The world of fuzz is a kaleidoscope of sound, color, and moods. But if you use fuzz enough, there are days almost any old fuzz will do the job—so long as it buzzes and sounds louder than everything else.
What makes the Massive FX G.O.A.F. (Golden Order of Alchemist Fuzz) special is that, even on such days, it sounds and feels different. Sure, it buzzes and rips—especially when you add the octave effect to the mix. And it’s definitely loud enough to bully most other pedals into submission. But there’s also a sense of air and evenness to the G.O.A.F. that never seems to come at the expense of aggression. And the controls interact and feel quite unlike most fuzzes sitting on your shelf. The G.O.A.F. is a fuzz that can be positively inviting—even on days when you could care less whether you’re stomping on a Fuzz Face or a phone book.
Some of the G.O.A.F.’s can’t-quite-place-it tone profile probably comes from its uncommon design inspiration, the Baldwin Burns Buzzaround. The Buzzaround is most famous for being Robert Fripp’s fuzz of choice through the early ’70s. It’s also legendary for being incredibly rare. Purple 10-horned pachyderms may outnumber surviving examples.
Such rarity makes it hard to evaluate how precisely the G.O.A.F. nails the Buzzaraound’s signature tones, but the Buzzaround’s circuit clearly is the foundation of the G.O.A.F.’s three-transistor design, which features a germanium AC125 and two rubber-sheathed germanium transistors of uncertain origin. (Massive says they are NOS Russian units.) The whole circuit is tidily laid out on a through-hole board about an inch wide that runs the length of the enclosure and is mounted independently from the in/out jacks and footswitches. The arrangement also makes way for a 9V battery, which Massive FX says is key to extracting the best tones from the G.O.A.F. On the whole, it’s a sturdy, thoughtfully built stompbox.
The direct influence of the Buzzaround on the G.O.A.F. is also evident in the reproduction of the Buzzaround’s unusual control array. It includes a fairly standard gain/fuzz control, but also two very interactive controls for treble and bias that are key to G.O.A.F.’s fuzz flavors. Massive FX added extra flexibility in the form of a master volume that the original Buzzaround did not have. The G.O.A.F.’s fixed octave function is a new twist on the Buzzaround formula, too. But the sum of the parts—new and old—is a wealth of provocative, musical, and distinctive fuzz textures.
An Alchemical Buzz
For all the menace suggested by the G.O.A.F.’s esoteric art and labeling, it’s not the loudest fuzz in the world. That’s a good thing. Massive FX wisely traded bluster for range, headroom, and versatility, which is consistent with the Buzzaround’s best virtues. The most obvious difference between the G.O.A.F.’s basic fuzz voice and more forceful fuzzes is an airy, open sense of balance between fuzz and empty space. There’s just more of the latter, and it makes each note stand out in sharp relief.
Other points of reference for the G.O.A.F.’s basic voice can be elusive. It shares the sharp-fanged attack and high-contrast aggression of the Tone Bender MkII. It also has the cello-like sustain of a Big Muff (an attribute that made the original Buzzaround appealing to Robert Fripp), but lacks a Muff’s corpulent low-end presence. On balance, it tends toward the toppy, fierce presence you get from a Fuzz Face or Tone Bender, which makes the very interactive treble and bias controls that much more valuable.
Mastering these two controls takes practice. They have a much different tactile response than the average tone or bias control. They’re also very interactive with the fuzz, the master volume, and each other. Their respective ranges are broad, too. And their effect on the overall output is so strong that, at low levels, they can almost cancel your output entirely if you don’t have enough fuzz and master volume in the mix.
The broad range of the bias and treble controls doesn’t radically transform the basic voice of the G.O.A.F. But it enables you to emphasize very specific frequencies. Of the two, the treble control is the subtlest. I tended to use it for fine sculpting after dialing in appealing fuzz and bias levels. The bias control has the strongest effect on the overall voice. At high volume, with big amps in particular, it’s super satisfying to explore its range. At maximum levels, the bias control gives the G.O.A.F. a honky, almost snorkel-y, midrange presence that has the punch of a cocked wah without the heavy filtering. As you dial the bias control back, you lose a little girth and muscle, but gain focus that you can emphasize with a bump in the treble and master volume. The interactivity of these four controls often feels almost synth-like—even chaotic at times. The payoff for your patience, though, is highly sculpted fuzz tones that still feel as nasty, singing, or soaring as you require.
As addictive as the cool fuzz tones can be, you can almost forget the octave function, which can also be used independently. Though fixed in level and octave content, it’s a killer compliment to the fuzz and shares the fuzz section’s impressive knack for sustain. That’s no mean feat for an octave-up effect. It also sounds great with chords. If you’ve been frustrated by octaves that fizz out at the mere thought of a dissonant triad or full-step bend, the G.O.A.F.’s octave section may be worth the price of admission alone.
Punchy, precise, open, and aggressive, the G.O.A.F. is, in many ways, the ideal fuzz. The effective but sensitive and interactive bias and treble controls can make G.O.A.F. harder to know than say, a Fuzz Face. But the spectrum of fuzz colors you can access is more than worth the trade-off.
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