Saturday, January 4, 2014

The Rites of Fuzz - The Ritefuzz: revisited and enhanced

The Green Spirit FuzzRite clone
Ever since I started this blog I had this sound in my mind which I knew I just have to understand. I was always attracted to those elusive grainy buzz stutters of the early fuzzes. The problem with early fuzzes is that no one really knows what really happened in those studios back then.
Even after devouring every piece of information on the web, there are some unsolved mysteries regarding who used what and how and exactly when. The combinations are endless with the amount of differences the guitars, pedals and amps had back then. Transistors and components changed a lot and a lot of the stuff was customized.
As an example, think of the "Spirit in the Sky" by Norman Greenbaum which played a modified Tele with a fuzz circuit build inside the guitar, or the sound of Davie Allen and the Arrows which used parked wah in front of his Fuzz like Mick Ronson during the Spiders era. If you really want to understand those sounds, you have to start buying or building stuff.

Well, some of the best fuzz sounds ever recorded were never really confirmed as to how the sound was created. When I started building stuff, one of my first fuzz builds was the Orpheum Fuzz which was a simple silicon version which I decided to box. The sound was so far out and I really got to hear my guitar play Sky Saxon's incredible fuzz sound which was so sax-like. I was in heaven. Today I can really verify that the Orpheum Si fuzz played with a tele, volume knob a bit low, and through a VOX AC30 amp or sim cab, can be amazingly close to the sound I was after. I guarantee anyone who loves those ripped mid 60's garage sound will love this combination. It beats the Jordan Bosstone by a 1000 miles.

Yet, the Orpheum is so far out, that it won't give you the end of the scale which is Ennio Morricone's classic spaghetti western fuzz. For that you probably need a Mosrite Fuzzrite or a Maestro Fuzz Tone, and yes, you still need a tele and a Vox cab.

So I built the RFNR Green Bomb which was great but in 2 years of having it, I never really played it live a lot and I always ended up using the mighty Orpheum. After revisiting the circuit for the 20th time I finally ran into the John Kallas modded version which implemented some enhanced features. Now, the Fuzzrite is such a simple circuit that it would be really hard to achieve all those sounds in my head without some additions which would only do the circuit justice.

So, the simple circuit, shown below, just goes to show how closely related all these garage fuzz schemes. A few value changes can have a strong effect with such a small part count Although very close to the Fuzzrite design, the Orpheum is a much stronger design with many similarities in sound to the Shinei Fuzz Companion FY-2. If you ever run into Psycho Candy by Jesus and the Mary Chain, you'll notice right at the first chord the FY-2. If you like the Ventures, Dick Dale, The seeds, The Stooges and Garage Psych in general, 80% of these bands, I guess played a Fuzzrite at some point between 1966-1969.

Variations on the basic Fuzzrite design from the Aronnelson gallery

I ended up ripping the guts out of my Green Spirit (RFNR Green Bomb) and replacing it with a true Fuzzrite and then added the mods recommended by John Kallas. These are basically
  1. 22k resistor from 2n2 tone cap to ground.
  2. An extra TONE pot with a 100n cap to control the highs (seems that I like this pot cranked most of the time).
  3. An added J201 gain stage to bring the volume back up at the end of the circuit so you easily get unity volume.
  4. A higher cap value on a switch so that the DEPTH/FUZZ pot can yield fuller and fatter sound.
  5. An extra pot for PREGAIN which helps getting the sound of a lowered guitar volume knob.

The John Kallas version can be found here:

And, of course, it is always worth to visit the great layouts by Mark and Mirosol on TagboardFX blog:

That's what I really love about building fuzz circuits. Getting the best possible design is part of the fun. So now I have a new Green Spirit, named after Greenbaum and his Spirit in the Sky guitar tone. I could have easily found 10 different names for that pedal based on the words Hoodoo, Seeds, Ventures, Misirlou, Spaghetti Westerns, Devil's Rumble and the list goes on.

In the demo below I simply played around with the knobs to get some of the tones I was looking for. 2 2N222A trannies were used because the original 2N2926 NPN trannies haven't arrived yet and I couldn't wait. A tele and a VOX AC30 cab sim at both ends of this wonderful beast with some added fender '63 style spring reverb. 

Don't miss out on this one. If you have to build one fuzz to rule them all, one fuzz for all your crazy 60's aspirations, one fuzz - grainy and harsh, buzzy and saxy, zippy and gnarly then this is IT !!! Even the "Satisfaction" riff sounds amazing with this pedal. Don't believe me? check out the demo and skip to 14:36.


  1. I love fuzzrite's. The clip sounds great!
    I found the john kallas vero, I'll build it and put the 47n cap. on sockets. It's the one leading to the deth pot?

    1. I updated the post with the John Kallas layout.
      The 47n cap is leading to the DEPTH pot on the output side of the circuit. DEPTH lug 3.
      I strongly suggest putting the 47n on a switch since the sound of the pedal is radically different by changing this cap. 2n2 is the original tone. larger caps will yield bigger sound. 10nF already gives a huge difference, I would suggest stopping somewhere between 10nF and 22nF.

      Thanks for visiting

  2. Thank you and thanks for the nice blog. Be well.

  3. I too am obsessed with fuzz. I want an orpheum and have a terminal right now and a demo tape fuzz. a lot of muffs too. heh. still on the quest...

  4. Killer sounds! I'm about to order 2n2926 and was wondering if you have any idea what HFE buckets work best with this circuit or were originally used? I have searched all over the place but haven't found anything. Thanks for the great post!

    1. Well they vari quite a lot between different batches but my favorites are the ones ranging between 100-150. That goes both for the 2N222A and the 2N2926.

      Good luck and thanks for your kind words.

  5. Hey Doron,

    This fuzz sounds fantastic and has the feature ive been looking after. Any chance f a gut shot?