Z.Vex Fuzz Factory

Fuzz Factory, top side.

The Fuzz Factory stands as being one of the most popular and influential stomp boxes to come from the boutique effects movement that started in the mid 90s’. The aesthetic, sound, and small footprint of all Z.Vex pedal are unmistakable for anything else.

I remember the first time I saw a Z. Vex pedal. It was either an Ooh Wah or a Seek Wah in a glass case at McMurry’s Music. I remember being a bit confused, I was young and didn’t have the knowledge of what boutique was. All those little knobs, in that small Hammond box. Was it even from this decade?

Fast forward a few years. I’m 18, working at Guitar Center. Being very naive but what I lacked in real sales skills I made up for my enthusiasm for electronics and guitars, which I had taken a real interest in. One of my coworkers, Chuck, was a gear snob like myself and one day I found out that before working at Guitar Center he was the floor manager at McMurry’s before the owner sold the store to some corporation. Like most people at Guitar Center, his passions kept him pretty broke and he took to selling some of his old Z.Vex pedals to pay off a credit card. Had I been a bit brighter, I could’ve gotten a good deal but they were still too weird for me. Thankfully, I came to my senses in time to snag his Fuzz Factory with the promise that I would never sell it unless I was selling it back to him.

Fuzz Factory, bottom side

All Fuzz Factories are known for being sensitive, to both the settings of the knobs and temperature (they can take on different characteristics under stage lights). This is because of the germanium transistors. The most sought after early Fuzz Factories have what have been called “Spam can” transistors, which were a limited run around 1997 or so. Mine is from 1998, using a particular kind of NOS transistors that are wilder than current production, but not as hairy as the Spam Fuzz Factories. My example has a breadboard instead of printed circuit. Z.Vex has moved some of his production to Asia with final assembly here in the US. I’ve played some of his newer pedals and I can’t say they resonate with me like his earlier designs.

The boutique effects market has swelled up to rival the mainstream output from Boss, Line 6, and Digitech and the Fuzz Factory still retains a following, even if it has lost some of its uniqueness. Most boutique brands offer the same true bypass retreads of classic pedals but makers like Catalinbread, Fulltone (who came from the original boom but didn’t really hit paydirt until they released the OCD) and Skreddy have carried the flag originally held by Z.Vex and Prescription Electronics, helping musicians create new textures and tone. I’ve gone through a lot of unique and classic gear and I can with hesitation that my Fuzz Factory is one I’ll never let go.

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