Premier Guitar

Black Cat OD-1, Super Fuzz and OD-Fuzz Pedal Review

May 18, 2010
Fred Bonte started Black Cat in 1993, and his designs were soon popular among boutique stompbox lovers. Fans included guys like Billy Gibbons, Scott Henderson, and Eric Johnson. Bonte shut down production in 2007 but the company has since been restructured, (in full disclosure, with the involvement of Premier Guitar Stomp School Columnist “Analog” Tom Hughes). Today you can get revamped versions of Black Cat effects with a modern makeover and eye-catching looks.

The cat graphic on Black Cat pedals is, in reality, yellow instead of black. But let’s not get all caught up in being Persnickety Pam. It’s the sounds that really matter. The yellow graphics and knobs on top of the durable powder-coat “holographic sparkle” finish really pop. The components are high quality, the construction is solid, and each pedal is handwired. They’re true-bypass and come with a 2.1 mm power jack, though they also accept 9-volt batteries. Each even comes wrapped in a small velvet bag with a drawstring. Nice.

I test drove the OD-1, Super Fuzz, and OD-Fuzz using a ’60s-era Fender Stratocaster, a Performance Custom Super Strat, a ’65 Fender Deluxe Reverb, ’65 Fender Pro Reverb, and my trusty Peavey JSX quarter stack. Now, let’s get down to brass tacks.

OD-1

Download Example 1
Recorded through a Fender '60s Stratocaster.  Amp: Peavey JSX clean channel with 2X12 Vintage 30 speakers, recorded with Garage Band, Sennheiser MD 735 mic, off center.  Touch of Holy Grail Reverb and room ambiance.
The Black Cat OD-1 comes with Drive and Volume knobs, and it leaves the rest up to you. But that’s OK, because it’s the type of touch-sensitive tone-sculpting tool that blurs the line between fuzz and overdrive. It can go from quasi-clean boost to slightly crunchy and all-out saturation and ripped-speaker fuzz—and everything in between. It’s great for the guitarist who likes to dial in subtle nuances using the guitar’s volume control. In fact, it’s outstanding at that. It responds well to varying pick attack and fingers, too.

However, with the Drive knob backed way off and the Volume up, I couldn’t call this a good clean boost. It does boost your volume, but it’s going to give you a thick and rugged clean tone. You’re not going to cop Nile Rodgers playing Chic’s “Le Freak,” but why would you? The slight dirt and warmth keeps you in the rock idiom. Look elsewhere for a transparent, ultra-clean boost.

The OD-1’s instructions warn that it’s a loud pedal, and they’re right. You need to start with the Volume knob at around 11 o’clock and work the Drive up from around nine o’clock to avoid sonic devastation. As you crank the Drive knob, the fun begins. Grit, grit, and more grit. With humbuckers, you get a smooth, singing quality. With single-coils, you get that nasty, fuzzy breakup—but it’s pleasing. Best of all, there’s no shrill, annoying ice-pickiness. You get just enough edge to cut through the band. And regardless of how much Drive you use, the sound always retains a lush, boutique sparkle that you can’t get from lesser fuzzes. It’s also great for beefing up other overdrive pedals to add thick, singing sustain.
Buy if...
you want to dabble in the fuzz arena.
Skip if...
you need a fuzz that can give you a clean boost.
Rating...


Street $150 - Black Cat Pedals - blackcatpedals.com




Download Example 1
Recorded through a Fender '60s Stratocaster.  Amp: Peavey JSX clean channel with 2X12 Vintage 30 speakers, recorded with Garage Band, Sennheiser MD 735 mic, off center.  Touch of Holy Grail Reverb and room ambiance.
Super Fuzz
Sometimes a great fuzz pedal just isn’t enough. That’s when you need to bust out something fuzzier. The Black Cat Super Fuzz pedal is a modern replica of the ’70s-era Univox Super Fuzz. It’s super because not only does it give you fuzz, but it also has a two-stage octave-doubling circuit. It adds an upper octave for when you need to enter the Octavia Zone. Think Band of Gypsys on the song “Who Knows.” Although the documentation on this product describes it as “Not quite as prominent as an Octavia,” it sounds like a full blown Octavia to me.

