Zoom UF-01 Ultra Fuzz

Zoom UF-01 Ultra Fuzz

When thinking of Zoom effects, no doubt the first things that will come to mind are their multi-effect units - either rackmount or floor-based. It comes as a surprise to some people that they also produced a range of 100% analogue pedals. This range included the UF-01 Ultra Fuzz.

Many people these days consider the Ultra Fuzz to be a 'poor man's Zvex Fuzz Factory'. They do certainly have a lot in common but, if anything, the UF-01 has slightly more up its sleeve.

Whereas the Fuzz Factory is solely derived from a classic fuzz circuit, the Ultra Fuzz offers two different fuzz voicings and (with its 'Color' control) allows the user to blend between the two to create new tones and textures.

Fuzz Voicings:

Zoom refer to the two different fuzz voicings as 'tight' and 'boomy' but they are generally regarded as Fuzz Face and Big Muff Pi voicings.

They're not that authentic in my opinion, if that is indeed what they're supposed to be. Personally though, I prefer to judge the UF-01 in its own right.

A factory of fuzz?

Like the Fuzz Factory, the Ultra Fuzz is very tweakable - as you'd expect from a pedal with six controls - and is capable of some very extreme effects. A slight adjustment of the controls (particularly the Gate and Reso (resonance) controls) can take you from 'normal' fuzz tones, through gated effects, to harsh ripping sounds and velcro fuzz. And that's before you get into the realms of oscillations and glitches.

As is common with many other fuzz pedals, the UF-01 is very responsive to changes to your guitar's controls; adjusting the volume and/or tone controls on your guitar can 'tune' the resonance and feedback of the Ultra Fuzz. To make the most of this pedal-guitar interaction, the Ultra Fuzz needs to be connected directly to your guitar - i.e. it should be the first effect in your chain and should definitely not have any buffers in front of it.

The Ultra Fuzz, particularly when you take the two fuzz voicings into consideration, has a very wide gain range - from clean to high gain. It doesn't have as much gain on tap as a Big Muff, but it should have enough to satisfy most people.

The UF-01 is a great pedal for experimentalists. In combination with some other effects and with a little imagination, a wide range of tones can be produced; from distortion to aggressive fuzz and from searing, synth-like sounds to more textural noises and sound effects. In addition, it should also be able to keep all but the most ardent fuzz traditionalists happy.

While the Zoom name may have negative connotations in some circles, you should not let it put you off. Keep an open mind and take a chance - you may like it!

Other pedals in the series:

* * * Notes about the video * * *

Gear used:
  • Guitar - Epiphone Casino
  • Recording set-up - 1980s Roland Cube 20 amp (DI'd through a Palmer PDI-09), to Cubase 5 (via a MOTU audio interface) with no additional processing.

Omnifex 700D Distortion/Overdrive

Omnifex 700D
While the Omnifex 700D is billed as a distortion and/or overdrive, that doesn't really tell the whole story; nor does it present a very accurate picture. There's no need for me to delay in saying that the 700D is - more often than not - a nasty sounding effect.

The tones from this box are generally harsh, messy and aggressive, as opposed to being smooth and fluid; the overdrive could also - at times - be described as brittle. I know that isn't a very promising collection of words but please read on anyway.

Distortion or Overdrive?
Both? Or neither?

It sounds to me as though switching to the Overdrive mode merely removes the clipping diodes from the circuit; thereby reducing the level of distortion but raising the overall volume. A cursory glance inside seems to support this theory, although I could be wrong; there is a mass of wiring inside, which is bundled tightly together and I didn't have the patience to trace things out thoroughly. [EDIT: I've since found a schematic for the Electra 600D (See Related box) which supports this.]

On its own, the 'overdrive' (with the gain turned up) is aggressive, dry and brittle; it has a 'vintage' sound to it and the way it breaks up begs for you to really bash out some chords - the decay is messy so sustained notes and chords are less well served. The overdrive (with a clean amp) is not pretty - it is not a tubescreamer by any stretch of the imagination (which is how I've seen it described on ebay!) - but its tone and texture could have uses in a band/mix setting. However... if you think of the overdrive mode as an overdriver - like the Colorsound Overdriver for example - and use it to boost an already driven amp or another pedal, the 700D becomes much more powerful, flexible and usable. In this role, the Omnifex 700D really can perform well.

Controls and features:
  • Distortion/Overdrive toggle switch
  • Level
  • Depth - gain/distortion
  • Equalizer
  • Input jack
  • Two output jacks; 'Stereo' is a direct, dry output.
  • Check (status) LED

Flip the switch to 'Distortion' and the 700D greets you with a boost in gain/distortion and a change in overall tone. Whereas the overdrive mode is warmer (requiring the tone control to be turned up for definition), the distortion is brighter and verges on being a fuzz tone.

The tone control has a wide range, going from soft, muffled and mellow (when turned down) to abrasive, harsh and rasping (when turned up). Adjustments to the tone control can bring out and highlight certain overtones and, at times, I can almost hear a superimposed 'screech'.

The 700D can be very picky about the amp it's paired with - I prefer it with a darker voiced-amp - but, if you want a dirty boost, a harsh distortion or a lo-fi overdrive, it could fit the bill.
One quick mention re: the 700D's bypass... There is a very clearly audible effect bleed through (when the gain is turned up) which is very annoying and would make this pedal difficult to use in a live setting - unless you put it in a true bypass loop or use some other kind of switching system.

Should I stay or should I go?

The Omnifex 700D is one of those pedals that I don't always like, yet it has a certain quality and roughness that is sometimes desirable; sometimes a trashy guitar sound is exactly what is required.

Failing that, it could find its niche as a boost where it is capable of everything from adding focus and refinement to your nice overdriven tone, to twisting and mangling it into a wall of noise.

Pedal evaluations:

When evaluating a pedal, it is important to remember where, when and how you will be using it. Pedals that may sound great on their own (e.g. Electro-Harmonix Big Muff Pi) don't always sound good live or on a recording, whereas other pedals (e.g. tubescreamers and suchlike) that may sound nasal or thin on their own, are perfect when you need to cut through in a band/mix.

0:00-2:54 Distortion mode
2:44-6:42 Overdrive mode
6:43-end Overdrive mode as a boost (with Barber LTD Silver overdrive)