Z.Vex Fuzz Factory

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A custom-painted Fuzz Factory by Laura Bennett, an artist previously in the employ of Z.Vex Effects.

The Z.Vex Fuzz Factory is a fuzz box made by the American inventor and musician Zachary Vex of the Z.Vex Effects company.

The Fuzz Factory is based on, yet vastly expands the tonal palette of, classic fuzztone designs from the 1960s. Invented in the mid-1990s, the pedals are mostly handbuilt and painted in Minnesota, United States, with a budget line being manufactured in Taiwan.

Overview[edit]

The basis for the Fuzz Factory is a traditional fuzz effect circuit using New old stock Germanium Transistors, as used on the Fuzz Face, the seminal device used by Jimi Hendrix and many others during the late 1960s/early 1970s. The Fuzz Factory innovates by use of internal feedback loops and component-level bias adjustments to achieve unprecedented control, or deliberate lack thereof, of the distorted signal. Designed by electronic trial-and-error, closely tied to circuit bending, the controls of the Fuzz Factory are highly interactive, and represent a wide spectrum of tonal ability, often extending into self-oscillation and noise. Many musicians find the promise of near-infinite new sounds and textures inherent to the device to be inspiring to their music, and the Fuzz Factory has a well-known following among professional guitarists.

The Factory has 5 knobs, 2 of which are only suggestions of what parameter(s) they actually control. From left to right:

  • "Volume" (output level)
  • "Gate" (transistor bias)
  • "Compression" (transistor bias)
  • "Drive" (input level)
  • "Stability" (supply voltage)

Custom Finishes[edit]

Each unit is handpainted, and while there is a stock design that adorns most models of the pedal, there have been several variations released in limited quantity, including sparkle finishes, kanji finishes (writing and labelling of controls are in Japanese kanji characters), Korean finishes (all controls labelled in Korean), and so on. These limited runs of custom paintjobs underscore the handmade, one-of-a-kind nature of the devices. From the earliest incarnations of the device in the mid-1990s, Jason Myrold painted all Fuzz Factories leaving the Z.Vex shop. Briefly during the mid-2000s the artist Laura Bennett assumed painting duties.

Vexter Series Fuzz Factory[edit]

A typical Vexter series Fuzz Factory.

In December 2004, Z.Vex released a new model of the Fuzz Factory, called the Vexter Series Fuzz Factory. The Vexter series differs from the Handpainted version in that it has a silkscreened enclosure and a shorter warranty period. This effectively lowers the price point, and makes both production easier for Z.Vex and allows the effect to become more accessible to musicians. The Vexter Fuzz Factory contains the same circuit as the original Fuzz Factory pedals, with the inclusion of modern touches such as an indicator LED and DC power jack for powering the fuzz with an adapter. As of August 2006, Vexter series Z.Vex pedal subassemblies are completed in Taiwan, but a large portion is still done in Minnesota.

Variations and Followers[edit]

Soon after the rise in popularity of the original Fuzz Factory, the Fuzz Probe was introduced. This version kept most of the circuitry the same, but added a voltage-sensitive copper plate affixed to, and extending downward from the bottom of the unit. This copper plate, hardwired to the 'Stab' control on the pedal, allowed for real time control by use of one's foot or hand. By varying the distance from appendage to plate, the self-oscillation effects of the Fuzz Factory (Probe) circuit could be tempered and played musically, similar to a Theremin.

Several newer effects makers, such as Death By Audio, have introduced products which exploit the feedback-loop characteristics in the same way as the Fuzz Factory. Japanese manufacturer Zoom released a self-oscillating/feedback loop-derived fuzz design called the Ultra-Fuzz, which some have likened to be a 'poor-mans' Fuzz Factory. In addition, circuit bending is now a commonplace technique among experimental electronic musicians, with the principles employed in the Fuzz Factory being extended to include almost any electronic device.

Matt Bellamy of Muse owns guitars with a built-in Fuzz Factory which he came up with the concept and was built by Hugh Manson of Manson Guitars. The guitar was popularly known by fans as the silver Manson but now named Manson Delorean. It was retired after the Absolution (album) era

Since the Fuzz factory is very expensive, but the Electronic Circuit rather simple, it's a popular project in the D.I.Y Scene. The PCB Board contains only 13 parts.

Fuzz Factory users[edit]

Notable musicians who have used the Fuzz Factory include:

External links[edit]