We may be in the golden era of guitar fuzz pedals, where the past and present innovations combine to give us devices with options and range never before thought achievable.
Boss, an industry leader for many years, has been revisiting its own past the last few years with the Waza Craft line of guitar pedals, updating old designs to make them more flexible. With the FZ-1W fuzz, they embark on their first new design from scratch in over 40 years. That’s not to say there isn’t a good deal of history behind the FZ-1W but it’s a fully-analog new pedal never before in the Boss pedal lineup.
Taking some lessons learned from the TB-2W collaboration with Sola Sound in London in 2020, which captured the classic Tonebender sound, Boss has gone a step further combining lessons learned from that project while tackling the legendary Fuzz Face tones with a few improvements in FZ-1W.
To begin with, it’s a silicon-based fuzz circuit instead of germanium. What this means is greater stability (no heat, humidity, or buffer issues that plague many vintage fuzzes) and it plays nice with wah pedals before it. Silicon chips are easier to source and more consistent from pedal to pedal as well, so you can be sure no matter what FZ1W you buy, it will very likely be exactly the same as the next. Further, they haven’t abandoned the famous Boss Waza buffer altogether. It’s included, so no need to worry about any high-end signal degradation further down your pedal chain.
They’ve also thoughtfully included a vintage/modern switch which makes it a lot easier to tailor your fuzz tone to your particular preference, amp, and other pedals in your chain. The vintage is darker and more “classic” as you might expect and the modern is more open and a tad more aggressive. I found both to be excellent and very useful in many applications. If you have a darker rig, you might like the modern setting more but conversely, if you play a very open-sounding amp the vintage might be just the ticket.
Unlike many fuzzes you may be familiar with, the tone control is extremely powerful and useful and has far more range than expected for such a seemingly simple pedal. In fact, many classic, vintage fuzzes didn’t even have tone knobs.
The Boss FZ-1W tone ranges from dark and menacing to lo-fi and spitty at full clockwise and it’s actually a super cool sound full-on and not a gimmick by any stretch. The tone knob behaves similarly to a tilt EQ for the most part but is beautifully tuned for most guitar-based applications. The level control is also very interactive with the tone knob which is quite unexpected in this design but a very welcome surprise. To me, it sounds like you’re not just pushing the amp but actually pushing the fuzz circuit itself and it gives this pedal tremendous range beyond its classy, stately veneer.
Like all Boss pedals, it’s built like a tank to last and has the patented hidden battery compartment under the footbed for battery-only operation, if you wish, but sounds great with 9v power from my pedalboard power supply as well. It’s a great all-rounder and if you only have room for one fuzz, this could be it.