The rich, searing octave fuzz of the Kay Fuzz Tone lives on in a ferocious and versatile reinterpretation.
The "Legends Of Fuzz'' series is a collection of the world's most historic, rare, and sought after circuits.
At JHS, fuzz pedals have been in our lineup for over a decade. We have designed original circuits, replicated classics, and we have seen the trend of fuzz popularity come and go. The "Legends Of Fuzz'' series is our tribute to the most important fuzz circuits ever made. It is our way of ensuring that the stories of these effects live on in the music that you are going to make. From the earliest days of fuzz in the mid-60's London scene to the 1990's ex-Soviet military factories that brought the Big Muff back to life, fuzz tells a story, and that story includes guitarists just like you. There is nothing more primitive than plugging your guitar into a vintage fuzz circuit; it is raw, untamed, and so pure that it pushes the boundaries of what your instrument can accomplish. Plug into a fuzz and plug into sixty years of beautifully broken sound.
Kay Musical Instruments was founded by Henry “Kay” Kuhrmeyer on July 1, 1931. Although Henry quickly shifted production focus to all types of stringed instruments (including basses, violas and guitars), they didn’t enter the guitar pedal market until the late 1960s with a series of knobless, treadle-based delightfully odd plastic pedals. Each of these four units (the Fuzz Tone F1, Tremolo T1, Wah Wah W1 and Bass Boost B1) were housed in knobless, treadle-based enclosures allowing one parameter of each effect to be adjusted by foot. The Kay Fuzz Tone was most likely released in late 1968/early 1969. Initially designed as a low-cost-version of the Shin-ei/Univox Superfuzz, this fuzz is one of the Edge’s go-to pedals. Fifty-four years later, JHS is releasing our spin on the Kay Fuzz Tone: the Mary-K. We’ve even added knobs and an expression pedal output for those who want to use it as it was originally intended.
Rather than using a treadle chassis, we allow Mary-K users the option to control the Frequency knob with an expression pedal. We recommend the Nektar NX-P and Roland EV-5 expression pedals, but many other expression pedals should also work. Be advised: some expression pedals may introduce a hum/noise into the signal chain in high electromagnetic interference environments. Therefore, we recommend using plastic chassis expression pedals with short cables to avoid unwanted noise in a high EMI environment.
Lower gain adds up to a smoother, more nuanced Muff flavor—and a ticket to the main Mother's fuzz sound. The PG Stomp Under Foot Utility Muffin review.
An interesting and original take on the classic fuzz formula, offering warm, throaty, and expressive tonalities.
Lacks some of the hottest sounds you expect from a classic fuzz.
Stomp Under Foot Utility Muffin
There are enough awesome, hyper-accurate re-creations of classic fuzz pedals that it's tempting to say we've seen and heard it all. But while legendary fuzzes like the Electro-Harmonix Big Muff (and most of their many permutations) have been copied to an exacting degree many times over, variations of those circuits—both accidental and deliberate—still reveal sonic surprises that bear re-examination. One such surprise led to the creation of the pedal reviewed here: the Stomp Under Foot Utility Muffin.
The Utility Muffin is not a replica of a Muff that came direct from the EHX factory, and its uniqueness is not down to some production line quirk. Rather, it pays homage to Frank Zappa's much-modified 1970 Big Muff. After being sent detailed photos of Frank's heavily tweaked V3 Big Muff, Stomp Under Foot's Matt Pasquerella came to the conclusion that critical modifications had been made to reduce the pedal's gain—yielding smoother, richer bass response, and transforming the stompbox into something closer to a medium-gain overdrive and low-gain fuzz. Stomp Under Foot built a limited run of Utility Muffins in 2016, naming the device after Zappa's Utility Muffin Research Kitchen recording studio. (The fact Zappa used a Big Muff and the word "muffin" to name his studio and one of his most famous song characters, "Muffin Man," is, as far as we know, pure coincidence.) Now, Stomp Under Foot has revived the pedal for a wider audience that may be as interested in its musical potential as much as its Zappa associations.
The pedal's controls will be little surprise to the initiated Big Muff devotee: gain, tone, and volume do much of what they would on any Big Muff. What matters most, of course, is what's inside, where Pasquerella hand-wires everything himself, including several NOS components in this cleverly reconfigured four-transistor fuzz circuit.
Do You Know the Muffin Man?
The Utility Muffin cooks up a fun, alternative breed of fuzz that's expressive and somewhat habit forming. It definitely leans toward the warm, creamy, and thick side of the tone spectrum—even by Big Muff standards. But while it might not have a Tone Bender's vicious top end, buzzy vintage-fuzz sounds are still easy to generate in isolation. And while the Muffin can be dark and murky with the tone knob set counterclockwise from noon, there's more than enough treble and sparkle in advanced tone and gain settings to slice your way through a dense or bass-heavy mix.
On the front end of Marshall and tweed Deluxe-style amps, and with P-90s driving the pedal, the Muffin sounded rich and full of texture—with just enough spitty attitude on top to keep it from sounding too smooth. There's also a slight bump in the midrange that gives the Utility Muffin a hint of cocked-wah voicing that adds honk and presence to the output. Needless to say, it really excels at throaty Clapton/Cream lead tones—particularly with guitar tone controls at minimum levels—while retaining a reedy quality that keeps the output from turning to mud.
The Utility Muffin pulls off the cool trick of retaining the wooly, warm side of the Big Muff voice—particularly the Sovtek breed—without sacrificing the feel and temperament of hotter, more piercing classic fuzzes. It's full of character and complex, overtone-rich colors. And it's instructive as a reminder of how a lower-gain version of classic Muff flavor is still powerful enough to knock you flat. It might not be the pedal to reach for if you prefer just one fuzz on your board and are inclined toward Fuzz Face, Tone Bender, or even old Triangle Big Muff tones. But if those burning-hot-and-toppy fuzz tones are a color you like in moderation, the Utility Muffin is a great alternative, with a buoyant and bubbly personality and a load of hot and smooth, sonorous sounds to mine.