ZVex Fuzz Factory (Vexter series) Review

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Jackie
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ZVex Fuzz Factory (Vexter series) Review

Post by Jackie » Sat Apr 28, 2012 5:31 pm

My friend bought one of these a while ago and she was excited about it, so I asked her if I could borrow it during the holidays to give it a thorough test... so here I am writing this, my ears bleeding and sh!t :mrgreen:

I tested it with my Gibson SG '61 Reissue and my Squier Classic Vibe 50s tele through my JVM410H pumping 2x12 G12T-75s on Crunch Green and Clean Green. Sorry I couldn't try it through my Mesa but it's at the rehearsal space.

THE TONE:
Let me start by saying this is the most unusual, freaky, over-the-top piece of gear I have ever heard.

I started off with the settings on the site, and just playing around with those. FAT, FAT, and FAT fuzzy madness ("fuzzy" is a good thing in this context), with enough articulation even with dark pickups like the 57 Classics. The Telecaster cleaned it up nicely and I was surprised at how the pedal responded to different guitars. Turning the volume down on the "Radio fuzz" setting immediately reveals why the example is so aptly named (got 2 interfering radio stations through my amp xD)

Today, I plugged in my Telecaster and ignored the online settings, trying to get my own fat, yet still clear fuzz. While it's a fun pedal to tweak, it might be a nightmare - why? Because the pedal squeals and screams if you set it "wrong". This feedback can be used musically and for show to great extent though. If that's not your thing though, you just have to fiddle the knobs around to shut the pedal up one way or another (not hard to do), which reveals the "noiseless" range of the knobs, then tweaking is fairly simple and dialling in either a bright and clear or really saturated, compressed fat fuzz isn't that hard.

So in short, it can be subtle, crunching and bright, it can be saturated, screaming and fuzzy, it can feedback and make noises you've never imagined... it's a very versatile pedal that forces you to be creative with it, and it pays off.

I should mention that it can be very trebly on the clean channel if set wrong. I preferred Crunch Green with Gain on noon, much warmer. Also, the pedal is LOUD as fuk, so unity gain is achieved with the pedal somewhere on 9 o'clock.

THE FEATURES:
ZVEX Effects wrote:This is a five-knob fuzz using two new old-stock sixties germanium transistors. The circuit is not modeled after any classic fuzz design, but should have been around when Leary was still lucid.
Although the five knobs are named for the parameters over which they seem to have the most control, please don't hold me to it. They are controls for various operating levels and biases, and basically shape you a personalized fuzz.
Lets get this out of the way first - on/off LED, sturdy chassis and switch, 9V DC adapter input and battery option, bolted pots. Built like a tank. Apparently it's true bypass too, but I didn't find any definitive info.

This isn't your average idiot-proof two-knob fuzz. It has 5 knobs, named Volume, Gate, Comp, Drive and Stab(ility), and the first controls output level, the second and third control the two NOS germanium transistors' bias, the Drive knob is your standard input level dist knob, and the Stability control is the operating voltage regulator. This means it's a different beast to tweak, but like I mentioned above, it's very versatile though it takes some time to get the hang of tweaking it.
Tweaking this is either fun or a nightmare, whichever you prefer. To me, it's fun :)

The only thing I don't understand is why it fuks up the entire system of guitar controls... usually you lose treble when you turn down the volume, right? Well, on a Hendrx-y tone I dialled it in was quite the opposite... it got very twangy and bright when I went from 10 or 9, maybe 8 to around 5 or less. Not to mention I couldn't get the wah to work with it normally, either it fed back and made wierd whammy-like noises or it didn't do much. But I think my inexperience with this pedal rather than a fault.

