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Fat Tone’s Top 10 Effect Pedals of 2009

It’s time for the annual Fat Tone Guitars year end Top 10 Guitar Effect Pedals of 2009 list.  In all fairness, this is our first Top 10 list but it’s fun to do so look for another list next year.  The Fat Tone Top 10 list seeks to acknowledge those guitar effect pedals that have left a positive impression on us this year.

Our criteria for recognizing an effect pedal for excellence is vague.  It’s kinda like we know it when we hear it.  In a loose order of importance, here’s the criteria:

  1. The pedal must sound killer.  Seriously.  No sandpaper or scratchiness allowed.
  2. The pedal must be a great value.  It can be an expensive pedal with awesome tone or lots of functionality and usefulness.
  3. Great manufacturer behind it’s design and sale.  As a retailer, it’s so refreshing to work with a pedal manufacturer that takes pride in their work, supports the customer AND the dealer.
  4. Sales volume and popularity.

As you can see, the popularity of a pedal comes in last giving some great sounding but still “under the radar” pedals a chance at winning the coveted award.  Enough banter–lets get started.

Our favorite effect pedal of 2009 was the incomparable, super sounding MJM LONDON FUZZ, Germanium Edition. This pedal hit all the criteria dead on and did it all year long.  Great smooth fuzz.  Affordable price.  It seems that everyone wanted a London Fuzz and we couldn’t keep them in stock.  We’ll do better in 2010.

MJM London Fuzz

MJM London Fuzz

  • Empress Superdelay Digital Delay Pedal–The Superdelay did it all.  A pristine sounding digital delay pedal that had the best tape echo sound we’ve heard outside an Echoplex.  And the learning curve was lower on the Superdelay than on other top of the line delay units.
  • Analog Man Beano Boost–A very cool vintage sounding pedal that rewards the skilled guitar player.  The Beano Boost is based on the Dallas Rangemaster and delivers organic overdriven dirt like it’s going out of style.
  • Xotic RC Booster–A good clean boost is like good vodka.  No coloration.  The Xotic RC Booster allows your amp to do it’s business and gives that extra ooomph to get it there.  This pedal became our best selling clean boost pedal and then some.
  • Durham Electronics Zia Drive–The Zia Drive is a super smooth, musical overdrive that is super amp-like.  And I’ve yet to hear a better rhythm guitar pedal that delivers the chunka chunka like it should.  Chicken Bone Dan plays the Zia Drive.
  • MJM China Fuzz–The China Fuzz is based on the old Univox Super Fuzz and in my opinion, the best sounding fuzz pedal at Fat Tone.  While the China Fuzz is still not selling in boatloads, those that give it a whirl are not disappointed.
  • Blackout Effectors Musket Fuzz V2–The Musket Fuzz is based on the Big Muff.  But it’s so much more.  Vintage and modern sounds abound in this highly tweakable fuzz bonanza.  And Kyle at Blackout Effectors is one of the finest inthe business.
  • Tech 21 Boost DLA Digital Delay–Here is a digital delay pedal that is highly versatile, sounds great and has a super feature set while still selling for under $200.  One of Fat Tone’s top selling summer pedals.
  • Fulltone Clyde Deluxe Wah Pedal–The Clyde Deluxe is a tried and true monster.  Delivering some great wahsounds and with settings that make sense, this pedal will continue to sell well into the next decade and beyond.
  • Barber Electronics Half-Gainer Overdrive Pedal–Barber Electronics makes workhorse pedals that deliver the goods at the best boutique prices around.  The Half-Gainer is a two channel overdrive pedal that is tweakable and affordable.
Empress Superdelay

Empress Superdelay

Analog Man Beano Boost

Analog Man Beano Boost

Xotic RC Booster

Xotic RC Booster

Durham Electronics Zia Drive

Durham Electronics Zia Drive

MJM China Fuzz

MJM China Fuzz

Blackout Effectors Musket Fuzz

Blackout Effectors Musket Fuzz

Tech 21 Boost DLA

Tech 21 Boost DLA

Fulltone Clyde Deluxe

Fulltone Clyde Deluxe

Barber Half-Gainer

Barber Half-Gainer

Check out all of Fat Tone Guitars great lineup of guitar effect pedals here.

What’s With Pink Floyd?

Pink Floyd is one of the top brands in rock and roll.  I say that with some cynicism and some admiration.  Like them or hate them, you’ve heard of Pink Floyd, have most likely heard some of their music.

