Premier Guitar

Black Cat Bee Buzz Pedal Review

October 18, 2011




Fuzz, and I mean real fuzz—the nasty, buzzing stuff of “Satisfaction” and Davie Allan biker soundtracks—is a tricky little beast to wrangle. Though it sounds cool as hell on records of the ’60s, dealing with the tangle of high-mid frequencies in loud live settings can leave listeners writhing in agony under a squall of feedback. What’s more, the simple circuits of the ’60s that best copped that sound are chronically unreliable, unpredictable, and at this point, often locked up in the closets of hoarding collectors.

It doesn’t leave a fuzz fiend with many places to turn. But the recently resurrected Black Cat Bee Buzz is a brilliant beam of stinging light in the world of brawny, super high-gain fuzzes. What’s best is that with the flip of a switch it transforms into a meatier Muff-like fuzz that can run with those tigers too.

Born Again Bee Baa
The Bee Buzz was born when Black Cat’s Japanese distributor requested a clone of the rare and coveted Roland Bee Baa, which was introduced in the mid ’70s. Black Cat did another run of 50 for domestic consumption, which disappeared at a rate that suggested they might be onto a winner. There’s about a million reasons to love this thing if you love fuzz. For starters, it packs a ton of functions in a very small enclosure—about a third as big as an original Bee Baa. It’s also crazy-cool looking. Our test version came in what Black Cat calls Candy Red, but you can also order it up in Candy Blue, Denim Blue, Coppertone, and a wonderfully shocking Limonade. The control set consists of four knobs, a small switch for switching between Buzz and the much gnarlier Bee setting, a bypass footswitch, and another that switches between the fuzz and boost sections. The three leftmost knobs are for the fuzz section. Volume controls the effect level, Tone ups the sting quotient, and Sustain enables you to pile on the fuzz.

The Bear and the Bee Hive
The Bee setting on the Bee Buzz’ fuzz circuit is downright wicked. It will transform an otherwise clean and well-groomed Fender Jaguar and Vibroverb into a filthy garage punk thug. But the beauty of the Black Cat’s Bee section is that even the most mosquitolike fuzz has muscle and backbone if you put enough Volume behind it. More surprisingly, it’s resistant to feedback in a way that similarly grimy fuzzes are not, which means you can actually employ the most radical version of the effect in a pretty loud band context.

Flip to the Buzz setting and the Bee Buzz reveals another surprise—a burlier, fatter fuzz that combines the voice of the Bee section with an almost Big Muff/Fuzz Face hybrid tone that you can use for more aggressive Black Sabbath and Stooges chording and Hendrixian leads. It’s not afraid of a big amp either, and will happily punish a higher-wattage amp and a pair of 12" speakers without turning into a screeching feedback machine. It doesn’t have quite as much gain or push as a Muff, Fuzz Face, or Rat, but if your amp has enough headroom, it can sound very mean in very loud settings. If there’s a limitation in the fuzz section, it’s that for clean and powerful amps, you’ll have to keep the effect’s Volume up pretty high to prevent a volume cut. On the other hand, this probably isn’t a pedal for those seeking less aggressive shades.

The boost section isn’t, as the name suggests, a clean boost or a treble boost like that on the original Bee Baa. But it’s a great—if somewhat monochromatic— overdrive that works especially well on small amplifiers.

The Verdict
There aren’t many fuzz boxes quite as versatile as the Bee Buzz. Granted, that assertion assumes an affinity for the scrungy sounds of ’60s fuzz, which is far from every player’s cup of tea. But if that’s a trip you’re psyched to take without leaving your bigger, brawnier fuzz tones behind, this Black Cat is your ride.
Buy if...
a combination of stinging ’60s fuzz and crunchy heft has thus far eluded you.
Skip if...
all but modern, high-gain distortion is useless to you.
Rating...


Street $225 - Black Cat Pedals - blackcatpedals.com

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