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A vintage inspired fuzz with a few unexpected surprises

By Phil O'Keefe

 

If you're going to name a fuzz pedal "Satisfaction", you're probably aware that people are going to draw certain conclusions about the sound of it based on that. The obvious one is the Rolling Stones and their famous, fuzz-drenched song of the same name. Recorded back in May of 1965 in the now-defunct RCA studios at 6363 Sunset in Hollywood (the building now houses the Los Angeles Film School, although the actual studios are now gone), "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" made use of a Maestro FZ-1 fuzz pedal on its signature riff. While you might expect a fuzz pedal named Satisfaction to be based on that vintage model, the EHX Satisfaction Fuzz is essentially a clone of another vintage fuzz circuit from the Sixties - the Jordan BossTone. The question remains - will it satisfy expectations?



What You Need To Know

  • The Satisfaction Fuzz is a two knob fuzz pedal housed in the nano-sized Electro-Harmonix die-cast enclosure. The measurements are approximately 4 5/16" long x 2 1/2" wide x 2" high, including the knobs, jacks and switches. The graphics have a decidedly retro vibe, with a old 45 RPM record insert depicted on the top of the pedal.
  • The Satisfaction Fuzz features a basic two silicon transistor NPN / PNP (Q1 PN2222A, Q2 2N3906) fuzz circuit that is based on the old Jordan BossTone.
  • The controls on the Satisfaction Fuzz are quite simple and easy to come to terms with. The Volume knob sets the overall output level. There's plenty of juice on tap, and as long as the Attack knob is set to about noon or higher, you can easily exceed unity gain with this control.
  • The Attack control adjusts the input gain and overall amount of fuzz. At the very lowest setting on this knob there is no sound from the pedal at all. Raising it very slightly kicks it in, and produces a mild fuzzy overdrive sound, with progressively heavier amounts of drive and fuzz as you turn it up from there. When dimed, a heavily saturated, raspy fuzz tone is achieved.
  • The overall sound is bright, raunchy and fuzzy. It's not gated, and it has decent sustain, but not a lot of bass. Experimenting with rolling off your guitar's tone control or using a graphic EQ with this pedal is highly recommended, and will yield other familiar Sixties-era tones beyond the namesake Stones tune.  
  • The 1/4" input and output jacks are side mounted. Input impedance is 50kOhm, and the output impedance varies, depending on the setting of the volume knob. It ranges from 100Ohm to 25kOhm.
  • The EHX Satisfaction Fuzz features true bypass switching, and a red LED illuminates when the pedal is active.
  • The Satisfaction Fuzz can be powered by a 9V battery (one is included with the pedal), or an optional 9V DC power supply. The power supply jack is located at the top of the pedal, and it is designed to accept the industry standard 2.1mm center negative plug. Current draw is quite low, as you might expect from a fuzz pedal, and since it only draws 1.5mA at 9VDC, a battery should last for quite some time.





  • The EHX Satisfaction Fuzz is not designed to operate at higher voltages, and attempting to use anything higher than 10VDC to power it will most likely fry the pedal.
  • One big surprise awaited me when I removed the rear cover. As I expected based on viewing the interior of several of EHX's latest pedals, the construction uses primarily surface mount components, which helps keep the costs down. Some key parts on the pedals are often thru-hole, which gives you some limited modification possibilities, but for the most part SMD pedals are difficult for most people to modify. What I wasn't expecting to see was six empty pads with no parts mounted in them on the Satisfaction Fuzz PCB.

 



  • Notice that the C7 capacitor pads are empty, as are the D2 and D3 diode pads. These parts are not part of the original BossTone circuit, and adding them to the circuit can change the characteristics of the pedal significantly. These pads make it very easy for owners to modify the pedal. This kind of provision is pretty rare, and I commend EHX for giving us the options, and facilitating and simplifying the modifications in this way.
  • What can you expect from the mods? I have not performed them yet myself, but adding the C7 capacitor (experiment with values between 4.7nF - 100nF; a 22nF like the one used in C1 would be were I'd start) will increase the bass and give the sound more beef, while adding a pair of clipping diodes in D2 and D3 (try a pair of 1N4148 diodes, and make sure you observe the proper polarity) should make it even more gnarly and distorted, although they may reduce the output level somewhat.
  • The Satisfaction Fuzz carries the standard Electro-Harmonix one year limited warranty, but If you muck up the mods, don't expect them to cover the repair. If you're not familiar with electronic mods and soldering, get someone who is to help you with the job.

