Nov 14, 2012
Following on from our review of the McPherson Rock Box Distortion, we were lucky enough to get a very special pedal from McPherson Music – the limited edition Solar Fuzz! It is indeed exactly what the name implies – a fuzz, which miraculously, runs on solar power!!! I don’t know about you guys, but that is a really cool concept to me. Powering pedals can be a chore, with the wrong sort of power supply resulting in annoying buzz or hum in the background of your precious boutique pedals… and you end up spending heaps of money on an isolated power supply, which is perhaps the unsexiest piece of guitar gear you could possibly purchase.
Enter the Solar Fuzz
With the Solar Fuzz, you have one less piece of the puzzle to worry about. Simply chuck it in the sun on a good day (and for the love of God remember to bring it in if it looks like it’s about to rain, or better yet, just put it by a window – I didn’t think of that at first, whoops) for a wee charge, and you’re good to go for a whopping 1500 hours of playing time!!
In keeping with the solar theme, the pedal itself is coloured a vibrant yellow, with a solar panel taking up half of the topside real estate. When I looked at the Rock Box Distortion, I mentioned that that McPherson fella enjoys sticky-outy control knobs… and that concept is taken all the way here! But here it’s a design decision – the solar panel takes up half the face of the pedal, and you need some space to put the footswitch without screwing up your settings.
Speaking of which, the settings on offer are nice and simple – Volume, Tone, and FUZZ.
Let’s see what McPherson say about the Solar Fuzz:
Due to the popularity of the Solar Fuzz™ prototype we have decided to produce a limited run of this pedal.
The McPherson Solar Fuzz™ is a sweet vintage Germanium voiced, silicon fuzz powered by the sun.
The rugged solar panel fixed to the face of the unit charges 2 power cells that store this free energy.
When the pedal is switched from charge mode to play mode (switch at rear of unit) the unit is turned on and the circuit starts to consume the the energy stored in the cells.
There is well over 1500 hours of playing time available from a 45-60 hour charge time, depending on sunlight intensity on the panel.
So… if you perform two 4 hour shows every week it will take just over 3.5 years before you will need to charge the unit again. As long as you remember to flick the rear switch to charge mode after every show (this effectively stops the circuit draining power from the cells)
The Fuzz itself is very versatile and can be achieve a wide range of sweet Vintage inspired Fuzz tones. While backing off the gain will yield a nice chunky overdrive/distortion.
The tone control is designed to tame only the high end frequencies, to smooth out the tone or give it some edge.
This is a unique Fuzz pedal that is utilizes renewable solar energy.
See that switch up there? That’s how the solar storage works – flip the switch to the down position and it’s in “charge”, and it also makes sure you’re not draining the batteries when it’s not in use. So you can actually leave it on your pedalboard without worrying that you’ll come back to a dead pedal – just make sure you flip the switch down. When it’s time to rock out, flip the switch UP and it’s all ready to go!
So… cards on the table. I’m not a huge user of fuzz, so take any of my opinions here with a grain of salt. I once had the EHX BIG MUFF PI WITH TONE WICKER… a really really long name but in a band situation it just failed to cut through at all, so I ended up ditching it. And while I do enjoy the extreme “just about to die and cutting out” sort of vibe of some fuzzes, it’s just not a tone that I aim for in my day to day playing.
On the other hand, the Solar Fuzz seems to cross over more into overdrive territory to me, which is probably why I like it!
My favourite thing about the Solar Fuzz is its extreme settings – pedal to the metal, Fuzz on FULL gives beautiful, singing “violin-on-steroids” tone, bristling with gain and low-mids.
Okay… so, my fuzz-noobishness is showing. I’m struggling to describe the tones from this pedal, so I think the best thing to do is let you have a listen to it for yourself. I’ve covered a few different tones from lower fuzz settings to the full on fuzz I was talking about before.
I used the trusty Line 6 DT25 on the Fender channel, miked up with the usual Audix i5, running into a Focusrite Scarlett interface.
First up, just so you can hear the clean, unaffected tone compared to kicking just a bit of fuzz in:
Then… we have to try some Stones, obviously. But as I said, it doesn’t feel as “buzzsaw” as you’d need for this song, it feels a little more like a mild overdrive. Can we get some Satisfaction?
Dialling in more fuzz brings out a sweetness in the focused mids which I really liked. It reminded me of an old Velvet Revolver song:
And continuing that concept, diming the hell out of the Fuzz control just put us straight into “high-gain violin” territories! This was easily my favourite sound from the Solar Fuzz. Sweet, rich, sustaining tones. Here are some random widdles that came with the tone, as well as me putting a huge reverb on to get a spaced out, ethereal violin tone. Loved it!
Just for good measure, I also got my drop D on, and did a fuzzed out sludgy riff that I wrote for one of my bands… pretty cool!
So there you have it. I may not be a certified Fuzz Fanatic (TM pending) but I can certainly appreciate that the Solar Fuzz is a very unique piece of kit. And you know what else? IT’S FREAKING SOLAR POWERED. That in itself is too awesome.
Thanks once again to McPherson Music for providing us with the review units! We hope to see more of their well-engineered, well-thought out pedals coming through in future.
So what’s in the pipeline for the future? Oh, nothing… just THIS beauty. Keep your eyes and ears peeled!
What do YOU think of the idea of a solar-powered pedal??