A classic octave fuzz design revived.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of Orange Amps. The brand’s popularity initially peaked in the ’70s, but years of decline followed as the brand changed hands. Since the turn of the century, though, a revitalized Orange has seen greater success than ever. The company’s amps hog most of the spotlight, but Orange has also assembled a compelling stompbox line. Let’s audition one of their latest: the Fur Coat.
As Orange states, the Fur Coat is based on the Foxx Tone Machine octave fuzz, which originally sold from 1971 through 1978. Its distinctive enclosure was covered in felt—a “fur coat” of sorts. The design experienced a renaissance in the early ’90s, as crunch-obsessed players like Billy Corgan used it to construct vast walls of fuzz guitar.
The Tone Machine has been cloned—or near-cloned—many times before. The Prescription Electronics Experience pedal, with its added “swell” function, helped launch the transistor-fuzz revival some 25 years ago. Subsequent incarnations include the Fulltone Ultimate Octave, MXR La Machine, Greer Super Hornet, and many DIY clone kits.
Such “flattery” is well deserved. The Tone Machine is an ultra-potent octave fuzz, brighter and bolder than most of its predecessors. Unlike other vintage octave fuzzes, it yields killer Big Muff-like distortion when the octave circuit is bypassed. It’s also got a cool single-knob tone stack that does more than merely trim highs: Below noon it fattens lows and mids, and above it emphases the octave’s piercing, nasal character. It’s tough to top the circuit’s fizzy yet fat impact.
This Orange incarnation nails that vintage sound. In lieu of the original’s BC3565 transistors, it employs easier-to-source BC549s. Not a problem—they have comparable gain, and they sound great here. Unlike the Foxx original, which used a footswitch and toggle system to bypass the circuit and activate the octave, Fur Coat employs two footswitches, so you can switch from fat fuzz to piercing octaves without stooping.
Fur Coat’s octave effect is mighty. As on most vintage octave effects, it’s strongest when you linger near the 12th fret while using the neck pickup, though you can definitely get worthy sounds using other pickup settings and fretboard positions. In optimal locations, the octave is so strong that it sounds halfway to a digital pitch-shift pedal, such as a DigiTech Whammy.
Fur Coat kicks no less ass with the octave disabled. The core sound tends toward the bright and fizzy. Rolling back the tone control lessens the sizzle, but not the impact—darker settings retain power. There are many strong, usable tones here.
Fur Coat also adds a new feature, or at least one I haven’t encountered before: a pot to blend the octave effect with straight fuzz. It’s a great idea, but it doesn’t work as well as it might due to the chosen potentiometer value and/or taper. Almost all the contrast occurs in the top 10 percent of the knob’s range. Lowering the knob from its 5 o’clock to 4 o’clock position negates the octave. Below that, not much happens. This doesn’t compromise Fur Coat’s powerful tones, but it makes it hard to zero in on particular octave/fuzz blends.
There’s a related issue with the volume pot. As confirmed by studio level meters, the signal reaches maximum volume at its noon position, with virtually no change between there and the maximum 5 o’clock position.
Fur Coat’s sturdy enclosure is the width of a conventional BB-sized stompbox, but about half-an-inch taller. Yet it’s still space-efficient: the jacks are side-mounted and inset by several millimeters. The knobs are plastic, but a steel roll bar protects them and the pot shafts. Said pots are mounted directly to the through-hole circuit board, as are the jacks. A humungous 8 mm LED glows blue in fuzz mode, but violet when you activate the octave. Fur Coat runs on standard 9V power and includes a battery compartment.
Fur Coat is a solid iteration of one of the best octave-fuzz designs ever. Despite its modest $155 price, it’s rugged enough for touring and big stages. The added octave blend control would be more useful with a different pot value, but it’s a nice addition even as-is. Most important, Fur Coat delivers all the bulky fuzz and lacerating octaves you’d expect from a quality Foxx Tone Machine derivative.
Watch the Review Demo: