The first time I went window-shopping for guitars in Tokyo, the Fuzz Breaker jumped out and kicked me in the face. Back in ’98, vintage reissues and handmade clones were still new and novel, especially in Japan where it usually takes 5-10 years for Western trends to be accepted. Builders like Sobbat and Boot-Leg were the first over here.
Sobbat still makes silicon, germanium and octave Fuzz Breakers, but for a measly ¥6000+shipping, I won a bid for one the very first germanium fuzzes. There is no AC jack, no LED and no Bias control. It’s so old-school that the input/output jacks are reversed from the usual right to left, like the Rotosound fuzz reissue. So the first time I plugged in, I thought it was broken, but it was a case of operator error.
The Fuzz Breaker has a softer, warmer sound you’d expect from a germanium fuzz, with a slower attack and grainer texture. What’s really special about it is how perfectly it cleans up the guitar’s volume knob.
The crystal clean tones I get this way are outstanding, but this is not unique to germanium fuzzes. Prior to this I had a Hartman Silicon Fuzz and Fulltone ’70 BC109 which both cleaned up nice, but not like this. However, it can get too bright, and the guitar’s tone control doesn’t have much affect with fuzzes, so there is also has a L/H switch, which seems to roll off the high-end. I definitely preferred the sound with switch set to “H.”
Another pleasant surprise was that the Fuzz Breaker seems ot have a bit more output than other fuzz pedals, like my Seymour Duncan Tweak fuzz. I A/B’d these pedals, and they actually sound very similar. I’ve read somewhere that the Tweak Fuzz was designed so sound like a germanium fuzz, and it certainly sounds less brittle than those other silicon fuzz pedals I’ve tried. What this tells me that a fuzz is more than the sum of its parts. One of my favorite fuzz tones is my Field Effects Manifold Drive which is actually an overdrive using JFETs.
I can’t really say that other germanium fuzzes I’ve played with before the Sobbat FB-1R like the Fulltone ’69 and Rotosound fuzz reissue were any better or worse, only that the Fuzz Breaker is smaller and cheaper. Based on my experiences with about a half-dozen fuzz pedals overall, I can’t hear any mojo in germanium fuzzes. However I do tend to find mojo in cheaper pedals like the Tweak Fuzz, Nobels ODR-1, Guyatone WR-2 and Sobbat FB-1R.