Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Review: Cusack Screamer Fuzz Bass

A few weeks ago, I picked up the new Cusack  Effects Screamer Fuzz Bass. The first thing I noticed when I removed it from the box is the build quality (and sense of humor) of Cusack.

The Look
It’s well known that Cusack make their mini chickenhead knobs in house. What’s cooler though is that they paint their pedals and then use a CNC machine to cut/carve the graphics and even the serial number into the pedals. About that sense of humor: there is a large-mouth bass cnc’d into the Screamer Fuzz Bass enclosure. Bass. Bass. Get it?

The Controls
Level: This controls the output level of the pedal.
Fuzz: This controls the amount of fuzz. All the way left is no fuzz, all the way right is heaven/armegeddon (depending on your feelings on fuzz)
Scream: Left is zero gain, right is a ton!
Clip Selector: This allows you to select either the Standard, Crushed, or Assymetrical LED clipping. I liked crushed for guitar and standard for bass.

The Sound

I’m a guitar player. So the first thing I did with the Screamer Fuzz Bass was to plug my Reverend Roundhouse HB into it and run that out to my Reverend Goblin through a 12’ Eminence Wizard. I set the scream at 9 o’clock, the fuzz around 4 o’clock, and set the level for unity gain. I hit an A power chord and was rewarded with a thick gritty fuzz. There’s something in the fuzz that reminds me of a muff, but the articulation, mids, and note decay sound and feel more like a Tonebender. According to the fine folks at Cusack, the Screamer Fuzz Bass features a new custom circuit built around an op amp. Whatever it is, it sounds great. I spent the better part of the next hour riffing through the Screamer Fuzz Bass. Your Touch by the Black Keys was especially fun to play through it. And it sounded great on some Siamese Dream era Pumpkin riffs.

Later in the week, the Screamer Fuzz Bass came to band practice with me. I used it on a few songs and was impressed by the combination of low-end and cut. It’s a great sound for low-string riffing and power chords but it still works well for leads. Rocking it on a song we call GSRS (Grungy Stoner Riff Song) it sounded like Seattle circa the early 90’s – sludgy and thick with sustain for days.

Next, I handed it over to our bass player and had him rock some fuzz bass for a few songs. Aside from making our drummer cringe (he’s a bit of a traditionalist) it was a hit. It’s amazing how well it keeps the low frequencies intact without resorting to blending in the clean signal. The only other pedal I have heard do this is the Zvex Mastotron (which I happen to have on hand for a review as well).

And boy does the Screamer Fuzz Bass have a lot of volume on tap. In the switch from me to the bass player, one of us must have bumped the level knob up. When our bass player stepped on it, the walls rattled and it felt like the ceiling was going to cave in. I can’t imagine a time when a bass player would need that much boost, but it excels at slamming the front end of a amp.

Dialing back the fuzz and using just the overdrive sounds great on bass and would be great for adding emphasis for a melodic bassline. The overdrive alone was less thrilling to me on guitar (but that’s not it’s stated purpose).

The other thing to point out is just how noise-free the circuit is. For having this amount of gain on tap, it’s amazing how little noise it adds with the gain cranked. I couldn’t hear any added noise with humbuckers.
I can't find a weakness in this pedal. If I had to find a weakness, it would be that the fuzz doesn’t clean up with the volume knob on your guitar. The overdrive section cleans up beautifully when you roll off your volume knob though, so I'm really just splitting hairs at this point.

If you play bass and like fuzz, you should buy (or at least try) the Screamer Fuzz Bass asap. If you play guitar and are looking for something with it’s own sound but somewhere crossed between a Tonebender and a Muff, check it out. It sounds great, is dead silent, and is built like a tank!

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