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Discussion Starter #1
Other than the Rat and the Muff circuit, wich pedals sit right on the line between Distortion and Fuzz?
 

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Boss HM-2.
Way Huge Conquistador
Mountainking Electronics Megalith
Greenhouse Effects Sludge Hammer
Wampler Velvet Fuzz
Black Arts Destroyer
DOD Boneshaker
 

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ANY of them. The difference is pretty much how close to some hard-clipping threshold the internal gain structure of a pedal makes the signal. Nominal fuzzes simply have the internal gain and clipping threshold to achieve that on their own. Stick a booster of any type ahead of any overdive and you can turn it into a fuzz. Keep in mind that gain is always multiplicative. The max gain of a Tube Screamer is 118x. If I boost the signal 10x, then what hits the Tube Screamer's clipping diodes at max gain is now well over 1000x what it started out as.

Now, whether the toneshaping properties of that combo nails a sound one is after is a whole other thing.

I like to distinguish overdrive, distortion, and fuzz on the basis of how long the signal remains above the clipping threshold. Keep in mind that guitar strings lose energy and especially harmonic energy very soon after pick attack. So not only do they tend to fall below clipping threshold very soon, but also lose the harmonic content that we associate with distortion (which is, technically, harmonic content added to the original signal). What we call overdrives increase the initial harmonic content (as well as rearrange which harmonics stick out more or are dialed back), but allow the string to simmer down soon after picking. What we call fuzz is something where the string remains well above whatever the clipping threshold is set at for almost as long as it is vibrating. That can be achieved by moving the threshold lower, raising the signal level up to meet the threshold, or both.
 

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I like to distinguish overdrive, distortion, and fuzz on the basis of how long the signal remains above the clipping threshold. Keep in mind that guitar strings lose energy and especially harmonic energy very soon after pick attack. So not only do they tend to fall below clipping threshold very soon, but also lose the harmonic content that we associate with distortion (which is, technically, harmonic content added to the original signal). What we call overdrives increase the initial harmonic content (as well as rearrange which harmonics stick out more or are dialed back), but allow the string to simmer down soon after picking. What we call fuzz is something where the string remains well above whatever the clipping threshold is set at for almost as long as it is vibrating. That can be achieved by moving the threshold lower, raising the signal level up to meet the threshold, or both.
To translate for everyone else - low gain vs high gain vs even higher gain.

I agree that is a part of it (certainly at the technical level) but from a tone perspective, OD was light dirt. Beefs up the signal with some nice even order harmonicsand gets chuggy. Fuzz is loose and hairy; more lo fi with more odd order harmonics and can get out of control or splattery at high settings. Distortion is also high gain, but tighter and more focused.

@Ti-Ron : I was trying out fuzzes at Cask the other weekend. Looking for something not too loose for bass use. Tried a lot (they had no Rat and I've never liked Muffs - those sound great when other people use them but not when I do); Tonebender copies w mods, various boutique stuff. Good old Boss OD sounded the best until I tried this guy: Shigeharu - Caroline Guitar Company

If it wasn't for the price I woulda bought it then and there. As is I wanna try it with my rig and possibly watch a few more vids first. They have another fuzz, but I found it too crazy for bass.
 

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Red Llama for sure. 'Rounder' sounding than a Muff which is sorta jaggedy, rounder too than a Rat which is sharper.
 

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from a tone perspective, OD was light dirt. Beefs up the signal with some nice even order harmonics and gets chuggy.
Most OD's create almost 100% odd harmonics.

Fuzz is loose and hairy; more lo fi with more odd order harmonics and can get out of control or splattery at high settings. Distortion is also high gain, but tighter and more focused.
Most fuzzes create odd + even order harmonics.

Distortion is also high gain, but tighter and more focused.
Distortions feature high gain with odd harmonics only, and usually some more aggressive tone filtering.
 

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Empress, fuzzrocious. They gotcha covered.
 

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Anything to add re symmetrical / asymmetrical clipping?
Only that it is oversold. Remember that what gets produced/marketed as asymmetrical is based on diodes, and diodes have fixed, rather than relative, forward voltages. So if I push an asymmetrical clipping circuit hard enough, I get a square wave for both half-cycles, with one a slightly higher amplitude than the other.

In many instances, what gets touted as having asymmetrical clipping is really benefiting mostly from having the higher clipping threshold implemented to achieve asymmetry. Take the case of comparisons between the SD-1 (asymmetrical; 2+1 diode complement) and TS-9 (symmetrical; 1+1 diode complement). The TS-9 has a lower clipping threshold, that is also symmetrical. The Timmy goes one better and uses symmetrical clipping, but uses a 2+2 diode complement to raise the clipping threshold (and perceived dynamics) even higher. So the difference in tone and feel is less a product of symmetry/asymmetry than of the clipping threshold.

