A lot of distortion and fuzz pedals that are aimed at guitarists will have a tight low end, achieved by using a low-pass filter that removes a lot of the low frequencies. If you’re a bassist, this can leave your tone thin and top-heavy.
A fuzz pedal that’s made with a bassist in mind will instead be designed to keep the bass full and punchy while adding distortion, letting you have both power and edge. Exactly which pedal is right for you depends a lot on your personal playing style, but whether you’re playing punk or funk, one of the four pedals below will give your sound that perfect fuzz. They’re the best bass fuzz pedals you can buy.
Zvex Woolly Mammoth
Zvex Woolly Mammoth pedals are more than massive bass fuzz effects units—they’re hand-painted works of art. You can sculpt your fuzz using the EQ, Pinch, or Wool knobs, letting you customize your sound as much as the company customizes its pedals. The thick fuzz from this pedal has made it a favorite of Muse bassist Chris Wolstenholme and can give your tone that same hard-driving distortion. The Pinch knob adjusts the waveform’s pulse width and is where you hear this pedal’s true versatility, going from smooth and creamy to reedy and brassy with the turn of a knob. The wool setting, meanwhile, is what makes this thing a mammoth, letting you choose how much “fur” you want on your notes.
Darkglass is a young effects company that’s become better-known for its bass guitar pedals but also has an impressive array of high-quality bass effects, including this Duality fuzz pedal. The blend control and low-pass filter give you a lot of ways to sculpt your low end and keep your sound punchy and tight even with the distortion, making it uniquely suited to addressing the issues bassists often face when looking for a good fuzz.
The duality dial is the real magic of this pedal. Turning it fully to the left gives you a gated sound that’s reminiscent of the maxed out setting on the Woolly Mammoth above; going the other way gives you a more high-gain fuzz with a tighter sound profile. The blend and filter knobs give you an almost endless variety of effects levels to match any style. Hands down, this is one of the best bass fuzz pedals.
The Fuzistor is an ideal option for the grunge bassist who’s not looking for that Muse-esque metallic overdrive, letting more of your bass’ natural sound shine through the fuzz and keeping the focus on the music, not on the noise. Which is not to say you can’t get massive fuzz from this pedal if you crank the dial, only that its strength is in the more subtle adjustments the pedal lets you make with the blend and tone knobs, making it excellent for the player who wants to add some grit without having it take over their sound. The four-dial layout is clean, with plenty of space between the dials, and the rugged all-metal casing can stand up to a lot of wear and tear.
Electro-Harmonix Bass Big Muff
If you want to add a fuzz to your tonal arsenal but don’t have a massive budget, consider the Electro-Harmonix Big Muff—an exceptional value at under $100. This pedal gives you great distortion without sacrificing any power in your low end, letting you keep the groove at the same time you add color to your tone. The simplicity of the layout belies the pedal’s true versatility, which can give you everything from a slight low-gain boost to a thick fuzz. If you’re just looking to add a little edge to your sound and not as concerned with heavier levels of distortion, this pedal will give you everything you’re looking for at an incredible price. It’s likely the best bass fuzz pedal for the money.
A Question of Style
It can be hard to draw comparisons between effects pedals because so many manufacturers come up with such unique effects. If you want a Woolly Mammoth sound, you have to buy a Woolly Mammoth (see full specs); there are other great fuzz pedals, but none will sound exactly the same. This can be problematic for the player who’s not sure which fuzz pedal is right for them, because it means a lot of bassists get very attached to one pedal and consider it the ultimate in distortion effects—which it might be for them, but won’t necessarily be for you if you don’t play in the same style.
When you’re trying to narrow down your options, think mostly about what style of music you like to play and look for a pedal that’s being used by others in that genre. The Zvex and the Darkglass Duality (see full specs) models on the list above will give you a very specific kind of sound that’s perfect for a lot of hard rock and metal players but can be problematic if you use any slap bass in your playing, making them less ideal for funk bassists. Players in that genre will likely find the Big Muff gives them the perfect amount of fuzz without giving them any unwanted noise when they use different techniques.
Don’t forget about functionality when you’re shopping for the best bass fuzz pedal, either. Some players can get so caught up in finding the right sound that they forget about whether or not the pedal’s design will cause them headaches down the line. If you plan on using your pedal for live gigs, make sure it has an AC power option—batteries have a tendency to run out at the worst moments, and you don’t want to lose your sound halfway through a set. If you need to be able to make adjustments with your foot during a performance, the tight-set dials of the Duality, for example, could make it hard to fine-tune your tone as you go.
With such a broad array of high-quality fuzz pedals on the market, you’ll be able to find something that gives you just the right amount of distortion and suits your playing style, both logistically and tonally, without having to settle for one or the other.