Guitar effects are shrinking. Advances in technology have led to cheaper production and sourcing of surface mount components, reducing the amount of floor space required by effects. Yet many tone freaks still covet handmade effects built from new-old stock (NOS) components. Sourcing those old parts, matching them, and meticulously wiring them together is an art unto itself—and TSVG’s specialty.
Like TSVG’s earlier Angry Jeff and Keystone fuzzes, the Slow Ride Overdrive/Fuzz boasts point-to-point wiring and quality NOS parts. The Slow Ride harkens back to a time when the Tone Bender and Fuzz Face ruled psychedelic guitar. Its tones have a wild, sputtering style that stands in colorful contrast to some of today’s smoother boutique fuzzes.
TSVG builds each Slow Ride by hand using Mullard “tropical fish” capacitors, IRC resistors, Alpha pots, cloth-covered wire, true-bypass switching, and three hand-selected NOS AC128 germanium transistors. (These are PNP-style transistors, which means the Slow Ride only accepts a positive-ground power supply.) The circuit’s clean soldering and wire routing avoids the rat’s nest look of some sloppy point-to-point circuits.
Despite its unlabeled knobs, the Slow Ride is about as straightforward as it gets. The left knob controls level, and the right one transitions between relatively smooth overdrive and raspy fuzz. A 2-way switch changes the tone’s voicing from thick and mid-heavy to cutting and bright.
Ticket to Ride
The Slow Ride delivers a one-two punch of late-’60s fuzz, combining the smoothness of a Fuzz Face with the raunchy aggression of a Mk II-era Tone Bender. But despite its ample fuzz, the Slow Ride is surprisingly quiet, even when playing a Fender Strat with single-coils. The fuzz level seems set at a particularly sweet spot—there’s rawness and snarl, but not so much gain that the pedal feeds back uncontrollably when you aren’t playing.
The Slow Ride is generally quite fuzzy at any setting, even with the guitar’s volume rolled back, though lowering the attack control reins in the high-end raspiness. While the attack control is advertised as morphing the tone from fuzz to overdrive, don’t expect the relatively smooth overdrive sound of, say, a Tube Screamer or Super Overdrive. Even with the attack control at its lowest setting, you’ll encounter midrange honk and fuzz-like compression. But when it comes to smooth ’60s-style psychedelic leads that soar with harder picking, the tone is to die for—especially if you have an EL34-based amp (such as an old Marshall) that already has added midrange emphasis.
Cranking the attack knob introduces more fuzz and snarling treble bite. Playing above the 12th fret with a heavy pick attack yields faint square-wave, octave-up tones that ease into controlled feedback with a little finger vibrato. Lowering the Strat’s tone control to minimum and dropping the volume slightly let me cop a convincing “Spirit in the Sky” tone from the neck pickup, complete with tight and fat lows, burly mids, and an ever-so-slight octave-up buzz.
The low-cut switch works wonders for more focused high-gain tones. It’s especially useful for humbucker-equipped guitars like Les Pauls, where the output can be so strong that notes within chords become indiscernible. When using a PAF-style neck pickup, the low-cut setting lets highs shine through for silky-smooth leads à la A Hard Road-era Peter Green.
TSVG’s Slow Ride was born to deliver outstanding 60’s psychedelic rock tones with all of the warts and rough edges. It’s not the most versatile fuzz you’ll find, and its overdrive is really just a softer fuzz. But whatever the Slow Ride lacks in flexibility, it more than makes up for it in exceptional and dynamic fuzz textures.