Boss FZ-2 Hyper Fuzz
You’re well aware of Boss’s status as effects innovators, but today I’m here to talk Boss, genre influencer. Boss got in on the ground floor with what would become death metal with the HM-2. The walls closed in on the US from both sides, with the Bay Area and Florida producing equally influential acts (Possessed and Death, respectively) whose very first albums were released the same year as Boss’s pedal, which would go on to shape the genre seven years down the road with Entombed’s Left Hand Path in 1990. The same can be said for Boss’s game-changing first fuzz circuit. This is the Boss FZ-2 Hyper Fuzz.
On October 9th, 2000, the world got a taste of Electric Wizard’s Dopethrone and what would come to be known as one of the heaviest riffs ever recorded, that of “Funeralopolis.” In the coming years, players would clamor for this tone, from what was essentially a new genre for many. While many budding guitarists stacked dirt boxes in every way imaginable, the solution was simple: a Sound City amp and an FZ-2. Clean and simple.
If you’ve ever heard “Funeralopolis” on a sizable stereo, you’ve heard the sheer amount of air being moved through this tone. And when the puzzle was solved, players stopped trying to get 90 percent there with four pedals, opting to save some time and money for one copy of the genuine article. As such, prices shot up and haven’t come back down.
Having been made for only five years and with a relatively low production number, it’s easy to see why it’s become extremely collectible. Since being discontinued in 1997 and exalted sometime after the release of Dopethrone, it still took boutique pedal companies a very long while to shift focus to it. Part of this is because Behringer, as part of an operation to exactingly copy every Boss circuit ever made, released a copy called the “FZ300 Super Fuzz” for far cheaper than even the used FZ-2 market. Time has passed since then, and FZ-2 prices remain as high as ever. So, what makes this thing tick?
The FZ-2’s manual, much like Boss’s HM-2 foray, adorably underestimates its strength and states that the unit is meant to emulate classic rock tones from the ‘60s and ‘70s. Topologically, yeah kind of; it’s very closely related to the Univox Super Fuzz. Yes, that pedal is definitely capable of bringing the sludge in the right situations, and yes, Pete Tonwshend played one on Live at Leeds. But plugging this in and playing any downtuned riff tells a different story—it definitely earns its name and reputation.
Like the Super Fuzz, the FZ-2 gives two distinct fuzz flavors, referred to as “Fuzz 1” and “Fuzz 2,” just like the Univox piece. It also features a differential pair to generate some subtle octaving under the right circumstances. But while the Super Fuzz ends right there, the Hyper Fuzz’s auxiliaries take the circuit to the next level. For starters, Boss outfitted the unit with a two-band active EQ: The “Bass” band is a gyrator EQ roughly half an octave wide and centered at approximately 100Hz, and the other is a Tube Screamer-style active high-pass filter.
Before it gets to that point, the signal is routed through one of three networks, comprising the mode section of the pedal. Fuzz 1 takes the output of the circuit from the end of the Super Fuzz circuit, while Fuzz 2 runs that same signal through a mid-scoop circuit, and Boost mode takes the output from all the way back at the beginning, right after a strange looking bit of schematic that amounts to a bare-bones discrete op-amp, shared with other Boss circuits like th BD-2 Blues Driver and PW-2 Power Driver. This boost circuit sounds truly great and is what I like to call “punishingly clean.” Both Gain and Level knobs act as volume controls for the Boost mode and it can get positively deafening.
Because the Boss’s mode switch is engaged with a rotary mechanism, it misses out on an accidental trick that Behringer’s clone features as a result of using slightly dodgier parts. Instead of a rotary switch, Behringer employs a plastic slider. Sometime within the fuzz timeline, someone discovered that you can actually get the switch stuck between fuzz modes and run them in parallel for an absolutely crushing tone.
It’s hard to imagine the prices of the FZ-2 ever dropping; the market for them survived a clone with an extra feature that costs one-tenth the price after all. If you can find one for a decent price, go for it. And when you do, switch on some black lights and get that guitar tuned down to B standard; it’s time to sink in and do the damn thing.