Why Won't Fuzz Pedals Play Nice?

Discussion in 'Effects, Pedals, Strings & Things' started by ColorBlindJames, Jan 30, 2015.

  1. ColorBlindJames

    ColorBlindJames Supporting Member

    Nov 17, 2014
    Eastern Tennessee
    I bought a fuzz pedal off a fellow TGP member and stuck it on my board today and quickly discovered that this was one of those fuzz pedals that needed to be at the very front of my signal chain. Once I moved it, it sounded a hundred times better ... but it got me wondering what it is about fuzz pedals that makes certain ones not work well when placed after other sorts of pedals. In my case, it was my flanger pedal that was making the fuzz go all wonky.

    I literally know nothing about pedals (other than how to buy them endlessly,) so can anyone explain to me in stupid-person terms just what it is that makes some fuzz pedals so fickle?

    I have run into this issue with a few other fuzz pedals but never with any other type of pedal. Why is that?
  2. con brio

    con brio Member

    Aug 9, 2012
    New Zealand
    The short version is that some fuzz circuits, notably early fuzz faces (and derivatives) expect to see a particular impedance on their input (specifically something in pickup range: something in the thousands of ohms range). This impedance sort of acts as a tone circuit. This is also why fuzz faces are famous for playing nicely guitar volume and tone controls I belive. It's worth noting that fuzz faces are astoundingly simple devices.

    The majority of pedals however provide an output impedance that is around the millions ohms (massive handwavium here). not what the fuzz expects, and was never designed to work with.

    Note not all pedals do this. Some, general newer pedals, are designed to have an output impedance closer to a guitars pickup.

    A pedals bypass system will obviously have an influence on what impedance is seen downstream, and if that impedance changes.

    Caveat I'm not an elec engineer so I might have some details wrong, specifically around the impedance scales and order. But I believe that's correct in th big picture?
    Last edited: Jan 30, 2015
  3. jay42

    jay42 Member

    Dec 20, 2006
    Sandy Eggo
    You have the idea. Another warning for the OP. If you have active pickups, you will not be able to make friends with a Fuzz Face...especially the Germanium type. Active pickups have what is called low output impedance. They can provide current to the load. They don't look like a 4k to 7k spool of wire around a magnet, and so the interaction is not what you'd like to hear.

    Any device from the 60's is suspect and should be researched before buying. For example, look into threads on Wah-Wah pedals. Integrated circuit operational amplifiers weren't available until later. They solved the impedance issues and made for the semi-infinite number of options we have today...they just haven't quite yet replaced a handful of transistor devices like the Fuzz Face or Vox Wah.
  4. AXXA

    AXXA Supporting Member

    Jul 2, 2011
    Atlanta, GA
    Most fuzzes want a passive signal. Putting other pedals before it makes the signal active (unless the pedals before it are true bypass and turned off)

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