I reviewed and demoed version 1 of the Buffalo FX Germanium Fuzz last year and, as you might recall, it was a killer pedal.
Version 2 is now available, the most noticeable improvements reside in the addition of two extra knobs, besides the basic Level and Fuzz. There is now a bias and a pre-gain setting. On a Germanium Fuzz, the bias usually allows to compensate for temperature differences. As to the pre-gain, I imagine it will allow for more “tonal” possibilities. As always with Buffalo FX, high build quality and awesome tone are to be expected.
You can order yours here for Euro 150 plus shipping.
TC Electronic has done it again! Last year, they brought to the world the concept of “Toneprints”: pedals that could be “reconfigured” to sound like other pedals by uploading new profiles from your computer. Then they improved on the system by allowing musicians to upload toneprints directly from their phone to their pedals through their guitar pickups.
I have reviewed and demoed the Flashback Delay and like a lot of other guys (and girls), it got me thinking about how this pedal could be even better. It seems TC Electronic has been thinking about it too and the result is the Flashback X4 which is like a Flashback Delay on steroids. It has absolutely killer tones and is packed with control options: 4 footswitches, MIDI input and thru to integrate into complex systems and expression pedal input to control several parameters.
It also comes with a lot of different delay modes and a few are new compared to the original Flashback: the 2290 + Modulation mode justifies the price of the pedal in itself, it’s properly amazing. There is also a Roland Space Echo simulation as well as a tube delay simulation, and others that I will list later. As always, I have prepared a video demo and without further ado, here it is:
Presets and 4 Toneprints
The Flashback X4 is fairly big, kind of like 4 Flashback delays put together. It comes with its own power supply but can also be powered by a regular BOSS style adapter. The Gator 8 supply that comes with my pedal board could power it without issues.
The X4 has got 5 big rotary knobs: Delay, Level, Feedback, Mode and Looper level. The first three are the usual suspects found in a delay pedal. The second one selects the mode while the last one is dedicated to the looper mode. A mini switch toggles between delay and looper mode. Before you ask, the delay can stay on when you switch to looper mode, and that’s really cool. Another toggle switch allows for straight repetitions, 8th or dotted eighth (A.K.A. the U2 delay). It’s got mono and stereo inputs and outputs but can operate in mono of course.
Foot switches and Control Options
The 4 foot switches have different functions whether the X4 is in delay mode or looper mode:
In delay mode the first three are for switching between different presets. To memorize the current delay settings into one of the three presets, just hold a footswitch down for a few seconds. Very handy to keep three of your favorite delay settings. The fourth switch is a Tap Tempo switch which will set the delay time according to how fast you tap on it.
In Looper mode, the first footswitch activates/deactivates the recording, the second one plays/pauses the current loop, the third one plays the current loop once and the fourth one acts as an undo/redo pedal for the last recording
Using the expression pedal input, you can control the delay time, feedback level or delay level. There is also a MIDI in and a MIDI thru, handy for tempo synchronization with other MIDI devices (or a sequencer) as well as preset selection.
Because TC is full of surprises, you will find two small switches (aka “dip” switches) if you remove the back-plate of the X4. You can use those to go from “Tru Bypass” to “Buffered Bypass” or even have no dry signal at all.
The Flashback X4 offers the following delay modes, each with its own “tone” profile:
Tape: a tape delay effect, really well done, you can hear the flutter of the tape
Tube: a tube based echo tone
Space: a Roland Space Echo simulation, ah reminds me of the 80s!
Analog: an analog delay simulation where repetitions are distinctively darker than the direct signal
Analog + modulation: same as the previous one but enhanced by some chorus-y modulation
Reverse: the classic “Hendrix” effect where the delayed signal is played backwards. It might sound like a gimmick but it is actually quite effective to get a thick tone (see my video demo above)
Dynamic: in this mode, the delay is only heard when you stop playing. The idea is that if you play a fast lick, you might not want the delay to interfere. It might seems strange but it can be really useful.
2290: no need to present what was TC’s flagship rack delay unit used by The Edge or Robben Ford. It’s very clean and digital (but in a good way)
2290 + mod: same as the previous one but enhanced by a gorgeous chorus, I absolutely love this mode
Slap: a mode dedicated to Slap Echos (or Slapback delays). It’s a short delay loved by country guitarists but also by early rock guitarists to fatten their tone. It’s still effective today and I love this mode too
Lofi: it’s a mode where the repetitions are really dirty if this is your kind of thing.
4 toneprints: there are four toneprint settings for which you can download “profiles” through your phone or from the TC Electronic Website.
The looper mode is highly effective thanks to the four footswitches. Press the left one and recording begins, press again and what you have just recorded will start looping. You can press again (and again) on “record” to layer recordings. It you don’t like your last recording, just press the fourth footswitch in order to undo it.
The second switch will stop the loop and let it resume whereas the third switch will play the loop just once (quite handy to do a nice ending for instance).
