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SM Fuzz review

Scott McKeon’s germanium-based fuzz pedal is back as a limited edition version

SM Fuzz
(Image: © Future / Olly Curtis)

Our Verdict

An excellent fuzz pedal. Considering that used examples come up for sale in excess of £600, this new iteration looks like a bargain. Grab one while you can...

For

  • Rare pedal available again.
  • Authentic vintage fuzz sound.
  • Excellent reaction to guitar volume.

Against

  • Those side-mounted knobs and on/off switching won’t be to everyone’s taste.

In 1998, Scott McKeon was the winner of Guitarist’s Young Guitarist Of The Year competition. In 2021, he’s back in our pages as the signatory for the SM Fuzz, although he could just as easily be here for his session work (studio and live) or his solo career. 

Not exactly a new pedal, the SM Fuzz first saw the light of day in 2011 and has been used by the likes of Doyle Bramhall II, Gary Clark Jr, Robbie McIntosh and James Bay, but it’s been out of production for some time. However, it’s now back and available in a new batch.

Also try...

Analog Man Sun Face

(Image credit: Analog Man )

• Analog Man Sun Face  
Analog Man has been producing its boutique take on the Fuzz Face for quite some time and offers a range of different options when ordering – particularly in specifying which germanium transistors the unit uses.
from $195 (plus import taxes)

• D*A*M 1965 Tone Distorter
D*A*M is a go-to name in homegrown boutique vintage fuzz pedals and currently makes Macari’s range of Tone Benders. This one, however, is one of the few pedals currently available direct from the company and is essentially a MK1 Tone Bender.
£384

• King Tone Guitar miniFUZZ-Ge
Built with carefully selected germanium transistors, this pedal offers control over bias, a three-way tone toggle switch, and switchable power filtering when using a nine-volt DC adapter to make the DC sound more like a battery.£259

The pedal sets out to deliver the sort of vintage fuzz tone found in pedals from the 1960s, and key to that aim is the use of germanium transistors – selected and hand-biased AC128s. Now, germanium transistors are notoriously susceptible to changes in temperature, but you shouldn’t get any audible surprises on a hot day because the designers have apparently come up with temperature-tolerant circuitry.

Looking at the design, the side-mounted knobs won’t add extra width to the pedal once it’s in use with jack plugs inserted into the adjacent sockets. Meanwhile, the Volume knob doubles as an on/off switch to save your battery power; we liked to run the pedal at max volume, and it’s easy to turn it on and up in one movement.

The pedal is said to feature custom designed circuitry, not available in any other pedal, but to our ears it has a similar vibe to a well-sorted Fuzz Face. At the lowest setting of the Fuzz knob there’s useful gritty drive tone, but towards the end of its travel there’s rich fuzz, full-bodied yet with a clarity across the frequency range that delivers great string articulation.

Particularly notable is the pedal’s finely nuanced response to guitar volume, with smooth gradual clean-up – if you run the Fuzz knob flat out or somewhere near, you can roll back your volume from a full-on lead sound through shades of drive to clean as needed.

Verdict

An excellent fuzz pedal. Considering that used examples come up for sale in excess of £600, this new iteration looks like a bargain. Grab one while you can... 

Specs

SM Fuzz

(Image credit: Future / Olly Curtis)
  • PRICE: £299/approx. $410
  • ORIGIN: UK 
  • TYPE: Germanium fuzz pedal
  • FEATURES: True bypass, on/off volume pot, temperature tolerant circuitry
  • CONTROLS: Volume (with integral power switch), Fuzz, Bypass footswitch 
  • CONNECTIONS: Standard input, standard output 
  • POWER: 9V battery or 9V DC adaptor 
  • DIMENSIONS: 93 (w) x  120 (d) x 55mm (h) 
  • CONTACT: SM Fuzz