Fuzz is just as cherished today as it was when Keith Richards stomped on a Fuzz-Tone all those decades ago. It was one of the first-ever effects to appear in pedal form, and, even in 2018, you’ll still find brands both big and small releasing fuzz units every week. From clones of iconic pedals to nasty, speaker-ripping devices, it’s never been a better time for the fuzz faithful.
So if it’s fuzz you seek, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve compiled a list of ten of the best fuzz pedals around in 2018 for any type of guitarist, whether you’re a beginner hoping to match Smashing Pumpkins’ fat octaves or someone with a penchant for Keiji Haino’s ear-splitting tones. We’ve even included a few versatile boxes that feature other effects alongside fuzz.
1EarthQuaker Devices Hoof
Creamy germanium sounds with modern tweakability
EarthQuaker Devices makes some of the wildest stompboxes out there, and the Hoof has been a fan favourite since its inception. It’s based off the legendary vintage Green Russian Big Muff Pi, but calling the Hoof a “clone” would be doing it a disservice. That’s because, with a suite of interdependent controls, it’s capable of so much more depth and versatility.
- Based on the legendary Sovtek Big Muff Pi
- Massive tone-shaping options with the “Shift” knob
- Hybrid silicon/NOS germanium design
- Easy to dial in musical tones
- Retails for $179
While there are countless Muff clones out there, this pedal stands on its own (cloven) feet. It nails the creamy, harmonics-rich sound of the Sovtek Muff, but thanks to its hybrid germanium-silicon design, offers a much wider swathe of tones. The Hoof does 90s grunge and alt-rock very well, yet has the bite and punchiness for modern sounds, too.
That versatility shines through the Hoof’s four controls: “Level,” “Fuzz,” “Tone,” and “Shift.” What truly sets this pedal apart is the latter knob, so we’ll hone in on that. With “Shift,” you can tweak your middle frequencies, going from classic scooped (like a Big Muff) to boosted. “Shift” works in tandem with “Tone”—the former sets the centre frequency of the latter.
Similarly, “Level” and “Fuzz” play nice together. Set the former on low and the latter around the three o’clock mark to produce a singing, compressed distortion ideal for lead lines—or playing in quieter conditions. And, unlike the Sovtek unit, the Hoof remains smooth and musical even at low volumes.
2ZVEX Fuzz Factory
All the fuzz you need—and then some
This one needs no introduction—or rather, it defies description. ZVEX’s flagship pedal was born back in the 90s as an eccentric antidote to the muscular dirt boxes popular during that era. Notoriously difficult to use, the Fuzz Factory is a fuzz by name but a tempestuous, almost untameable, box of noise by design. Which is precisely (and paradoxically) what makes it one of the best fuzz pedals around.
- Produces an almost infinite number of unique sounds and textures
- Extremely interactive controls
- Has NOS germanium transistors
- Retails for $199 (Vexter edition)
One thing’s for sure: Even though it’s based on old-school germanium units, the Fuzz Factory is not for those new to the effect. While it’s the most versatile stompbox—in terms of sheer amount of tones—on this list and you can ‘design’ your own personalised fuzz, landing on a sound you like may require hours of experimentation.
Think of the pedal as a puzzle with five ever-changing pieces: “Volume,” “Drive,” “Compress,” “Gate” and “Stability.” The former two are self-explanatory, while the latter three are somewhat vague and interact with one another in weird, unpredictable ways.
“Compress” and “Gate” modify the transistor bias. “Gate” squelches noise—feedback, buzzing and squeals, for example—after the note has decayed. Turning it anti-clockwise opens the gate, while the opposite direction can either eliminate noise or tune in a specific feedback pitch. “Compress” adds attack the further clockwise it goes, all the way to a pinched harmonic tone.
Those shrieking tones can also be negotiated by the “Drive” knob, which fattens up the feedback and the fuzz’s overall character. Which means you can use the Fuzz Factory for hard-gated riffs that oscillate the moment you stop playing.
“Stability” is the most idiosyncratic control on the Fuzz Factory. Turning it clockwise starves the circuit of voltage, which, depending on where your other knobs are set, results in Velcro-esque textures, octave-up screeches or self-oscillating chaos. Like we said, if you revel in a challenge to unlock out-of-this-world tones, this pedal is a real asset.
3Electro-Harmonix Big Muff Pi
Ideal for beginners
The Big Muff Pi is your dad’s fuzz pedal. In fact, it might even be your granddad’s fuzz pedal. One thing’s for sure, though: for many guitarists around the globe, it’s the prime contender for the best fuzz pedal today simply because of its ubiquity, affordability, simplicity and big, creamy tone.
