Fred Bonte started Black Cat in 1993, and his designs were soon popular among boutique stompbox lovers. Fans included guys like Billy Gibbons, Scott Henderson, and Eric Johnson. Bonte shut down production in 2007 but the company has since been restructured, (in full disclosure, with the involvement of Premier Guitar Stomp School Columnist “Analog” Tom Hughes). Today you can get revamped versions of Black Cat effects with a modern makeover and eye-catching looks.

The cat graphic on Black Cat pedals is, in reality, yellow instead of black. But let’s not get all caught up in being Persnickety Pam. It’s the sounds that really matter. The yellow graphics and knobs on top of the durable powder-coat “holographic sparkle” finish really pop. The components are high quality, the construction is solid, and each pedal is handwired. They’re true-bypass and come with a 2.1 mm power jack, though they also accept 9-volt batteries. Each even comes wrapped in a small velvet bag with a drawstring. Nice.

I test drove the OD-1, Super Fuzz, and OD-Fuzz using a ’60s-era Fender Stratocaster, a Performance Custom Super Strat, a ’65 Fender Deluxe Reverb, ’65 Fender Pro Reverb, and my trusty Peavey JSX quarter stack. Now, let’s get down to brass tacks.


Download Example 1
Recorded through a Fender '60s Stratocaster.  Amp: Peavey JSX clean channel with 2X12 Vintage 30 speakers, recorded with Garage Band, Sennheiser MD 735 mic, off center.  Touch of Holy Grail Reverb and room ambiance.
The Black Cat OD-1 comes with Drive and Volume knobs, and it leaves the rest up to you. But that’s OK, because it’s the type of touch-sensitive tone-sculpting tool that blurs the line between fuzz and overdrive. It can go from quasi-clean boost to slightly crunchy and all-out saturation and ripped-speaker fuzz—and everything in between. It’s great for the guitarist who likes to dial in subtle nuances using the guitar’s volume control. In fact, it’s outstanding at that. It responds well to varying pick attack and fingers, too.

However, with the Drive knob backed way off and the Volume up, I couldn’t call this a good clean boost. It does boost your volume, but it’s going to give you a thick and rugged clean tone. You’re not going to cop Nile Rodgers playing Chic’s “Le Freak,” but why would you? The slight dirt and warmth keeps you in the rock idiom. Look elsewhere for a transparent, ultra-clean boost.

The OD-1’s instructions warn that it’s a loud pedal, and they’re right. You need to start with the Volume knob at around 11 o’clock and work the Drive up from around nine o’clock to avoid sonic devastation. As you crank the Drive knob, the fun begins. Grit, grit, and more grit. With humbuckers, you get a smooth, singing quality. With single-coils, you get that nasty, fuzzy breakup—but it’s pleasing. Best of all, there’s no shrill, annoying ice-pickiness. You get just enough edge to cut through the band. And regardless of how much Drive you use, the sound always retains a lush, boutique sparkle that you can’t get from lesser fuzzes. It’s also great for beefing up other overdrive pedals to add thick, singing sustain.
Buy if...
you want to dabble in the fuzz arena.
Skip if...
you need a fuzz that can give you a clean boost.

Street $150 - Black Cat Pedals -