Fuzz pedals are commonly used for bass guitars across genres. A signal modified with fuzz will sound slightly brighter and give off that iconic fuzzy sound. Fuzz was initially produced with broken or dysfunctional guitar equipment but has since its’ conception been targeted explicitly with effect emulators to recreate the fantastic “broken” sound. Typically, you will find that bassists make use of fewer effects on their instruments compared to guitarists. But the fuzz pedal has proven itself as a cornerstone for modulating the sound of the bass guitar.
A distortion pedal will add a constant level of grit to your signal. A fuzz pedal pushes distortion even further by compressing it and altering the waveform into a square wave, which produces that characteristic broken sound. If you combine a dirty and a warm sound, you get fuzz.
Fuzz has been used actively for bass guitars since the 1960s. The Monkees, Steely Dan, Frank Zappa, Motörhead, and, more recently, Ed Sheeran, The Arctic Monkeys. The effect is genre-defying, and in any project that you are looking to expand on your bassline sound with some low-end aggression, fuzz is here to help. Commonly placed earlier in pedal-chains, so that the signal from the fuzz is not compromised by any effects earlier in the chain.
There are several fuzz pedals tailored for the guitar as well. Using a guitar fuzz pedal for a bass guitar is fine, but the guitar versions of fuzz pedals will usually filter out more low-end frequencies leaving you with a thinner sounding bass. The bass versions of fuzz pedals are designed to leave in more low-end, piecing that low-end and fuzz effect.
In this article, the goal is to give you a peek into the fuzz emulators’ world for bass guitars. Different pedals will have varying amounts of distortion, equalization, price and overall sound.
ZVEX Effects Fuzzolo Silicon Fuzz Guitar/Bass Pedal
First up on this list, the Fuzzolo Silicon Fuzz from ZVEX Effects. Simple but to the point, the fuzz pedal from ZVEX features two knobs. One knob controls volume, and one controls the pulse width. The pulse width function will alter your waveform, giving you different blends of a square wave and a narrow or wide pulse shape. The width knob serves the same purpose as a gate.
The pedal will cut the signal below the level set on the pulse width knob. Using this function, a player will have the possibility to alter their fuzz tone from a very gated-stuttery 8-bit type sound to a wider type of fuzz. This knob alone leaves a lot of room for experimentation and can be helpful if you want to capture a specific part of the fuzzy sound.
The Fuzzolo is tailored for both guitar and bass players, which means that it has to compromise and suit both high and low-end fuzz tones. Between high and low sits mid, which is the kind of fuzz the Fuzzolo will produce at its core. A smooth-mid heavy fuzz with plenty of volume to tap from.
With its very simple format and few control options, it functions as a good starting point if you are tight on space on your pedalboard and want a fuzz that still can produce a fair amount of volume and distortion. It also is very affordable for the quality of sound it produces.
Leaving out any option to change the fuzz’s tone will not be an optimal choice for a player looking for more possibilities of tweaking their fuzz.
MXR M84 Bass Fuzz Deluxe
Amping up the price a bit, we enter the domain of MXR. Here is a fuzz explicitly tailored for bass guitars. The four knobs alter the wet/dry signal of your fuzz, tone and fuzz level. Giving the player an ability to modify the fuzz’s wet and dry level simultaneously will let a player decide precisely how much fuzz they want. Utilizing this in combination with the EQ filter will allow you to achieve pretty much any amount of fuzz you want at any given volume. Sometimes, using a fuzz pedal can be to have the aggressive sound of the fuzz be less accentuated. It is exactly what the MXR Deluxe fuzz allows.
But not to forget, you will also have the ability to alter your tone to the extreme, producing everything from the only fuzz on your original signal to just a little bit of it. The pedal also features a true bypass mode, giving it the ability not to affect the rest of your signal chain when turned off.
This pedal is created to suit a bass guitars’ low-end output. It means it won’t compromise any of the low-end clarity in the bass. In combination with all of the control knobs, this makes it very versatile and allows a player to create a fuzz that is unique to them. Being on the pricier side, it might be better first to know what you want out of fuzz before considering the MXR Deluxe fuzz.
Electro-Harmonix Bass Big Muff Distortion Pedal
If you have ventured into the world of bass guitar fuzz pedals before, odds are you have encountered the Big Muff Distortion. It is an iconic fuzz pedal at an affordable price produced by Electro Harmonix that has been used for bass guitar ever since 1969 – famously used to boost the music of Pink Floyd, Sonic Youth and The Smashing Pumpkins. The price is sitting at around 80 dollars for a brand new copy of the Big Muff, making it not only one of the most iconic sounding but also costing fuzz pedals.
The knobs on the pedal focus on volume, tone, sustain and feature a Bass boost switch. Equalization on the Big Muff is spread across a wide frequency range. It means that the player can alter their fuzz tone to sound either thin or crisp, thick or warm, or anything in between.
Similar to the MXR fuzz previously discussed, the Big Muff gives a player the ability to alter the wet and dry signal output of their fuzz effect. But the solution in the Big Muff is slightly clunkier; here, the problem is solved by having one output for dry signal and one for wet signal. It means a player will have to use two output cables instead of one to blend their dry and wet tone, but that is not too much of an actual problem for the sound you get out of the Big Muff.
The Big Muff is an excellent choice if you are looking to alter your bass sound with the help of an iconic tool with a wide range of viable effect variations.
Aguilar Fuzzistor Bass Fuzz Pedal
The priciest pedal on the list so far lands in the mid-high price range. Sometimes, price runs parallel with quality, and we are going to find out if that is the case for the Aguilar Fuzzistor.
