The few different effects created recently all sound great in isolation. Hit the Fuzz Face pedal, and a nice, warm fuzzy sound comes out of the amp. So the pedal is doing it's job.
What we haven't yet tried is actually comparing the sound from our home-made pedal to the sound of a genuine Fuzz Face (or Fuzz Factory, for the more complex, germanium-based effect). And there's only really one way to do that, and it involves buying a genuine Fuzz Face/Factory pedal.
But what exactly is "genuine"?
There are a few different Fuzz Face pedals available on the market - some retaining the original "face" design, some looking more like the "boxy" pedal we made ourselves. The biggest problem with a "genuine" Dunlop Fuzz Face is... the price. Nearly a hundred pounds for something which - we know from making one - has a few quid's worth of components inside it, a fancy pedal shape, and a brand name. That's a bit too much, just to cure a passing curiosity!
While in Brighton town centre (ok, pedants, city centre) I wandered into GAK (Guitar, Amps and Keyboards). I thought I might pop in and try out a genuine fuzz face and - while not exactly a side-by-side comparison - I'd at least be able to tell if it sounded vastly different from the one we built ourselves.
One of the really nice things about trying kit out at GAK (other than, of course, a massive shop jammed full of a huge range of guitars) is they ask what guitar you use, which amp, and try to set you up with the same kit. They didn't have my twin Laney Hardcore amp, but I was more than happy to try out one of their Orange amps. But they did let me use a brand new Yamaha Pacifica guitar (my current favourite) to try out different pedals with.
It's the little touches of great customer service like this which reminds us why we don't always get the best deal by "buying blind" online.
As it turns out, our fuzz face sounds fuzzy and buzzy and an original Fuzz Face sounds fuzzy and buzzy too. I can't really say whether or not the two are comparable. Because, while at GAK, I forgot all about Fuzz Face effects, once I came across a really "good value" multi-effects pedal: the G1Xon from Zoom.
Now I'm no great purist for "guitar tone". I play everything at eleven and it's either loud and clean, or crunchy and dirty. There's no mid-ground when I play. But being able to easily flip between a massive range of different effects suddenly had me wanting to play riffs from songs I'd long forgotten about over twenty years ago, and pay a bit more attention to how they actually sounded.
The ability to play a backing rhythm and record (and playback) multiple layers with the 30-second looper clinched the deal for me. With a headphone output, this little unit is not just a bazillion effects in one, it's also a great way to practice leads and solos to your own backing tracks, without having to faff about with amps and recorders (nor even setting up my previously favoured rig of a guitar into Native's Guitar Rig software-based amp/effect simulator on the PC).
If I tried to build even two or three of the simulated effects in this unit, I'd be over sixty quid in no time, after electronics, jack plugs, footswitches, enclosures and so on were all taken into account.
After less than 10 minutes of playing around in the shop, I'd splashed the cash and was on my way back home with the new effects unit all boxed up, ready to try out. To date, I've only used it for a total of about an hour. But what a great hour it's been - mixing effects, playing with compression and overdrive, getting the hang of a wah pedal again, recording and playing along to all kinds of different backing tracks. It's been great fun!
It also transpires (after much online searching for the same model) that GAK are selling this pedal at below internet prices. So not only do you get great customer service and an opportunity to try stuff out before buying, but it turns out they're also cheaper than buying online.
After this weekend, I might just be visiting GAK a little more frequently!