The Keeley Fuzz Head is a Fuzz Face style distortion pedal housed in a small red enclosure. Some impressive tones can be coaxed out of the Fuzz Head using its simple array of enigmatically named controls. The two major external knobs, labeled “Fuzz” and “Head,” are dirty and clean gain controls, respectively. There is also a miniature switch that toggles silicon diodes in and out of the circuit.
Electro-Harmonix’s Holy Grail reverb is easily one of the simplest reverb pedals on the market. With only a single knob and a miniature switch on its face, this pedal is extremely easy to use. The knob is labeled “reverb,” and it seems to function much like the reverb knob on an old Fender amp or the mix knob on a spring reverb unit. Next to the reverb knob is a three-position switch for selecting the different reverb modes. The Holy Grail offers settings meant to emulate spring reverb and the reverb of a large concert hall, and a very strange and idiosyncratic “flerb” setting.
The Fuzz Factory is ZVEX EFFECTS’s flagship pedal. This unique little box makes sounds ranging from ripping Velcro to screaming self-oscillation, and whatever lies in between. It is not a subtle pedal. Rather, it is a temperamental noisemaker that can become an inspiring playground of over-the-top distortion with a little practice.
MXR’s M-133 Micro Amp is a very simple, very clean boost pedal with a small footprint. Like most other MXR compact pedals, it is housed in a sturdy metal chassis and is constructed using materials and practices that satisfy baseline needs for professional use. It sports only a single gain knob and one on/off foot switch. Like its cousin the Phase 90, one of the Micro Amp’s most attractive features is its ease of use. This is a pedal designed to do only one thing: amplify.
The Ibanez TS9 Tube Screamer has been an extremely popular distortion for many years. For many guitarists it finds just the right balance between price and build quality, while providing pleasing overdrive style distortion that is easy to dial in. Many makers offer pedals that copy or expand upon the TS9’s circuit, but few can match the economy of scale available from Ibanez.
The Boss DS-1 is a very common distortion pedal. It is housed in a standard Boss compact chassis and features basic controls. For some reason Boss does not stick to a standard layout for controls across models, but the DS-1 is easy to use once you know what all the knobs do. This pedal produces a range of tones from moderate to heavy distortion, depending on the position of the distortion knob.
The Electro Harmonix Big Muff Pi has been used for years by guitarists for its warm, harmonically rich distortion. It comes in an enormous and fairly sturdy metal housing with good quality external components. Its sound could be described as an extension of its massive physical presence. It has a loud, sometimes overbearing tone with both strong presence and wide spectrum.
Let’s just get this out there: the Behringer CS400 Compressor/Sustainer is a cheap copy of the Boss CS-3. With that in mind, the main reason you’ll be considering it is undoubtedly the price, which genuinely is pretty darn cheap. So the real question is: is it so cheap that you’ll immediately regret the purchase, or is it a reminder that you don’t always need to spend more to get decent guitar effects?