North Effects

Russian Face


Which Came First?

Following the success of the first rash of Maestro-inspired fuzzes, by the mid-60s a new template had emerged in the form of the two-transistor fuzz, and it was to cast a long shadow over the shape of fuzz to come. Given that this "new" circuit could be found in practically any electronics textbook of the time (under the not too compelling name of shunt-series negative feedback amplifier), the real debate about who got there first (Vox, Sola Sound or Dallas-Arbiter) seems a bit moot.

This question would perhaps be better framed in terms of just who worked out that this standard circuit, when placed between a guitar and a loud amplifier, worked a sort of natural magic. Put Jimi Hendrix (early Fuzz Face adopter) at the head of that chain, and you have an alignment of elements that can hardly fail to knock a big dent in contemporary culture.

Very soon, it was everywhere, and it was there to stay.

The Russian Face

Resisting the temptation to tweak too much, the Russian Face takes the classic Dallas-Arbiter form and drops in a pair of carefully matched Soviet era germanium transistors and adds just a couple modern twists. There's an extra "Bias" control up front that allows for precise on-the-fly setting of the bias voltage, primarily intended to account for temperature changes (handy under hot stage lighting), but can be (ab)used for blown out mis-biased sounds.

The standard "Fuzz" control features a reverse log pot (linear pots tend to go from zero to all out war very abruptly - the reverse log taper makes it much easier to find many usable points in between). The "Volume" control uses the stock, big 500k pot - there's no reward in being stingy with the bass here. Inside there's a "smoothness" trimmer that adds a little series resistance at the input - handy if you're using higher gain pickups, or if you prefer a bit less of a raw fuzz with single coils.

The circuit board is populated with the very best quailty components - fat blue BC electrolytic caps, pill-yellow ERO film output cap and reassuringly brown carbon composition resistors. Outside, the hardware also has the usual high spec suspects - Neutrik jacks, Alpha pots and a rugged 3PDT footswitch.

This being a positive ground circuit, rather than futz about with separate power supplies, this as battery only. Sounds better that way too, and given the miniscule current draw, a single battery will last you a very, very long time.

Sounds Like?

Big, bold and hairy. The John Bonham of pedals. One of the very best things about the old Fuzz Face is its ability to clean up using the guitar volume knob. Just whack the "Fuzz" knob up full and roll back with your guitar as necessary. The other part of the magic is its touch sensitivity - it gets fuzzier and grittier the harder you play.

The list of notable users is long, however if the germanium Fuzz Face is mentioned around these parts (it happens!), it will usually result in an overwhelming urged to put the needle to a Blue Cheer LP...