Trampled Underfoot: Basic Audio is the Lyon's Den o' Fuzz

John Lyons of Basic Audio is serious about his fuzz. Lyons, who's originally from Santa Barbara, California, and now living and working in West Virginia, builds his fuzzes and other cool pedals from the ground up.

I’ve tried a couple: the Scarab Deluxe, Tri/Ram Muff and Futureman (see video links), and I can tell you that Basic Audio products are a class act indeed.

The Scarab Deluxe is, in John’s own words, “a straight-ahead refined vintage-era fuzz along the lines of the Tonebender with lots of sustain and gain … All gain and tone settings remain articulate and sweet throughout their range. Full fuzz sound with the clarity of an overdrive.” I’ll vouch for that.

The Scarab Deluxe rips with the best Tonebenders out there but doesn’t suffer from the lack of volume or mid punch that many of the old-school MK1’s and II’s do. That mid punch (or lack of it) is an important quality on stage because it defines the sonic line that has you either sinking into the bass and drum mix or standing out from it. With the addition of “Bias” and “Fat” controls, both helping to fine tune your fuzz’s tone to perfection, John has taken a classic and turned it into a far more stage friendly fuzz. Inside you will find hand-wired attention to detail and top-shelf components.

Before John got hooked on building pedals back in 2000, he spent a lot of time running a recording studio and getting hands-on, building things like microphone preamps. So he knows what he’s doing and has the ear to make sure the final result is on the money. The Scarab Deluxe’s enclosure is an example of John’s cosmetic flare. A gray hammered case with brass-colored plating and etched fascia complete a cool but industrial-looking box that is intended to be played, not gawked at all day.

This is one of the more conservative enclosures that John offers, as a quick peek at his Custom Enclosures page on the Basic Audio website will reveal. Rare woods, snakeskin and tweed – nothing is sacred when it comes to pedal cases at Basic Audio. John’s creations are objets d’art as much as they are useable musical tools, making them even more desirable to people like me who have no resistance to such beauty. Quit it, John!

Back in 1969, Bob Myer and Mike Matthews designed the Big Muff for Electro-Harmonix. It is still available today and is widely known as the Triangle Big Muff. In 1973 a second version, or “Big Muff Pi V2,” was unleashed on the world, now commonly referred to as the Ram’s Head Big Muff. The difference between the Ram’s Head and Triangle Muffs is marginal but can be heard and felt if you pay attention: A Ram’s Head circuit is generally tighter with a little more definition than the Triangle Muff, which is creamier with more bass. Both circuits have been copied and modified countless times and released under hundreds of different names.

Generally speaking, people favor one or the other and the usual suspect forums are full of lengthy threads on the subject. John realizes that choice can be a cool thing, though, and has released the “Tri/Ram Muff” to facilitate just that. He’s also added the all-important “Mid” control, again allowing you to add some stand-out poke to your final sound, or scoop it out to go completely stoner.

A more original circuit from Basic Audio can be found in “The Futureman,” where (again, John’s own words) “overdrive and fuzz meet up with an unconventional set of tone controls. Mids, bass and treble are adjustable with only two knobs for a thick muscular sound which can be dialled back to a scooped mid or to a treble boosted fuzz or overdrive sound for cutting through dark amps or complement multi pedal setups.” And it does, too.

Check out Basic Audio right here.

Here are some videos to check out. Here's the Scarab Fuzz with Strat to Bassman:

Scarab Fuzz with Les Paul:

Special thanks to Kit Rae’s Fuzz and Muff Timeline.

© 2011 Brett Kingman

Brett Kingman, aka Burgerman666 on Youtube, is Sadie’s dad. He’s also a 40-something seasoned pro/hack who continuously runs around Australia and other parts of the world with iconic singers, trying his best to make them and him sound good. Brett uses HIWATT amps and Providence cables and pedals. He is part owner and designer of Australian pedal company, Dvk Technologies. Visit

Thank you for reading 5 articles this month*

Join now for unlimited access

US pricing $3.99 per month or $39.00 per year

UK pricing £2.99 per month or £29.00 per year 

Europe pricing €3.49 per month or €34.00 per year

*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription

Join now for unlimited access

Prices from £2.99/$3.99/€3.49