Personally, I will use asymmetry in some builds; but really more to strike a balance between dynamics and output level, than for reasons of tone. A dozen years back, I sold a TS clone to MOnkeyjunk's Tony D that I had modded by inserting a 10k pot in series with one of the clipping diodes, to be able to continuously vary how "symmetrical" the clipping was. The net effect was really to vary the response to picking dynamics and output level.

Sometimes, asymmetry can be achieved by deliberately biasing discrete transistors differently, such that they have more headroom for one half-cycle than for the other. But even though this can be varied continuously, rather than in big steps as with diodes and op-amps, the net effect is primarily on dynamics than tone.
 

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Most OD's create almost 100% odd harmonics.
Based on what I hear as well as the fact that ODs were designed to imitate tube amp overdrive which is mostly even order harmonics, I'm gonna be skeptical on that one. Like there's gotta be some even in the mix.

Most fuzzes create odd + even order harmonics.
Not in disagreement. The way I phrased it above implies in addition to even harmonics. I find fuzzes are a rather wide range of sounds so some may lean more one way than another.



Distortions feature high gain with odd harmonics only, and usually some more aggressive tone filtering.
Again, no disagreement there, though I would be hesitant to use the word 'only' and would defer to something more open ended like 'mostly' or 'predominantly,' there's different pedals and they do differ slightly.
 

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Most OD's create almost 100% odd harmonics.
Most fuzzes create odd + even order harmonics.
Distortions feature high gain with odd harmonics only, and usually some more aggressive tone filtering.
They all create all harmonics. Differences lie in the ratios of those harmonics, and how long the harmonics are evident in each picked note's "lifespan". Again, I can't emphasize enough that the string dies out and loses harmonic energy a few milliseconds/cycles after you pick/strum. Guitar strings are NOT oscillators with fixed amplitude and waveshapes. The distortion produced is a byproduct of the input fed to the circuit. If the input signal from the guitar is constant, then the impact of the pedal is more constant.

Case in point: use of heavy compression before any sort of clipping device will produce more consistent overdrive tone. This is partly because the relationship between signal and clipping threshold is held fairly stable (i.e., clipping to the same degree), but also because traditional compressors have a tendency to rob the signal of brightness at pick attack, yielding an output to the clipping pedal that varies much less in its harmonic content over time (i.e., clipping a different signal as time goes on). Most of the harmonic content of a picked string occurs within the first 10-20msec, and then declines rapidly (much faster for wooden floating bridges). If a compressor steals/erodes that initial harmonic content, then the first 50-100msec has pretty much the same harmonic content as the next 300msec, making any overdrive sound the same as you hold a note.
 

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I picked up a Boosted Fuzz at Sonore Boosted Fuzz (I was looking for a "different" fuzz and they had show price).
I haven't really spent much time with it yet but I was able to quickly dial in some tones I liked.
The page has a sample video.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Woah, I hadn't expected a technical show on this one! ;)

Thanks for all the great inputs, guyz, keep 'em coming!

And now, I need Wikipedia and a dictionary to decrypt all those replies!
 

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Based on what I hear as well as the fact that ODs were designed to imitate tube amp overdrive which is mostly even order harmonics, I'm gonna be skeptical on that one. Like there's gotta be some even in the mix.
Believe it or not, if the waveform is clipped identically on the positive & negative swings (e.g., complimentary clipping diodes with no overdriven transistors / op amps in the mix) it's pretty much zero even harmonics.
Tube circuits overdriven (esp vintage designs) do all kinds of nasty delicious asymmetrical things to the waveform = more (but never mostly) even harmonics.
Predominant harmonics are odd in all three cases - OD, Fuzz & Distortion pedals - as well as overdriven tubes.
As for a clean tube amp, that may have predominantly even harmonic distortion, that's the myth but I dunno for sure!


Again, no disagreement there, though I would be hesitant to use the word 'only' and would defer to something more open ended like 'mostly' or 'predominantly,' there's different pedals and they do differ slightly.
Yup. Agreed, that's what I should have written.
Distortion pedal designs (vs fuzz) generally don't mess with the waveform symmetry, so often produce less even harmonic content.

Even harmonic content is tied to asymmetry of any sort - in amplitude, rise time, filtering etc.
So I find even harmonic content doesn't have one signature sound.
 

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Discussion Starter #19
Correct me if I'm wrong but all that geeky stuff is not part of my skills set! ;)
Is that mean that any fuzz can be tweaked to be a distortion and vice versa?
 

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Diamond Fireburst
Keeley Fuzzhead
Keeler Push (or is it Pull?) on certain settings.
Aural Dream Purely Fuzz (new $35 from Amazon)
I would maybe even put the ibanez 850 in the mix. It seems to straddle fuzz/OD/dist.
 
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