First, a disclaimer – there have been some great tracks recorded with fuzz pedals. I think the world would be very boring if everyone liked the same things. If you love fuzz pedals, I’m not going to try to change your mind. But you might better understand why some people (like me) don’t like fuzz pedals.
In 1983, I was 18 years old. And there weren’t very many pedals that would distort your signal. The Rockman was about as good as it got. But there were a few fuzz pedals. We were listening to early Van Halen and all of the late 70’s early 80’s rock stuff, and to us, the fuzz pedal sounded like Grandpa’s distortion. We wanted the guitar sound from Van Halen 1. The ultimate distortion for us was tubes, cranked up really hot. Next to that sound, fuzz pedals were, well, awful. A poor imitation of distortion, to our ears. Fuzz pedals were for guys who had crappy amps. Amp distortion was the only way to go. And I didn’t know anyone who would play a fuzz pedal, because it sounded to crappy (when compared to a great tube amp overdriven sound.)
The Pro Co Rat came out and it had its fans, but I’ve always disliked it because it sounded like a fuzz pedal to me.
Fast forward more than 30 years into the future, and old farts like me still feel that the best distorted guitar sound is amp distortion, and the best amp distortion is tube distortion. Imagine our surprise to see a massive resurgence of fuzz pedals – that crappy buzzy box full of bumblebees sound is somehow cool now. Really? Yes, really. I hate the sound, but part of me is delighted that new players are into what is essentially a 60’s guitar sound. I like retro things.
But we’ve gained (pardon the pun) so much since 1983. I’ve got three different tube amps that all have different distortion, and I’ve got a few distortion pedals which I would have killed for back in 83. The Wampler Pinnacle can get very, very close to the Van Halen brown sound. So I’ve got all the various distortions available to be now, which is awesome. And of course I’ve got the usual TC pedals for digital reverb and delay, and a studio-quality pedal compressor (Keeley 4 knob.) And my Mac has Logic Pro X which is the equivalent of the world’s greatest recording studio. There’s never been a better time to play and record guitar. It’s a golden age.
In the past, we tried to use fuzz pedals to sound like an overdriven tube amp, and they weren’t very good at it. Nowadays, players are using them for a different type of distortion – they’re not trying to sound like a JCM800, they’re trying for a different thing. Fuzz pedals do sound different. Still, some guys, like me, can’t shake our old hatred for fuzz pedals. To me, they’ll always sound like a box full of bees.