Friday, April 5, 2013

Cusack Screamer Fuzz V2

Thanks to the Cusack Screamer Fuzz, I can get Satisfaction even while I Hate it Here. I can also get a Cold Shot and a whole slew of other classic and new tones! This pedal serves up a ridiculous amount of versatility for a small yellow box with three knobs and a three-way switch.

Level: Controls the overall output of the pedal
Fuzz: All the way counter-clockwise is no fuzz. All the way clockwise is a gated and ripping sound that cuts out as the note fades.
Scream: Controls the gain of the “Screamer” circuit. All the way cranked is double the gain of your typical TS.
Clip Mode: Left is standard TS clipping, all the way right is “crushed,” and in the middle is asymmetrical LED clipping (that’s right asymmetrical like the good old Boss SD-1).

I tested the Screamer Fuzz mostly through my Reverend Goblin (quite the coincidence since Cusack now owns the rights to the Reverend amps) with a bunch of guitars. Even with the lack of a tone knob, the Cusack sounded great with single coils, P90s, humbuckers. I was worried about the lack of a tone control at first, but the Cusack is voiced perfectly. It cuts through a dense mix without ever getting shrill and somehow manages to leave each guitar sounding like itself.

We’ll start off with the fuzz all of the way down. With the switch to the left, you have a classic TS circuit. The gain range is huge and it responds well to playing dynamics and adjustments to the guitars volume control. In fact, all of the clipping options are dynamic. Running my Strat into the Screamer at these settings coaxed all of those SRV riffs I learned back in high school to my fingers and brought a big smile to my face. I don’t usually like the combination of humbuckers and TS pedals. It seems like they both accentuate the same midrange and the sound ends up kind “honky.” And while I still didn’t love a bridge humbucker paired with the Screamer Fuzz, the neck and middle position were rich with a nice vocal quality.

Switching to the middle position on the clipping selector is where I fell in love with the Screamer Fuzz. The output rises significantly over the other clipping positions and the harmonics it adds/emphasizes are just beautiful. With the gain about between 1/3 and 2/3 up, you get a break-up that responds (and sounds ) like a great tube amp. It adds the kind of compression that makes it easier to play without killing your dynamics. You pick lightly for bright cleans and dig in for some grind.

And then you start adding the fuzz to taste. Leave the selector in the middle position, put the “Scream” at noon, and the “Fuzz” at 9 o’clock. This sound alone is worth the price of admission. With my Jazzmaster, this had me rocking out to Hate in Here by Wilco. And it sounded amazing. Switching over to my Reverend Roundhouse (with humbuckers) and rolling down the volume on the guitar gave me a tone that remind me of the great edge of breakup tones on the Alabama Shakes record. I have no idea what the Shakes used for that album, but I was having a blast playing their songs at this setting. In fact, this is where I’ve left the Screamer Fuzz. And I can’t stop using it. My band is used to me having new dirt pedals frequently - to the extent that they barely pat attention to my “little habit” these days. But last week, when I stepped on the Screamer Fuzz for some lead work, they took notice.

And I know a lot of folks are “weirded out” with the LED always being on with the Cusack pedals (green in bypass and red when engaged). I’m fine with it, but if you don’t like it you can set the pedal for “legacy mode” which has the LED on only when the pedal is on. Just hold the switch down for a few seconds (until the LED blinks once), this puts the pedal into "Legacy mode.” The LED will be OFF in bypass, and RED while on. Just hold it again to put back in "Cusack" mode.

In short, the Cusack Screamer Fuzz is a blast. You can dial back the fuzz and rock some classic TS tones, crank the fuzz for gnarly fuzz tones, and/or rock a hundred shades of tone in between. Try it. You'll like it.

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