A beast of an octave fuzz with versatility in mind.
DeArmond Jet Star with DeAmond USA GoldTone humbuckers and 1968 Fender Bassman through 2X12 cabinet with Warehouse G12c/s speakers.
Clip #1 — All EQ controls at noon. Volume and Fuzz at noon, two, and three o’ clock.
Clip #2 — All knobs at noon. Pre-fuzz octave position and Tight voice, followed by Post-fuzz position and tight voice, followed by pre-fuzz position and open voice.
Excellent tone and huge control. Fuzz and Octave circuits can be used separately.
On the slightly expensive side for an octave fuzz.
Ease of Use:
Roger Mayer’s meeting with Jimi Hendrix in early 1967, and the latter legend’s adoption of Mayer’s prototype Octavia, spawned one of the more interesting branches of stompbox evolution. Decades later, octave fuzz is a staple of many pedal manufacturers’ offerings. And though Mayer’s first circuit still inspires many similar effects, octave fuzz remains fertile ground for experimentation beyond the Octavia template. So, it’s nice to see Wampler take a swing at expanding the formula with the Fuzztration: a more versatile variation of the octave fuzz recipe that uses powerful equalization and independent fuzz and octave circuits to achieve uncommon flexibility.
Controlling Your Fuzztration
Many fuzz/octave pedals give you little control over the complex, sometimes fractured, tones they create. Even the early Octavia only had two knobs. But starting with the separation of the octave and fuzz into independent effects, Wampler enhances and extends a player’s control over a potent combination. The 3-band bass/mids/treble boost/cut EQ section is very responsive and has great range. The large fuzz knob, meanwhile, is big enough and smartly situated to enable expressive volume adjustments with your toe. A useful master volume control allows output adjustments when things get hairy.
Two switches further extend the tone-shaping power of the Fuzztration. An octave position switch situates the octave effect before or after the fuzz. (Hendrix usually ran the Octavia after the fuzz.) The tone voice switch provides options for “open” or “tight” settings—the latter of which has more a modern, compressed accent.
The medium-sized enclosure is a little taller than most boxes with similar footprints, which is common within the Wampler line. The graphics wink, perhaps, at Pink Floyd’s The Wall’s theatrical poster (and probably the possible mayhem this pedal is capable of). You can use a 9V or 18V adaptor to power the unit, but there’s also the option to use a 9V battery.
Let It All Out
A Fender Stratocaster and an Orange OR50 with a closed-back 4x12 provided an appropriate and more-or-less-approximate Hendrix-style setup for the most obvious test of Fuzztration’s octave/fuzz capabilities. With the octave effect running in post-fuzz mode and in the open voice position, I found convincing Octavia-style tones with all EQ controls around noon. As with the Octavia, the 1st and 2nd strings of the Stratocaster generate the most potent octave tones, especially on the 12th fret and above.
But by boosting the treble, the Fuzztration brings out more octave, extra clarity, and additional presence. And while the octave is very present in most EQ configurations, the treble EQ is effective enough to almost act as a blend knob for the effect—creating the perception of a considerable boost in octave volume. I’ve always found the rarity of wet/dry octave mix controls on most fuzz/octave pedals frustrating. The treble control’s ability to serve that function to some extent is impressive.
Switching over to the pre-fuzz octave, I noticed a lot less white noise from the single-coils. The octave output, however, is more ring-modulator-like. This effect is even more apparent in the tight fuzz setting with its added compression. Paired with the darker voice of a Gibson Les Paul, these tones are appealingly aggressive and rich—something you might hear at a desert-generator gig populated by lunatics on a Kyuss bender. Even with the darker combination, though, the treble control is powerful enough to provide heaps of extra cut. And with a little push into the 2 o’clock range, the octave really sings. This was extra helpful when I paired the Les Paul and Fuzztration with more contoured, mid-scooped 6L6-based amplifiers.
You can get a lot of mileage using the Fuzztration purely as a fuzzbox. The open voice is thick and pleasingly dark at times, and a lot like a Big Muff in both saturation and attack. The tight configuration is more pointed and punchy.
The octave, too, can be used as a standalone effect. Without the fuzz you hear the upper octave register clearly with a touch of glitchy, irregular grit that almost sounds like a fuzz with a dying battery at times. It sounds great alone. But it’s also excellent augmentation for other fuzz types and sounds awesome with delay set for numerous repeats, creating a field of splattered octave shards.
Most fuzz/octave effects I use do one thing well and tend to lack dynamics. Fuzztration, though, never makes you wonder if the pedalboard space you’ve dedicated to an octave effect is worth it. Fuzztration does classic octave sounds really well. But it opens plenty of other sonic avenues and provides the control, flexibility, and range to move in very creative and unusual fuzz/octave directions.
Shelve the John Mayer comparisons. This Australian virtuoso establishes his voice and makes the best album of his career.
Australian virtuoso Joe Robinson has firmly established himself as a top-tier Nashville picker, and his new album proves he’s far more than a flashy prodigy. The comparisons to John Mayer are inevitable: catchy songs, soulful vocals, and virtuosic playing. However, Robinson’s ethos outshines whatever category iTunes or Spotify might put him in. He can move easily from straight-up Chet Atkins-style stomp (“Let the Guitar Do the Talkin’”) to infectious pop-rock (“Reputation”) easier than most of us change strings.
Robinson’s songwriting has always revolved around interesting harmonies and impeccably crisp lead playing. His deft, melodic lines on “Mindless” have a focus that will make you want to break out the metronome and get your syncopation together. Robinson has developed into an artist with a fully formed vision of who he is and where he wants to go. It makes me look forward to the album he makes 10 years from now.
Must-hear tracks: “Mindless,” “Reputation,” “Undertone”
After an enlightening lesson in Rickenbacker copyrights, a guitarist turns his once playable Tokai into an art guitar.
Name: Ross DeAethHometown: Lexington, Kentucky
Guitar: Not a Ric
My guitar’s story is not so much a matter of what, but rather why. It came into my life as a very playable Tokai Rickenbacker 325 copy. I tired of it and proceeded to list it on eBay, making sure prospective buyers knew it was NOT a Ric. Shortly after, I received a rather terse message from eBay that my auction item was removed and that if I tried anything like this again, I’d be in big trouble.
I contacted John Hall at Rickenbacker for an explanation and had a rather enlightening email exchange. He explained that this was a copyrighted design and I couldn’t profit from said purloined design. What about the many other guitar designs that are copied? Mr. Hall informed me that those original manufacturers weren’t as diligent as Rickenbacker was in protecting their designs and, thus, opened the door for countless copies and knock-offs.
Mr. Hall politely explained that if a Rickenbacker employee stumbled on my guitar, even at a yard sale, they could rightfully seize it. Only one thing to do: modify the imposter. I think most will agree they’re looking at garbage. I wouldn’t argue with them, or with Mr. Hall for that matter.
The first thing I did was de-horn the guitar and alter the headstock. Then I took some brass sheeting and tacked it on the body. Keep in mind, I just wanted to change the appearance and keep it playable. After pulling the electronics and removing the chrome from the pickup covers, I lost my nerve and embarked on the “art guitar” path. The tubes are some sort of infrared, high-end audio connectors. The scotch corks are Drambuie and Highland Park. The knobs are original Tokai. I used glitter glue and $4 tiny lights from Barnes & Noble sale bin. The grenade handle is from a practice range weapon (I think).
At one time, I was going to smash the original Tokai and send the pieces to Mr. Hall in order to get off his naughty list. Glad I reconsidered. Full disclosure: I also own and play a full-blooded Rickenbacker 330/12. (It’s my third one.)
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