I’m in the middle of the road when it comes to Floyd.  Sure, my friends and I listened to them a lot in high school.  I was in 7th grade when they played Soldier Field in Chicago with the huge inflatable pig on their Animals tour.  I was a sophomore in high school when The Wall came out and made them the top band in the land.  But I never became a huge Floyd fan and I never dug deep into their albums.  And admittedly, I never was tremendously impressed by David Gilmour.  I thought he and his playing was good and fit the music, but not great.

Pink Floyd Overrated

Pink Floyd Overrated

And of course the ubiquitous black t-shirt:

Dark Side shirt

Dark Side shirt

Getting back to David Gilmour and his guitar playing…

Fat Tone Guitars is running a promotion through the end of September.  There’s no purchase necessary and we are asking people to enter by submitting their favorite 5 guitar solos and then we’ll randomly select a winner for a brand new MJM Guitar FX London Fuzz Pedal.  And after 2 days of our promotion, the guitar god leader–by a LONG WAY–is David Gilmour.

I’ve been really impressed with many guitarists over the years.  I really dig the work of rock guitarists like Scott Gorham, Steve Hunter and Paul Kossoff among many others.  But it seems as if David Gilmour is one big guitar idol.  Sure, I can air guitar the lead to Another Brick In The Wall or hum the solo on Comfortably Numb.  But I never thought of Gilmour or those tunes as the hallmark of rock guitarism.  I’m going to go back and give those records another listen.

If you want to enter Fat Tone’s giveaway, just click here.

5 Great Big Muff Style Fuzzes

The Electro-Harmonix Big Muff Pi Fuzz Pedal is one of the most popular and recognizable tones in rock and roll.  The Big Muff was introduced in the early 1970s by Electro-Harmonix and soon after, many of the top artists in rock adopted this effect pedal and appropriated it’s thick, rich sound as part of their own.

Electro-Harmonix Big Muff Pi Fuzz Pedal

Electro-Harmonix Big Muff Pi Fuzz Pedal

Among other artists, David Gilmour famously used the Big Muff on many classic Pink Floyd albums.  Pink Floyd Animals, from 1977, features numerous lead guitar runs, accentuated by the Big Muff.  Also in the 1970s, many classic Carlos Santana signature leads were recorded with the Big Muff.  General characteristics of the pedal include increased distortion and sustain of the guitar tone, a smooth and fuzzy characteristic to the tone that separates it from clean guitar tone as well as the other instruments in a rock and roll band.

Electro-Harmonix was forced out of business in 1982 and for a period of a few years, the Big Muff was out of production.  Because of this, original Big Muff effect pedals have become desirable and collectible while a handful of smaller boutique pedal manufacturers began developing their own versions of the Big Muff.  In fact, many of these small pedal manufacturers became well known in their own right, and are in business today producing great guitar fuzz pedals.  Here is a list of five great BM inspired boutique guitar effect pedals:

1.  Blackout Effectors Musket Fuzz — The Musket Fuzz, by Blackout Effectors is a versatile fuzz pedal that takes its inspiration from the early Big Muff sound.  The Musket adds a lot to the party, with additional tone EQ knobs which allow the guitarist to further tweak their sound, especially controlling the amount of midrange that finds it’s way to the amplifier.  The result is a rich full sound which can be both vintage sounding as well as modern sounding, and can cut through the loudest rock band.

Blackout Effectors Musket Fuzz

Blackout Effectors Musket Fuzz

2.  BMF Effects Aries Fuzz —  The Aries Fuzz, by BMF Effects is a virtual clone of the classic Big Muff.  Less tweakable than the Musket Fuzz but still highly musical, the Aries sports very rich tone with wide frequency response.  The result is a smooth sound with huge sustain and can be very desirable for lead guitar tone.  In my opinion, this really comes close to David Gilmour lead tone.

BMF Effects Aries Fuzz

BMF Effects Aries Fuzz

3.  MJM Guitar FX Foxey Fuzz — The Foxey Fuzz is a silicon transistor powered fuzz pedal by MJM Guitar FX out of Montreal.  The Foxey has a musical, distorted fuzz tone but isn’t noisy like many early silicon fuzz boxes.   The Foxey Fuzz has also improved upon the original Big Muff circuit by adding true bypass.  This pedal is great for chunky rhythm tones as well as lead tones.

MJM Foxey Fuzz

MJM Foxey Fuzz

4.  Earthquaker Devices Hoof Fuzz — The Earthquaker Devices Hoof Fuzz pedal is modeled after the Russian made Big Muff but offers a tighter, cleaner fuzz tone than that pedal.  Armed with a silicon/germanium transistor, the Hoof Fuzz allows you to tweak the tone knob, basically adjusting the amount of midrange for each tone setting. The Hoof is also a very tweakable fuzz pedal.

