North Effects

The Super


The History

In the beginning (1967 in Earth Years) there was the Honey Psychedelic Machine. Designed by Japanese engineer and future synth-architect Fumio Mieda to cash in on the worldwide burgeoning of "head music", it has largely been forgotten by the effects buying public. Shame on them, for few now know that within its ungainly leatherette tabletop enclosure throbbed the very first incarnations of the much more noted Uni-Vibe (in the guise of its immediate ancestor, the RT-18 Resly Tone) and Super-Fuzz effectors. By the time 1968 had rolled around, the Psychedelic Machine had fissioned into two discrete pedal units and it was as solo acts that the 'Vibe and Super went on to fame and fortune.

The Super marked another significant advance in the field of "The Fuzz", containing as it did six (count 'em) silicon transistors and a germanium clipping stage. Manufactured by Shin-Ei of Japan as OEM for a plethora of musical equipment companies around the world with Univox being the most well-known (see also Appollo, Jax, Shaftesbury Duo, and many more). Production continued right up to the late 70s, and with Shin-Ei being a major player producing in large volume, there must still be lots of originals around; that said, prices are often well beyond many budgets - that alone speaks volumes about how great these things sound.

The Super-Fuzz has been deployed on manys a classic recording - probably most notably when Pete Townshend gave his Marshall Supa to a roadie in '68, bought a Super, and took it with him to Leeds and beyond (you can see one perched by Keith's left kick in the ace Tanglewood '70 video bootleg). William Reid deployed the fuzz-wah version for his chainsaw-on-glass "tone" on Psychocandy. Mudhoney (sort of) named their first EP/LP after it and it can be heard up-front in the iconic intro to grunge's high-point, "Touch Me I'm Sick". Tony McPhee of the mighty Groundhogs had one (which excites me no-end). Poison Ivy of The Cramps also had one (which excites me in a different way). These days its use is almost mandatory in the stoner rock genre.

The Super

Built to factory schematics with a couple of modern substitutions that remain sonically faithful to the originals, this also features some modern conveniences like true bypass switching and a 9V DC jack (battery power is also onboard - save your old dead batts, cuz this one sounds particularly good when struggling under a low-voltage). I've also included the "octave balance" trimmer that's present in the later red-box versions; this allows for precise biassing of the octave generating transistors, and teamed with a pair of matched germanium diodes, gives the best sustain and upper-octave sound when set correctly.

The Sound

I could drone on about full-wave rectification, etc., but honestly, when you step on that switch you won't be thinking about any of that. It's a spiky, harmonically complex sound with tons of compression and more than a hint of upper octave when playing up the neck, beautifully mangling double stops into ring-modded oblivion. The "Expander" knob takes the fuzz girth from fat to obese and works in a nicely interactive way with the guitar's volume control. The toggle switch at the top provides two very different modes - "Normal" is an aggressive, boxy smack around the head (cf "Touch Me I'm Sick"), "Notch" kicks in a filter that scoops out all the mids for a big fat kick in the dick that sounds like it's vomiting up your Big Muff. Appropriately, the sound has more in common with Paris '68 than the Summer of Love.

Clips! Recorded on Laney LC15! With '75 Fender Music Master! AKG condenser! Line 6 Backtrack!

Further reading: check out the Honey Psychedelic Machine at Disco Freq's Effects Database and there's some excellent info and photos of the RT-18 Resly Machine (yes, they really did call it that).