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 2019, 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 eight of the best fuzz pedals around in 2019 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.
1Bigfoot Engineering King Fuzz
With just big ol’ gain and volume dials on its canary-yellow chassis, you’d be forgiven for thinking that this is a fuzzbox with a limited range, but you’d be wrong. Hand-built in West Sussex by Bigfoot main man Rhys Stubbs, the King Fuzz was inspired partly by the vintage fuzz tones of Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys. Step on the pedal and ride your guitar’s volume control for everything from small-valve-amp-style break-up to visceral, Jimi-style fuzz that’s rich in midrange attitude. You won’t want to switch it off.
Also try: Analog Man Sun Face, Electro-Harmonix Green Russian Big Muff
2Death By Audio Fuzz War
When you call your pedal ‘Fuzz War’, you’re letting people know that you’re not messing around – and as soon as you plug in, Death By Audio’s creation is taking no prisoners. There’s no space for subtlety and nuance in this three-knob box of dirt: instead, what you get is a bludgeoning onslaught of glorious noise. It’s a versatile beast, however – every minor tweak of the knobs jolts you into a new world of aural aggression. Okay, it’s not the most polite pedal around, but for purveyors of uncomplicated havoc, this wins the battle every time.
Also try: Zvex Effects Fuzz Factory, Chase Bliss Audio Brothers Analog Gainstage
3Electro-Harmonix Op-Amp Big Muff Pi
The original 1970s EHX Op-Amp Big Muff has long been revered by fans of grunge and alternative rock for its uniquely aggressive and biting fuzz style compared to transistor-based Muffs – as used famously and devastatingly by Billy Corgan on some of the Smashing Pumpkins’ biggest hits. Now, however, EHX has revived the pedal in compact form, and even got Mr Corgan onboard to ensure that this new model delivers all those classic 90s alt-rock sounds – and a whole lot more besides.
Also try: Electro-Harmonix Big Muff Pi, JHS Pedals Muffuletta
4Fender The Pelt
It’s always seemed strange that Fender never quite managed to nail the effects-pedal thing, but its latest range of effects – first released in early 2018 and expanded later in the year and again at NAMM 2019 – has (finally) established the company as a major player. The cream of the second drop was The Pelt – an affordable one-stop solution for a wide variety of contemporary fuzz sounds, paired with excellent build quality and clever design.
Also try: JHS Pedals Muffuletta, ZVex Effects Fuzz Factory
5Old Blood Noise Endeavors Alpha Haunt
OBNE isn’t the first indie pedal company to specialise in weird and esoteric artwork mixed with wigged-out product descriptions, but the Oklahomans do it better than most, and the sounds that are produced by the Alpha Haunt are equally potent. With EQ sliders and a low-pass filter, the Alpha Haunt gives you massive flexibility for tone sculpting, which in turns leads to lashings and lashings of smooth fuzz sounds – from fluffy to fiendish.
Also try: Fuzzrocious Pedals Cat King, ZVex Effects Fuzz Factory
6Thorpy FX Fallout Cloud
Adrian Thorpe’s second bomb-proof pedal release was a take on the early ‘triangle’ Big Muffs built between 1969 and 1973. Because it doesn’t suffer from the overcooked distortion levels of some modern Big Muffs and Muff-derived circuits, the Fallout Cloud makes it possible to retain a great deal more control, and stays responsive to picking-hand dynamics. The active treble and bass controls also make it much more versatile, making this a beast that can do anything from Floyd to QOTSA and everything in between.
7Zvex Effects Fuzz Factory Vexter
For over two decades now, the Fuzz Factory has been the crowning achievement of Minneapolis effects wizard Zachary Vex and has since been adopted by scores of experimental guitarists with a passion for chaos, including Matt Bellamy, Stephen Malkmus, Nels Cline and J Mascis. What makes the Fuzz Factory special is its ability to warp the classic fuzz effect via a series of highly interactive controls, and conjure up unique and unholy chimeras of greasy oscillating demonic distortion, too. The Vexter version retains everything that made the classic Fuzz Factory special while dropping the price – an unbeatable combo.
Also try: Fuzzrocious Pedals Cat King, Stone Deaf Fig Fumb
8Walrus Audio Janus
With its joystick controls, the Walrus Audio Janus 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. The right one controls the fuzz – lateral movements affect “hairiness” while vertical movements tweak tone. The left joystick on the other hand, manages the trem. Manoeuvring the joystick left to right adjusts the depth, while pushing it up or down affects the rate. Both of these combine 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.
Also try: noiseKICK FX Diabeetus, Abracadabra Audio Ayahuasca