Chicago-based Daredevil Pedals loves fuzz. In just a few short years, founder Johnny Wator has produced everything from original twists on the Fuzzrite and Russian Big Muff to the growling Ronson-inspired Atomic Cock. Daredevil typically avoids clones—adding a little extra gain or extra range in a tone stack instead to make a classic unique. That’s the case with the new Nova fuzz, an original, simple silicon transistor fuzz that offers an alternative to the same old Maestro, Tone Bender, or Fuzz Face clone.
The Nova’s white and purple sparkle paint job would look fantastic on its vehicular namesake. But the utilitarian nature of this fuzz aligns with the intent of Chevy’s no-frills muscle-car platform too. There are just two controls: volume and saturation. Volume controls the output—no surprise there—and the latter is essentially the gain or fuzz control, and turning it clockwise increases the crunch. Overall, the Nova is sturdy and carefully wired on the inside.
Wator’s aim with the Nova was to create a fuzz that would work well in a two-guitar band. The Maestro FZ-1 was a tone touchstone for it’s high-end bite, but Wator wanted more versatility and gustoin a live setting than a germanium Maestro-type circuit could deliver. The silicon circuitry of the Nova ensures that it does not lack presence. Unity both for humbuckers and single-coils is right around high noon, and that leaves you with a fair amount of headroom if you want to increase the output.
For all its two-knob simplicity, the Nova produces many unique fuzz and overdrive tones that don’t fit easily into any of the classic categories. The silicon circuitry lends some of the hot, aggressive sound and feel of a BC-108-driven Fuzz Face. But the Nova can also sound a lot more tattered and rowdy—particularly when you explore the lower ranges of the saturation control.
Dialing the saturation back to around 9 o’clock generates some of the sound and feel of a little amplifier stressed to its limits, and this produces hip, unpredictable decay that’s more chaotic than smooth. You’ll have to dial back the saturation even further to achieve this sound with humbuckers, so if you want to explore the more unruly and random facets of the Nova’s fuzz voice, single-coils might be the best match.
Rolling the saturation completely counter-clockwise generates the texture of a gritty overdrive. It sounds great in this setting, though the lack of an EQ control means you’ll have to fine-tune the sound using your guitar’s tone knob.
Maxing the saturation highlights the range of this deceptively simple pedal. It sounds immense and dangerous without getting bulbous and rotund like a Big Muff, and the overall output has a healthy, well-defined midrange. This keeps the harmonic detail of single notes and big chords intact, even when you venture into more substantial, Fuzz Face-like sustain textures.
If the Nova lacks anything, it’s the wide-ranging sensitivity to a guitar’s volume knob—a signature of the best Fuzz Faces and Tone Benders. Rolling back your volume cleans up the crunch, and there are great tones here. But there’s a little less sustain on tap in these attenuated settings than a good silicon Fuzz Face. If you use humbuckers, you’ll notice this phenomenon a lot less. In general, the smooth output of good humbuckers is an ideal match for the Nova—particularly if you like to use guitar volume to shape output and tone.
The Nova is a great fuzz box for the 135 bucks. The simple design, big tone, and excellent note-to-note definition is ideal for bombastic, full-bodied leads or chiming or chugging chord work. And if you need a fuzz that guarantees you’ll cut through a booming band, there’s volume and midrange aplenty. The tradeoff may be a little loss of dynamics with some single-coils. But if you tend to keep the pedal to the metal, the Nova will keep you riding high in the mix.
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