[review] T-Rex ToneBug Fuzz (by Bieke)

Yeah, so, fuzz is a hard effect to describe. I often wonder what the folks at Maestro were thinking back in the day when they released the first commercially available fuzz pedal. Hmmm, they initially figured it would appeal to country players. Maybe this was because when country artist Marty Robbins was recording his 1961 hit “Don’t Worry”, session guitarist Grady Martin accidentally created a fuzz effect during the session. This is often said to be the birth of the fuzz guitar.

It was not a huge success at first, marketing ads promised that it would make guitars sound like saxophones and orchestra strings. Still nothing happened. It was not until a couple of years later, when Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones recorded “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction” using the Maestro  FZ-1 fuzz, that boosted the popularity of the fuzz effect. Suddenly, every kid with an electric guitar wanted a fuzzbox and the pedal sold out everywhere.

Fast forward 50 years, T-Rex releases the ToneBug Fuzz pedal. The kind folks at T-Rex figured they would make a fuzz pedal for the kids of today.  Brilliant. Fuzz pedals nowadays are mostly boutique pedals, expensive, handmade, faithful replicas of the classic fuzz pedals of the sixties.

So, what is new ? Well, it seems that T-Rex did think this one through and they listened to modern fuzz sounds, captured that sound and put it in a box and labeled it with Fuzz. The ToneBug Fuzz turns out to be more of a modern age hyper distortion than an old skool fuzz. Think Matt Bellamy of Muse, that kind of sound.

The Looks

Retro styling, flashy yellow color, the ToneBug is compact, feels solid and seems well made.
In and output jacks on the top panel, with the standard 9V adapter plug in the middle, a bright red LED indicator above the controls, not your classic diode LED, a stylish transparent strip covers the LED. The controls are chrome knobs with good grip and red markers. A very nice silent footswitch, and an easy access battery lid.  Comfy!

Inside it looks well made as well, nothing retro in there, a state of the art a mix of surface mount and conventional components, the controls and LED are mounted on a separate circuit board. The fuzz fanatics will probably dissect the circuit and be able to tell what it is based on. Personally, I cannot vouch whether it is a germanium, silicon or Opamp based design, it certainly does not sound like a germanium fuzz, but there are two distinct germanium lookalike trannies tucked away on the back of the circuit. Soundwise, it falls more within the Opamp category.

The Controls

It has 3 controls labeled Level, Tone and Fuzz, so it is not another  three knob Tonebender.

Level  is to set your overall output volume. Yup, it works like that, plenty of output volume available.

Fuzz is to determine how dirty you want your sound, very dirty indeed. Insanely dirty, fuzz differs from distortion by being far more extreme – boosting the guitar’s signal until it clips so much, it turns from a sine wave into a square wave.

Tone is a matter of personal taste, so a tone control is a nice addition to any fuzz pedal in order to dial in the timbre of your fuzz sound, so it fits to the music you play. Fuzzy music.

The Sound

The ToneBug Fuzz has a smooth fuzz sound, with lots of bite. It really sounds best on an overdriven amp, that’s when it will sing and scream and  feedback happily and yet  it tracks very well, especially on treble frequencies. Actually, it does cut off quite a bit of the low end frequencies. You can remedy that with the tone control, but it the trebly edge will always be there. This is not necessarily a bad thing, especially on the lower strings, or for those using dropped tuning, no flabby loose notes.

I actually preferred the ToneBug fuzz with humbuckers, because it is so tight on its own, it can handle the darker sounding humbuckers pretty well. Also, the ToneBug  Fuzz does not clean up when you roll back the volume control on your guitar. It is a high gain pedal, with plenty of mid range scoop, so it is very well suited for heavy metal tone or a modern oversaturated distortion sounds.  It sounds great alone, it has got this chainsaw sound. It sounds a lot fuzzier with a clean boost in front of it, and it stacks well with other distortion or overdrives, and it gladly accepts modulation effects such as phaser, chorus or flanger. 

Endless sustain, nice decay, it gently moves into feedback territory, no sudden decay and your fuzz sound will not die sputtering , like with your cool vintage fuzz pedals. Still, the ToneBug Fuzz does share one typical feature with the vintage fuzzes, in that it is a noisy bugger. Quite a noticeable amount of hiss as soon as you engage the silent footswitch.

The T-Rex Tonebug series, a happy family of 10 different pedals, affordable, around the 100$ mark, with a 2 year warranty, would never be complete without this.

It’s a Fuzz !

More info: T-Rex ToneBug Fuzz

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