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12 Best Fuzz Pedals: The Ultimate List

Before you read on, go ahead and listen to “Satisfaction” by The Rolling Stones. That prominent, wooly, textured sounding guitar harmony line is the first fuzz pedal recording to go on to become a hit song. It’s gnarly, owing to the positively rudimentary circuit in the Maestro Fuzz-Tone he used to create it.

Even before that, the particular sound of the fuzz pedal charmed guitarists and continues to do so today, just as with the venerable overdrive pedal. For thick, saturated tones through to searing jet sounds, read on to learn about the best fuzz pedals on sale today.

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Fuzz vs. Distortion vs. Overdrive

The key element of a fuzz (versus, say, distortion or overdrive) is the conversion of the guitar's signal into square wave form. The sharp edges of the wave create that saturated, crunchy sound that is, well, kind of unnatural.

While overdrive is the result of light clipping and pushing the components within an amp into saturation, and distortion is the result of gain stages and filtering within the pedal, fuzz takes a comparatively simple approach, usually with two germanium transistors and a circuit that biases the output.

You could almost get the same effect by biasing a tube amp incorrectly, but this is both unstable and dangerous for your amp. As a matter of fact, very early fuzz tones were achieved accidentally, primarily thanks to busted components in amps.

Additionally, fuzz tends to increase bass, while distortion generally cuts the bass before the clipping begins, adding it back in later on in the circuit. Because low frequencies distort first, all that low-end hitting your amp contributes to the wild and wooly sound that some people love. It can be somewhat difficult to control, but that's part of the joy.

These days, a pedal board featuring at least one overdrive, one distortion, and one fuzz of almost any combination should give you all the heavy tones you'll ever need (assuming you aren't getting it directly from your amp). Both distortion and fuzz result in a totally altered signal before the amp, while overdrive occurs at the amp.

It might be fair to say that due to the level of experimentation and the limits being pushed by the boutique makers, fuzz gets a little more play with the experimental and ambient crowd these days. Then again, this article started with the Stones and everyone knows Jimi had a Fuzz Face. As with any piece of gear, let your ears be the judge.

Where Does a Fuzz Pedal Go In Your Signal Chain?

One thing to note about integrating fuzz into your pedal chain is that germanium-based pedals require the signal directly from your guitar in order to get the correct impedance. This can cause complications with wah pedals especially, which also prefer to see the impedance directly from your guitar.

Some even say that fuzz pedals should not interact with other pedals at all, but this is bit of a stretch. Some fuzzes, like the EarthQuaker Devices Erupter on this list, are specifically designed to go anywhere in the chain and have a circuit that compensates for the impedance change. Buffers can help, too, but a bad quality buffer can make the situation much worse.

At the end of the day, it's best to have them very first in the chain, but as with anything else, experimentation within your rig is key.

What Is Octave Fuzz?

Our list purposely omits octave fuzz pedals, as does our octave pedals post. Octave fuzzes are a genre unto themselves; there's nothing quite like them. Pairing an octave pedal with a fuzz pedal does not give you octave fuzz - this specific effect is has to do with the wave folding over itself to create that strange octave harmonic, as Josh Scott explains.

It's certainly the effect many all-time-greats have used, so if you're looking for that in particular, here are the best octave fuzz pedals to consider:

Think the Big Muff should have been on this list? Read our best Big Muff clones post, since a machine of its stature deserves separate consideration.

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