Fuzz often times gets left in the wake of overdrive and lower gain distortion pedals in the world of Church music. Much of today’s popular worship songs don’t have spots where the effect can be showcased, and if they do have spots where fuzz can be used, many of the tones can somewhat be faked with multiple overdrive and distortion effects.
I am a big fan of having a fuzz pedal on my board though. While it get’s used sparingly I have found a few great applications for it which I will explain a bit later in this article. First I want to talk about Cusack Music a bit.
You have heard me say it once, you have heard me say it 100 times. The Screamer is “THE BEST” tubescreamer type pedal out there. It has been for years now in my opinion. But this company is not a one hit wonder. If you look around the Worship music scene you will find their Tap-A-Whirl Tremolo (James Duke & Jeffrey Kunde), Tap-A-Delay (Dylan Thomas of Hillsong United) and Screamer Fuzz (Nigel Hendroff of Hillsong Church).
Nigel has had the smaller Scruzz, which is the looper based Screamer Fuzz, pedal on his board for probably going on a decade now. While he doesn’t use it regularly, it always stays on his board.
Back a few years ago I added the Screamer Fuzz to my board and it has remained there until the release of Cusack’s Germanium Screamer Fuzz. Here is my take on the pedal.
Cosmetics & Controls
The really cool thing about Cusack is that this company marches to the beat of their own drum. They are not just copying what someone else has done. Their pedals have always been bright, colorful and reminiscent of a 70’s VW Bus in design. It’s one of those things that you either love or hate. I have always loved them.
Over the past 3-4 years the company has toned down the enclosure cases and developed a more streamlined modern approach to cosmetics. The Screamer Fuzz Germanium carries all of these new cosmetics but gives nod to the colorful past of Cusack.
The matte black sparkle enclosure has a somewhat space galaxy look to it, while the white lettering and purple accents really pop. With a nod to the periodic table of elements for the Silicon and Germanium clipping diodes the mini toggle switch is conveniently located in between the level and drive knobs. Let’s get to those knobs.
The aluminum machined knobs are extremely well designed. The arrow pointer that is synonymous with the Cusack brand is bold and out there without being over bearing. The pointer also acts as the indicator for the level of each setting. The balance of polished and brushed aluminum provides just the right amount of contrast. I am told that these knobs were expensive to make and will only be around for a limited time.
The other cosmetic piece that is different from other Cusack pedals is the brushed aluminum trim around the LED. This gives the pedal a modern “high-end” look, a lot like a high end analog mixing console.
The control layout is slightly different than the original Screamer fuzz with Level and Drive controls atop the Fuzz and new Tone control. The other difference is the mini 3 way toggle which allows you to switch between the standard Silicon & LED clipping sections or the new Germanium clipping option.
Some of you might be wondering why there is a Drive and Fuzz control. Don’t they do the same thing. The answer is no. These two knobs are why I love the Screamer Fuzz. On a normal Fuzz pedal you have a preset amount of wooly, compressed, almost muddy tone. That is great for most genres but for the guys that prefer more clarity in their fuzz tones it is kind of a pain.
The Screamer Fuzz allows you to back off the fuzz and almost get into overdrive land without loosing the amount of gain. As you pull up the fuzz knob to add in the wooly fuzz tones, you can back off the Drive to lower the amount of overall gain making this pedal extremely useful in Worship settings.
Germanium Clipping: To be honest, I am probably not a good fit to review this pedal because the Germanium resistor clipping is not really my cup of tea. The Germanium resistor in general has a splatty characteristic and it muddy’s up my guitar signal too much in a huge band setting. That being said, because of the separate drive and fuzz controls I am able to dial in just the right amount of that splatty tone without being too over the top. I have found that this setting works very great for heavy overdriven ambient drone tones. I don’t use it often but it is a really cool sound to use sometimes. I pair it with very wet reverb and some tremolo for a really cool ambient drone/swell sound.
Silicone Clipping: This is the standard fuzz sound that many people are used to. It is consistent, with tons of compression and sustain. It has lower output and less articulate than the LED clipping. I have really enjoyed using this setting on songs like Already Won by Elevation where I need a really dirty, almost synth sounding fuzz.
LED Clipping: This is my favorite setting and what I use the most. Probably because it lends itself to more distortion and overdrive territory. The LED clipping setting has by far the most headroom and output. It has the lowest amount of gain on tap and is extremely articulate and clear. I have found that I roll the fuzz knob off and crank the drive knob to get some mean lead tones without loosing definition or sounding to Hendrix.
Cusack has been one of my favorite pedal manufacturers for quite sometime. They are stellar dudes with really original circuits. The Screamer Fuzz Germanium is an extremely limited 51 piece run so if you have the chance to grab one be sure to do so. They recently ran another run of 35 pieces that are in a polished clear coated bare aluminum enclosure that also looks killer.
If you don’t have the opportunity to pick up one of these limited runs, I highly recommend picking up the standard Screamer Fuzz just to add some dimension and options to your drive section.