What is Fuzz distortion?


Fuzz distortion is a type of audio effect usually associated with altering the tone of electric guitars. Nevertheless, it can be applicable to almost any other type of instrument or audio signal. Unlike common distortion pedals which are designed to mimic the sound of cranked up tube amplifier, fuzz is an electronic component distortion type that changes the whole sonic signature. The sound of fuzz distortion can be described as metallic and thick. Simply put, it is a very rough type of sound.


Hard Clipping


Fuzz distortion pedals are often pushing the audio signal towards square waveforms. This is resulting in very hard clipping. Consequently, it compresses the sound and adds a lot of odd-order harmonics. Today, we have a huge variety of fuzz distortion pedals which are producing this effect in different ways. Some amplify the signal in order to overdrive the op-amp (like the way tubes distort when pushed too hard). Others send the signal through several stages of diode clipping until they produce a square wave.


History of Fuzz distortion


The term “Fuzz“ can be traced back to 1960`s when American guitarist by the name of Grady Martin recorded an instrumental song by using a faulty preamp with his guitar. He released this song on Decca label and the name of the song was “The Fuzz“. So, Martin is without a doubt the discoverer of the Fuzz effect. After that, the first commercially available fuzz distortion device was Maestro FZ – 1 Fuzz Tone by Gibson company. It quickly became widely popular and used with electric guitar and basses. In May 1965, Keith Richards of Rolling Stones used Maestro FZ – 1 Fuzz Tone on his guitar riff in now legendary song (I can’t get no) Satisfaction.

The aforementioned song’s success greatly boosted sales of the device, and all available stock sold out by the end of 1965. It became a favorite of many garage rock and psychedelic bands. The Maestro FZ-1 incorporates a three germanium transistor circuit with RCA 2N270 devices. It also has two 1.5-volt batteries, and a lead cable to connect it to an instrument (bass or guitar). Germanium devices are temperature sensitive, and the effect responds to the incoming signal’s amplitude (volume) consistently.


Germanium transistors


The very best fuzz distortion pedals owe their tone character to a pair previously mentioned Germanium transistors. These two components—along with a simple network to govern their functions and connect them to a pair of potentiometers for Volume and Fuzz (or some form of level and drive controls) are delivering smooth, warm type of sound. Fuzz distortion pedals are beloved for their “playability”— meaning the extent to which their response and dynamics can be controlled by your pick attack and your guitar’s volume control. Later technology associated with the design of Fuzz distortion pedals introduced silicon transistors. They have harder and more crisp defined tones. Both units, with old and new technology, have their distinctive tone. Therefore, they found wide use among many famous modern guitarists.


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