JHS Legends of Fuzz Pedals Review

To the psychedelic shredders, bluesmen, shoegazers, and lovers of fuzz everywhere, this one's for you.

A Fuzzy Affair

For an uninitiated listener, the question seems apparent. “Is it supposed to sound like that?”

For the fuzz fanatic, the answer is so obvious yet so hard to explain why.

Among the countless number of famous guitar effects captured across history, fuzz may seem like the unsung underdog of them all. Though abrasive, all-consuming, and sometimes an acquired taste, fuzz has outlasted the naysayers of the rock music world. This is not only a testament to the successes of the original founders of the effect, but to the spirit of followers to reinvent it so many times over. There is an attitude to fuzz and it’s one to never count out.

JHS Pedals has taken their love for fuzz and made an enormous leap to take four of the most unique and influential fuzz pedals out from the vault and recreate them for preservation and commemoration. Founder Josh Scott has contributed to the playing public through recreations of those four rare and iconic fuzz effects straight from his personal collection. Few pedal brands have shared in such a way and even fewer have provided a globetrotting history lesson along with it.

The JHS Legends of Fuzz series brings icons of the effect back to life.

A Legendary Lineup

JHS has taken on a great responsibility to recreate four of the most coveted and influential fuzzes ever heard. Where the four fuzzes converge in rock music, each has a unique origin. To take players on a trip that crosses lines of style, time, and location takes great effort, but JHS meets the challenge. The fierce and fuzzy foursome is ready to meet, and the pleasure is all ours.

Smiley – London, 1969

The History: The evolution of rock music would not be the same without the original Fuzz Face circuit. The round, smiling face can be seen staring upwards from the floor at countless iconic guitarists of the ‘60s and ‘70s. Capitalizing on the demand for buzzing, gritty guitar tones in the UK in the mid ‘60s, salesman Ivor Arbiter fashioned the Fuzz Face to match the tones of guitarists of the time such as Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck. When Jimi Hendrix brought the Fuzz Face back to the states after a trip across the pond, all bets were off. This famous face was here to stay.

The Tone: The Smiley sets out to capture the tones created at a pivotal point in music and pedal design. In the transition from germanium to silicon transistors, Arbiter chose silicon for its more stable and reliable circuitry. The Smiley accesses tones of the earliest silicon Fuzz Faces with a great distorted tone and plenty of sustain. The accurate character of the signal effectively cuts through a mix and that can be pushed and pulled for a balance of buzzing fuzz and precise sustain. JHS's extra added “Mode” toggle engages higher gain with a gated fuzz tone.

The Smiley is strongly reminiscent of ‘60s and ‘70s fuzz tones and caters greatly to styles of music from the era. It easily plays a key role in lead-heavy songs where the guitar is front and center.

The Tunes: Rich in sustain, the Smiley can soar with deathly precision through Pink Floyd’s “Time”. The Smiley can also show off a funky side as it can rock with the fizzy bounce of Jimi Hendrix’s “Crosstown Traffic.”

Supreme – Japan, 1972

The History: In bloom with guitar effect pedal technology in the late 1960s, Japanese company Honey produced one of the most coveted fuzz effects from around the world, the Crying Baby Super-Fuzz. After reaching the states, the original Honey Crying Baby Super-Fuzz circuit was redubbed the Univox Super-Fuzz by American company Univox. The pedal attracted international attention from use by Pete Townshend of The Who and the octave fuzz sounds it produced.

The Tone: Providing a twist on similar fuzz circuits, the unique voice of octave fuzz sings in a way that may sound like two voices at once. With quick riffs and solos, the Supreme slices through a mix while retaining enough form to fill a room with heavy chords. The Supreme works effectively in either scenario, leads or rhythm. The JHS “Tone” toggle engages more scooped mids while the “Mode” pushes the octave effect of the Supreme further with a mid-boost.

The Supreme is a great pick for players looking to lead with a unique and dynamic, off-kilter octave effect. Wild yet reliable, the Supreme delivers.

