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Review: Keeley Electronics Black Glass British Fuzz

Keeley Electronics - Black Glass British Fuzz

Introduction:

Robert Keeley Electronics have been very well known within the guitarist and musician community for years now. Highly known for their excellent pedal mods and small core line of pedals. Recently Robert Keeley seemed intent on changing this. Don't fear, they're not finished doing mods and they haven't wiped out their core line of effects. Instead Keeley Electronics decided to add to their already excellent line, and add they did. Several new pedals and unique designs that could only come from such a mind as Mr. Keeley. Of course we have many of them here at Rogue Guitar Shop, but I'm here to discuss one in particular. Using an ultra rare OC81D germanium transistor, I bring you the Black Glass British Fuzz. I'm extremely partial to fuzz, as it's my favorite form of drive. So I was very interested in checking this one out.

A design based on the MKIII Tone Bender circuit around the previously mentioned OC81D transistor. Germanium transistors have long been coveted for their warmth, cleanup, and sort of “amp like” tendencies. Usually these perks come with the germanium transistor's dubious unreliability due to temperature change and the like. Keeley's goal was to make a germanium based fuzz effect that is versatile, low noise, and without having these unreliability issues. Considering this is a three knob fuzz pedal with no bias control, I was admittedly skeptical about these claims. Would Keeley be able to prove my skeptical nature wrong? Short answer: YES, long answer: Keep reading!

Controls/Features:

As stated, controls are very simple, providing a Volume, Tone, and Fuzz knob respectively. Reading the instructions before plugging it in, I couldn't help but notice they are very simple. Providing only three suggested settings, to me this is Keeley's way of saying, “experiment and find your own sounds!” I mean it's a three knob fuzz pedal, how complex could it be? Simplicity of controls can be very deceiving, this is a prime testament to that. After letting the tubes in my amp warm up, I plug it in with a single coil Strat style guitar. This is my usual favorite way to attack a fuzz, I find the low output pickups do well with the hard clipping presented. Turning my amp off standby, I start with the Volume around 1:00, the Tone and Fuzz set low around 9:00. I notice an immediate boost to my signal, providing an excellent fuzzy overdrive type sound. This thing obviously has more volume on tap than most fuzzes of it's nature. Not much in the way of noise yet, but obviously the Fuzz is set very low. Great sounds for blues abounds in this setting. 

Applications:

Being a fuzz pedal, Obviously I need more gain, so I turn the Fuzz control to around noon. While keeping the Tone around 9:00. The Black Glass fuzz is already hitting around highish gain territory, even at this setting. Producing a splatty, yet smooth fuzz tone. Sounds contradictory, I know, but this is exactly what happened! Sounds sort of like what I'm used to from a Tone Bender circuit, but this is before I turn up the Tone control. Upon turning it up a bit to around noon, I'm presented with a slightly more splatty and buzzy fuzz tone. This immediately makes me start jamming some In A Gadda Da Vida by Iron Butterfly, as this fits that sort of sound to a tee. The Tone control seems to control the general buzziness of the fuzz, as well the obvious treble attenuation. This is a very powerful Tone control indeed.

Cranking the Fuzz control to 3:00, this is where it gets really interesting, at least to a Fuzz Head (pun intended, referring to another Keeley fuzz pedal). Knocking the Tone control back to around 9:00, I am presented with a very full bodied yet splatty fuzz. Though the Tone control is set very low I am not without treble, it's just mildly attenuated. Being that I am dealing with a very saturated, splatty and viciously thick fuzz sound, three things took me by surprise. The clarity and string to string definition is off the charts. Ridiculously low noise, even with non-hum canceling single coils. The guitar volume control cleanup is right up there with the best Fuzz Face type circuits I've used. This cleanup is amazing considering the copious amounts of fuzz and saturation present. Even with all the fuzz pedals here at Rogue Guitar Shop, I've never heard anything quite like this. With the Fuzz control set so high, turning the Tone up beyond noon seems to provide an awesome sag to the signal. Making it possible to make psychedelically unique sounds with just changes in picking dynamics. 

Final verdict:

10/10

I don't like giving perfect scores, but this pedal has exceeded my expectations in every possible way. This is coming from a fuzz snob! If you're thinking of throwing down big bucks for one of those Tone Bender type fuzzes with a long waiting list, consider snatching this up with no waiting list while they remain! Rogue Guitar Shop is here to provide you with the best price and customer service in the business.

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