Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The fuzz that Burns

Continuing my search for that perfect fuzz sound I realized that in those days our great forefathers used Germanium Transistors in their Fuzz boxes and that included The Beatles, Stones' Keith Richards, Robert Fripp of King Crimson, Hendrix, Jimmy Page, Dick Dale, Mick Ronson and probably every Psych and Garage band in The US between 1965-1969. These guys have either used a Maestro FZ-1 (USA) or a Tonebender MK1 (England). Those two pedals shared a lot of similarities with regards to the schematics and the trannys used in them (low gain high leakage Germs) and both seemed impossible to build without some research and experimentation.

Needless to say I had to build one of those. I found a lot of material but a lot of controversial stuff too and it all seemed like there was a lot of voodoo around these schematics and those Germanium Trannys that eventually I decided to start with some easier Germanium pedals before I reached the hard ones.

The first schematic I found that seemed reliable and tunable was the Baldwin-Burns-Buzzaround (produced 1965-68) which according to the stories was used by Fripp on the King Crimson "RED" album which is probably one of my top 10 albums of all times. His Les Paul sounds just incredible through that fuzz and probably followed by a HiWatt amp. I gave it a go and it came out FANTASTIC. My first Germanium Fuzz with AC128 Trannys measured for Hfe Gain and leakage. It's not the original trannys used in the original circuit but it still sounds like the real deal to me. The Schematic can be found here. I used my own layout but a lot of info can be found here, and here

So here is my BBB takeoff which I named BURNS and had it enclosed in a RED (like the album) enclosure. The controls are labeled "Balance" (volume), "Timbre" (tone) and "Sustain" (gain) but they are so coupled (interleaved) so that you can't really use them in the ordinary way and really tune all three for each setting. This box really nails that Starless sound... btw it would be a few months before I really succeeded building a variation of the Maestro FZ-1.

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