The 10 Best fuzz pedals to buy in 2023: from gated velcro fuzz to all-out chaos
Time to plug in and turn up with these 10 great noisemakers.
Fuzz: the first effect, and, some might say, still the best. But the world of fuzz is expansive and perhaps intimidating – so let’s take a look at the best options on the market in 2023.
What to look for in a fuzz pedal
There are many types of fuzz pedals out there, but broadly they can be defined by what tentpole fuzz designs they take after: Big Muffs, Fuzz Faces, Tone Benders and so on, but that’s not always the whole story. Some fuzzes aren’t based on any of those major names, and many add extra features that totally transform the sound.
As with everything, it’s good to consider what your style of music needs from the fuzz. Do you want to channel Hendrix with some old-school octave fuzz? Or are you trying to conjure fuzzed-out doomy chaos? There’s a lot of options out there, so let’s dive in.
- Way Huge Swollen Pickle MkIIs
- JHS Legends Of Fuzz Bender
- Death By Audio Fuzz War
- DOD Carcosa
- Earthquaker Devices Hizumitas
- Beetronics Vezzpa
- Electro-Harmonix Ripped Speaker
- Warm Audio Foxy Tone Box
- Walrus Audio Eons
- EHX Big Muff Pi
Way Huge Swollen Pickle MkIIs
Way Huge’s Swollen Pickle is a very, very versatile fuzz. It’s based somewhat on the Big Muff, however bears a few useful tweaks to let you make the sound your own. The Scoop control lets you dial in the amount of midrange that gets cut out, solving one of the most common bug-bears with this style of fuzz.
You can further adjust the gain character with two sets of clipping diodes to choose from for the first stage, and a ‘crunch’ control that adjusts how much the second distortion stage affects things.
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JHS Legends Of Fuzz Bender
This pedal from JHS pays tribute to a hugely important part of the fuzz story: the Tone Bender, first developed at Macari’s on the legendary Denmark Street in London.
It’s based on the Mark III Tone Bender, with silicon transistors recreating every bit of grainy old-school bite. The Attack control takes the place of a gain/fuzz knob, and lets you dial in everything from soaring leads to crunchy overdrive. The Bender’s tone knob is less concerned with treble content and more with colouring the upper midrange, while the overall EQ characteristics of the pedal resemble a slightly thicker-sounding Fuzz Face.
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Death 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, it takes no prisoners. There’s no space for subtlety and nuance in this three-knob box of dirt – what you get is a bludgeoning onslaught of glorious noise.
It’s still a versatile beast, however. Every minor tweak of the knobs jolts you into a new world of aural aggression. Sure, it’s not the most polite pedal around, but if you’ve suffered enough vintage, low-gain fuzzes and just want to blast some air about, the Fuzz War will win any battles you throw at it.
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The Carcosa is one of the coolest things to come out of the Tom Cram era of DOD, which if you haven’t heard, has just been restarted. Hooray!
While it can do both spluttery velcro and full-throated doom metal, the joy of the Carcosa is in the sounds between these two extremes.
It’s easy to coax something neither too saturated nor too gated from the Carcosa, giving you the texture of an old-school vintage fuzz, but with much more power. If you do want to dial in something more spitty, there’s a handy hi-cut control that can make that kind of sound much more usable.
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Earthquaker Devices Hizumitas
Both of Earthquaker Devices’ collaborations with legendary experimental doom bands are excellent, as is the fact there are two of them. Here we have the Hizumitas, a collaboration with Wata of Boris. It’s based on her personal Elk Sustainar fuzz pedal – a strange Big Muff variant that she’s been using for decades.
If you’ve ever heard Boris it’ll be no surprise that the Hizumitas is loaded with tons of output and sustain. It’s not quite as scooped as other Big Muff variants, but still can deliver the sort of aggressive grind you might want from a pedal like this.
It’s also more of a ‘set and forget’ kind of unit than something like the Swollen Pickle, as there aren’t any controls other than the standard trio of volume, tone and sustain. But crank the Hizumitas into a loud Orange amp and you probably won’t feel like those extra controls are needed.
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There aren’t many pedal companies as truly unique as Beetronics, and not just because of their unbreaking commitment to the whole bee thing. Their pedals are just as great-sounding as they are great-looking, and the Vezzpa is no exception: it’s a two-mode octave fuzz, with the more traditional Fuzzzz mode offering either gated velcro or thick sustain, and the Stinger mode increasing the amount of upper-octave to truly pierce through the mix. If you want your fuzz tone to stand out, the Vezzpa is a great option.
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Electro-Harmonix Ripped Speaker
Electro-Harmonix’s fuzz lineup might be overshadowed by the gigantic impact of the Big Muff, but that’s not to say the brand doesn’t have any more tricks up its sleeve. The Eipped Speaker is a unique little fuzz, and while it doesn’t sound exactly like you’ve taken a screwdriver to the front of your amp cab, it’s got an interesting character that certainly evokes some kind of tearing, with the unique ‘rip’ control upping that tearing character, making the pedal particularly great for lead work.
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Warm Audio Foxy Tone Box
Following Warm Audio’s search for a stash of the correct NOS Fairchild transistors used in the original, the velvet-covered oddity that was the FoxxTone Machine is back from the beyond.
Featuring a switchable octave effect, the Foxy Tone Box’s core voice is as thick and wild as the original; engaging that octave adds some extra harmonic oddness to the mix. While the core approach is wild and psychedelic, the controls have enough range for a number of applications.
Its design is very faithful indeed to the original Foxx Tone Machine, but how much that’s a selling point depends on your personal taste. Just don’t spill any beer on it.
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Walrus’ line of multi-mode drive pedals was for a while missing a fuzz – until the Eons arrived. Billed as a ‘five-state fuzz,’ the central rotary mode switch changes both clipping diodes and the fuzz’s overall voicing for a truly versatile dirtbox. There’s also the voltage control, which varies the amount of power going to the circuit for either high-headroom distortion or gated spluttering.
Add to that a two-band EQ, and you’ve got one hell of an agile pedal – and, as is often the case with Walrus pedals, it helps that it’s bloody gorgeous, too.
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Electro-Harmonix Big Muff Pi
Even in 2023, with all the different options on the market, the original Big Muff Pi is still pretty easy to recommend. Affordable, straightforward, and having stood the test of time for half a century, this pedal is both a great entry point for fuzz, and a reliable workhorse for those already converted.
Its scooped character can turn some people off, but for singing, violin-like sustain, thick, saturated power chords and even razor sharp riffing when that tone knob is cranked, it’s a great option. EHX still makes the big-box version of the pedal, but the same circuit is available in a nano format if you’d like to still fit other pedals on your board. And, as of recently, a lot of the different variations on the circuit are also available as nano pedals.
Get today’s deals on the Electro-Harmonix Big Muff Pi