 

Limitations

  • I've owned, used, and reviewed many Electro-Harmonix pedals over the years, and as a effects forum moderator, I've also seen occasional mentions of reliability issues or construction flaws in EHX pedals - and all of them have struck me as exceptional and uncommon based on my experiences with their products. True, the older 70s era stuff wasn't always the most sturdy, but the current generation has been nearly flawless in my experience. I mention all of that as a prelude to the following - I finally found a "problem" with one of their current pedals. When I went to remove the bottom plate on the Satisfaction, one of the screws refused to come all of the way out. It made it about a quarter of the way out with some modest effort, then refused to move any further. I finally had to resort to a pair of vice grips to grab it and unscrew it. That's it. That's the only negative thing I could come up with for you - one stripped screw. And outside of that, like all of the other recent EHX pedals I've tried, this pedal works perfectly. The bottom plate stays on just fine with only three screws, so it's really not even a major issue.

 

Conclusions

While it may not be a clone of the exact pedal model that Keith Richards used on that legendary recording, the Satisfaction Fuzz really does get that same basic sound quite easily, along with the sound of several other classic Sixties-era songs. That Stones riff was the first thing I played when I plugged the pedal in for the first time, and the sound was so similar that my wife actually walked in and commented about it. If you like classic Sixties-era fuzz tones, you're going to really like the Satisfaction Fuzz.

The original Jordan BossTone units from the Sixties plugged straight into your guitar, and didn't have true bypass switching. Having one in a pedal format makes a lot more sense to me, and since the originals were first made back in 1967 and have long been out of production, many guitarists have never had a chance to try one. While it isn't the most versatile fuzz ever created (most people are going to crank up the Attack control, find an appropriate output level on the Volume knob, and rarely adjust it after that), it is a very cool sound. While it's a fairly basic circuit, the price of the EHX Satisfaction is lower than what it would cost you to build one from scratch yourself, and it really is a classic fuzz sound that everyone should have in their pedal collection. At this price, I wouldn't be surprised if many people opted for two of them - one to leave stock, and one to modify. In fact, I plan on doing that very thing myself. At this price, why not? You can get two cool sounding fuzz pedals for less than what most other companies charge for one. Once again, EHX delivers exceptional value, and players win, big-time.


Resources

Musician's Friend Electro Harmonix Satisfaction Fuzz online catalog page ($74.34 MSRP, $55.80 "street")


Electro-Harmonix Satisfaction Fuzz web page


Electro-Harmonix Satisfaction Fuzz demo video:

 


 

Phil O'Keefe is a multi-instrumentalist, recording engineer / producer and the Senior Editor of Harmony Central. He has engineered, produced and performed on countless recording sessions in a diverse range of styles, with artists such as Alien Ant Farm, Jules Day, Voodoo Glow Skulls, John McGill, Michael Knott and Alexa's Wish. He is a former featured monthly columnist for EQ magazine, and his articles and product reviews have also appeared in Keyboard, Electronic Musician and Guitar Player magazines. 
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Garbagefingers  |  November 27, 2015 at 12:52 pm
picked up a used Satisfaction Fuzz for $45.Good deal.It was,as you said,too shrill to use.Just like my old,long gone,Boss Tone was.Took it to my local wizards,who first installed all 3 mods,which improved the tone,but was too distorted,made a beeping tone in F#.Really.So out came all but the C-7,which left the pedal very useable.It's on my board for my '60s era band.Not a Maestro,despite the name.,or a Muff or Tonebender.Think Randy California.
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