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 Pathin 1990. The same can be said for Boss’s game-changing first fuzz circuit. This is the Boss FZ-2 Hyper Fuzz.
It was so perfect in fact, that a handful of companies caught wind of the Centaur’s convolution with its dual-gang pots and juiced power supply. Soon, a handful of circuits emerged that didn’t explicitly copy the secret sauce, but set out to whip up a painstakingly designed effect with the goal of extreme nuance. The three that come to mind are the Rocktron Austin Gold, Zoom Power Drive and the best of the bunch, the Maxon OD-820 Overdrive Pro, a not-so-subtle nod to what Klon called the “professional overdrive.” It also might be better—you decide.
...This is the essence that Korg attempted to capture when it released the PME 40X, a radical new system that relied on cartridges stuffed into a box that tied it all together. And much like the NES, the PME 40X’s library outpaced the system’s limitations, with Korg really digging into this exciting new format and releasing a stunning array of mostly good cartridges for the main unit.
It’s time to talk about “the hunt.” This is the term that exists among aficionados of all stripes, pertaining to building one’s collection through means other than paying collectors’ prices. Hunters regularly comb the digital (and sometimes print) landscape in search of deals and outright steals for rare artifacts from their chosen field. For us pedal geeks, it means searching out misspelled Craigslist ads, combing through broken pedal bins accumulated by longtime musicians, and even silently praying through the aisles at antique malls. Many Cabinet items were acquired in this way, and I take pride in my abilities.
As the legend goes, Guitar Center acquired DeltaLab’s trademark after its founder, Richard DeFreitas, failed to renew it upon its expiration. This was in the early 2000s, and the “pedal categories” DeltaLab chose to tackle reflect that era—there’s a green overdrive, a phase, a flanger, a digital delay, and a metal distortion. All of them are very much OK devices, but they pale in comparison to some of the completely insane gear of years past, namely the Effectron series, which is the subject of today’s Cabinet adventure.
Much has been said in Cabinet canon regarding MXR and their amazing work. And to that end, everyone is familiar with the “script” pedals (that eventually became “block” logo), but far fewer axepersons are familiar with what I am calling the “block-only” era. This is unfortunate; some of my absolute favorite MXR pedals are from this series, and there’s a decent chance that you, the reader, has never heard of any of them.
Today in the Cabinet, we’re taking another trip back to the fabled wish list, and checking out a pedal that perhaps needs no introduction, but I’ll give it a shot for the rookies. In 1962, a product hit store shelves that would go on to redefine music as we know it. Though technically not the first guitar effect, this pedal languished in dusty discount bins for three solid years before getting the recognition it deserves, and kicking off the “pedal craze.” Sales have grown exponentially since those days, which is where we find ourselves.
When I went to work at ProGuitarShop I had the pleasure of working with Andy Martin of AndyDemos fame. As you might imagine, we talked a lot about pedals. And us, surrounded by literal walls of pedals sat one day and discussed chorus pedals one day. Among all the options past and present, Andy was (and is) the most bullish on the FX65. When I dug around in the cabinet recently, I pulled the FX65 out, played it and was taken back to both the time I first heard it and when I heard it again after Andy brought it into the shop. I reached out to him for this piece to get his thoughts on the enduring semi-legacy of this exceptional device. Would you believe that the FX65 kicked a Boss CE-1 off his board?
If I had unlimited dough and space, and had to start a new cabinet from scratch, 75 percent of it would be fuzz pedals. Like any other red-blooded effects fanatic, I love fuzz pedals and the sheer variety of them. Some are super simple, consisting of just six parts—the old DIY staple, the Bazz Fuss, is one. On the other hand, some fuzzes like our Giygas contain over 90 parts. The effect is variations on a theme; sweet, saturated chewy slabs of tone that interact with other pedals and guitar controls in various ways. And when I say various, I mean hundreds. Thousands, even. There are more fuzz pedals on the market than perhaps any other type.
It’s not often you’ll see me wax poetic on a piece of gear still being made, but hear me out. It redefined an entire genre and rewrote the way musicians play with gear. And one of our era’s kings of pedal design had his mitts all over it; one Jeorge Tripps of Way Huge. However, this was not a Way Huge pedal. This is the Line 6 DL4.
And firstly, I want to get one thing straight: The Fuzz Face is my favorite circuit. I’ve built hundreds of them for various folks and myself, I’ve built them with drawers full of crusty parts occupied by the essences of repairpersons past, and I’ve built all sorts of features into them and around them. I’ve agonized over the circuit’s shortcomings and its finickiness. I’ve tried every value and configuration of those 11 components and found some great value sets and plenty of stinkers. And after all that, I’m still learning new things almost every time I put pen to paper. It’s perfect, and I want to tell you all about it.