One of the furriest, foxiest fuzz machines ever is reborn in a compact and more capable incarnation.
Rich, sonorous basic fuzz tones. Controlled but nasty octave effects. Footswitchable octave. Mid-boost option.
A few bucks on the spendy side relative to the competition. Footswitches close together.
Danelectro 3699 Fuzz
Ease of Use:
I’ve played original Foxx Tone Machines through big amplifiers a few times, and I can still feel those sounds reverberating in my gut. What I remember best was how throaty and massive the fuzz sounded—even before you activated the eye-watering octave-up function.
Danelectro’s new take on the Tone Machine, the 3699, has an interesting pedigree, because Danelectro is now owned by Steve Ridinger, the man who shepherded the original Tone Machine into existence in 1971. But Danelectro clearly didn’t rely on pedigree in executing this design. It’s burly, refined, sounds authentically vintage, and hits me with a wallop in the same spot where those originals left beautiful scars years ago.
Cut You Down to Size
The original Tone Machine was an odd bird. For starters, the enclosure was literally fuzzy. It was also big and curiously configured—with side-mounted knobs and an octave toggle, and a single, lonely footswitch on top. The 3699 reduces the footprint of the original. But it also adds two features that did not appear on the Tone Machine: a dedicated footswitch for the octave effect and a toggle that switches between the standard fuzz voice and a more mid-forward mode.
The 3699’s footswitches are close together—less than 1 1/2" on center—so you have to take care not to bypass the pedal entirely when selecting the octave. But the footswitch is a practical improvement over the toggle that performed the same function on the original. Elsewhere, output volume, fuzz, and tone controls are straight-ahead and self explanatory.
Brings the Boom
Though the 3699 is an octave fuzz, you’re just as likely to fall hard for the fundamental fuzz tone sans octave. It’s more than a little reminiscent of a Big Muff, with a compressed foghorn-like attack, honey-smooth sustain, and enough sting and definition on top to create perceptible string-to-string separation. Full chords sound surprisingly articulate.
As with many hot silicon fuzzes, you can’t readily transform the 3699 into an overdrive with guitar volume attenuation. It’s fuzzy down at the lowest ranges of its gain, and just gets more menacing and bright as you add gain. But you can coax dank, swampy, and complex sounds that bridge overdrive and fuzz by attenuating guitar tone and volume—achieving settings that can make a Telecaster sound like a Les Paul neck humbucker driving a tweed Deluxe. The tone control is the more effective means of re-shaping the fuzz’s personality, and there are many shades of buzz—from smoky and blunted to searing and metallic.
The octave effect itself dovetails beautifully with the fundamental tones. And at times the shift between straight fuzz and octave fuzz at lower tone and gain levels can be surprisingly subdued. On the other hand, the 3699 octave fuzz can generate punchy, harmonically whole, and sustain-rich chords, where other octave fuzzes collapse into chaos. Conjuring the most intense octave sounds is typically a function of adding top end, and there is plenty of range in the tone control to transform your tone from hazy to hair-singeing. At these higher-end tone levels, the 3699 retains its essential cohesiveness, but takes on an absolutely manic edge. Playing lead lines against droning strings at the 10th fret or higher can even create clanging ring modulated sounds.
The 3699 won’t back you into a creative corner. The fundamental fuzz sounds so good that you might make it your number one. And with the octave in the mix, it’s softer around the edges—even at extreme gain and tone settings—than other Tone Machine clones I’ve heard. To me that’s a good thing. It lends the 3699 a more controlled and predictable feel without surrendering its most feral side—almost as if you were sending your guitar via direct injection to a desk and cranking the gain on the console. To call the 3699 completely civilized might be a reach. At many settings, it can be downright thuggish. But its range of tones add up a multitude of musical options—making it one of the most flexible octave fuzzes you’ll ever play.
A toneful trembler packed with vintage tics and new tricks.
A wide range of tube-warmed tremolo sounds with a friendly control set.
Might be a tad conservative for sonic buccaneers.
Fender MTG Tube Tremolo
Ease of Use:
When gospel-blues legend Pops Staples needed a backline amp, he always requested a Fender with “shake.” If Pops were still with us, he’d be able to get all the “shake” he needed—and more—with Fender’s MTG Tube Tremolo.
Like other Fender pedals I’ve encountered, the MTG honors the company’s heritage by dialing in the traditional sounds just right. But in this case it also explores the wilder side of the tremolo effect and offers control that no old-school amp can offer—thanks in large part to the highly flexible wave controls designed with Bruce Egnater.
