Think about it: ’60s-vintage fuzz is a funny thing. Most guitar players claim to love it. But a lot of modern tone connoisseurs will turn up their nose at a Fuzz Face or Tone Bender if you contextualize one outside of a Jimi or Zep classic. And forget asking half these folks to actually play a vintage fuzz.
See, those old fuzzes are temperamental, unforgiving things. They snarl, screech, sound harsh, punch back, feed back. And extracting the best sounds means paying attention to less-than-glamorous links in the tone chain like guitar volume and tone knobs that lack cachet among stage-snooping pedal kooks. But when you take the time to get to know a cool, ’60s-inspired germanium fuzz like Way Huge’s new Havalina, you realize just how versatile, vicious, malleable, and musical they can be. With the inclusion of up-to-date design touches like smooth quiet-relay switching, the Havalina has the stuff to make converts out of preset-addicted modern tone softies everywhere.
From Russia with Love
Like every Way Huge pedal, the Havalina is designed by Jeorge Tripps and built around a brick-house anodized aluminum enclosure. There’s a one-click battery compartment on the bottom of the unit and a 9V jack on top, and opening up the fuzz reveals a two-tiered circuit board array. The one at the top is dedicated to the I/O jack and DC power.
The larger board is dedicated to the analog fuzz circuit itself and is populated by three hat-shaped Russian germanium transistors and five outsized yellow capacitors. They impart a sense of tough, professional, road-readiness.
Mind-bending Fuzz Machine
The Havalina’s three-transistor, tri-knob construction suggest inspiration by way of a Sola Sound Tone Bender. Perhaps not coincidentally, so do the Way Huge’s sound and dynamics.
Starting exploration of the Havalina’s range with each control around halfway up offers an idea of how varied the pedal can be. In this neutral setting, it’s not especially aggressive—recalling a really hot and biting overdrive as much as a fuzz. With a little volume attenuation from your guitar, you get smoother OD tones. With the guitar volume wide open, the Havalina has the dry, husky, sassy snap of Jimmy Page and Paul Kossoff’s most unadorned early tones.
As good as the Havalina sounds at these and even tamer settings, it’s most exciting when the fuzz is up in its highest reaches. I’ve heard smoother fuzz from Tone Bender-style circuits, but the combination of sizzle and singing harmonics in the upper midrange and top end make this a screaming fuzz for leads, and a monster for freakbeat and garage-psych lines and riffs. Chords also sound fat and detailed at these higher fuzz levels—a feat few ’60s-style germanium fuzzes can pull off with such aplomb.
You can get even more mileage out of the Havalina through active use of tone controls on the pedal and your guitar. The Havalina is rewardingly sensitive to adjustments of the latter, but it’s own tone control is a very powerful sound-shaping tool. Using mellower, less trebly settings from both conjures cool, wooly Randy California fuzz tones and Pagey’s hollow fuzz moans from “You Shook Me.”The Verdict
The Havalina speaks in fuzz colors from buzzing to brutalizing—just like a good old Tone Bender would—but from a much more stable, well-manufactured, and reliable platform. It’s a touch fizzy in the high end if you’re not careful with the tone controls on the box and your guitar. But it’s also very responsive to tone and volume adjustments, and can be massaged into shape for humbuckers, single-coils, and bright or dark sounding amps. With its impressive quality and sounds, the Havalina is an ideal platform for those just launching vintage fuzz explorations and a bargain for players who already have the buzz.
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