic fuzz tone
  • True bypass switching
  • Runs on battery or AC power

What Customers Dislike

  • Large size isn’t a good fit on cramped pedalboards
  • Sounds a bit more abrasive than germanium transistor fuzz boxes

MIMIDI Baby Boom Fuzz Box

What Makes It Special?

An immensely popular new fuzz pedal, the Baby Boom by MIMIDI delivers true bypass operation and vintage fuzz tone at a price point that any guitarist will feel comfortable with.

  • True bypass
  • Pedalboard-friendly size
  • Three voicing modes
  • Provides smooth fuzz tone

At well under $50, it’s easy to see why the Baby Boom fuzz has become such a popular pedal. This pedal features easy to use controls for tone, level, and fuzz, and a toggle switch with three distinct voicing modes.

The compact size makes it perfect for cramped pedal boards, and it’s a breath of fresh air compared to other popular fuzz pedals which are twice or three times as large as the Baby Boom.

While this pedal will allow you to unlock tons of unique fuzz tones, it doesn’t deliver the same vintage sensibility of pedals like the Fuzz Face or Big Muff Pi, and we suspect that it’s popularity is very closely tied to its low price. That said, it’s still a compelling option for players on a budget.

What Customers Like

  • Separate voicing modes
  • True bypass construction
  • Battery or AC power

What Customers Dislike

  • Falls short on delivering a vintage fuzz sound
  • Not as durable as other pedals

CNZ Audio Fuzz Pedal

Best for Beginners & Students

What Makes It Special?

This Fuzz pedal from CNZ audio manages to deliver incredible fuzz tone from the classic to the obscene in a compact stomp that’s ideal for first timers and students. True bypass switching and simple controls make this pedal a winner for anyone who is looking to incorporate a fuzz pedal into their board without breaking the bank.

  • Controls for volume, tone, and sustain
  • True bypass switching
  • Pedalboard-friendly size
  • Heavy-duty build quality

The CNZ Audio Fuzz manages to strike a delicate balance between providing both classic and modern tones. The controls are easy to navigate, and they offer a broad sweep of different tonal options. Compared to other more affordable pedals, this Fuzz manages to deliver tones that lesser pedals can’t compete with.

The pedal also features true bypass switching, a pedalboard-friendly design, and rock solid build quality. However, if you’re not using this as part of a pedalboard, you may want to avoid it, because it doesn’t run on battery power.

What Customers Like

  • Provides a broad range of different tones
  • Built to last
  • True bypass switching

What Customers Dislike

  • Can’t run on batteries
  • Doesn’t include power supply

Donner Stylish Fuzz Pedal

Best on a Budget

What Makes It Special?

For players who are looking to capture a fuzz tone without shelling out $100 or more for a high-end fuzz box, the Donner Stylish Fuzz may be just what the doctor ordered. The Stylish Fuzz provides convincing fuzz tones, easy to use controls, and true bypass switching in a pedal that’s more affordable than anything else on the market.

  • Simple controls
  • True bypass switching

Despite its exceptionally low price point, the Stylish Fuzz from Donner manages to deliver quality construction and classic fuzz tones. Controls for volume, tone, and sustain allow you to dial in sounds ranging from classic ‘60s fuzz to more modern “wall of sound” style tones made famous by J. Mascis and Dinosaur Jr.

This pedal features true bypass switching, an aluminum alloy case, and high-quality pots and jacks which ensure that this pedal will stand the test of time. We didn’t expect much from this pedal given its low price, but we were pleasantly surprised by the tones this little giant can deliver.

What Customers Like

  • Provides a wide scope of different tones
  • Compact and pedalboard-friendly

What Customers Dislike

  • Can’t run on batteries
  • Doesn’t include power supply

6 More Really Good Fuzz Pedals

Fulltone ‘69 MKII Fuzz

Fulltone has developed a reputation as being one of the finest producers of boutique quality pedals in the world. With the ‘69 MKII Fuzz, Fulltone has successfully created a pedal that channels the classic fuzz sounds of the ‘60s but with an added layer of versatility that you won’t find from other fuzz pedals.

This pedal features large controls for volume and fuzz, and below those, there are controls for input and contour. If the volume and fuzz controls hold the key to the classic fuzz sounds of yesteryear, the controls for input and contour allow you to tweak that classic sound and update it for a more modern environment.

Beyond classic fuzz sounds, this pedal delivers beautiful overdrive and distortion tones that other fuzz pedals would be incapable of. While it was modeled to capture the classic fuzz tones of the first two Jimi Hendrix records, more modern players have fallen in love with the versatility of this pedal. Eric Johnson has gone as far to say it’s the best pedal he’s ever been sent.

While this one is on the pricier side, it may be the most versatile fuzz pedal on the market.

Way Huge Havalina Fuzz

Another instant classic from the Jim Dunlop brain trust, the Havalina Fuzz Pedal from Way Huge delivers all the vintage fuzz tone you could want, and then some.