Peek Inside the Box
There is, indeed, a tube inside this pedal’s ultra-sturdy 5" x 4" x 2" metal enclosure. It’s a tiny NOS 6025 preamp tube, made in the 1940s. Fender acquired a thousand of them when it bought Groove Tubes in the ’90s. So, naturally, the device requires a 9V power supply—especially because the perceived volume drops a little as tremolo intensity increases, and turning the level dial up compensates for the loss by raising the voltage fed to the tube. Cranking the level also works as a bit of a signal boost—but just a bit.
All four dials have LED position-markers that improve visibility on dark stages, but you can switch the lights off with a switch at the back of the pedal. This is increasingly a standard-issue feature on Fender pedals, and it’s a brilliant, genuinely useful idea.
Just as on a classic Fender amp, there are controls for tremolo speed and intensity. What is improved is the degree of precision the MTG’s speed knob provides. Handy markers for specific beat subdivisions—quarter note, dotted eighth note, quarter note triplet, eighth note, dotted sixteenth note, eighth note triplet, and sixteenth note—are listed around the speed dial, eliminating guesswork. Since there are no detents, you can set the knob anywhere between those spots, too. More personalized speed settings are possible via the tap tempo switch, and a flashing LED above the tap switch always pulses to the active tremolo tempo.
Outside the Box
Tremolo wave-shaping controls include a mode toggle and a wave dial. The latter blends or selects between available waves shape in a given mode, and together they can produce real magic—sculpting trem forms that run from languid, smooth, and soothing to the nattering blips of Martian radar. In toggle-up position, the mode switch moves through a triangle- to sine-, to square-wave range, providing traditional smooth textures as well as choppy effects. In the middle toggle position, the wave control spans sawtooth to triangle waves. In the down position the wave control governs pulse width for a hard square wave, which is great for stuttering effects.
The wave dial really expands the potential of each waveform. In the toggle’s up position, for example, 12 o’clock on the wave dial provides a creamy balance between smooth and choppy with more buttery and hard pulses at the two extremes. (I run through all three toggle settings at different wave dial positions in the demo video online.) The many pulse and wave shape variations can translate to surreal textures with other effects too: I had a blast setting the toggle in pulse-width terrain, cranking the wave dial all the way right, and passing the signal through a granular delay for a sound a lot like mice squeaking in Morse code.
Obviously, the MTG is not just about weirdness, Many players who use this pedal are likely looking for accurate traditional tones. And with my Stratocaster plugged into a clean Carr Vincent with the reverb on 3, the MTG Tube Tremolo was a ticket to the past. I found a wide variety of pretty and articulate tremolo sounds. My favorites included the gentle shimmers I got from a balance of triangle and square waves, as well as a eighth-note setting with the intensity that I crafted in honor of Pops Staples.
Both classicists and rebels will find textures to love in Fender’s super-easy-to-use, mid-priced MTG, which puts the company’s classic tube tremolo formulas—and more—in one convenient box.
Watch the Video Demo:
How one guitarist modified his “master-of-none” HSH guitar into a sonically pleasing machine.
Name: Marc HunterLocation: Flagstaff, Arizona
Guitar: 1982 Gibson Victory MVX
Here’s my baby: a heavily modified 1982 Gibson Victory MVX. Originally it had a cherry red finish with a black pickguard and an HSH pickup configuration. It was one of Gibson’s short-lived “super strats” that was billed as a jack-of-all-trades guitar, but, in my opinion, it was really a master-of-none.
So I stripped the finish, routed out a bit more of the dense eastern hard rock maple body, and did a burst with natural dyes and a thin nitrocellulose finish. The back of the neck was finished with gun stock products for a satin-smooth feel. Hardware was updated with a set of locking tuners, roller bridge, and Bigsby tailpiece—the Chet Atkins arm can be turned so it sits comfortably in reach without getting in the way.
This guitar has been rewired several times, but the latest incarnation is likely to stay. It has a Steven Kersting S-90 pickup in the neck, which is a P-90 with alnico pole pieces for Strat-like clarity with the usual P-90 girth. In the bridge position is a DiMarzio Tone Zone humbucker made in a P-90-sized route. The mini toggle switches the bridge humbucker between series and parallel, and the master volume, master tone, and 3-way toggle switch operate as expected. I play primarily rock and blues but have enjoyed exploring some new styles with this guitar. All together it makes for an incredibly flexible yet simple guitar that can cover all of the sonic ground I need to. I hope you enjoy it!
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