- Everyone from David Gilmour to John Frusciante to Billy Corgan has used it
- Thick fuzz tones, violin-like sustain and rich harmonics
- Uncomplicated controls
- Silicon design
- Retails for about $80
The Electro Harmonix Big Muff Pi has been in production for over 40 years, so needless to say there have been dozens of different versions, each with its own tonal quirks. But here, we’re referring to the ‘classic NYC’ version as it’s widely available.
This pedal may only have three controls—“Volume,” “Tone,” and “Sustain”—but unless you’re a serial tinkerer, they’re all you need. The “Volume” knob takes your output from wistful to in-your-face. “Tone,” on the other hand, provides colour to your sound. And “Sustain” increases the distortion level: crank it up to add saturation, thickness and, yes, sustain to your solos. However, the pedal is also known for its scooped mids, with no dial to EQ that band.
To sum up, the Big Muff Pi is to fuzz what the Boss DS-1 is to distortion. It is, for better or for worse, the most quintessential and ‘basic’ effect of its type. Whether you’re looking to emulate Nirvana’s grungy riffwork or The Raconteurs’ swashbuckling indie rock, the Big Muff Pi has you covered.
4Keeley Electronics Loomer
For shoegazers and post-rockers
If you want to sound like Kevin Shields, this is the best fuzz pedal for you. The Keeley Loomer aims to recreate My Bloody Valentine’s cacophonous wall of noise, and brings together reverb/delay, modulation and high-gain fuzz into one box. It can be too much of a one-trick pony, though. But rather than having to spring for exotic rack units, fiddle with digital plug-ins or assemble a phalanx of pedals, the Loomer presents a far easier and cheaper way to nail that shoegaze sound.
- Ideal for shoegaze, post-rock and other similar indie rock genres
- Three modes each for the reverb and fuzz sections
- Very editable—the effect order can also be reversed
- Retails for $299
At the heart of the Loomer are two stages that run in series: fuzz and reverb. The fuzz section is based on the Big Muff and offers three voices, from flat to scooped mids to full frequency response. “Level,” “Filter” and “Fuzz” knobs also behave similarly to how they do on the Electro-Harmonix classic. The fuzz is, as you’d expect, aggressive, woolly and dense—perhaps not the best for lightning-quick solos.
The ’verb, in comparison, isn’t as straightforward. It also has three modes—Soft Focus, hall and reverse—but they’re far from self-explanatory. Soft Focus is based on a patch on the Yamaha FX500, linking up two delay lines, at different times, in parallel. And then the signal is run through a four-voice chorus. The result is a thick, treacly reverb for fans of The Cure, Cocteau Twins and Lush.
The reverse mode, even though not a ‘true’ reverse reverb, is another standout. You can pick one of eight set decay times—from 150 to 500 milliseconds—before your notes begin boomeranging back at increasing volume. This mode also features a vibrato that mimics Shields’ ‘glide guitar’ technique. It’s envelope-triggered, so strum harder and it almost sounds as though you’re rocking a Jazzmaster tremolo bar.
That all said, the Loomer really only makes good of its name when both sides—you can change the order—are simultaneously engaged. From MBV to Jesus & Mary Chain to even Dinosaur Jr, the fuzz-reverb/modulation combo sounds as convincing and authentic as a single stompbox possibly can. And we say that uniqueness more than justifies the pedal’s handsome price tag.
5Old Blood Noise Endeavors Alpha Haunt Fuzz
Extremely tweakable fuzz
OBNE has some of the most singular pedals on the market, but the Alpha Haunt is truly something else. To a beginner, its array of controls—12, to be precise—may seem intimidating, but this dirt box can provide hours of experimentation in the hunt for your elusive fuzz tone. Because whether you’re going for rumbling overdriven sounds or sputtering fuzz effects, the Alpha Haunt will do your bidding.
- Very versatile, with controls for bias, compression and tone
- Active three-band graphic EQ
- Silicon design
- Gorgeous artwork
- Retails for $229
The Alpha Haunt is a beefed-up version of OBNE’s popular Haunt pedal. Where the latter has a comprehensive seven-control system, this one offers even more tweakability.
It begins with one of the pedal’s more intuitive upgrades: a “Fuzz Range” mini toggle. Need high-gain fuzz? Flick up. Low-gain? Flip down. The other dials are a little overwhelming, so we’ll focus on those that set it apart from the pack: “Gate,” “Bias,” “LPF” and a three-band graphic EQ.
“Gate” interacts with the “Fuzz” control to manage the sonic character of the fuzz. Crank both of these way up to get the fuzziest and squishiest effects. “Bias,” on the other hand, controls the power of the fuzz and how much it sputters—however, even OBNE advises to think of this knob as an on/off switch. Turn it fully anti-clockwise for full clarity, and in the opposite direction for those sputters. Finally, “LPF” is a low-pass filter whose behaviour changes depending on where you set a separate “LPF” mini toggle.
