Nobels FU-Z Vintage Fuzz
Winners of the 1992 Guitar Player distortion box shootout for Fuzz: Electro-Harmonix Sovtek Big Muff [they should use original name, Big Muff Pi], DOD Classic Fuzz, Dunlop Fuzz Face.
"Muff [math symbol for Pi]" = muff pie = a woman's fuzzy box = muff diving. It's a fuzz box, like a woman's fuzz box.
The Black Cat OD-1 and the Freddie Fuzz are pretty much the same thing. But the Freddie Fuzz is built in Korea while the OD-1 is built in the United States, by him. That's odd, considering that CAE is charging $50 *more* for the Korea-made one than the USA-made one. There are dealers for the Black Cat pedals, including Makin' Music in Chicago. He makes several kinds of products. Fred was Eric Johnson's tech back in the 70's, during his Electromagnet days.
5930 E. Royal Lane
Dallas, Texas 75230
What is Z Vex? -- Z Vex stands for Zachary Vex, designer/builder of the Fuzz Factory and several other pedals in his Minnesota shop. Z Vex pedals are unique; each is handpainted and signed by Zack before it leaves his shop. The pedals come wrapped in a do-rag that's tied with an elastic hair band like you'd see on a girl's ponytail.
What is the Fuzz Factory? The Fuzz Factory is, as the name implies, a fuzzbox, although perhaps the most configurable fuzzbox I've ever seen. I'll discuss controls momentarily. It's a true bypass pedal. Mine is what's known as a "Red Special"- a special edition with a different paint scheme than the regular Fuzz Factory. Where the typical Fuzz Factory is handpainted green with white lettering for the controls, mine is red with orange lettering. According to Zack's signature on the bottom, I have serial number 5, manufactured (although possibly mislabeled- I'm going to e-mail Zack about that) the 8th of January. The casing is approximately 1" high by 2" deep by 4" wide. There are 5 knobs and a single stomp switch on the case itself. There is no LED indicating effect status, but trust me, you'd KNOW when this thing was on! (More on that in a minute.) The Fuzz Factory is being talked of in Internet and musician's circles as the most outrageous fuzz on the market, the pedal "that makes all the noises you don't want your pedals to make" as one Internet retailer described it.
The Most Configurable Fuzz? The Fuzz Factory has 5 knobs on the case- Volume, Gate, Compress, Drive, and Stability. I'll address these parameters individually.
Volume- Adjusts output level. Simple enough. It's worth of mention that although there's plenty of gain here, you can't turn all the other parameters down for a clean boost. Zack makes another pedal for that. (You guys and gals may get me into tube amps and stomp boxes yet!
Gate- Adjusts the noise gate. To the far right cleans off everything- turning towards the left adjusts the amount of squeal and hiss you let through. The Gate control can be used in conjunction with the Compress and Stability controls to "tune in" your feedback frequency. This is fun!
Compress- Adds an attack characteristic when turned to the far left. Turn to the right and the attack softens, then finally pinches tone when turned to the far right- also fun!
Drive- When used as a conventional fuzz, this increases distortion, as one would expect. It's also used to tune feedback pitch in conjunction with the Compress and Gate knobs. Important to note that turning Compress all the way to the right negates this control completely.
Stability- Reportedly determines voltage fed to the circuit which in turn distorts the output in weird/fun ways. Also used to tune feedback pitch when the knob's turned anywhere from 5 o'clock to 2 o'clock.
Zack notes quite honestly that many settings will squeal. There are some cool things you can do with those "incorrect" settings though. (Irritating the neighbors is just a fringe benefit.) He also notes proudly that the Fuzz Factory's circuit has an exceptionally low current draw- around 3 mA. Compare this to a Tube Screamer at about 40 mA. He also brags that he's had the same battery in his prototype for the last three years. (!)
How Does It Sound? Well, put it this way. I plugged it into my chain (right between the PRS and the Flextone; this is the only stomp box I have), and powered everything up, immediately hearing a piercing squeal. This is not a bad thing- it's one of the things this pedal was designed to do.
As a conventional fuzzbox, I was able to get everything from Smashing Pumpkins tones (think "Siamese Dream"- that Big Muff fuzz) to Hendrix Fuzz Face fuzz (minus the octaving, of course). It'll certainly do its job as a fuzz pedal.
Where the REAL fun came in was when I started playing with the Gate, Drive, and Compress knobs to tune in feedback. With some liberal tweaking of the three knobs and swelling notes in using the volume knob on my guitar, I was able to get some REALLY freaky sounds out of this thing- some that may even be useful to me down the line.
Bottom Line: This isn't the fuzzbox for everyone. I paid $225 for mine, which is definitely more than most of the mass produced (and even some of the "boutique") fuzzboxes. However, not only is this box handbuilt, but as a "conventional" fuzz, it can hold its own with the best I was able to get my hands on. Where the Fuzz Factory really stands out is in its ability to do things no other fuzz can do. I'd heartily recommend this pedal to anyone looking to do more with a fuzzbox than the ordinary applications.
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