This pedal is modeled off a classic three transistor design, and it relies on germanium transistors to deliver classic fuzz tone. Controls for volume, tone, and fuzz allow you to dial in a myriad of different fuzz tones, and the controls seem more reactive than that of most other fuzz pedals.

While this pedal is designed primarily to capture classic fuzz sounds, it also provides a wide scope of sound and easily captures more modern fuzz tones as well. If you’re looking for a classic fuzz pedal that accurately recreates the vintage fuzz tone while still providing room to dial in new tones, the Havalina is well worth a closer look.

ZVex Fuzz Factory

When it comes to fuzz, most players are usually looking to capture a classic sound. But, there are others out there who are looking to push into new tonal territory with the help of a unique selection of pedals. The ZVex Fuzz Factory falls into that category, and it provides some of the most unique and far-out fuzz tones of any pedal you’ll find.

While most fuzz pedals allow you to shape your tone with the use of two or three controls, the ZVex Fuzz Factory allows you to dial in a greater variety of tonal options. This pedal features controls for volume, gate, compression, drive, and stability.

At first glance, it’s easy to write this pedal off as a gimmick, but upon closer inspection, it becomes clear that the folks at ZVex are serious about classic, vintage tone.

The Fuzz Factory features a two transistor design, and the ones they use are vintage old-stock from the ‘60s. They say a germanium transistor is a key to classic fuzz tones, so old stock transistors that have been sitting around begging to get turned into fuzz pedals for over fifty years seem like the holy grail of vintage sensibility.

Thanks to the five control design, there’s virtually no end to the number of fuzz tones you’ll be able to dial in with this pedal. You’ll have no trouble dialing in vintage or modern fuzz tones, and the extra knobs will allow you to shape your tone further. Some settings provide great overdrive and distortion tones, so it’s feasible to get all of your gain effects from this single pedal.

Death by Audio Fuzz War

The Fuzz War from Death by Audio is hands down the wildest, most “balls-to-the-wall” fuzz pedal we’ve ever come across, and it’s a pedal that every player should fire up at least once in their life.

This pedal features classic controls for tone, volume, and fuzz, and the fuzz circuit is hand-built in New York City.

That hand-built circuit is what makes this pedal so compelling, as it allows you to tap into four distinct tones. At its lowest setting, this pedal provides a slight tone shift for your clean channel. As you turn it up, it effortlessly produces classic overdrive tones, heavy distortion tones, and at its peak, a level of fuzzy fur that even ‘60s purists are sure to appreciate.

If there’s one knock on this pedal, it’s the price. The Fuzz War will set you back nearly $200. But, it’s hand-built in New York City, and it carries a lifetime guarantee that no other pedal can compete with.

Electro Harmonix Green Russian Big Muff Pi

We mentioned the illustrious history of the Big Muff Pi when we covered our favorite Pi pedal, the classic NYC Big Muff Pi in our top five list above. This is the other Big Muff Pi pedal you need to be familiar with.

This pedal is a faithful reissue of the ‘90s Russian manufactured Big Muffs which have been immortalized on recordings by some of the biggest acts in grunge and alternative rock.

This pedal is period correct, with its rugged army green chassis, and it features the same components made famous by the Russian Pi pedals of the ‘90s. This pedal features controls for tone, volume, and sustain, so you can easily dial in the furry fuzz tone of your dreams.

One very notable feature of this pedal is its size. Unlike other Big Muffs, which are the size of a small microwave, this true bypass Russian reissue Pi features a much smaller footprint, so it’s ideal for cramped pedalboards.

Dunlop Jimi Hendrix Gypsy Fuzz

This classic fuzz pedal from Dunlop is not only a great fuzz box, but it’s also a piece of rock ‘n roll history. With only 1,500 pieces worldwide, this fuzz pedal is a limited-edition collectible that just so happens to dish out some of the most classic fuzz tones around.

This pedal accurately recreates the tones of Jimi’s Band of Gypsies era thanks to its germanium transistors and simple, intuitive controls. Controls for output, tone, and fuzz allow you to dial in some of Jimi’s signature tones. Beyond those tones, there’s plenty of room to push this pedal into new tonal territory.

This pedal runs off battery or AC power, and its compact design makes it a perfect addition to crowded pedalboards.

The Gypsy Fuzz features graphics from renowned rock artist Gered Mankowitz, and if there’s one downside to this pedal it’s that it’s so beautiful, you may have a hard time taking it out of the box.

5 FAQ’s About Fuzz Pedals

How do you use a fuzz pedal?

One of the coolest aspects of the fuzz pedal is that there’s no right or wrong way to use one. As you begin to experiment with your new fuzz pedal, you’ll quickly realize how interesting and expressive these effects can be.

