AnalogMike (Mike Piera) and Marc Ahlfs are both well know in today’s large circle of fuzz builders but it wasn’t long ago when that circle was a lot smaller, and these two circuit hounds were the go-tos for vintage styled effects. Little has changed since then in that regard, but the needs and wants of players certainly have. Or have they? Do gear hounds still seek out simple two knob fuzz boxes, or do they prefer the options afforded by more up to date circuits? Vintage fuzz is being used by many modern players… Can both be valid in today’s market of strong opinions of what a fuzz “should” be?
The classic Silicon Fuzz Face. It’s on so many of your favourite tracks. Biting, screaming, controlled fuzz that is the diametrically opposed flavour of it’s Germanium counterpart. For fuzz fanatics an often used transistor is the BC109, and is at the Heart of both contenders in today’s fuzz face-off: the AnalogMan SunFace BC109 and Skreddy Lunar Module Deluxe. Both are considered titans in the world of boutique fuzz, and rightfully so. Let’s take a look at the totally different approaches they have in using the same transistor.
The AnalogMan is an example of simplicity itself with only Volume and Fuzz controls (labeled “V” and “F”.) As with any vintage fuzz face, generally, the closer you can get the controls to maximum the better off you are. No need to take notes for live use…Just crank ’em! If you back the Fuzz control back ever so slightly, it can take away some of the brash bravado silicon trannies tend to exhibit when set close to maximum, but still retain the chaotic nature of the Fuzz Face. There isn’t much more to it than this: Awesome fuzz that is set it and forget it…as far as the pedal goes. It still has some degree of responsiveness from the volume control. As far as dynamics it’s akin to having the fuzz wired directly to your output jack. It needs to be right there anyway, as the input impedance is truly crucial to it’s timbre in your rig. Though available as options, there is no 9V input or LED indicator. This is true vintage styled fuzz.
The diametrically opposed Lunar Module offers a lot in term of flexibility but again, retains the character of a vintage Fuzz Face. Built by Marc Ahlfs of Skreddy, a manufacture known more for exacting replications of vintage BMPs, his products’ use of vintage parts often put prices in the stratosphere…and if they run out, well, his own creations have often become almost unattainable by the builder himself. This unit uses some more attainable parts, and is a bit unique in the boutique world of vintage clones and recreations. With its three additional controls it has the ability to mimic a few of the classic silicon fuzz circuits, namely the Fuzz Face and Tone Bender. It is still hardly and wild in the classic Silicon vein but is quite adjustable. While others have attempted this to a passable degree (Muffuletta for the BMP Circuit) few have come as Marc Ahlfs has with the Lunar Module Deluxe. In it’s equally compact enclosure it offers modern and accurate vintage tones. And don’t forget, it can be used a a boost, overdrive distortion in addition to a fuzz.
Of course, with this added flexibility comes the usual issues: it takes a bit of experiementation to get the classic Fuzz Face tones dialled in, and they are not likely going to be easy to recall with five controls. But if that is the price to pay for so much flexibility so be it. An issue that gets no complaints here is the that of option anxiety: a good design is a good design, and there is a lot of effort needed to make this pedal sound bad. Just about anywhere the controls are set, it sounds great. These additional controls can also mimic a boost pedal in front of your fuzz, so experimentation is key here. The Lunar Module also tends to be a bit more forgiving as far as effects placement, though as a rule Silicon transistors can be less temperamental than their Germanium counterparts. The circuit itself has been optimized for less noise, a fair bit of stability and much more consistency compared to an exact vintage replica. And just to keep the Lunar Module looking towards to the future, 9V adapter input and LED come standard.
Some things that came to mind:
The SunFace is, again, quite literally set it and forget it. It puts out a big, bold vintage tone that is loud and proud, and offers very little adjustment…though few would ask for this. Be it transistor selection, faithful adherence to the classic Fuzz Face circuit or just plain knowledge of vintage pedals, AnalogMike has a golden egg here. It is wooly and woofy, and in a trio definitely fills some space in a live setting. It is both warm and cutting, without being a boring “balanced” fuzz that so many builders tout as the solution to the bright Silicon fuzz conundrum we have. All this from a Silcon transistor. Germanium, who? Try it and be a convert.
The Skreddy Lunar Module Deluxe has a lot more to offer a far as variety, and would be a great studio tool. It might be a bit fussy to use live, since you could potentially knock some controls around, but again, since it seems to sound great in just about every setting of the controls, this won’t be much of an issue…you might just find another tone to use! Keep in mind this isn’t just a fuzz face replica:it is a dedicated circuit that, though based on vintage pedals, was painstakingly tuned to offer more than a single voice. This can present a bit of a rabbit hole, though the staggering amount of gorgeous tones it is capable of makes this easier to deal with.
BC My Playmate
Both these pedals seem to nail the classic Silicon Fuzz Face tone, albeit in very different ways If you want to blow some minds without using your own, the SunFace is an obvious choice. Plug in, step, riiiiiiip. Conversely, The Lunar Module Deluxe is so flexible that you might not even pick it up for its fuzz capabilities: it has many, many flavours here. But if you are looking for Sillicon Fuzz, look out. It will take you to the moon. Just be prepared for the voyage.