Fuzz pedals are loved for the delectable mayhem they can enable when coupled into the front end of a tube amp. But a fuzz box with its own 12AX7 preamp tube built in? That’s a little different—even counter-intuitive. But Dave Friedman isn’t afraid of “a little different.” Friedman points out that the best fuzz pedals are beloved, in large part, for dynamics, compression, and overall playing feel— elements that come naturally to tube-loaded circuits. Clipping tubes are also natural producers of distortion, and of sweet harmonic saturation in the process, so it’s just a matter of bending that saturation toward fuzz rather than traditional distortion, throwing in a few tricks to ratchet up the mayhem—and voila, the Friedman Fuzz Fiend.
In addition to controls for fuzz and volume, the Fuzz Fiend has a full three-knob, amp-style tone stack with bass, middle, and treble. This pentacle of potentiometers enables a lot more control over the pedal’s voicing than you get from typical vintage fuzz. But the Fuzz Fiend also features the enigmatically named “rage” footswitch—a momentary switch that triggers the sound of an unstable fuzz circuit, for wild atonal modulation effects, sustain, and other general mayhem.
These features are packed into a pedal that’s still very light, clearly labeled, and very functional. A nifty roll bar protects the protruding preamp tube (tubes always look cooler when protruding from an enclosure). Friedman spec’d the Fuzz Fiend at 220 volts to drive the 12AX7 at proper high voltages, rather than using the “starved-voltage” tricks other tube-loaded pedals use. That means the Fuzz Fiend requires a 9V–12V DC power supply capable of at least a 350-400 mA current. A universal 12V supply is included.
The Fuzz Fiend is simple to use. Tested with a Les Paul and a Stratocaster into a JTM45-style amp and 2x12 cab, the pedal immediately struck me as a distinctive and real alternative to the classics, and feels like more than just another fuzz box. As Friedman intended, the Fuzz Fiend retains a lot of dynamics and a surprising feel between pick, strings, pedal, and amp.
There’s plenty of sizzling, jagged fuzz available from the eponymous knob when you want it. But the overall impression and audible sum of the output is complex—a lot like the effect of bi-amping a track with a fuzz box into one amp and just a little natural amp crunch on the other—with the hair and texture of the fuzz layered over a full, intact core tone.
The Fuzz Fiend cleans up well at the guitar’s volume control, and its powerful EQ stage allows for crafting just about any voice you might need to fit your mix. The rage button is a lot of fun, too, inducing exploding-amp freak-out tones that are the ticket for wild solos and noise-sculpture passages. I’d like to see a knob (yeah, just one more) to set the intensity of the rage effect. I can imagine just a touch of it would be more useful on many occasions—but it’s a very cool bonus as it is.
The Fuzz Fiend is a truly creative fuzz. I’d also say it’s a must-try for two types of players: fuzz fanatics looking for a new kind of touch sensitivity, feel, and tone complexity that will complement their classics, and those who don’t bond with the full-frontal slather of classic fuzz and like more transparency. It’s a clever design and it only takes a short blast alongside a classic to hear that, yes, Fuzz Fiend is something truly different.