If you’re looking to use a fuzz like a distortion pedal, you’ll want to dial in your desired amount of drive, and turn down the sustain on the pedal. The result will be a warm, lo-fi style distortion that’s useful for many styles of music, including classic rock and grunge.

Fuzz is also a great way to add soaring sustain and a classic character to your leads and solos. Fuzz pedals provide a high level of sustain, which makes it easy to get expressive with your playing. To get this classic tone, you’ll want to turn up the sustain on the pedal and adjust the gain to the desired level.

Thankfully, most manufacturers provide some recommended settings in the owner’s manual. These settings are usually the result of hours of tinkering from the engineers that have designed the pedal, and they’re always a great starting point for developing your unique fuzz tones. When in doubt, start with these recommended settings and tweak them from there.

Where do you place a fuzz pedal (in the chain)?

Knowing how to arrange your pedals in your effects chain is an often-overlooked aspect of setting up your rig, but it can be critically important.

When it comes to effects, there’s a logical order for how you’ll want to set your effects up.

As a rule of thumb, you’ll want to start by placing any dynamic effects you have, like compression or graphic EQ. Next, you’ll place any filters, such as a wah or envelope filter. Next comes your gain effects, like overdrive, distortion, or fuzz.

Following those are your modulation effects, like chorus, phaser, and flanger. Finally, you’ll place your time-based effects, like reverb or delay.

This configuration will help to mitigate many of the noise and tone issues that new guitarists complain about when using a bunch of pedals.

With a fuzz pedal, you may want to experiment with this configuration to get the best sound possible. Some guitarists will have a chain very similar to the one we’ve described above, but they’ll move their fuzz pedal to the very front of their chain. This will allow you precise control over the fuzz pedal, as slight variations in your guitar’s volume knob can have a dramatic effect on the sound of your fuzz pedal.

What are the top fuzz pedal brands?

Dunlop is one of the best and most classic bands available. Since 1965, they’ve been at the forefront of guitar accessories, and while they may be best known for less glamorous accessories like picks, straps, and capos, they also manufacture some of the best and most iconic pedals on the market. Their classic germanium transistor Fuzz Face pedal is one of our favorites.

Electro Harmonix is one of the most well-respected pedal manufacturers in the world, and their iconic Big Muff Pi pedal is one of the most famous and well-used fuzz pedals of all time. Electro Harmonix has been at it since the ‘60s, and you can’t go wrong with any of their high-quality effects.

Way Huge is part of the Dunlop company, but the effects they make are unique, and provide a completely different character than other Dunlop pedals, like the Fuzz Face. Way Huge specializes in vintage style pedals, and they make it easy to capture the iconic rock sounds of yesteryear.

Beyond these top national brands, there are also plenty of boutique pedal companies that are pushing the boundaries of what you can accomplish with a fuzz pedal peppered throughout the world.

More affordable brands like Donner, MIMIDI, and CNZ Audio have also made a splash recently by offering quality fuzz boxes at bargain basement prices.

How much does a good fuzz pedal typically cost?

The price of a good fuzz pedal varies greatly, and it’s difficult to pin down exactly how much one should typically cost.

We mentioned the difference between germanium and silicon transistors before, and the type of transistor in the pedal plays a major role in how it’s priced, since germanium transistors are much more expensive than their silicon counterparts. While there are plenty of fuzz pedals out there in the $30-50 range, they’re rarely able to capture the vintage sensibilities of a classic fuzz sound.

Since germanium transistors are expensive, they can drive the price of the pedal way up. Most of the top fuzz pedals on the market run somewhere in the $100-150 range.

Depending on what you’re hoping to get out of your pedal, you may be able to go with a budget-priced model that will deliver the tone you’re after. But, if you’re looking to capture that iconic fuzz sound of the ‘60s and ‘70s, you can expect to shell out over $100 for a good fuzz pedal.

Where can I learn more about fuzz pedals?

Premier Guitar is an amazing resource for finding out everything there is to need about fuzz pedals, and anything guitar related. The link above will take you to their exhaustive history of the fuzz pedal, and give you some tips on how to add fuzz to your rig.

Guitar Fella is a newer resource, but they also provide some very valuable information on how you can use fuzz effects. Beyond that, they provide tons of useful reviews and tips on everything guitar related.

Guitar Tone Overload is another great site that can help you demystify the fuzz pedal, and teach you a bit about the history of these effects in the process. Beyond info on fuzz effects, they provide tons of other information about gear and how you can get the most out of your rig.

Conclusion

While it’s often overlooked or misunderstood, a fuzz pedal is one of the best ways to add cool sounds, vintage appeal, and soaring sustain to your rig. From the early rock sounds of the ‘60s to the wall of sound characteristic of ‘90s grunge and alternative, there are tons of different ways to apply a fuzz pedal.

When guitarists are shopping for a fuzz pedal, they usually check out some other effects in the process, including:

  • Wah
  • Phaser
  • Overdrive
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