DeArmond JetStar with DeArmond USA Gold Tone pickups into a '68 Fender Bassman.

 

Ratings

Pros:
Uniquely evil, brawny, smooth, and robust fuzz voice.

Cons:
Expensive.

Street:
$259

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Tones:


Ease of Use:


Build/Design:


Value:
 

I’ll admit, when the Jext Telez Black Drone Wasp landed at my door, I wasn’t in a very fuzzy mood. Music and moods take you to funny places. And though I had been excited about this release, I worried I wasn’t fired up with enough of the requisite adolescent emotion or the smash-stuff-up mindset it takes to appreciate a fuzz that can be measured in mega tonnage. Boy, did that change when I plugged it in.

The Black Drone Wasp is Jext Telez’s first original design. And after executing superb takes on the Selmer Buzz Tone and even the distortion and filter sections of the Vox Conqueror amp, among others, my expectations were high. The three-transistor, germanium Black Drone Wasp lives up to those expectations—and then some. It possesses world-destroying, high-gain fuzz potency and a buzzy, sometimes sonorous, mostly menacing fundamental voice peppered with Sovtek Big Muff mass, Foxx Tone Machine octave complexity, and a Fuzz Face’s top-end heat. It also bubbles over with many unique, super-heavy sounds and colorful tones that are hard to pinpoint in relation to other fuzzes.

Streamlined for Savagery
The wasp graphic on the front of the pedal says much about the BDW’s design intent. That’s good because there is precious little else to tell you what the streamlined control set does. The three toggles are dedicated to bias switching, bass cut, and treble cut, though the graphics say nothing specific about which is which. (I’m pretty sure the graphics under the cut controls represent dips on an EQ band.) The two knobs are for a master volume (logically labeled “V”) and a gain/fuzz control more mysteriously labeled “S.” (For sting?)

Individually, none of the controls shift the basic voice too drastically. Manipulating the toggles delivers the most overt tone shifts. But the gain control basically goes from fuzzy to extremely fuzzy, while the master volume goes from loud to speaker-vaporizingly loud. Still, there are many complex and interesting tones within the Wasp’s palette.

Like every Jext Telez pedal I’ve encountered, the BDW is built with high attention to detail and carefully selected components. Gain comes from three new-old-stock RCA 2N404 transistors, which, as far as I can tell, are not especially common in fuzz circuits (though perhaps they should be). Orange Drop capacitors are used for the frequency-cut sections of the circuit. Everything is tidily situated on a through-hole circuit board, and I/O jacks and the footswitch are chassis mounted. There’s a 9V battery option too.

Primal Potency, Civilized Sheen
The Black Drone Wasp is loud. Very loud. And I’d be surprised if it wasn’t the loudest pedal on most boards. If you’re out to conquer your bandmates in a volume arms race, it might be your best bet. But while the BDW is loud, it doesn’t suffer from the narrow-spectrum, monochromatic tone palette that plagues many high-output pedals.

At the right settings, the pedal has almost symphonic balance, or the depth of a freshly tuned, well-intonated 12-string guitar.

The basic fuzz voice is complex, with a pleasing harmonic makeup that’s surprisingly even across the EQ spectrum. Bass tones are predictably massive but don’t overwhelm. (The BDW also sounds awesome with bass guitar.) The midrange is pleasing to the ear too. It doesn’t have any of the dry, ear-fatiguing brashness that loud pedals sometimes possess in this frequency range. Instead, midrange tones are contoured around the edges and fill space in gradient colors rather than primary-hued blocks. The top-end output is the most interesting and impressive facet of the BDW’s voice, particularly given the pedal’s volume.

I’d guess it’s the effervescent, percolating buzz that in this high-mid to high-frequency range inspired the pedal’s name. It’s very pronounced, and at certain settings it’s almost the dominant characteristic of the pedal’s voice (which says a lot, given the low-frequency thump and growl in the midrange). Like many of the pedal’s most overt sonic signatures, the fuzz, and the top-end heat that reinforce it, are present without being tiring.

If that stew wasn’t already tasty enough, there’s also a discernable touch of lower octave. It’s a little like the octave presence in a Sovtek Big Muff—stronger perhaps, but still tucked tastefully behind the very balanced whole. The harmonic sum of all this is impressive. And at the right settings, the pedal has almost symphonic balance, or the depth of a freshly tuned, well-intonated 12-string guitar.

If you’re keen on shifting this balance, you can do it easily with the three toggles. But even the pronounced shifts these switches enable still dovetail with the basic voice. The bias switch is the most variable and the most interactive with the other controls. At high-gain settings, the bias switch can make smooth fuzz sounds spittier. In more bass-heavy, treble-cut settings it can emphasize the low-octave content. And it can enhance sustain and add low-end ballast in treble-heavy, high-gain settings.

The germanium transistors mean you can dial back output to a near-clean signal with guitar volume attenuation. The filthy-to-clean attenuation curve is not gentle, though. You often have to use most of the guitar’s volume’s range to get clean tones, which live precariously close to cutting your signal entirely.

The Verdict
As well-tuned and even agreeable as the Black Drone Wasp is, it won’t float everyone’s boat. It’s bold, sometimes bossy, and very loud. But it is quite colorful within its extroverted range. And if you can’t get out in front of a band with this much extra gain, you probably need an extra 200 watts worth of amplifier. The price for all this buzz and brawn is considerable. But the $259 bucks buys you a handcrafted, carefully wired, unique, and thoughtfully designed, small-batch specimen with a big and distinct personality.