Tuesday, May 15, 2012

A No Fuss Tone from the Above and Beyond

My FuzzQuest started off with the goal of getting that elusive sound of the mid-sixties Fuzz like the Maestro FZ-1 or the FZ-1A. But getting the Schematic and actually building one turned out to be quite a challange, so I started with simpler designs. Over the course of a year I truly fell in love with each pedal I built and I started to really understand what's going on in this world. 

The world of Fuzz is all about getting the right tone for the job. Some fuzz boxes sound like a reed instrument giving you a buzzy effect while some sound like a plain old loud distortion. Over the years the trend changed, from the buzzy Maestro and the scratchy Mosrite to the singing sustain of the FuzzFace and Tone Bender. After that you got the Octave Fuzz and the Super saturated BigMuffs. While some fuzzes are great for solo playing they can be difficult to control in a band structure and can really be hard to mix. This post is about a fuzz which sits just right in the mix.

The Astro-Tone was a simple fuzz designed for the Sam Ash Musical Instruments shop which sold it during the late sixties and early seventies. The fuzz is known for it's soft and creamy tone which, at the time, was the opposite of the out-of-control Fuzz Face character.

So once I built a few Fuzz Faces I was interested to see what this fuzz is all about. The thing that really turned me on was a live show by Jazz-prog band "Sweet Smoke" from 1974 where the lead guitarist Marvin Kaminovitz plays a Les Paul through this Sam Ash unit and it just sounds sooo....sweet and juicy. 
The build is quite simple, I used a couple of cheap BC109 and 2N3904 NPNs, and the results were awesome.... the unit is a winner. It has a very smooth drive that sound super fluid with chords, unlike the heavy Fuzz Face, and the TONE control is very effective. No matter what the setting was I could always get pleasing results and it sounds equally well with Humbuckies and Single coils.

What more could I ask for? well there is another little thing I love about the unit. Roll off the volume knob on your guitar and baaammm, you get a biting sparkly Hendrix-like tone with smooth edges that is just to die for.
The unit really deserved a different touch on the exterior so I gave it a kidney shaped metallic candy box and painted it to give the right Astro-mood. It's a no-fuss Fuzz. As always, I'll post some riffs played with this unit, but you gotta ask for it and put in some comments as I am still null on the comments page. You can get the schematic here.

Now here's a long audio clip which shows the different colors of the pedal all around the FUZZ and TONE knobs with the new addition of a larger cap on the input which gives a much stronger bass response than the original designers have intended. Cool! Listen closely to the areas where the guitar's volume knob is rolled off a bit. The sound is very edgy and Hendrix like. Super Cool!


  1. cool blog ! i would certainly hope you could post clips for the astro tone ...