Earthquaker Devices Hoof Fuzz

Earthquaker Devices Hoof Fuzz

5.  Way Huge Swollen Pickle Fuzz — Way Huge Electronics, part of Dunlop, has reissued the Swollen Pickle and this fuzz provides a full, BM style sound.  Also, tweakable, the Swollen Pickle can add mids for a vintage sound or scoop them for a more modern sound.  The Swollen Pickle sounds great on both chords or single note runs.

Way Huge Swollen Pickle Fuzz

Way Huge Swollen Pickle Fuzz

Fuzz pedals were some of the original guitar effect tones and are still highly popular.  When you think of great guitar rock and roll, most likely a fuzz was used in getting that loud distorted rock tone.

Brief History of Fuzz

Steve from Fuzzeffect.com was kind enough to share this brief history of the fuzz box with us:

The first Fuzz box, the Maestro FZ-1 Fuzz Tone, made its American debut in 1962. It was created in an attempt to have the guitar imitate brass and string instruments. Sales through 1964 were very slow. Everything changed in 1965 with the release of the song “Satisfaction”, the legendary riff being the work of the Fuzz Tone.
Sola Sound introduced the MK I Tone Bender in 1965. The 1966 MK II was used by many famous British guitarists. Built with germanium transistors, the tonebender had bold fuzz and maximum sustain. Sola Sound would eventually change their name and become Colorsound.
Sola Sound Tonebender Fuzz Box

Sola Sound Tonebender Fuzz Box

The FZ-1 was not easy to come by in England and the birth of British Rock was just starting. The British company Sola Sound, sometimes spelled Solasound, and others were founded in response to the Fuzz demand. The “Fuzz Era” had begun.
The first era of fuzz pedals were equipped with either two or three germanium transistors. These pedals produced great tone, but many of these transistors turned out to be manufactured inconsistently, affected by climate, and generally unreliable.
In the 70’s, most germanium transistors were replaced with silicon transistors. Silicon transistors were more compact and reliable. The silicon transistor yields a much higher gain and the sound is brighter. Of course, there is debate as to which transistor sounds better.
Fortunately, the consumer of today has the ability to listen to and choose the Fuzz effect that is right for him. The Fuzz pedals of today mimic the legends, but also provide additional features. Most offer the choice of germanium or silicon transistors.
MJM Guitar FX makes a great Tonebender clone called the Brit Bender.  It’s an almost exact replica of the original circuit.

Ocean of Tone

This morning, Melissa and I spread out our current stock of guitar effect pedals on the Fat Tone Stage.  We didn’t have a reason–I just wanted to see if we could cover the stage.  Well, we did (cover the stage that is).

No Boss pedals were used in the taking of this photograph.

Can you identify all the pedal manufacturers represented in this picture?

Guitar Effect Pedals at Fat Tone Guitars

Guitar Effect Pedals at Fat Tone Guitars

Contact us if we are missing any essential pedals.

What Sounds Good

Being in the guitar store business, I spend a lot of time listening to music and guitars, and a lot of time listening to people playing guitars.  I also spend a lot of time talking to customers.  More importantly, I spend a lot of time LISTENING to customers.  What is striking me as ironic is that a lot of customers are spending less time listening and more time “researching”.

There are tons of guitar effect pedals out there and it seems that there are more and more each week.  I’m going to go on record right now and say that there are almost no “bad” effect pedals.  What sounds good to you, the player, is subjective and never wrong.  What gets me is that people seem to be spending too much time on the web reading about pedals ad nauseum.  I think that time should be spent listening to the sounds.  Even better, get out a record and listen to it.  Even better than that-go to a concert and listen to that!

We had a customer in the shop this week who was in the market for a chorus pedal.  He brought his guitar with him to the shop and proceeded to play about 6 chorus pedals over the course of about 30 minutes.  When he was done, he packed up his stuff, turned to me and said “I’ve got to do more reading”.

Huh?  This is a guitar shop not a bookshop.

MJM Effects, out of Canada is becoming one of my favorite boutique pedal companies.  Great lineup of pedals–from fuzz to distortion to vibe.  Here’s one of my favorites…the MJM China Fuzz.

MJM China Fuzz Pedal

MJM China Fuzz Pedal

Catch Short Punks in Love at the next After-Hours at Fat Tone on Saturday June 27th at 8pm.