One of the great parts of my job is that I get to meet great people who are into things that I love, like pedals, and guitars, and amps and music and ..........
I met up with Jim Roth when his band Built to Spill played here last year and we struck up a mutual love of all things fuzz. He bought a Big Mud off me and we talked FUZZ.
Jim runs his own effects business called Jerms and a few months after we met I got this in the post out of the blue.
This is Jim's clone of a Sam Ash Fuzzstainer, one of the rarest and most sought after holy grails of the vintage fuzz world. Legend has it that only a couple of these have ever surfaced and Jim was lucky enough to get his hands on an original to copy.
It's a relatively simple little two transistor fuzz circuit which Jim has meticulously copied here using vintage style components the same as were used in the originals. The main difference is the original had a trim pot inside for the "gating" on the second transistor, where Jim has made this an external pot for easy dialing in, which is a very nice touch indeed.
So, how's it sound ? I like my fuzzes thick and creamy or thin and raspy and this can do both. It has a great 60's/70's fuzz tone with plenty of scope for different tones. The gate pot takes you from nasty weedy fuzz (almost a dying battery sound) to thick fuzz and then ...... nothing, but just before the nothing ........ heaven. The tone control is great and personally I think all fuzzes NEED a tone control.
The other two controls are volume and gain as per normal.
While this type of fuzz isn't my favorite "TONE", it's certainly a spectacular little pedal.
I have so much respect for pedal makers who build like this. I know a few guys who build with this method and while my pedals are mostly PCB and (mostly) modern components, I do like (and respect) this style when applied to electronics like pedals and amps, especially to look at.
The drawback of this type of build, as these guys will tell you, is the very reason that these vintage pedals (and amps) are so hit and miss tone wise. It's VERY time consuming to both make AND to fine tune them to be consistent. In "the ol'd days" they didn't spend this time. Talking with these guys you realize that they're not just making effects pedals, they're making works of art that sound amazing.
This sort of thing isn't re-inventing the wheel. It's just making the wheel like it used to be made, with love, pride and a little bit of ........... for want of a better word ....... mojo.