Great Eastern FX Co. Focus Fuzz review: The best of all possible fuzz worlds in a single box?
If it sometimes seems like the ‘Great’ in ‘Great Britain’ is starting to sound a bit sarcastic, just remember the UK’s unrivalled engineering heritage – not least in the prestigious field of fuzz boxes.
READ MORE: Rift Amplification Elysium review: proving that fuzz doesn’t have to be fuzzy
From the Tone Bender and Fuzz Face of the mid-1960s to the Lovetone Big Cheese – one of the first true classics of boutique pedal building – the Brits have been at the forefront of tone-mangling innovation. And now, hoping to add a new generation to that proud lineage, comes the Great Eastern FX Co. Focus Fuzz.
This is the third pedal from Great Eastern, the Cambridge-based operation run by David Greeves, a man who has somehow overcome his shameful past as a gear reviewer and gone on to make something of his life. And while the Small Speaker Overdrive and Design-A-Drive both offered ingenious new approaches to medium-gain crunch, this one’s all about the really scuzzy stuff.
So what’s the angle? Well, it’s all in that word ‘Focus’. Next to standard dials for fuzz gain and output level, a third knob lets you pick your spot anywhere on a line with warm, thick tones at one end and something tighter and more incisive at the other. Could this, then, be the perfect combo of fluffy Fuzz Face and spanky Tone Bender in one box?
According to the press release, it should actually be more than that. As well as full-on filth we’re promised nice lower-gain tones too, through both clean and crunchy amps, with none of the buffer issues that can make life complicated with a vintage fuzz.
This is a limited edition of just 250 units, and the reason for that lies in its blend of new silicon and NOS germanium transistors: the latter are an old Soviet type, sourced from Russia before the invasion of Ukraine, and apparently there aren’t many of them around.
Retro skirted knobs aside, from the top this pedal looks a lot like the two Great Eastern overdrives… but turn it over and you’ll notice the enclosure’s grey hammertone finish, a stylish tribute to the class of ’66. You might also notice that it’s surprisingly heavy.
So, does it sound like a Fuzz Face? Nope. Does it sound like a Tone Bender? Nah, not really. The Focus Fuzz is an altogether more modern-voiced pedal than we were expecting – and there’s nothing wrong with that.
If you’re after the kind of woolly, gurgling fuzz that’ll keep you warm when your boiler breaks down, you’d best stick to the old-school classics. This is a more crisp and disciplined kind of distortion, which might make it a more useful tool for the contemporary guitarist’s arsenal. The fact that it cleans up so nicely, almost to the point of sounding like a transparent overdrive when you set the fuzz to minimum, only adds to that impression.
It has to be said that, with somewhat unfortunate timing, there’s a degree of overlap here with the exquisite Rift Amplification Elysium, another thoroughly modern fuzz pedal that was only launched a few weeks ago. But while the Elysium is peerless in its own specific way, there’s a lot more gain to play with here – and above all, there’s the focus knob.
Set all the way left, it has a pleasing looseness to the low end, which gradually sharpens up into a more mids-focused tone as we crank it. The difference is subtle enough that it still feels like the same pedal, but not so slight that a toggle switch would have done: there are plenty of sweet spots to be found along the way.
There’s no need to have your favourite vintage-correct pedals melted down for scrap just yet, then – but it might well be time to make some room for the next generation of Great British fuzz.
DESCRIPTION Fuzz pedal, made in the UK
CONTROLS Fuzz, focus, level
FEATURES True bypass; powered by 9-volt mains supply only
DIMENSIONS 124 x 70 x 56mm
Like this? Try these
Rift Amplification Elysium £199
Silktone Fuzz £269
EarthQuaker Devices Hoof £219
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