Teisco Fuzz Pedal
By Chris Loeffler | (edited)
Teisco Fuzz Pedal
Sometimes you just need a little fuzz...
by Chris Loeffler
Teisco is a Japanese-based brand that operated from the 40’s-60’s that may recall low cost, exotic looking vintage instruments and amps that lined pawn shops and music stores in the 80’s and 90’s. Silvertone, Melody, Kay, Audition… the relabeling of their instruments (primarily guitars, amplifiers, and keyboards) makes for an even more prolific (if confusing) assortments. BandLab Technologies, a Singapore-based company who has revived brands such as Harmony, Heritage, and Swee Lee as well as broken new ground with BandLab, Mono, and more, acquired the Teisco brand in 2017 and went back to Teisco’s roots, seeking vintage-inspired products that honor the brand and fit today’s market.
From that came the debut of three new pedals at the 2019 Winter NAMM show bearing the Teisco branding, an analog delay (review coming), a boost pedal, and the Teisco Fuzz. The Teisco Fuzz is “a classic silicon fuzz circuit with a switchable upper octave that takes inspiration from a furry 70’s predecessor,” that features controls for Level, Gain, Tone, and Octave in a unique zinc housing powered by a standard 9v, center-negative DC supply.
What You Need to Know
In case their description didn’t tip off the inspiration for the circuit, the Teisco Fuzz is based on the Foxx Tone Machine (fur not included). The Foxx Tone Machine is famous for copping nasty, aggressive high-gain fuzz with an octave circuit that and has a gated gain structure for tight rhythm work. I don’t have an original Tone Machine to compare the Teisco to, but I do have clones I can confirm sound close to the recordings I’ve heard of the Tone Machine (Frampton, Belew). Using those as an example, people seeking the Foxx sound should be very pleased (well, as much as a fuzz fanatic can be if it isn’t an original vintage).
For the rest of us, the Teisco Fuzz presents an interesting sonic playground. From a gain “quantity” standpoint, it falls roughly in line with a Muff-style fuzz, but the gain is less compressed and smooth, with a less flubby bottom and a touch more mids. The fuzz has a Velcro-like rip to the attack in the first ⅔ of the gain sweep, with things smoothing out as things get super saturated. When the Octave circuit is engaged it produces a slightly synth-like octave ring that has a splatty attack to compliment the tightness of the fuzz. I’d be hard-pressed to say it has much place in music trying to sound modern and polished, but for anything lo-fi (White Stripes, Black Keys, Flaming Lips) there are some truly transcendent textures for riffing.
The Volume and Tone knobs are, for the most part, exactly what you’d expect. There is a reasonable amount of volume on tap; more than some vintage units I’ve played, but not enough to blow an amp up. The Tone control itself is a standard simple filter, passing from muffled at one extreme to the sort of biting that may push ears through a clean, bright Fender on the other.
The Gain control covers a lot of ground, from starved fuzz rip at the early stages to horn-like, thick leads when cranked.
The Octave circuit is surprisingly well tuned to pop anywhere on the fretboard. I am used to needing to ride the neck pickup about the 8th fret to get a pronounced octave effect with a vintage octaver, but whether I was on the first fret or the 14th the octave was always bloomed with a pronounced strength. Below the fifth fret I found the octave to have a bit of a ring modulation feel to it, but popped to the seventh fret and above and the classic scream people associate with an octave effect showed loud and proud.
The vintage tone of the fuzz and octave threw me off a bit, as I’m used to having to fight pedals that make those tones a bit to coax out the “right” sounds with playing dynamics, but despite the sonic responsiveness the pedal demonstrates it has an eerily consistent response. I’d liken it to getting used to fighting a dual-rectified Matchless Hotcat with a Strat and then playing into a JCM800 with a Les Paul… it just happens. I didn’t find it tempermental to power supply nor conditions and I ran a through different types of guitars through it to see if this held true. Each guitar maintained its sonic signature and attack, so I’m somewhat scratching my head as to how Teisco pulled off that little piece of magic.
If you haven’t seen and held the new Teisco pedals you’ll have to trust me, but the enclosures and external components are stunningly overbuilt. The zinc case is thick and heavy and has a distinct look that is eye-catching without straying too far from what a standard pedal looks like. I promise most new builders would kill for such a great looking and feeling aesthetic.
The Octave is a flip switch, so you have to bend over to turn it on mid-song (unless you want to risk breaking the switch with your foot); I would have loved a second footswitch.
The Teisco Fuzz is a very cool pedal for copping raunchy, ripping fuzz sounds that are surprisingly more consistent and replicable than their sonic signature would suggest. Vintage tones, modern looks, and a specifically unique fuzz and octave sound make for a pedal that’s sure to end up on at least a few hits in the near future. All that for $129.00, and the Teisco Fuzz is a hard pedal to pass on if you enjoy exploring fuzz textures. -HC-
Chris Loeffler is a multi-instrumentalist and the Content Strategist of Harmony Central. In addition to his ten years experience as an online guitar merchandiser, marketing strategist, and community director he has worked as an international exporter, website consultant and brand manager. When he’s not working he can be found playing music, geeking out on guitar pedals and amps, and brewing tasty beer.
Edited by Chris Loeffler