Guild FW-3 Fuzz-Wah
A wise man once said, “A serious fuzz-wah shortage is happening in the pedal community.” This was actually said by my dear friend Andy “clean tone” Martin, and I wholeheartedly agree with him. In the same breath, he spoke of companies that used to offer these combo pedals which either stopped making them or are now defunct; companies like Colorsound, Vox, Shin-Ei, and others.
I can think of several more companies on this list, as I’m sure you and Andy both can. After all, this effect combo was truly en vogue for many years. Roland, Fender, Thomas and several other heavy hitters also threw their proverbial hats into the fuzz-wah ring. Some of these units are truly awesome (I’m looking at you, Roland Double Beat), but nearly all are now forgotten. But one such pedal is a true oddball and a longtime Cabinet resident; one that probably wouldn’t show up on a list of 50 of these pedals: the Guild FW-3, also known as… a bunch of other things.
Guild has a bit of a murky history in the effects world, which has ties to Mosrite, Electro-Harmonix and others. Unlike today’s effects landscape, certain manufacturers oftentimes looked to cash in on the booming effects market even when their manufacturing facilities weren’t set up for such a thing. Perhaps the most famous example is vintage pieces from Maxon and Ibanez, bearing identical graphics but different brand names and model numbers. Before that, however, was a similarly brazen scheme where one manufacturing facility would crank out the same pedal for many companies, often swapping nameplates but leaving some very distinctive enclosures all the same.
If you’ve shopped for vintage effects made by lesser-known companies, you know just what I’m talking about. The Univox Super Fuzz was made under multiple “brands” attempting to cash in on the pedal craze and even some popular players; one such is a company calling themselves “J.H. Experience”!
When Semie Mosely came went to NAMM in 1967, he came back with a contract with Guild to manufacture Fuzzrites under the Guild name, but with the name “Foxey Lady,” after the song on the USA pressing of Are You Experienced? This eventually led to the rise of Electro-Harmonix, who Guild approached for the next batch after Mosrite dissolved, and the rest was history.
On the flipside of the coin, Guild partnered with another American manufacturer, Applied Audio, to produce the FW-3. I can’t say for certain the dates these units were produced, but I can say that mine has pots that date to April of 1966. Since the first-ever wah pedal was created in November of that same year, it stands to reason that Applied Audio had stockpiles of components due to being an OEM for several other trivial companies.
The topology of the FW-2’s fuzz is definitely ‘60s but unique all the same. If you’ve ever heard of a UMI Buzz Tone, this is in the same vein. I got my first taste of this fuzz some 12 years ago working as a guitar tech in a local shop, when a customer sold us a pedal called the “Conrad Buzz Box and Volume Expander.” The Conrad is essentially the same as the UMI but without the VU meter, and gave me a sense of how truly disgusting a fuzz box can be. While the UMI unit was fully germanium, the FW-3 is not, opting for a hybrid approach. Inside is one unmarked TO-5 germanium transistor and one unmarked TO-105 transistor. Two more TO-105s compliment the wah section, and I’d be lying if I said that flush-mounted TO-105 transistors don’t do it for me.
The wah component eschews the traditional wirewound inductor in favor of a huge axial ferrite bead inductor; something I’ve never seen before in a wah and haven’t seen since. The circuit is more or less a stock Cry Baby with some minor mods. One resistor is lessened to reduce the saturation point on Q1, which is probably for the best considering the roaring buzzsaw that comes before it.
One strange thing is that this pedal was made with Leviton SPST footswitches, both under the treadle and to the side. These feel and function like lamp switches, as in the plunger becomes flush with the body when engaged. Because these are SPST switches, Applied had to get extremely creative with how to govern both effects. With that said, true bypass it ain’t. The signal is always running through the first germanium transistor and its adjacent topology, with the signal taking a detour through the second transistor with the switch pressed. The wah section uses its footswitch to defeat the connection between the sole electrolytic capacitor and ground, turning it into a volume pedal. For this unit, bypass means that the toe is down and you are running through 80 percent of the circuit anyway. This is how things were done back in the mid-to-late ‘60s.
With all its quirks, I still love this circuit. The fuzz side is beautifully buzzy, about four-fifths to “Incense and Peppermints” but with just enough of its own thing going on so as not to sound woefully derivative. The wah part doesn’t get super funky and its sweep is limited by a strange robot arm-esque mechanism jerking the wah potentiometer in every which way. Add it up and that’s close enough for rock ‘n’ roll as far as I’m concerned.