If you accepted the definition of a fuzz box last time, that being a unit that clips the incoming signal via dedicated circuitry without boosting it at the output so as to overdrive the receiving amplifier’s input, then we should look at some of those classic devices that “sort of” fit that description.
First up is Gibson’s Maestro fuzz-tone pedal, which is thought to be the first fuzz box to hit the market and create a hit record. The opening riff to the Rolling Stones hit “Satisfaction” is the fruit of this fuzz. Supposedly, Keith Richards wanted the riff to be played by horns, but settled for a Les Paul and the Maestro – good career move if you ask me. Characterized by a rather gritty and gravelly sound, there were roughly three versions of the device with slightly different designs:
1. The Maestro Fuzz
2. TheMaestro FZ-1
3. The Maestro FZ-1A
Aficionados of the fuzz will swear there are distinct differences in the sound of each variation. Some will also attest, and rightfully so, a veritable rainbow of sonic variations can be achieved depending on what the use imbibes and/or ingests prior, during, and after use of any circuit variant. But you can look at the schematics and judge for yourself.
Some folks think that the Sola Tone Bender is a clone of the Maestro fuzz tone. Like the Maestro, there are three different versions:
Depending on the model, some use two or three transistors and provide two or three knobs. One thing all three have in common is germanium transistors. My personal observation is in straight up playing, the Tone Bender is somewhat more mellow than the Maestros.
My personal all time favorite fuzz of the era is the Fuzz Rite by Mosrite. There was only one version of this two-transistor beastie and it was not that popular. If used straight forward it was one of the harshest sounding fuzz boxes of all time. Even the Ventures used it only once or twice before moving on. This was no tone monster by any means.
However, I found that if you kicked back the tone controls on your guitar half way ('61 Les Paul Goldtop with p90s works for me here) and set your amp volume (100 Marshall JCM) at three o’clock with the mid range at high noon, it sounds pretty sweet. Hey, you can get a modeler and do it in half the time at half the price. Next time, more fuzzy classics.