Frantone Cream Puff Fuzz Pedal
By Chris Loeffler |
Frantone Cream Puff Fuzz Pedal
One sweet pedal...
by Chris Loeffler
Frantone was founded by Fran Blanche in the 1990s after a run as design engineer at Electro-Harmonix, where she designed the Electro-Harmonix NYC Big Muff Pi, the pedal that brought the BMP closer to its roots after years of black and green box variants. The design and aesthetics she brought to the Frantone line of pedals was unprecedented at the time and, often reported, part of what created financial business challenges in trying to keep up that level of quality and hands-on involvement in the famously expensive NYC area. Despite famous users like Lou Reed and R.E.M. and an assortment of over a dozen pedals, financial pressure forced the closure of Frantone more than a decade ago. Then, in 2016, Fran came back, bringing three of her most popular pedals back to players; the Frantone Vibutron, the Frantone Peach Fuzz, and the Frantone Cream Puff.
The Frantone Cream Puff, inspired by the Op-Amp Big Muff Pi circuit, returns in its iconic (and deceiving) Pepto-Bismol backed pink enamel enclosure with puffy white font, bakelite knobs and a pink LED, featuring controls for Volume, Tone, and Fluff (distortion), true-bypass switching, powered by a 9v battery or 9v center negative power supply.
What You Need to Know
The Frantone Cream Puff paradoxically sounds like a Big Muff Pi, and yet its response, presence, and gain structure are uniquely different than any Muff I’ve every played (and I’ve played more than a few). It has tightness modern metal amp makers would kill for (no, it sounds nothing like the Metal Muff) and manages to punch while being scooped. The first chord I strummed through it sounded so big I was taken aback.
The Cream Puff is about as articulate as one could ask for such a heavy sound, and while it does still suffer from the “leads disappearing in the mix” syndrome of most BMP circuits, it held up better than any I’ve tried but the Green Russian. Running it into an EQ or mid-focused overdrive helps it stand out, but also kills some of the character, so I found it best as a rhythm monster or recording lead tool, where some post work can better represent it. There is no “clean” setting on the Cream Puff, it starts out aggressive and only gets bigger.
The Tone and Fluff knobs impact each other, so as the Tone settings shift the structure of the gain does as well (especially how the midrange compresses). I found a couple of minutes or teeter-tottering the two was required to get the final 2% I was looking for in various settings.
Highs take a noticeable (but not crippling) hit for a warm upper-mid cap that keeps the distortion from turning into a sonic icepick, and there is a highly rectifier-like attack to it that is the only non-ironic connection between the looks and sound of the pedal. Despite utilizing an op-amp for distortion, if I was told it was germanium driven I would believe it, as there’s a warm halo of wool around the distortion that contributes to the “vintage tone, modern attack.
The Frantone Cream Puff LOVES high-wattage clean amps. The detail and articulation of the pedal really need enough headroom to be expressed, and while I achieved great heavy tones in low wattage tube amps they were nothing like the soaring tones teased from my Marshall 2208 power amp into a set of overpowered Mesa Boogie speakers.
The Frantone Cream Puff has a bit less high-end than your typical Big Muff Pi variant, resulting in a darker sound that kills in a bright amp but can get muffled if you’re already running your guitar and rig dark.
The Frantone Cream Puff is the most modern sounding, aggressive Big Muff Pi-inspired pedal I’ve played, managing to nail that BMP sound people hear in their heads but with a tightness and punch that is anything but vintage. Like those of its ilk, what sounds great in a bedroom won’t working in a live setting, and visa versa, but the Cream Puff can be gloriously crushing in both settings.. - 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.