The knob on the left is your Balance. This controls the amount of fuzz you want to add to your signal. The knob on the right is the Expander, which controls your volume. In the middle, you have a Tone selector switch that allows you to go back and forth between a warmer, fuzz-meets-Octavia sound and an interesting notched lead tone with sharper teeth.

This particular pedal may not get as much ear time as some other pedals on your pedalboard, but there’s nothing like being able to whip out these tones when you need them. It’s a classic sound, and this pedal does it quite well. While the Tone selector in the right-hand position wasn’t my fave, it worked well in conjunction with other overdrive pedals. It’ll take your smooth, run-of-the-mill overdrive pedal and kick it up a notch with glorious overtones. The left position is full of awesome and sounds great all by itself. It’s “The Sound.” You can get beautiful upper octaves with as much or as little dirt as you want. It’s very musical, and once you find that sweet spot in your guitar’s volume control, all things are possible. Pedals like these crave experimentation, and this particular version is top-notch all the way around.
Super-Fuzz
Buy if...
you love Band of Gypsys-era Hendrix.
Skip if...
you hate that sound.
Rating...


Street $195 - Black Cat Pedals - blackcatpedals.com




Download Example 1
Recorded through a Fender '60s Stratocaster.  Amp: Peavey JSX clean channel with 2X12 Vintage 30 speakers, recorded with Garage Band, Sennheiser MD 735 mic, off center.  Touch of Holy Grail Reverb and room ambiance.
Super Fuzz
Sometimes a great fuzz pedal just isn’t enough. That’s when you need to bust out something fuzzier. The Black Cat Super Fuzz pedal is a modern replica of the ’70s-era Univox Super Fuzz. It’s super because not only does it give you fuzz, but it also has a two-stage octave-doubling circuit. It adds an upper octave for when you need to enter the Octavia Zone. Think Band of Gypsys on the song “Who Knows.” Although the documentation on this product describes it as “Not quite as prominent as an Octavia,” it sounds like a full blown Octavia to me.

The knob on the left is your Balance. This controls the amount of fuzz you want to add to your signal. The knob on the right is the Expander, which controls your volume. In the middle, you have a Tone selector switch that allows you to go back and forth between a warmer, fuzz-meets-Octavia sound and an interesting notched lead tone with sharper teeth.

This particular pedal may not get as much ear time as some other pedals on your pedalboard, but there’s nothing like being able to whip out these tones when you need them. It’s a classic sound, and this pedal does it quite well. While the Tone selector in the right-hand position wasn’t my fave, it worked well in conjunction with other overdrive pedals. It’ll take your smooth, run-of-the-mill overdrive pedal and kick it up a notch with glorious overtones. The left position is full of awesome and sounds great all by itself. It’s “The Sound.” You can get beautiful upper octaves with as much or as little dirt as you want. It’s very musical, and once you find that sweet spot in your guitar’s volume control, all things are possible. Pedals like these crave experimentation, and this particular version is top-notch all the way around.
Super-Fuzz
Buy if...
you love Band of Gypsys-era Hendrix.
Skip if...
you hate that sound.
Rating...


Street $195 - Black Cat Pedals - blackcatpedals.com




Download Example 1
Recorded through a Fender '60s Stratocaster.  Amp: Peavey JSX clean channel with 2X12 Vintage 30 speakers, recorded with Garage Band, Sennheiser MD 735 mic, off center.  Touch of Holy Grail Reverb and room ambiance.
OD-Fuzz
The Black Cat OD-Fuzz basically takes the Black Cat OD-1 and a silicon Fuzz Face and puts them into one convenient little package. The button on the left selects the Drive channel, which is basically the OD-1 sound. The button on the right unleashes traditional fuzz. These sounds can work independently or be combined. The Drive channel has Drive and Volume knobs, while the Fuzz channel has Fuzz and Volume knobs. When both channels are engaged, the Volume knob on the Drive channel acts as a master volume. Separate LEDs let you know what’s on or off.