As if all of these weren’t enough, OBNE has also thrown in a three-band graphic EQ for good measure. It’s an easy way to manage your lows, mids and highs, ensuring you’ll cut through the mix—or overwhelm it, if that’s your intent. The three-band EQ governs both the fuzz signal and your clean signal, the latter of which runs in parallel and is dialed in via the “Enhance” knob.
And, in our opinion, this is by far the coolest-looking stompbox on the list.
An octave fuzz unlike any other
Smallsound/Bigsound, a boutique company helmed by Cymbals Eat Guitars’ Brian Hamilton, is known for creating pedals that stray as far left-field as possible. So when the brand launched a stompbox inspired by the Univox Super-Fuzz, it was never going to be a straight-up clone. Enter the Buzzz, a seriously eccentric fuzz with a few secret weapons under the hood.
- Authentic Super-Fuzz tones
- Footswitchable octave and ‘tone blast’ modes
- Voltage starve control for weirder voices
- Switchable germanium and silicon clipping
- Retails for $200
The Buzzz is, essentially, a souped-up version of the beloved Univox Super-Fuzz, whose famous users and abusers include Kurt Cobain, Pete Townshend and Jus Oborn of Electric Wizard. It offers the same bold and brash tones of the original, but with a suite of modern controls that best fits noiseniks, from doom metal to experimental guitarists.
Unlike the twin germanium design of the Super-Fuzz, the Buzzz lets you switch between germanium and silicon diodes, whether you want vintage warmth or biting tones, respectively. Additionally, there are two gain stages—low and high—that offer even more versatility.
With that base tonal palette set, you can begin tinkering. The left footswitch on the Buzzz is assignable—via the toggles on the right of the chassis—between the octave mode and what Smallsound/Bigsound calls a “tone blast.” The former adds the Super-Fuzz’s shrill octave-up and lower harmonics to your signal, while the latter is an extreme mid scoop and volume boost that should be handled with care. Both modes can also be engaged simultaneously.
The Buzzz’s four knobs round up the pedal’s immense depth: “Gain,” “Volume,” “Treble” and “Starve.” The first three need little explanation. But the latter dial is where things get interesting. As its name suggests, turn it clockwise to starve the circuit of voltage, lowering headroom and clarity to produce discordant splats, overblown sounds and other chaotic tones.
All that said, it must be stressed that the Buzzz is still capable of delivering straightforward fuzz sounds. A low-gain setting with germanium clipping and octave engaged yields an old-school vibe that emulates Hendrix’s Octavia excursions. And conversely, high-gain settings with silicon clipping and “Starve” pushed slightly gives you enough crunch for modern rock.
7Walrus Audio Janus
Playful tremolo and fuzz
With its joystick controls, the Walrus Audio Janus can easily be mistaken for a video game controller. It may seem bizarre at first, but don’t let the quirky design fool you. The pedal combines a high-quality fuzz and an equally brilliant tremolo in one. And, to top things off, it provides effect sculpting like no other, thanks to those joysticks.
- Tremolo and fuzz that can be used independently or in series
- Unique joystick control
- Suitable for a variety of instruments
- Retails for $289
The Walrus Audio Janus is named after the Roman god of gates, beginnings and endings, and is commonly depicted as having two faces—one looking to the future and the other peering into the past. Which suits the pedal perfectly: its two effects may be undeniably old school, yet they’re combined into one modern, innovative package.
The right side of the pedal controls the fuzz. Moving the joystick left to right alters the “hairiness” of the fuzz, going from mild to intense. Moving the joystick up and down, however, tweaks the tone: up for a trebly crunch, and down for a bassy growl. There’s also a “Blend” knob to adjust the wet/dry mix and add more clarity. A toggle switch also lets you pick between three clipping voices, from creamy Big Muff to overblown tones.
The left side manages the tremolo. Maneuvering the joystick left to right adjusts the depth, while pushing it up or down affects the rate. It’s not the ‘choppiest’ tremolo around, but it’s there to complement the fuzz. Or, rather, to take it to the extremes. You’ll be able to create landscapes of different textures, and better still if you’re playing with loops and have two free hands to fiddle with the joysticks in real time. This may even be more fun than a video game.
8Death by Audio Fuzz War
For noisy, violent fuzz tones
You can tell from the pedal’s name that it doesn’t muck about. Death by Audio’s Fuzz War is as outrageous as it gets. There is no space for subtlety and nuance in this three-knob box of dirt: It’s on the prowl for a bludgeoning onslaught of noise, so strap up, plug in and rock out.