The Tunes: With excellent range, the Supreme can produce tones reminiscent of the quirky and unorthodox rock songs from the 1960s on. The psychedelic rock leads of The Who’s “I Can See for Miles” and the grungy smashes of Mudhoney’s “Touch Me I’m Sick” are both easily in reach for the Supreme.

Bender – London, 1973

The History: Homegrown from a local store on Denmark Street in London, the Sola Sound Tone Bender went through several iterations from its inception in 1965. Gradually gaining a strong following through two models over the course of about five years, the Tone Bender MK3 reached an apex as the pedal became intertwined with the evolving British rock music scene of the 1960s. The original germanium transistors of the Tone Bender made it a pedal that could range between a smooth distortion and a heavy fuzz. Aging gracefully, the Tone Bender played key roles of the rock music of the ‘60s to ‘70s, connected to key names of the era such as Jeff Beck and Mick Ronson, famed guitarist of David Bowie.

The Tone: The finicky nature of aging parts and circuitry make the reproduction of the Tone Bender all the more impressive as JHS recreated the smallest qualities of aged germanium transistors in a reliable new product. Silicon transistors tap into a vintage tone that responds closely to the way original Tone Benders play.

As a recreation of the 1973 MK3 Tone Bender, the Bender captures the essence of a tone that was already many years in the making. The Bender picks up a wide array of ‘60s and ‘70s tones, and with versatility as a key feature, smooth distortion and vintage-style fuzzes are easily dialed in for a tone that works on several fronts. The JHS “Mode” toggle adds more gain and a mid-boost when engaged.

The Bender bridges decades of music for an iconic fuzz that can be used for a wide range of musical styles. The versatility of the Bender opens up possibilities for players who are fans of ‘60s and ‘70s fuzz tones but also appreciate the room to branch out.

The Tunes: A wide array of tones can be found in the Bender as it can follow the refined leads of The Beatles and “Happiness is a Warm Gun” as well as the all-encompassing haze of My Bloody Valentine’s “Sometimes.”

Crimson – Russia, 1992

The History: After Electro-Harmonix met a rough patch in the mid-1980s, founder Mike Matthews was left without the means to produce the iconic Big Muff. Almost a decade had passed before a resurgence in popularity of the tones of the vintage Big Muff brought Matthews back to the pedal-making game. After striking a deal with a manufacturing company in St. Petersburg, the Big Muff rolled out once again to the fuzz-crazed public. Without the original Electro-Harmonix trademarks, Matthews dubbed the new Big Muff version the Mike Matthews Red Army Overdrive, though familiar fuzz tones were summoned all the same.

The Tone: Following the trail of the Big Muff, the Crimson travels a similar tonal path as the original, but with a warmer and clearer voice. The Crimson roars with a thick, lower voice to drench a signal in a warm wash of fuzz that would be familiar to any Big Muff fan. Still capable of getting down and dirty, the Crimson can hone in on fuzz tones of the vintage 1970s Big Muffs used in the 1990s. JHS’s “Mode” button gives the signal a mid-frequency boost to cut through a mix without losing the classic heaviness of the Big Muff.

The Crimson is a great pick for players seeking a faithful interpretation of a unique version of the Big Muff that enjoyed newfound popularity in ‘90s rock music.

The Tunes: Specializing in large, heavier fuzz tones, the Crimson can achieve the muddy chug of Dinosaur Jr.’s “Out There” and the limitless buzz of The Smashing Pumpkins’ “Mayonaise.”

Legends Reborn

The effort on the part of JHS to capture four fuzzes that so aptly represent the effect is noteworthy. Fans of fuzz everywhere are sure to find a model and tone to connect with, to revive or reinvent. The Legends of Fuzz series works as a comprehensive guide to the history of the effect, from its humble beginnings in obscurity to its peaks in popularity with world famous music. Generations come and gone have experienced the enchanting effects of fuzz as they live on today.

With fuzz, there is always a statement to make. The Legends of Fuzz series is not one to miss.

View the Legends of Fuzz Pedals