The Ampeg Scrambler didn’t make much of a splash when it debuted in the late ’60s. Despite being packaged in one of the cooler looking boxes of the period, it was built in small numbers and found few high-profile users. Jorma Kaukonen, who used a Scrambler and Gibson ES-345 to drive the Jefferson Airplane’s fuzzier excursions was one of the few exceptions, and in the short term, the octave fuzz crown was ceded to the Roger Mayer and Tychobrae Octavia.
In the decades since, however, the Scrambler found a loyal cadre of devotees among the fuzz cult—a situation aided in no small part because of the pedal’s rarity, but also because the Scrambler had a truly unique octave fuzz voice. Now, Build Your Own Clone (BYOC), which does healthy business nailing the sound of rare stompboxes with their accessibly-priced do-it-yourself kits, has a Scrambler clone of its own, the Scrambled Octave. And like the original, it’s a unique and often unruly little monster that can lend your Jimi-style octave leads a unique, aggressive, and authentically ’60s-flavored voice.
Build it Up
While our Scrambled Octave came assembled, the pedal is sold as a kit (save for a few select dealers). That doesn’t mean it’s built with lesser components, however—it’s built around NOS transistors including BC169B and 2N5306 specimens that were the basis of the original Scrambler circuit.
Like any BYOC unit, the Scrambled Octave will look as bare-bones or ornate as you make it. In the case of our test unit, BYOC dressed up the Scrambler in highly functional dress—the two knobs marked Blend in Texture in shop-scrawled Sharpie ink. The Blend control mixes clean and effected signals, just as the name suggests. The Texture knob enables you to dial in the amount of octave-up signal.
In the years since the Ampeg Scrambler, pedal builders have found all kinds of ways to smooth out the rough edges that are inherent to most octave fuzz pedals. The BYOC Scrambled Octave has absolutely nothing to do with any of those improvements, and that is the source of its charm and the root of its abundant, if quirky, personality.
It inhabits a section of sonic territory that’s a bit narrow, but quite unlike anything else. With a Stratocaster at one end of the chain and a Fender Twin Reverb on the other and the Blend and Texture up halfway, the Scrambled Octave has a honky, hollowed-out character, that’s more than just scooped midrange. Instead, the pedal gives the illusion of the clean signal, a quacky-fuzzed signal, and the octave signing in a unison that’s more like three parallel lines of different color than a true blend. At aggressive settings for the Blend and Texture knob that characteristic makes the pedal a great vehicle for singing Hendrixian bends and tight, succinct I-V power chords, but with an almost a high-baritone, horn-like quality.
The Scrambled Octave also sounds great down below the fifth fret—a region of the fretboard that finds a lot of octave pedals turning fractured or muddy. It’s a sweet feeling to play a solo in E, move between open strings and the twelfth fret and hear the octave ring without sputtering. The pedal is definitely not a sustain king by itself, though putting it out in front of a fatter Big Muff –style fuzz can give you a more sustained tone that still sings with the Scrambled Octave’s parallel voices.
If you’ve grown accustomed to the sounds of fine-tuned, balanced, and even-spectrum contemporary fuzzes and distortions, the Scrambled Octave could be a source of puzzlement. It doesn’t have what you’d call refinement, but can sing with a sort of haggard and roughneck beauty in a way that grabs a listener by the collar and commands attention in a thick, power trio or heavy rock band context.
It’s not a super-versatile fuzz—even though the blend knob can dial up interesting mixes of clean and effected signal. The pedal really works best with the Texture knob wide open, but that setting also seems to open up the use of the effect along the length of the whole neck—a distinction few all-analog octave and octave fuzz pedals can claim. But at about 70 bucks and an afternoon that you’ll devote soldering the Scrambled Octave together (sounds pretty fun to me if you have the time) this BYOC represents a real steal for such a distinctive addition to your fuzz vocabulary.
tricky-to-tame, but highly distinctive analog octave anarchy is an appealing sonic prospect.
predictable, smooth, and blended octave sounds are at the fore of your tone agenda.