A gated fuzz brims with unexpected complexity and surprising vintage voices.
Gated fuzz has a weird, polarizing reputation. Some players I know associate it unequivocally with macho stoner rock riffs and hyper-gain doom trips and cringe at its very mention. But I hear gated fuzz as a point on a continuum that originates with primitive, fizzy germanium fuzzes. There’s way more to gated fuzz than creating the sonic equivalent of orc armies on the march. And that’s why Way Huge’s Conquistador Fuzzstortion is such a kick. It’s just as happy dishing desert-rock riffage as it is churning up ’60s scuzz-punk leads or layering art rock textures in the studio. And while the gating is distinct, there’s just enough lingering harmonic content to make the pedal sound complex and even a little soft around the edges.
A Fuzz by Any Other Name
Conquistador uses a completely familiar control scheme: fuzz, volume, and tone. And apart from the gating, the three controls behave as they would on any fuzz. The enclosure is the usual, high quality Way Huge stuff, and I’m glad they have never succumbed to the miniaturization urge. They look great. The aluminum enclosure means the pedal is light and sturdy. And the switches and pots all function with smooth precision—another Way Huge trademark.
You can power the unit with a 9V DC adapter, but like most contemporary Way Huge pedals, it also has a super-convenient, easy-to-access battery compartment on the front of the pedal. Interior construction is tidy and looks robust. The circuit board itself seems to float—held aloft by the pins from the three pots and the LED apparatus. The I/O jacks are mounted to their own board, as is the footswitch. And as long as the pedal’s cool rubber feet are in place, you don’t even need a screwdriver to remove the back cover.
Turn Me up, Shut Me Down
Conquistador’s gating is a feature throughout the pedal’s range. Some players might like a little more gray area or the ability to blend in the gating effect. But the fixed gating on Conquistador seems to have opened up possibilities elsewhere—like honing the tone circuit to work with low-end sustain output and cultivating a harmonically complex fuzz profile.
The latter quality is a real strength of the Conquistador. As you’d expect, the pedal’s voice is strong in the midrange and low end because it can be. Gating means the midrange won’t bloom into feedback and the low end won’t generate resonant traps. But the Conquistador also features a very cool capacity for high-mid and top-end content that gives the pedal a lovely, almost chorale-like balance at many settings. This evenness is even apparent at maximum treble and fuzz settings, which are perfect for Davie Allen biker fuzz moves or Spacemen 3-style, single-string, quarter-note drones.
Conquistador’s rich and even harmonic profile is most evident, however, at medium-gain and low to low-mid focused tone settings. And while I had hoped to avoid the obvious Queens of the Stone Age reference, I cannot deny that the grinding riff from “Regular John” sounds pretty freaking intoxicating through the Way Huge.
Though Conquistador is wired for contemporary gated-fuzz applications, it’s overflowing with cool variations on the sound—some of which achieve ’60s-vintage fuzz gnarliness more effectively than pedals designed for that purpose. Conquistador can even sound synthy with the crafty use of guitar volume and tone knobs. And its even, focused attack and decay might make it the ideal fuzz for doubling tacks or soloing in an A/B rig. In these ways, Conquistador is a real overachiever. And while it’s certainly not a fuzz for everyone (you should definitely spend some time with it before you buy, to see how it reacts to your rig and style), it will doubtless be a source of surprises for players willing to dive deep beyond the most obvious sounds.
Looking for more great gear for the guitar player in your life (yourself included!)? Check out this year's Holiday Gear Finds!
D'Addario XPND Pedalboard
DR-05X Stereo Handheld Recorder
Wampler Pedals Ratsbane
Created in collaboration with legendary guitarist George Lynch of Dokken and Lynch Mob fame, the Mr.Scary Mod adds an adjustable tube gain stage and an onboard Deep control, which together are designed to enable an amp to have increased sustain while still retaining note definition and dynamics.
LegendaryTones, LLC today announced production availability of its new Mr. Scary Mod, a 100% pure tube module designed to instantly and easily expand the capabilities of many classic amplifiers with additional gain and tone shaping. Created in collaboration with legendary guitarist George Lynch of Dokken and Lynch Mob fame, the Mr.Scary Mod adds an adjustable tube gain stage and an onboard Deep control, which together are designed to enable an amp to have increased sustain while still retaining note definition and dynamics.
Originally released as the Lynch Mod in February 2021, the updated Mr. Scary Mod features the same core circuit as the Lynch Mod but is now equipped with a revised tube mix combo per George’s preference as well as a facelift in a newly redesigned electro-galvanized steel enclosure. As with the Lynch Mod, each run will be limited and the first run in Pumpkin Orange with Black hardware is limited to just 150 pieces worldwide.
The Mr. Scary Mod adds an adjustable tube gain stage on top of the cathode follower position, keeping note definition and articulation while further increasing sustain. Each Mr. Scary mod is meticulously built by hand in the USA, one at a time, and tuned using high-grade components. Equipped with a single ECC81 (12AT7) in the first position and ECC83 (12AX7) in the second, the Mr. Scary Mod can clean up beautifully when rolling down your guitar’s volume, and still adds scorching gain when you roll it back up. This is a gain stage that’s been tuned and approved by the ears of the maestro George Lynch himself.
“The Mr. Scary Mod excels with dynamics and is incredibly touch-responsive, allowing me to shift from playing clear, lightly compressed cleans to full-out aggressive sustain and distortion –and control it all simply by varying my guitar’s volume control and picking,” said GeorgeLynch. “In many ways, it’s an old-school approach, but it’s also so much more natural and expressive in addition to being musically fulfilling when you can play both the guitar and amp dynamically together this way.”
The Mr. Scary Mod installs in minutes, is safe and effective to use, and requires no special tools or re-biasing of the amplifier. Simply insert the module into the cathode follower preamp position of compatible amplifiers (includes Marshall 2203/2204/1959/1987 circuits) and
immediately get the benefit of enjoying a hot-rodded amp that delivers all the pure harmonic character that comes with an added pure tube gain stage. The handmade in the USA Mr. Scary Mod is now available to order for $319.
For more information, please visit legendarytones.com.
October Audio has miniaturized their NVMBR Gain pedal to create two mini versions of this beautifully organic-sounding circuit – including an always-on gain device.
The NVMBR Gain is a nonlinear amp that transitions gracefully from clean boost to overdriven tones. Volume increases from just over unity to about 10db before soft-clipping drive appears for another 5db of boost. Its extraordinary ease of use is matched by outstanding versatility: you can use it as a clean boost, push a stubborn amp into overdrive or create a just-breaking-up sound at any amp volume.
October Audio’s new family of mini NVMBR Gain pedals includes a switchable version that allows you to bypass the effect: one option features brand logo pedal graphics, while the other sports a fun “Witch Finger” graphic with a Davies knob as the“fingernail”.
The second version in the new lineup is an always-on device featuring the Witch Finger graphic and Davies knob, with the same NVMBR Gain circuit that lies at the core of the switchable version.
- Knob controls gain and clipping simultaneously
- Stunning silver hammertone finish
- Switchable versions are true-bypass, available with classic or witch finger graphics
- Authentic Davies knobs, including the “fingernail”
- 9V center negative power supply required
- Dimensions: 3.63 x 1.50 x 1.88 in
Witch Finger (always on NVMBR Gain) demo
All October Audio pedals are assembled in Richmond, VA, and available for purchase directly through the online shop. Street price is $109 for NVMBR Gain footswitch versions and $89 for the always-on device.
For more information, please visit octoberaudio.com.