So, to sum it all up
LIKEY:
- AWESOME, oldschool fuzz tone
- versatile, very varied and wide unit
- tweaking is very unorthodox but rewarding
- weird feedback noises and intermodulations that can be used creatively
- did I mention it sounds fantastic?
- superb construction, very low battery consumption

NOT LIKEY SO MUCH:
- "incompatibility" with wah ? (still think that's my fault though)
- some might not like the feedbacky nature of the pedal
- not really cheap, even though the hand-painted ones are much more expensive

Recommend to: anyone looking for an unorthodox fuzz pedal that can sound great and offer you some creative weirdness on the side


It's hard to write an in-depth review of this thing, you just have to hear and tweak to believe. All I can say for certain is that if you have a fuzz tone in your head and don't mind spending some time with this thing, it's definitely in there. It's not for the faint of heart, but come on, do you buy a fuzz pedal if you're faint-hearted? :twisted:
GUITARS: heavily modded Epi Goth Explorer; Jackson KVMG Pro; Yamaha SG2000; Gibson SG '61 Reissue; Squier CV Tele
AMPS:Mesa/Boogie 2:90+TriAxis; Marshall JVM410H (modded); Marshall 1960A w/V30
FX:BOSS GT-6

Chris McKinley
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Re: ZVex Fuzz Factory (Vexter series) Review

Post by Chris McKinley » Sun Apr 29, 2012 10:42 am

Very cool review, Jackie, and fun to read. Keep it up. :lol:

I'm not a fan of fuzzes in general, and I'm also especially reticent to plop down boutique prices for something that even when it works right it kinda sounds like a toy and is essentially a one-song pony for my musical choices. Zack makes some great stuff, though, so I don't doubt that it does fuzz like fuzz ought to be done. If I were going to buy a ZVex, it would almost certainly be the Box of Rock for the tone and versatility, both in the fact that it can cover a huge variety of songs as well as take double-duty as a stand-alone distortion box or as a really great Marshally overdrive to help broaden the tonal palette of a Rectifier.

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SonicProvocateur
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Re: ZVex Fuzz Factory (Vexter series) Review

Post by SonicProvocateur » Fri Jun 01, 2012 10:09 am

They also make the fuzz factory where the stability knob is coupled to a copper theremin antennae. It's called the fuzz probe and seems much more stable and is equally wild!
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Jackie
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Re: ZVex Fuzz Factory (Vexter series) Review

Post by Jackie » Fri Jun 01, 2012 2:48 pm

Yeah I read about that... a theremin is crazy on it's own, now add one of these f*kers!!!

I returned it this Monday... miss it already, it's a wonderful piece of gear. :(
GUITARS: heavily modded Epi Goth Explorer; Jackson KVMG Pro; Yamaha SG2000; Gibson SG '61 Reissue; Squier CV Tele
AMPS:Mesa/Boogie 2:90+TriAxis; Marshall JVM410H (modded); Marshall 1960A w/V30
FX:BOSS GT-6

Ndwolf
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Re: ZVex Fuzz Factory (Vexter series) Review

Post by Ndwolf » Sun Jun 10, 2012 10:11 am

Good review. I heard this pedal was hard to get sound good in a mix by several employees at guitar center, of course I didn't play around with it too much but I was a little more partial to the Swollen Pickle and even the BIg Muff Pi Tone Wicker. I might have to go try it again. I like to play around with Stoner/Sludge Metal so I like having a dedicated fuzz distortion pedal.
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Jackie
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Re: ZVex Fuzz Factory (Vexter series) Review

Post by Jackie » Tue Dec 24, 2013 5:21 pm

To raise this thread from the dead a little, I had a friend make me a clone of this thing (using plans found on madbeanpedals), and I finally have one of my own. He also said that this pedal is very easy to build, so with all due respect to Mr. Vexter, making it is way more cost efficient than buying one. For some reason, the Drive knob on my clone works backwards (knob clockwise=less drive), but the rest works great.

After having a LOT of time to fiddle with this pedal, I have to say I still stand behind what I said, my opinion hasn't changed a bit. THE best fuzz pedal to get if you need one box for all your fuzz needs.
GUITARS: heavily modded Epi Goth Explorer; Jackson KVMG Pro; Yamaha SG2000; Gibson SG '61 Reissue; Squier CV Tele
AMPS:Mesa/Boogie 2:90+TriAxis; Marshall JVM410H (modded); Marshall 1960A w/V30
FX:BOSS GT-6

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