Pedal Review: Dunlop JHM1 Fuzz Face
Review by Ian Garrett
The Pedal: Dunlop JHM1 Fuzz Face
The Point: Fuzz Face replica
The Cost: $129.99
Find it at Pro Guitar Shop
If you’re a fan of Jimi Hendrix, you’re probably a fan of one of his main effects, the Fuzz Face. Similar to the original, the JHM1 keeps it simple with just a fuzz and volume control. But this version comes with some welcome modern updates, like an LED indicator, a 9v adapter, true bypass and a much smaller enclosure. The exterior is a limited edition finish done by legendary rock artist John Van Hamersveld.
While the early Dallas Arbiter fuzz face used a germanium NKT 275 transistor, the JHM1 features a silicon BC 108 transistor. Compared to germanium, silicon has a brighter tone and more gain, plus it is a more stable and predictable transistor. Some might say it has a harsher tone, but I think that is what makes it special – it has that almost ripping speaker sound, yet is still somehow musical in its own way. For a more in-depth background of this historical effect, I encourage you to read this column by Daniel Brooks: http://proguitarshop.com/andyscorner/a-history-of-the-fuzz-face1
How’s it Sound?
When I first plugged in this pedal, right off the bat I knew something was amiss. Gone was the natural sustain, and that beloved fuzz tone was replaced with a harsh, splatty tone - it just didn’t sound right at all. A quick look at the manual had no explanation of any internal trim pots, but I opened it up anyway and, sure enough, with a quick quarter turn of the lower trim pot (likely a bias control), the fuzz was back to sounding like a fuzz face: heavy, sustaining, loud, righteous.
Simple and to the Point
For me, there’s only one way to set up a fuzz face. Crank the fuzz control all the way (or back off just a tiny amount to reduce some unwanted noise), and adjust the volume control to taste. The trick is then to ride your guitar’s volume control, as one of the best features of a fuzz face is how quickly and easily it cleans up, especially with single coils. Turn down that volume control just a bit, and you’ll get some nice bluesy grit, and then with a quick turn all the way up, the fuzz kicks in like Hendrix screaming out for Mary.
If you’re after a fuzz pedal that offers a wide variety of tones, the JHM1 isn’t really it. It does one thing and one thing very well. Sure, backing off the fuzz control will give you different degrees of fuzz, more akin perhaps to an overdrive pedal, but I don’t find that tone as pleasing somehow. The fuzz face is more of an all or nothing approach for me. But experimenting to get your own tone is what it’s all about.
I have to wonder though, within the Dunlop stable the MXR Classic 108 Fuzz has a similar tone, plus it features a very useful buffer circuit when using it with other pedals, like a wah. It’s a slightly larger pedal, but the inputs are on the back so it doesn’t really take up any more room on your board. It’s nice to have options.
Overall I found the tone of the JHM1 quite satisfying, and I liked the smaller enclosure that is pedal- board friendly. It doesn’t break any new ground in terms of features—there is no tone or bias controls on the outside, just the basics here. But if your intention is to seek a Hendrix- like fuzz face tone, this one hits the spot, and at a good price.
5 – Tremendous product; among the very best
4 – Great value overall; exceeds expectations
3 – Definite contender, but look closely at the competition too
2 – Average at best; probably better choices exist
1 – Not ready for prime time