Buzzing Bugs BB01 Fuzz Pre-Amp review: Not your usual Vox in a box
This perky little unit offers everything from a tone-shaping boost to all-out scuzzy fury – time to toss your AC30 into a skip?
Aside from Mick Fleetwood and the sax player out of Roxy Music, it’s fair to say Cornwall does not have an overwhelmingly impressive rock’n’roll heritage. But like a flower in the guitar-playing desert, up springs an indie company called Buzzing Bugs Audio Devices… and its flagship pedal, the BB01 Fuzz Pre-Amp.
A smart-looking device with a simple three-knob layout, the Buzzing Bugs BB01 is designed to capture the cooking tones of a Vox AC30 – but if that makes you think of words like ‘bite’, ‘roar’ and ‘chronic tinnitus’, be prepared to think again. What’s being emulated here is the warm crunch of that classic amp’s Normal channel, rather than the usual feisty Top Boost tones.
Oh, and if you’re wondering why an amp-style drive pedal is calling itself a fuzz, that’s because of the immense gain range it promises – from a gritty boost, through smooth overdrive and all the way up to full-blown flatu-filth.
I’m expecting a lot from that gain control, then; but perhaps more interesting is the ‘hi cut’ in the middle. A clear nod to the AC30’s cut knob, which filters out treble towards the back end of the circuit, this should make it easy to keep spikiness at bay when the gain is cranked. (Like on a real Vox, it works in reverse, so more cut means less treble.)
One more point to note before the racket-making begins: the BB01 is green. This came as a surprise to me because, based on most of the pictures circulating online, I could have sworn it was grey. So here it is photographed alongside a green guitar, in order to bring out its olive handsomeness.
If there really is a clean boost hiding inside this fuzz box, it should reveal itself with volume at full and gain at zero. And it does – although just how much of a boost you get is dependent on where you’ve set the cut control. Like, bigly dependent.
At halfway, all the BB01 really does is muffle the top end a bit. Pull it back to around 10 o’clock and you get something close to the bypass sound, but go any lower than that and things change dramatically – because you’re suddenly dealing with a whole load of pure vintage British chime. It’s actually uncanny how effectively this thing can turn a black-panel Fender combo into a clean-ish AC30.
Remember, I haven’t even added any dirt yet… and that’s where things get really tasty. Give the gain control just a gentle twist, turning down the output volume to compensate, and within seconds you’ll be desperate to buy a Rickenbacker and start a Jam covers band. OK, a simple pedal like this is never going to replicate the bloomy warmth of a good Vox in full flight, but the crisp-yet-squishy stuff at the top end of the tonal spectrum is so perfect it’s almost funny. This is such a sugary-sweet crunch tone that you’ll ignore crying babies, fire alarms and possibly nuclear evacuations to keep playing.
By the time the gain knob hits 12 o’clock we are indeed in the realm of proper fuzz. It’s soft and burbly, and at anywhere close to full blast it will start to feel like an excursion to the verge of flappy collapse. The only head-scratcher is that the cut control is still at zero yet the trebly crispness has gone, so all you can do to modify that tone now is make it even darker… and that way woolliness lies, even with a bright-voiced Telecaster.
Maybe it’s being true to the non-Top Boost brief, but the whole right half of the BB01’s central knob feels like a bit of a waste. The good news is, there’s so much glorious stuff happening in the left half that it hardly seems to matter.