Tsakalis Experience Review
A capable control set makes this Hendrix-inspired octave fuzz surprisingly versatile.
The Tsakalis AudioWorks Experience fuzz is an unabashed homage to Jimi Hendrix’s octave fuzz tones. It’s so lovingly done that, from the name to the psychedelically purple paint job, you could convincingly make this pedal a bonus accessory in some extravagant Are You Experienced box set. But how does it fare at delivering Jimi’s tones? Read on, Little Wing. This octave fuzz delivers those sounds and more.
Built to Blast
The Experience octave fuzz is a two-transistor silicon fuzz with an FET clipping section. The two footswitches engage the octave effect (which has its own volume and tone knobs) and the fuzz effect. The fuzz and octave can be used separately or together. The fuzz effect is shaped by four controls: volume, tone, damage, and gain. The damage knob sets the bias for the transistors, and rolling this counterclockwise will provide a more overdrive-like tone. Increases add splattery sub-octave textures that you can accentuate by rolling off the guitar’s volume and lowering the gain. Increasing gain delivers the classic silicon fuzz more synonymous with Jimi: a bit thin but cutting to the core. I/O jacks are mounted on the sides of the unit, while the 9V barrel adaptor is located at the crown. You can also power the Experience by using a 9V battery.
Dropping in, Tuning Out
With Hendrix in mind, I had my first, um, experiences with the Tsakalis and a Stratocaster. Plugged into an Orange OR50 with a 4x12 cab, the Experience came alive in Hendrix style with the damage around 10 o’clock and the gain around noon. This setting achieves the “Purple Haze” squawk you know and love, which in reality isn’t terribly fuzzy and has somewhat less octave content than you might have imagined. Still, from the Experience the sound is dead on.
When paired with the fuzz channel, the octave channel can be a source of cool and incredible chaos. However, I noticed that lower amplifier volumes make the combined output from both effects seem relatively thin. The octave effect by itself tends to be louder, although much less fuzzy. This isn’t much of a problem if you’re playing at louder volume levels, but bedroom players may prefer the solo octave effect with milder overdrive in front of the pedal. The upside is that the Experience performs very well overall with a dirt pedal in front, too. You hear a little more sustain and a bit more heft to the output, depending on your OD of choice (in this case I used an Ibanez TS-9). This agreeableness with other pedals certainly expands its real-world usefulness and the available palette of sounds.
In general, a humbucker-driven Gibson Les Paul proved a great match for the Experience. It gave the combined octave/fuzz effect a bit more definition, and generated less feedback and white noise. Humbuckers also seem to enhance the difference between octave and fuzz volume when switching between the two effects, so you may have to make some alterations if you switch between single-coil and humbucker-equipped instruments in a live setting.
As a homage to Hendrix, the Experience delivers authenticity and much more. Though the near-$250 price tag (at time of writing) isn’t small change, Tsakalis AudioWorks’ team put in a lot of effort to make the pedal worth the extra cash. And the ability to combine the two effects or use them independently, as well as the multitude of gain/bias combinations that can range from classic rock fare to more synth-like textures, makes the Experience much more than a one-trick pony. Best results come with an amp that’s got lots of headroom. But if that’s the rig you have at your disposal, the Experience will give you scads of octa-fried fuzz range to explore.