Even though the Fat Fuzz Factory was designed to add more low-end muscle to the classic Fuzz Factory sound, the fact that you can operate it as a standard Fuzz Factory is one of its best features. Putting the mode switch in position 1 yields the pedal’s brightest and sharpest tones, and its clear and uncluttered tonality makes it the best setting for newcomers, as well as the best way to hear how the controls interact and affect the tone.
I found that with a Les Paul and a Mesa/Boogie Dual Rectifier, Z.Vex’s pre-prescribed compressed fuzz setting—gate at 3 o’clock, comp at 9 o’clock, drive and stab maxed, and volume to taste—yields a bright and gated fuzz tone that’s a great place to begin crafting your own sounds.
Pushing up the comp control softens the highs and the attack, which also causes the gate control to squelch the sound harder, resulting in a cool, 8-bit video game-sounding fuzz. Dropping the comp and drive to their lowest settings and turning up the gate to around 2 o’clock applies a low-gain, upper-octave effect to each note. These are only a couple of examples that can be discovered fairly quickly. Deeper tweaking, however, can reveal all sorts of otherworldly tones—smooth fuzzes that drop notes down an octave after holding them for a few moments, motorcycle engine revving, space-age ray gun bursts, and much, much more.
Enormously versatile. Can be run in standard Fuzz Factory mode. Minimal battery draw. Massive volume capability. Can produce warm Moog-like emulations with both guitar and bass.
Moving the switch to position 2 adds considerable lows to the tone and makes the pedal darker sounding. There are still plenty of the Fuzz Factory’s characteristic sizzling highs in the mix, but you’ll hear a meaner, less razor-like edge than before. In this environment, sustained single notes from the Les Paul’s bridge pickup had nearly as much body as full chords, and heavily gated low notes played with the neck pickup shook the room with a fat, synth-like snarl. Lowering the gate control dropped the pitch range of the fuzz oscillation too, making it easy to dial up droning, gut-shaking whines that alternate pitch like a demonic Theremin.
With some settings though, it was pretty obvious that changing modes also had an effect on the range of various controls. Switching to position 2 caused some of my favorite non-oscillating tones from position 1 to instantly oscillate—requiring me to tweak the pedal’s gate and comp controls to get rid of the whine.
The pedal’s most corpulent tones come from the bottom-heavy position 3. This mode works particularly well when matched with a high-gain setting and single-note runs on higher strings, which receive a pronounced bump in presence. Adding more gating to higher-gain settings yields a grinding synth-like tone that dies with a gnarly sputter—almost as if someone directly hard-wired a dual octave-down pedal to a circuit-bent Casio keyboard. Because of the very dense and complex tones you get in this mode, it’s easy for chords to turn into a jumbled mess. It’s best for single notes that need a little extra kick, or bassists who need more depth and intensity in their lines.
The Fat Fuzz Factory offers a huge range of fuzz tones. The mode switch’s position 1 has all the endless fuzz variations of the standard Fuzz Factory. But the switch’s additional positions open the gates to two very different-sounding harmonic ranges that deliver everything from tubby stoner fuzz to total low-end Armageddon. It’s a touchy pedal that requires some patience and willingness to experiment, but with persistence, it’ll reward you with a level of flexibility and tone that exceeds its formidable and very influential predecessor.