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Fender Effects Pedals Part 3

In the third (and final?) part of this three-part review, we check out The Pelt Fuzz, Engager Boost and Full Moon Distortion

 

by Phil O'Keefe

 

 

Fender's pedal history has been pretty hit and miss over the years - while there have been a few very popular Fender effects, they've certainly had more success with their amps and guitars. But Fender's been making a serious effort to up their pedal game as of late, and as we've seen in the previous parts of this multi-part review (click here to check out part one with the Level Set Buffer, Pugilist Distortion and Marine Layer Reverb, and you can find part two with The Bends Compressor, Santa Ana Overdrive and Mirror Image Delay right here) they released some very cool pedals when they launched their new line. But they weren't finished; three new pedals were added since the first batch of six was introduced, so in this review we'll be checking out the new Engager Boost, Full Moon Distortion and The Pelt Fuzz.

 

 

 

What You Need To Know

  • These are all-new designs that were developed by Fender, and they are not clones of any other pedals. Like most of the other pedals in the lineup, all three pedals under review here were designed by Fender VP Stan Cotey. All the pedals in the new series have several features in common, so we'll look at those features first before diving into the details of the individual pedals.
  • Housed in relatively lightweight yet quite sturdy anodized aluminum enclosures (silver for the Engager Boost, blue for the Full Moon Distortion that's a bit different shade than the blue used for the Mirror Image Delay, and purple for The Pelt Fuzz), the new pedals look cool and should hold up to the rigors of touring and live gigs.
  • All of the pedal graphics and labels are done in high contrast white lettering, making them relatively easy to see - even against the silver housing of the Engager Boost.
  • Both the Engager Boost and The Pelt Fuzz are in smaller enclosures that measure 2.75"  W x 2.5" H x 4.9" L and weigh .9 lbs each, while the Full Moon Distortion is in a larger-sized case that measures  3.75" W x 2.5" H x 4.9" L and weighs 1.2 lbs.
  • The input and output jacks of all three pedals are side mounted. The jacks are oriented so that the plugs won't get in the way of the plugs of the pedals placed next to them, allowing for tighter placement on your pedalboard.
  • Input impedance is 1M Ohm, while the output impedance is >10k Ohm. This applies to all three new pedals, as well as the rest of the new Fender pedal lineup.
  • The pedal active lamps are smaller versions of the classic Fender jewel lamps that you're probably familiar with from their amps. Each pedal uses a different colored lamp to make identifying them easier, even in the dark. The Pelt Fuzz has a purple lamp, the Engager Boost has a white one, and the Full Moon Distortion has a blue jewel. The LEDs in the three newest pedals are not as bright as some of the previous pedals, but they're still plenty bright enough to let you know when the pedals are on.
  • All three pedals have illuminated indicators on the controls so that you can always see how your knobs are set. These can be bypassed with a switch on the back of the pedals, which lowers the amount of power the pedals draw and is helpful if you're running them off of batteries instead of using an AC adapter.
  • Power can be provided with either a 9V battery or an external power supply, but neither one is included, so you'll need to provide your own. Industry-standard 2.1mm center-negative power jacks can be found on the rear of all three pedals. 
  • You'll find the battery compartment at the front end of each pedal, and it is accessed through a spring-loaded, hinged door that's permanently attached. It magnetically latches, so you don't need any tools to open it, and you can do it without even removing the pedals from your board, which can be a lifesaver if you have a battery die in mid-gig.

 

 

  • There is a red LED on the battery compartment door that lights up when the battery is dying, which makes it even less likely you'll have one die right in the middle of a song at a gig. 
  • The current draw of each pedal varies; in all cases, it's lower if you shut off the illuminated indicators on the control knobs. The Engager Boost and The Pelt Fuzz require 30mA, or 50mA if you have the lights for the knobs turned on, while the Full Moon Distortion draws a bit more current, and needs 80mA with the LEDs turned off, or 110mA if you have the knobs lit up. 
  • Unplugging from the input jack will turn off the battery, so make sure to do so whenever you're not using the pedal to conserve juice and help your batteries last longer.    

 

 

 

  • The Engager Boost is a clean style boost pedal. It has the Level control that you'd expect, and it gives you up to 20dB of clean boost; while it provides clean gain, it can still be used to drive an "on the edge" tube amp into distortion. It also has a few other pleasant surprises in the features department too.
  • Fender gave the Engager Boost a full three-band EQ section, with individual Treble, Bass and Middle (midrange) controls. Each of the three tone controls can boost or cut, and each has a range of +/-12dB, making the Engager a powerful tone-shaper too.
  • There is also a Frequency toggle switch that switches the center frequency of the Middle control from 400Hz (in the down position) to 800Hz in the up position, giving you even more EQ flexibility. 

 

 

  • In addition to the LED on/off switch for the knob indicators, the rear of the Engager Boost has a second slider switch that lets you choose between true bypass or buffered bypass switching. In the buffered bypass mode, a high quality buffer is engaged when the pedal is bypassed, giving you low output impedance and allowing for longer cable runs and pedal chains without signal loss or degradation.

 

 

 

  • The Pelt Fuzz is a silicon transistor-based fuzz pedal with a lot of versatility; It is capable of making a lot of different types of fuzz sounds.
  • The Pelt has a Fuzz control that sets the amount of fuzz and saturation. It can actually get fairly clean at low settings on the dial, but goes to heavy fuzz at the opposite end. In between are a variety of semi-overdriven and lightly to moderately fuzzed tones that can be well worth exploring.
  • Of course you get a volume Level control too, so you can set the overall output level independently from the amount of grit.
  • A Tone control lets you adjust the high frequencies to your tastes, giving you the ability to roll off some of the fuzz's spit and splatter if you wish.
  • The Bloom control is rather interesting. It adjusts the pedal's attack characteristics, and gives you a smoother attack at low / Soft settings and a more gated, splatty sound at high / Hard settings. This can change the character of the fuzz quite a bit and lets you cover a lot of fuzz territory with just this one pedal.
  • In addition to these four knobs, a pair of toggle switches provide even more options. The three-position Mid switch lets you leave your mids alone (middle position) or boost (up position) or cut (down) the midrange, while the two-position Thick switch gives the fuzz a much bigger and deeper sounding bottom end when it is in the up position. 

