Cloud 9 Audio Analog Alien Fuzzbubble-45 Pedal Review
Two pedals in one: JIMI (fuzz channel) and PETE (overdrive channel)
|Download Example 1|
JIMI Fuzz with Strat
Download Example 2
JIMI Gritty with P-90s
Download Example 3
PETE Dirty with Les Paul
Clips Recorded into a Fender Concert II amp with a little spring reverb mic'd with a SM57 into a Chandler LTD-1 mic pre with no EQ. Apogee Symphony I/O into Pro Tools 9HD.
Hailing from a recording studio on
Long Island, New York, that bears
the same name, Cloud 9 is a relative newcomer
to the effects business. But there’s a
lot of practical experience behind the company’s
first pedal, the Analog Alien Fuzz
Bubble-45 (FB-45). A peek at Cloud 9
Recording’s website reveals a rather enviable
collection of gear, suggesting that Cloud 9’s
founders, Joe and Jack Napoli, have heard
a cool sound or two and grappled with the
challenges of recording great fuzz sounds.
The FB-45 may not solve every problem
involved in getting and managing a good
fuzz tone. And the concept—a dedicated
overdrive on one channel and a Fuzz Face
clone on another—isn’t revolutionary. But
the pedal offers a wealth of options that can
help you dial in many fuzz and overdrive
sounds on the fly, and that’s a boon to stage
and studio guitarists who need fast access to
multiple fuzz flavors.
The FB-45 is housed in a 5 3/4" x 4 3/4"
x 1 1/2" purple-sparkle box that you’re not
likely to miss on a cluttered pedalboard.
Because the FB-45 actually contains two
units, controls are color-coded to match
their respective effect—a simple but smart
touch. Things get clever when you notice
the overdrive section is named Pete (you
can guess at the inspiration) and the fuzz is
called Jimi (duh).
On the Pete side, you’ll find Out (output
level) and Year (distortion amount) controls.
The latter uses ’67 and ’77 as names
for its minimum and maximum settings.
There’s also a Tone toggle switch that helps
you tame low frequencies.
The Jimi channel features three purple
knobs—In (which controls the input level
from the guitar), Out (output level), and
Haze (fuzz intensity). The Jimi section
also has its own Tone toggle switch, which
works just like the one in the Pete section.
On the bottom left is a Bypass stomp
switch followed by an Effect selector stomp
switch on the right.
Many Shades of Oomph!
I decided to begin auditioning Fuzz Bubble
with the Pete section. So I set the Out control
to noon, the Year to ’67 and put the Fuzz
Bubble between a Hamer Korina Special
with Lollar P-90s and a HipKitty Panetone
set for a chiming clean tone. With the FB-45
engaged, the overdrive was light, but contributed
a little more grit and bite to the already
cutting P-90 tone. With a bit more push of
the Year knob, I was able to pull out some
pretty mighty Page and Townsend tones—
beautiful for chords or leads. With the Out
knob at 2 o’clock, I found a great sweet spot
that had power chords barking and hitting
hard with attitude, grit, and clarity. This is
a great overdrive. Cranking up the Out and
Year to max yielded wailing lead tones, and
switching the Tone toggle thinned the tone
slightly, but actually tightened up the bottom
end. It’s a trade-off that works better with
humbuckers than single-coils.
With my stock 1974 Les Paul Custom,
there was quite a bit more gain available
and the Tone switch’s effectiveness in
removing mud became apparent. I ended
up backing down the Out and Year controls
a little more to compensate for the
humbuckers’ hot signal. Keen to hear how
the FB-45 would work with other amps,
I pulled out a Rivera-era Fender Concert
II 2x10 combo and set it up slightly dirty.
With the same Les Paul and the Fuzz
Bubble’s Pete channel engaged, the tone was
gargantuan and made plain how much late-
’60s and ’70s color the Fuzz Bubble overdrive
can lend. Tweaking the knobs got me
everything from convincing early Boogie
sounds to Marshall-like tones.
The Jimi channel is definitely reminiscent
of a Fuzz Face, but with additional
flexibility. The biggest difference is how
the In control—which effectively strangles
the signal strength driving the fuzz—works
with the Haze control to produce everything
from nasty, spitting fuzz to super
overdrive. Using a combination of Fender
Strat and Concert II with the Fuzz Bubble
in the middle, it was easy to conjure up
some sweet “Voodoo Child”-like sounds,
which had me fixated for about an hour as
I tweaked the settings. Going to the neck
pickup and slightly rolling off the guitar’s
tone control gave me a massive, thick, violin
tone. And even with the tone down, the
clarity was intact and sustain off the charts.
Notes soared and sang effortlessly and endlessly
as they transitioned into harmonic
feedback. The Strat was a real winner in
Moving back to the Les Paul I spent time
with the Tone switch engaged, cutting out
some of the low end. In this setup, I experimented
with the Haze knob and found a lot
of shades of fuzz that went from downright
rude to more pleasant, softened, almost
compressed and slightly darker overdrive.
Delivering a smooth texture that retained
note definition while still sounding like a
fuzz, this setting was probably my favorite.
Since the Fuzz Bubble is capable of
merging its split personalities, I went back
and set it up so both Pete and Jimi were at
similar volumes. It’s incredibly cool how
moving from clean to crunch to lead was
always just a stomp away. Stomping on the
Pete channel for rhythm and the Jimi side
for leads is an obvious and very cool application.
But the real magic lies in shifting
back and forth between them to generate a
wide range of moods and textures over the
course of a song or two.
I really enjoyed the Fuzz Bubble from both
an engineering and performance perspective.
As the first pedal from a new company,
it’s impressive, and it’s clear that the Fuzz
Bubble benefits from being developed
under a sonic microscope. But it’s the combination
of the overdrive and a character-rich
and very manageable fuzz that creates
a 1-2 punch worth much more than the
you want a versatile, dual overdrive/ fuzz pedal with modern features.
two knobs are all you need for your overdrive, or your pedalboard is already full.