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Spaceman Gemini III Dual Fuzz Generator Pedal Review

January 10, 2012

If you’re a real texturalist and sonic saucier—one that seeks to color every tune a little differently—one fuzz will never do. Muff tones. Tone Bender tones. Fuzz Face tones. Within each of these classics dwells a perfect fuzz monster, if not several. But when you’re in the middle of a budget recording project, or rehearsing for a show that’s 48 hours away, chances are you don’t have the time to mine your stompbox collection and tinker endlessly with a thousand fuzz permutations to get just the right sound for each and every riff and solo passage.

Imagine then, having the delightfully, functionally schizophrenic Spaceman Gemini III at your disposal. This beautiful—and beautifully built—fuzz isn’t a clone of anything. And it doesn’t promise access to dead-on emulations to every holy grail fuzz of all time. But it is positively packed with fuzz voices generated by parallel germanium and silicon circuits that can be independently operated, blended, and tailored to create a technicolor circus of buzz, grind, fizz, fuzz, and crunch. If you can’t find a fuzz tone here that fits the bill, you might as well consider work as a bongo master.

Evil Twins
Unpacking the Spacemen Gemini III is like a little touch of Christmas morning. The pedal comes in a silver spacesuit-cloth drawstring bag adorned with a silkscreened astronaut. And pulling out the Gemini III lends the very justified suspicion that you might have your hands on the coolest new contraption on the block.

The Gemini III has an uncannily authentic NASA-circa-’65 aesthetic. The embossed plastic overlay looks like it was lifted directly from a capsule control panel, and sporting “S”-and-arrow graphics, the knobs look designed for sonic mission-critical precision. The control layout is definitely more complicated than a Fuzz Face, Tone Bender, or Big Muff. The top row of controls consist of a master volume for the effect level, a filter knob, and a 2-position switch that alters the direction of the filter sweep in germanium mode.

The center position of the control set is dedicated to the germanium/ silicon circuit blend knob. It’s an elegantly designed control with a sweep from 1 to 11 o’clock, and a thin line that marks an equal blend of germanium (Ge) and silicon (Si) blend at 6 o’clock. But it’s the very real effectiveness of the control’s range that’s most impressive. On either side of the Ge/Si blend knob there are 3-position switches that step up the gain in three stages for each circuit. Curiously, the lowest gain setting (1) is in the center position. But once you work with the pedal a little bit, the audible difference each setting creates is reminder enough of which position is which.

A cool, early ’60s-style industrial property tag with stamped serial number marks each solid-as-a-brick enclosure. But a look inside reveals that the smart, tough-as-nails engineering is much more than skin deep. The solution to incorporating independent silicon and germanium circuits is a tidy bit of genius. The two boards are stacked ziggurat-style and take up the upper half of the enclosure. Each board is immaculately and logically arranged and wired with a layout worthy of Vulcan high art. Elsewhere the wiring is neat and linear.

Orbiting the Fuzz Globe
If you’re into Brit ’67-’70 sounds of Beck- Ola, Led Zeppelin I, or Donovan’s “Hurdy Gurdy Man,” the cranked reaches of the germanium circuit are a paradise. With the Ge/Se blend set for maximum germanium input and the filter knob cranked, a Telecaster’s bridge pickup stabbed at a Fender Pro Junior with explosive menace that gave “Dazed and Confused” solo phrases an extra dose of garage brutality, and Beck’s signature Yardbirds riffs a little extra muscle and danger.

Through a Marshall Super Lead the same licks were scarily colossal. And a Gibson Les Paul bridge pickup drove the Ge side and Marshall to cloud-piercing heights—impractical and overkill for most of us, but absolute exhilaration—like a GTO and 30 miles of desolate, cop-free, two-lane blacktop.

Blend in more silicon and scoop the mids by rolling off the tone control, and you’re bound for Iommi territory and stoner zones beyond. Even in these ultra thick dimensions, chords retain remarkable note-to-note clarity—even more so with single-coils. And notes sustain with a harmonic sheen that hovers airily over a thick and deliciously muddy bed tone. Aggressive and crafty use of the filter control here can give you a hip, even synthy trace of octave that’s killer for Cream-era Clapton runs and horn-like stabs in heavy funk jams.

At lower gain settings the germanium side is great for mid-’60s garage-punk tones. You might not be able to access that super-clipped Davie Allan-style Buzzrite beehive fuzz, but backing off the master a bit, cranking the guitar wide open, and strangling the Pro Junior a bit conjures a genuinely skanky and thuggish buzz tone that will suit the most surly, swaggering, and chain-slinging biker jam.

The Verdict
You could spend a few hours with the Gemini III and just start to get into the nuances and secret back alleys of filth and fuzz that lurk within the gleaming, polished aluminum enclosure. There’s not a superfluous function on this thing—even if it looks really busy for a fuzz. The gain switches, filter function, and, most importantly, the Ge/ Si blend knob enable you to tailor a guitarand- amp combination to any situation on the fly, at levels from subtle to extreme. This is one fearsome studio weapon.

Perhaps the biggest bummer is that, like most Spaceman pedals, there aren’t many to go around. So let this review be a plea to Spaceman Handmade Effects of Portland, Oregon, USA: Keep these units rolling off the bench. We’ll never tire of taking this trip.

Buy if...
you’re a fuzz nut on the hunt for new flavors and a way to consolidate classic fuzz tones in a single unit.

Skip if...
you rarely venture beyond your favorite Fuzz Face sound.

Rating...

Street $319 - Spaceman Effects - spacemaneffects.com