It is undoubtedly one of the most characteristic lookers on this list with black colored details and a warm orange that accurately represents the fuzzy tone.
The control knobs are wired to determine the level of fuzz, volume, a mix between wet and dry effects signal and high to low EQ. The Fuzzistor is an all-analog pedal using a silicone transistor to create a deep and wooly fuzz sound for your bass. The Fuzzistor is a pedal that features slightly higher quality parts that allow for a different but not necessarily better. While turning the fuzz control all the way up, the pedal still gives the instrument the power to retain its harmonic clarity, making it an excellent option for playing chunky power chords on bass.
The controls on this pedal do not differentiate themselves too much from the slightly less expensive pedals on this list, but if you want a little bit more quality assurance for a little bit of a higher price, this is an excellent choice!
Darkglass Duality Fuzz Bass Fuzz Pedal
This pedal is produced by Darkglass, the first gear producer on this list that focuses on making gear for only bass guitars, and handmade ones. Albeit this does not say anything about the actual quality of the pedal, it is still assuring before purchasing to know that you are dealing with someone passionate about bass and bass only. A highly customizable fuzz that features two separate fuzz engines, a gated sawtooth fuzz and a more raunchy high gain sound. These two engines can be mixed via the duality knob, making this pedal have a unique variety of sounds to choose from. It also has a blend, volume and filter knob. The function of these knobs is the same as for previous pedals on this list. The difference is that the Darkglass Duality Fuzz has a distinctively different variety of fuzz blends, giving the equalization and wet/dry mix knobs a brand new core sound to work around.
It is a pricy pedal, made by people who care about making high-quality equipment for bass guitars. Definitely not a first pick if you are looking for a simple to understand entry point into the world of fuzz, but excellent if you already have a clear image of how you want your fuzz to sound and need as many possibilities as possible to play around with in pursuit of that sound.
MXR M287 Sub Octave Bass Fuzz
We are ending this list with the two priciest pedals on it. Here follows the investigation into what distinguishes them from their cheaper competitors.
What sets an expensive pedal apart from a cheaper one is not only the quality of sound it can produce. When a pedal rises in price, manufacturers usually have paid more attention to the pedal’s overall feel. You might be paying for a higher quality fuzz sound with the MXR M287 fuzz, but you are also paying for durability and the switches’ improved feel. Like the previous pedal, the MXR M287 fuzz features two different fuzz sounds that you can alter and play around with. It also has a control for octave, equalization and the amount of fuzz you want to output from the two different engines.
It certainly stands out as the most complicated and most expensive pedal in this list, but that is a two-sided story. Having too many options to choose from can leave the player blind to making a decision, but it can also open up a door to being as creative as you want to be.
EarthQuaker Devices Hoof V2 Hybrid Fuzz Guitar Effects Pedal
In contrast to Darkglass, Earthquaker devices tailor their effects boxes to sound best for guitars. Just like Darkglass, they are handmade and feature unique designs that tell that the manufacturers put a lot of thought behind their product.
The layout of the Hoof is reasonably straightforward with knobs for fuzz, The layout of the Hoof is reasonably straightforward with knobs for fuzz, shift, level and tone. The shift knob is a knob specifically designed to either scoop or boost the mids. It means that it would be a good option for a bass player concerned with either attaining or withdrawing a punchy sound.
Earthquaker has come out and said that this pedal is still to be used on the bass. Perhaps having a fuzz pedal with high-quality design and is specifically tailored for guitar will open up the door to a new type of fuzz-bass being used. In the case of this article, the same would go for the Fuzzolo by ZVEX effects.
It might not be the most straightforward choice if you are looking for a viable low-end fuzz, but indeed features a high-quality fuzz effect that can open up new sonic doors.
In this list, we have featured pedals tailored for guitar and bass, have different varieties of a complicated interface, and of course, different prices. For the sake of coming to a point, there will be some arrangements made as to what might be the best choice in these categories.
For the best price to quality ratio, the Electro Harmonix Big Muff will take the price. It is proven by its long use and market dominance and the amount of flexibility it offers in comparison to the price. You will have the ability to alter your fuzz in pretty much any direction, starting with one solid, trusted fuzz engine at ground level. You can go loud, and you can go discrete, you can go sharp or wide.
Claiming the price of the best overall pedal is the MXR M287 Sub Octave Bass Fuzz. Packed into this pedal is the possibility to go wherever you want in terms of fuzz. Adaptable to any genre, sound, or environment that requires fuzz. It will cost you a little more, but if you feel comfortable with your fuzz purchase and know what you want, it will give you just that. MXR has a reputation for making sturdy pedals with quality components that seldom displease. Even though the interface is dauntingly cluttered with buttons, you can rely on it being heavily considered because it has the iconic core of an MXR manufactured pedal.
When you are trying to choose between one fuzz pedal and another, it is best not to overthink it. There are so many factors that come into play. The look of the pedal, the different sound modulation options, the reputation of the manufacturer and so on. Price range is usually a very determining factor, and when you are looking at pedals in the same price range, there is no clear way to say which one is better than another. The only way to get a completely accurate picture of what fuzz pedal box will suit your rig best is to try it on your rig.
Everybody uses a different combination of instrument, amplification, and playstyle, which means that no demo or review can accurately represent how a pedal is going to sound in your hands. This reasoning is especially true for fuzz-beginners. Hopefully, the content in this article has given the reader an insight into some core functions of these pedals and what distinguishes them from another.