Friday, December 7, 2012

Strike at the Fuzz Factory

Zvex Fuzz Factory Review

For years, I dreamed of owning a Fuzz Factory. So many knobs, so many great reviews, so many famous users. I mean, how could Nels Cline and Stephen Malkmus be wrong?

I recently acquired one, and while it's a hard beast to tame, there are indeed some amazing sounds waiting to be unlocked. Just be careful using it at really loud volumes until you get the hang of it (more on this later).

First, un-boxing the Fuzz Factory is a real treat. I know I shouldn't care about packaging, but when a pedal comes swaddled in a micro-fiber cloth, I take notice.


Vol: The Fuzz Factory has a ton of volume on tap. For most settings, it achieves unity gain at around 8 or 9 o'clock.

Gate: This is the control to know. It works like a noise gate, and it will save your ears when your amp is cranked and you adjust the Drive or Stab control and send the Fuzz Factory into self-oscillation.

Comp: Harder attack when turned left squishier when turned right. Gets real thin and "pinched" when turned all the way right. Works with your guitar's volume knob to tune feedback when you get crazy.

Drive: This one is easy, it controls the amount of fuzz. It goes from fuzzy to fuzzier to fuzziest. And they're all good! And it does nothing when Comp is cranked all the way.

Stab: No, this does not turn the Fuzz Factory into a weapon. It tames the beast within. Backing it off much beyond 2 o'clock on the dial gets crazy. If you're not into crazy feedback and wild oscillations, I'd keep the Stab cranked. If you like to have fun and experiment, roll this knob back and get lost in the sonic mayhem!

This pedal was a blast at home and so much fun for coming up with new parts and for recording (I used some of it's crazy sounds on the last track of my bands new album). Sure, it likes Strat and P90 pickups much more than the humbuckers in my main guitar, but no matter what, it kicked out great singing fuzz that cleaned up well when you rolled off the volume on guitar. And with minor adjustments to any of the knobs you could get a huge variety of tones. And that’s not even considering the cool oscillation noises you can get and control with your volume knob.

There's a great chart on the ZVex site with sample settings. I'd recommend taking an adhesive address label, drawing a few sets of five circles and affixing that to the front of your Fuzz Factory. You are going to come up with lots of great sounds. But the controls on the Fuzz Factory are so interactive that you won't find those same sounds again (quickly) without keeping some notes.

For my use, I came up with two main fuzz settings. One that was like a nice Fuzz Face (thick and smooth) and another with a nice upper octave effect. I then mapped out some crazier settings. There's much fun to be had at the extremes of the Fuzz Factory. But spouses, kids, pets, and neighbors will likely disagree. Oh, and if you run phase, tremolo, or some other modulation before the Fuzz Factory in oscillation mode things get even sillier. Don't blame me if you lose a few hours (or days) with this thing.

The Fuzz Factory is more fun than a barrel of monkeys. But like a barrel of monkeys, it can get out of hand quickly and make a real mess of your house. Sure there are some "safe" and classic sounds lurking inside. But the real fun comes when you tweak the knobs and it starts sounding like a tornado of fire engines and screaming banshees. That's when the magic happens.

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