All about tone
What struck me when I plugged the X4 is the sound quality: it is outstanding. Not just “clean digital” in a cold way but really hi-fi in a good way. It totally respects the tone of your guitar and your amp, adding a beautiful effect to it. To me, the control capabilities, the presets or the four footswitches are really cool bonuses but really, the tones coming out of this delay are enough to justify owning it. DId I mention I could play with the 2290+Mod for ever?
So what’s next for TC Electronic? I don’t know but it sure will be exciting!
The Buffalo FX Germanium Fuzz has made me love fuzz pedals again. Now, hold on to your hats: a well informed source within Buffalo FX is telling that a new killer pedal is in preparation.
The Pinfire is inspired by the legendary Dallas Rangemaster, a germanium treble booster used by Eric Clapton on the Beano album (although there is some controversy about it) and Ritchie Blackmore. Where the original Rangemaster had only one volume/boost control, the Pinfire has four settings:
The new type enclosure has a battery draw. In Steve’s own word: it “will be very high spec, possibly higher than about 90% of whats available”.
A few weeks ago, I received an email from Steve from Buffalo FX, an Englishman living in France, asking if I would review one of his hand built boutique Germanium Fuzz pedals.
I thought why not but did not expect much of it, as I found that all the Fuzz pedals I had tried over the years lacked clarity and sounded like a buzz saw. Well, that all changed when I plugged Steve’s creation. I could not believe my ears, it is fat, has lots of clarity, cleans up well with the volume control and can sound like Hendrix or a lot more modern when boosted by another gain pedal. In one word, I was hooked!
As always, I have recorded two videos (see the end of the post): one with my trusty Custom Shop Fender Strat and one with my Gibson SG 61 reissue.
I will also kill two birds with one stone with this review and give a few Fuzz related tricks. But first things first, let’s have a closer look at the Buffalo FX Germanium Fuzz.
Hand Built Quality
The Buffalo FX Germanium Fuzz is built to a very high standard. It is housed in a white metal case and sports a drive knob and a level knob. In the tradition of Fuzz pedals, there’s no EQ but it is not much of a problem. I have recorded the videos below using a fairly bright Fender amp and the pedal did not sound harsh at all. Note that Steve offers a 4 knob version with more tonal options.
There are two welcome additions that traditional vintage Fuzz pedals usually lack: a super bright blue led and a Boss style 9v power input in case you don’t want to use a battery. Beware though, you cannot use the same power supply to power the Germanium Fuzz as well as other pedals due to some dark inverted polarity juju, not Steve’s fault, just the way Fuzz pedals are designed. This means you’ll need a dedicated power supply. Once again, you can also use a good old 9v battery. Talking of which, when I put a battery in, I could admire Steve’s handiwork: the inside it built to the same quality standard as the outside.
Where to place a Fuzz pedal in your signal chain
A Fuzz pedal will sit at the beginning of your chain, usually before space effects such as delays and reverbs. It blends well with either a clean or a distorted amp and will play happily with other overdrive or distortion effects. The order varies here, I personally preferred putting my Tube Screamer overdrive before the Buffalo FX Germanium Fuzz to give it a kick but it can work well to put your overdrive pedal after the Fuzz. It’s hard to determine how two gain pedals will interact so experimenting is the key! Same goes for Fuzz and wah, I like my wah before my Fuzz, some people prefer it the other way.
I have recorded my demo using a clean amp to demonstrate the intrinsic qualities of the pedal, but using a Fuzz to boost a good old cranked Marshall amp is obviously a classic recipe used by the likes of Hendrix or Eric Johnson.
I show two Fuzz tricks in the videos:
The first thing is about rolling off the volume to clean up the tone, something that a lot of early rock players had to do before the invention of multi channel amps. They basically had a fuzzed out saturated tone and got a clean tone back by rolling off their volume. The great thing about it is that the volume knob of your guitar will allow you to go from almost clean to crunch to all out Fuzzed out, very effective to vary your tone on the fly. This is especially efficient with a Stratocaster.
The second trick is about using your tone control, something that is also forgotten in an era of multi-effects and modellers. Rolling off the tone gives a less agressive, fatter tone. Eric Clapton used this a lot in the Cream era for instance. It is very efficient with a good Fuzz pedal like the Bufflo FX Germanium Fuzz.
Without further ado, here is a demo of the Buffalo FX Germanium Fuzz using my trusty Stratocaster fitted with Kinman pickups. The amp used is a 1974 Fender Champ. There is a Boss RV-3 Reverb in “Room” mode placed just before the amp. About half way through the demo, I switch a TC Electronic Flashback Delay on, set in Analog mode. Finally I use an Analogman modded TS9 Tube Screamer placed before the Fuzz, to get an “over the top” tone:
And now, the same effect chain, with a Gibson SG 61 Reissue, note the difference with the Stratocaster video. The caracter of each guitar totally comes through the pedal.
Other Buffalo FX Models
The model reviewed here is the “Two Button” Germanium Fuzz. Buffalo FX has a 4 button models, with more settings. There are also Silicon based Fuzz pedals in the line up (see this post about the difference between Silicon and Germanium Fuzz pedals). Don’t hesite to pay Buffalo FX a visit for more info about those models, and about ordering yours of course.