Compared to some other popular fuzz pedals, ZVex Fuzz Factory is neither old nor was it used by some of the super famous guitar players like Big Muff Pi. This pedal earned all of its impressive reputation purely because it offered the type of performance everyone needed, but no one could be bothered to deliver.
Back in the '90s, every manufacturer was more or less jumping on the distortion train. New high gain dist pedals were popping left and right, which opened up a perfect gap for ZVex to squeeze in an old school fuzz box with a lot of potential. This is exactly what happened.
The fact that there is nothing conventional about this pedal is obvious as soon as you lay your eyes on it. It's a rectangular box that goes against the standard design of effects pedals in almost every way imaginable. The case enclosure that houses the electronics is made for heavy duty use, which is contrasted by its lively graphics. Speaking of which, the original models were mostly hand painted.
The core of ZVex Fuzz Factory are two germanium transistors. Bear in mind that germanium was all but completely dropped in favor of silicone, especially in those days. Just now are we seeing builders go back to this somewhat rare material. There are five knobs on this pedal, which we are just about to talk about.
Each of the five knobs comes with a pretty vague title written underneath, aside from Volume. You have Gate and Compression knobs which both adjust the transistor bias. Then there is Drive, which controls the level of input, and stability. This last knob regulates the supply voltage to the circuit. If this sounds complicated, you are not too far from the truth.
Adjusting each knob will noticeably change the tone of the pedal, but it will also impact the way adjustments made on other knobs are going to change the sound. Once you get a hang of it, things become much easier.
The range of tone you can get is so wide that it's hard to properly describe. Having four signal shaping controls adds several dimensions of variety that you can tap into at any time. With that said, the core of the tone is still that warm and rounded germanium fuzz. What you make of it is completely up to your imagination.
It's fair to say that ZVex Fuzz Factory is the pedal that blasted ZVex to the level they are on right now, while it also spawned a whole array of similar models from this brand. Fuzz Factory didn't take long to become one of the most wanted fuzz pedals on the market – a reputation it holds to this day.
Whether or not it's a good choice for your first fuzz box is questionable, but those who have a developed taste in pure germanium fuzz will simply love this pedal. Finding a model that is as pure and as versatile as ZVex Fuzz Factory is anything but easy these days.