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.

Mission Control
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 this combination.

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.

The Verdict
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 admission price!
Buy if...
you want a versatile, dual overdrive/ fuzz pedal with modern features.
Skip if...
two knobs are all you need for your overdrive, or your pedalboard is already full.

Street $180 - Cloud 9 Audio -

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