[review] Spaceman Sputnik (by Bieke)

Spaceman Effects

Spaceman is the pedal company based in Oregon, Portland, USA. Spaceman pedals are extraordinary pedals, mostly fuzzes, but there are also boosters and an overdrive. All Spaceman pedals are hand made in small batches, so there's a limited availability. In fact, the Sputnik I am about to review is currently out of stock. To keep up to date about the availability of this pedal, you should join the Spaceman e-mail list or regularly check Spaceman on Facebook.

Spaceman SputnikThe Looks

Pristine. I'm looking at a fiery red Sputnik pedal The Red Edition (limited to 69 units) featuring a special red/yellow engraved vinyl faceplate with Russian Cyrillic inscriptions and a red jewel light. It has a bit of a Cold War and Soviet theme going, all in good taste. In fact, the Sputnik is a germanium fuzz that uses vintage Soviet transistors.

So, it looks very cool on the outside, but beauty lies within the cast aluminum enclosure. The circuit boards inside the Sputnik are a work of art, really one of the most impressive builds I have ever seen. There are 3 unmarked transistors in there that look like miniature army green Soviet army helmets. The circuit boards -there are 2 separate PCB stacked inside- are decorated with little stars and sputniks and are packed with top quality components, military spec wiring, ultra clean wiring and soldering. Stunning job. There are also 2 trimpots inside, hmmm, something tells me these are best left alone.

True bypass switching. The Sputnik has input on the right, output and power jack on the left. It takes a regulated 9-12V DC adapter with negative center.

Controls are:

  • Signal: Output Volume
  • Range: Fuzz Gain
  • Calibrate: Tone
  • Scan: hard to describe, when switched in Drift mode, the Scan control interacts with the Range and Calibrate controls and yields the craziest fuzz sounds imaginable.
  • Sync/Drift (toggle switch): again, hard to describe, I'd say in Sync mode it acts like you would expect from a fuzz whereas Drift mode is a fuzz surprise, let the fuzz entertain you.
  • Filter (toggle switch): enables bass cut with mid-scoop filter

Spaceman SputnikThe Sounds

To start with the vital control of all, the volume control, well let me simply say that it has plenty of volume available. Also adds a little compression at higher volume ranges. Keeping it tight.

As with most germanium fuzz pedals, the ‘roll back volume on guitar' trick gives a nice overdrive effect, that works really great for rhythm.

Moving on to another common control found on most fuzz pedals, the gain control, well, let me simply say that it is one of the widest range gain controls I have ever had the pleasure to fiddle with. It goes from low gain, almost overdriven sound, smoothly progressing towards extraterrestrial gain. Sustain is added as well when gain increases. Very intuitive control with great response and dynamics. Like I said, incredibly wide palette of fuzz sounds can be obtained.

Another control that is fairly common on fuzz pedals, the tone control. I find it a useful control on a fuzz pedal, but it does not always does what it supposed to do. Let me just say that the Calibrate control on the Sputnik is excellent. Set at noon, the tone is kind of flat, rolling it counterclockwise adds lows as well as mids, rolling it clockwise adds highs. Sounds so simple, but it effectively does the job so well. Making it easy to dial in your desired tone. It does not add too many harmonics nor does it mess about with the tone of your amp. It just enhances the fuzz tone and does not affect your amp settings or the character of your guitar.

Spaceman SputnikThe Filter toggle switch has a drastic impact on the fuzz sound, and you can start all over again. Mids and lows are cut and a biting and cutting fuzz tone is what you will get. The gain and tone controls allow to tweak the filtered fuzz effect and it really sounds like a totally different pedal, more reminiscent of a sixties fuzz.

So far, an extremely solid sounding and effective fuzz pedal, I am getting an endless variety of classic and modern fuzz flavors and great tones from the Sputnik. At higher gain settings, it sounds thick and has a singing sustain with a hint of compression squeeze. Very well mannered? Too well mannered perhaps?

Flick the toggle into Drift mode and Kaboom! All of a sudden, the Sputnik becomes a sonic monster.

Gated sounds, mangled fuzz, sputtery, farty fuzz, velcro fuzz, octave fuzz, wildly oscillating fuzz, squeals, sirens, glitchy and ringmod sounds, portamento, synthi fuzz, bleeping sounds, a sheer endless variety of exotic and extreme fuzz sounds can be obtained with the flick of the Sync/Drift switch and the Scan control adds the amount of "corruption". Just a little corruption already adds a lot of aggression and it just shifts into full blast craziness from there on.

Spaceman SputnikThe Drift mode is out of control. Rest assured, the Filter toggle, Gain and Tone controls will help you to tame the fuzz. It needs a little more tweaking to be really effective. But it is fun just to experiment and create a sound beyond your imagination. It certainly produced fuzz textures that I never heard before.

The Verdict

This is seriously one of the best fuzz pedals of the universe. So versatile and so much fun. In Sync mode it does a great overdrive, classic fuzz tones, think Fuzz Face or Tonebender are available, with the Filter toggle you can get a more cutting Maestro or Shin-ei fuzz flavor, and it has a unique character as well, in fact, I should not be compared it to any existing classic fuzz, but the Sputnik really is a jack of all trades. And the Drift mode is just sheer madness.

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