- Extremely straightforward operation
- Goes from boost to overdrive to distortion to fuzz
- High-gain suited for aggressive styles of rock
- Retails for $180
The Fuzz War is like an agitated pitbull raring to be let off the chain. If the kind of music you play is reminiscent of Black Flag and Misfits, this is probably the best fuzz pedal for you. It provides some of the dirtiest distortion and thickest sustaining fuzz effects around—and it’s dead easy to use.
A punk’s pedal should be as straightforward as his axe. And that’s exactly what the Fuzz War is like. It only has three knobs: “Volume,” “Fuzz” and “Tone,” none of which should be foreign to even a beginner. Don’t be fooled, though. While the controls are simple, the pedal’s depth and power shouldn’t be underestimated.
The “Fuzz” control on this pedal has an exceptionally wide range. Turn it all the way left and the Fuzz War functions as a dirty boost. Turn it the other way, however, and you’ll venture into overdrive and distortion territories. And with “Fuzz” cranked up, you’ll be ready to melt some faces. The “Tone” dial isn’t your average filter/EQ knob, either. It colors your sound, taking it from dark and sludgy to bright and crunchy.
We’re not kidding about this pedal being an absolute beast. Every minor tweak results in a jolt of change, thanks to its aforementioned range. But if you want something aggressive and uncomplicated, cry “Havoc!” and let slip the dogs of Fuzz War.
9Black Arts Toneworks Pharaoh Supreme
For doom and stoner metal
The word “moderation” isn’t in Black Arts Toneworks’ vocabulary. The brand is well known to build pedals that cater to doom metal and stoner rock guitarists, and the Pharaoh line of fuzz boxes is no different. We picked the Pharaoh Supreme as one of the best fuzz pedals simply because of its assortment of viscous, sludgy tones.
- Ideal for guttural doom/stoner riffs and licks
- Six clipping modes provide incredible fuzz variation
- Clipping modes include germanium, silicon, MOSFET and LED
- Headroom is adjustable via a front-end saturation knob
- Retails for $229.99
Like the Big Muff, the Pharaoh Supreme straddles the line between fuzz and distortion. What sets this stompbox apart, however, is its incredible tweakability and depth—so long as you’re a fan of the heavy, gnarly sounds of Electric Wizard, Kyuss and Sleep.
For starters, it lets you pick one of six clipping modes: germanium, asymmetrical germanium, silicon, MOSFET, LED and none at all. Asymmetrical germanium is interesting as it provides that sought-after warmth, but with sharper edges and more bite. On the other hand, MOSFET adds more woolliness, and LED has more of a ‘breakup’ rasp to it. Compared to the original Pharaoh’s three modes, the Supreme is by far more generous.
Also new to the Pharaoh Supreme is the “Pre” knob. This controls the pre-gain saturation, which in turn governs your headroom and clipping—go from more headroom/less clipping to vice versa.
“Tone,” “High,” “Fuzz” and “Volume” are the other knobs to sculpt your tone with. The relationship between the former two is worth pointing out: “High” is meant to ‘replace’ the high end lost when you’re boosting the lows via the “Tone” knob.
As we’ve mentioned, the regular Pharaoh is already a beloved pedal. But with this rough beast, its hour come round at last, the Pharaoh has a more-than-worthy Second Coming.
10J Rockett Audio Design WTF Fuzz
Controlled oscillating chaos
The J Rockett WTF Fuzz is the anti-fuzz pedal. It’s even described by the brand as “the fuzz for people who don’t like fuzz.” But don’t take that too literally. The WTF Fuzz is an overdrive/fuzz unit that earns its place on this list for its ability to conjure weird oscillating textures alongside tamer overdrive and distortion sounds.
- Capable of a wide range of sounds, even trumpet-like tones
- Has a separate boost channel
- Three-way EQ switch to match to your amp
- Silicon-based design
- Retails for $229
This pedal was created in collaboration with Paul Trombetta, and is based on his Minibone fuzz. It may only have four knobs to tinker with, yet it’s capable of a medley of tones—from a woolly, thick fuzz to raunchy OD to, yes, trumpet- and trombone-like squawks. More Bitches Brew than Kind of Blue, though, we have to forewarn you.
Apart from the usual “Volume,” “Gain” and “Boost” knobs—the boost stage has its own footswitch—the WTF lays its claim to fame with the namesake “WTF” control. That’s an 11-way rotary dial that essentially starves the circuit of voltage in different ways, even resulting in wacky oscillation. Tweak “Gain” and “WTF” together to unlock all manner of fuzz characters. And if you’re only here for those horn sounds, crank “WTF” to its higher settings and roll back the “Gain.”
The other great feature on this pedal is a three-way EQ switch, whose settings are “Neutral,” “Bright,” and “Dark.” It’s particularly handy to match the pedal to your guitar or amp—so you can dial back the twanginess of your single-coils or give your dark amp a touch of brilliance if the fuzz sounds too muffled.