The Drive channel sounds more fuzz-like than a tight, metal-style distortion or overdrive. Cork sniffers can debate semantics and the technical differences between distortion, fuzz, and overdrive, but the OD-1 is closer to AC/DC than Symphony X. The Fuzz channel nails that old-school fuzz sound in the best way possible. So, essentially, you get two different types of fuzz tones in one box—and you get the ability to mix them together.

The Fuzz channel is everything one could want. I found all the warm, craggy, muscular Eric Johnson sounds and time traveled back to Woodstock just in time for the Hendrix set. It’s one of the most authentic-sounding fuzz pedals I’ve ever had the pleasure to play. When you engage both channels, massive tonal thickness ensues. There can be mayhem, but the havoc can be easily tamed and bent to your sonic will. I liked its overall smoothness and adjustability. And I’m sure that using a dimed Black Cat OD-Fuzz with a slightly dirty amp could yield wonderful things at your next earthy rock gig.
Buy if...
fuzz tones are a way of life for you.
Skip if...
you don’t need the ability to wreak extreme havoc.
Rating...


Street $210 - Black Cat Pedals - blackcatpedals.com


The Final Mojo
Fuzz tones aren’t for everybody. But for guitarists who like to live in that world, Black Cat gets a big thumbs up for making some great-sounding, reasonably affordable pedals. They sound expensive, look great, but won’t send you to the poorhouse. What these pedals have in common is a lushness, articulation, and sonic detail that you would assume are available only to rich, first-call session cats. It’s no wonder guys like Michael Landau, Trey Anastasio, and Steve Lukather use Black Cat stomps.



Download Example 1
Recorded through a Fender '60s Stratocaster.  Amp: Peavey JSX clean channel with 2X12 Vintage 30 speakers, recorded with Garage Band, Sennheiser MD 735 mic, off center.  Touch of Holy Grail Reverb and room ambiance.
OD-Fuzz
The Black Cat OD-Fuzz basically takes the Black Cat OD-1 and a silicon Fuzz Face and puts them into one convenient little package. The button on the left selects the Drive channel, which is basically the OD-1 sound. The button on the right unleashes traditional fuzz. These sounds can work independently or be combined. The Drive channel has Drive and Volume knobs, while the Fuzz channel has Fuzz and Volume knobs. When both channels are engaged, the Volume knob on the Drive channel acts as a master volume. Separate LEDs let you know what’s on or off.

The Drive channel sounds more fuzz-like than a tight, metal-style distortion or overdrive. Cork sniffers can debate semantics and the technical differences between distortion, fuzz, and overdrive, but the OD-1 is closer to AC/DC than Symphony X. The Fuzz channel nails that old-school fuzz sound in the best way possible. So, essentially, you get two different types of fuzz tones in one box—and you get the ability to mix them together.

The Fuzz channel is everything one could want. I found all the warm, craggy, muscular Eric Johnson sounds and time traveled back to Woodstock just in time for the Hendrix set. It’s one of the most authentic-sounding fuzz pedals I’ve ever had the pleasure to play. When you engage both channels, massive tonal thickness ensues. There can be mayhem, but the havoc can be easily tamed and bent to your sonic will. I liked its overall smoothness and adjustability. And I’m sure that using a dimed Black Cat OD-Fuzz with a slightly dirty amp could yield wonderful things at your next earthy rock gig.
Buy if...
fuzz tones are a way of life for you.
Skip if...
you don’t need the ability to wreak extreme havoc.
Rating...


Street $210 - Black Cat Pedals - blackcatpedals.com


The Final Mojo
Fuzz tones aren’t for everybody. But for guitarists who like to live in that world, Black Cat gets a big thumbs up for making some great-sounding, reasonably affordable pedals. They sound expensive, look great, but won’t send you to the poorhouse. What these pedals have in common is a lushness, articulation, and sonic detail that you would assume are available only to rich, first-call session cats. It’s no wonder guys like Michael Landau, Trey Anastasio, and Steve Lukather use Black Cat stomps.