 

 

 

  • The "heavy hitter" in the new Fender effects lineup is the Full Moon Distortion. This is a much harder, beefier and meaner sounding pedal than the Santa Ana Overdrive or even the Pugilist Distortion, and the number one pedal in the new lineup that hard rock and metal players really need to check out. 
  • The Gain control has a lot of gain on-tap, and leaves no doubt that this is a Distortion pedal with a capital D. Of course there is a Level control so you can turn it down and get those heavy tones at softer volumes, but who would want to do something like that? This pedal invites you to rock out and bang your head at full throttle, full volume… and it sounds great when you do, although it's equally adept at creating more modestly distorted rhythm tones too.
  • A four knob EQ section gives you plenty of control over the tone. In addition to fairly traditional Treble, Middle and Bass controls, the Hi-Treb(le) knob acts sort of like a sizzle control, and lets you adjust the amount of sparkle and sizzle in the distortion.
  • Further versatility comes from the two toggle switches. The first is labeled Texture, and it lets you choose between symmetrical and asymmetrical clipping, which changes the character and harmonic content of the distortion, while the Bite switch reduces the lows a bit and gives you even more high-frequency distortion that makes the sound more present and, well, biting.
  • The Full Moon Distortion also has a built-in Boost. It gives you an increase in volume (not distortion), and is perfect for solos. The Boost knob has a 0 to +12dB range, so you can dial up just the amount of volume boost you need. The boost also has a second smaller blue LED next to the Boost knob to let you know when it's active, and its own footswitch so you can turn it on or off at will.

 

 

Limitations

  • The boost on the Full Moon Distortion can not be switched for pre/post distortion engine operation like you can with the boost on the Santa Ana Overdrive - it's a volume boost only, and occurs after the distortion circuit.
  • The Full Moon Distortion's boost section can not be used on its own, while the distortion is bypassed. You can turn it on or off so that it will be in one mode or the other when you turn the distortion back on, but you can not use it separately.

 

 

Conclusions

With three dirt pedals (not counting The Pelt fuzz) in the lineup, some players may be wondering which one is for them - as always, your own ears and tastes will be the ultimate guide, but each does have its own individual character and sound. The Santa Ana Overdrive is a true high-end overdrive pedal. The Pugilist Distortion straddles the line; it feels more like a dual-overdrive that can be driven well into distortion territory, while the Full Moon Distortion strikes me as more of a true, traditional distortion pedal - unabashedly and unapologetically high-gain, it leaves no doubt that it's a distortion pedal, with no pretense of being an overdrive. Hard rockers and metal guitarists will definitely want to check this one out!

 

The Engager Boost is the pedal that I had hoped for when I was first checking out the Level Set Buffer, with not only a powerful EQ to adjust for tonal tastes or differences between guitars, but also the boost function and a nice onboard buffer, plus the ability to switch it to true bypass operation if you prefer. The Level Set Buffer will still be useful for many players, but those who seek a more traditional boost (that also includes a buffer if needed) will probably gravitate towards the Engager.

 

I've always been a bit more of a fan of fuzz pedals than distortions, and the Pelt Fuzz just might be my favorite of the three pedals being reviewed this time around. With a wooly, thick and raunchy sound, it's bound to be a big hit with other fuzz-lovers too. I love the Bloom control and how you can get either smooth fuzz tones or more raspy ones from just this one pedal.

 

If there's one thing that's notably absent from the new Fender pedal lineup, it's any kind of modulation pedals - there's a delay and a reverb, as well as a buffer, fuzz, and boost, plus your choice of three different overdrive / distortion pedals, but there's no chorus, flanger or phase shifter to be found. Hmmm…. maybe there will be a part 4 of this review series? Fender hasn't said anything suggesting that they're planning on releasing some modulation pedals to fill out the new line, but it would seem like a good idea, and I certainly hope they do because if the rest of the pedals in their new effects lineup are any indication, they're bound to be winners too. Even if you've been less than thrilled with some of Fender's previous pedal offerings, you owe it to yourself to give the new lineup a try - there's some seriously cool sounds to be found in Fender's latest offerings. -HC-

 

 

Want to discuss Fender's new line of effects pedals, or have questions or comments about this review? Then head over to this thread in the Effects forum right here on Harmony Central and join the discussion!

 

 

Resources

Fender Engager Boost ($89.99 "street")    

Fender The Pelt Fuzz ($129.99 "street")

Fender Full Moon Distortion ($149.99 "street")

 

Fender Engager Boost product web page    

Fender The Pelt Fuzz product web page     

Fender Full Moon Distortion product web page     

 

You can purchase the Fender Full Moon Distortion from:

Fender     

Sweetwater   

Guitar Center     

Musician's Friend     

 

You can purchase Fender's The Pelt Fuzz  from:

Fender     

Sweetwater   

Guitar Center     

Musician's Friend     

 

You can purchase the Fender Engager Boost from:

Fender     

Sweetwater     

Guitar Center     

Musician's Friend    

 

 

Full Moon Distortion

 

 

 

The Pelt Fuzz

 

 

 

Engager Boost

 

 

  



__________________________________________________

 




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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