Lookit — My New Pedals!

Awesome! I just received production prototypes for my next three stompbox releases, in the wake of last month’s launch of my Duh Remedial Fuzz. I’m still making minor tweaks, but these should be available in just a few weeks. Whee!


Filth is a freaky joystick fuzz. Cult is my oddball take on Rangemaster-style single-transistor overdrive. It’s my absolute favorite distortion device, and the same one heard in many of my videos and gear reviews. The Cult Germanium Channel supplements this simple but deadly circuit with extra controls and an active EQ stage.
(Baby skunk sold separately.)


Filth. I love whack-job fuzz boxes like the Z. Vex Fuzz Factory and the countless “sick fuzz” pedals it’s inspired over the last two decades. But here my goal was to create one with a higher percentage of “likely to use” settings — I wanted to make it easier to find the good stuff. Topologically, the circuit’s nothing tricky — basically a Fuzz Face descendent coupled with an extra JFET boost stage (though it doesn’t sound remotely like any Fuzz Face you’ve ever heard). The main innovation is the x/y control, which jiggers the transistor biasing, producing a broad array of timbres. It’s not a conventional tone control, though it’s arranged so that it’s easy to summon smooth, chubby tones or angry, brittle ones.

There was a lot of interest in this a couple of years ago when Fuzz Box Girl posted a demo (apparently no longer online) of one of my handmade ones. She focused on the pedal’s maximum-gain, My Bloody Valentine side, which was fine — Filth can definitely make your amp melt like a Salvador Dali timepiece. But now it’s easier to dial in crisp, lower-gain tones.

I’m making two Filth versions: the joystick model [pictured], and one with three conventional knobs. They sound identical — only the interfaces differ. The three-knob is good if you want to mark an exact setting for use onstage, while the joystick is more fun when concocting new sounds. (I don’t know the exact pricing yet, but the joystick model will cost more, because that’s an expensive part!)

I’m far from the first builder to create a joystick stompbox, but you usually encounter them on crazy noisemaker effects, or deployed as conventional EQ controls. I’m not aware of another pedal where it regulates the fuzz’s fundamental timbre this way. But then, I don’t get out as much as I should.

Cult. If you’ve seen my videos or heard my audio demos, you’ve probably heard Cult. I’ve built it into several guitars (while others have a built-in Duh fuzz). It’s a one-germanium-transisor boost descended from the Dallas Rangemaster of the 1960s, though the apple has rolled far from the tree: All part values differ, the EQ profile is modernized, and the gain control works in an unconventional way. But like a Rangemaster, it boasts spectacular dynamic response and electrifying tones that crackle with presence.

To my (admittedly odd) ear, no other distortion sounds as bitchin’ as a single-transistor boost between a good guitar and a great amp. The weird thing is, while most players know the countless ’60s rock tracks produced with such primitive boosters, many  have never tried this sort of circuit. I love faithful Rangemaster clones, and I love many of the variations I’ve explored over the last five years. But Cult is my very favorite recipe.

Cult Germanium Channel. This one pairs the Cult circuit with relatively modern active EQ/boost stage, with proper tone controls that don’t suck tone. The added circuitry sacrifices a touch of Cult’s explosive presence, but it provides a greater range of tones. There’s also more gain on tap, so it’s better for those high-testosterone rawk tones that I’m far too much of an prissy, effete San Franciscan to use myself.

Thanks a Lott. As mentioned, these are manufactured by Cusack Music in Michigan, under the expert eye of engineer Tony Lott. Cusack builds pedals for numerous  boutique brands you know, many of whom prefer to keep the fact a secret. But I’m proud of the relationship, because Tony and his team improve everything I submit. (More about the collaborative process below. It’s fascinating stuff, assuming you’re a geek — which I do assume, since you’re here.)

Here’s a typical workflow: Once I feel a pedal is ready, I build two benchmark units. I send one to Tony, along with schematics, graphics, and notes. He designs a new circuit board (trust me — he’s way better at it than I am), and sometimes suggests alternate components, or different ways of configuring things. Eventually he sends a prototype or two, and I compare to the original, making notes and suggestions as needed. Eventually we finalize, and the pedal goes into production.

We use automated production and surface-mounted components where possible. It lowers production costs, allowing us to create US-made stompboxes at less-than-ridiculous prices. The parts also tend to be more consistent and reliable. But we avoid that stuff when the SMD components display any perceptible sonic difference relative to the original through-hole parts, or if a key component isn’t available in SMD format. Tony’s not afraid to design boards that mix surface-mount and through-hole components (as with Cult, whose germanium transistor only exists as a through-hole component). We’ve done four pedals this way, and without exception, the production models sound better than my hand-wired prototypes. Plus, they don’t break if you shake them, like my hand-soldered stuff does with depressing regularity. Tony’s real good, and he makes all my stuff better.

Sorry for not having final pricing or audio demos — I will soon! But I’m so stoked, I couldn’t help sharing these baby pictures.

27 comments to Lookit — My New Pedals!

  • Paul Boutin

    Hurray for you, Joe! My Duh pedal has been popular at the studio.

  • Linda B

    I’ve had the Cult for a few years and I can’t even consider playing without it. Congrats, Joe! Can’t wait for folks to hear how perfect these! YOU RULE. So do your pedals.

  • thomas4th

    Awesome! A lot of my favorite guitar sounds (Iommi’s and May’s, in particular) have incorporated Rangemasters or similar treble boosters, so I’m definitely interested in a Cult, and I’ve had my eye on the Duh since it was announced. The Filth and its joystick are just begging to be installed in a guitar, maybe in combination with a sustainer for weird fuzzed-out drones.

    • joe

      I know! I probably sound like some geriatric dude always repeating the same comments, but I continue to be astounded that almost no hard rock or metal players use Iommi-type boosts with retro PAFs. Everyone seems to worship Iommi’s tone, but no one seems to care about his methodology!

      It’s really pretty simple: In the late ’60s, techs would swap Rangemaster input caps with larger-than-stock values. Result: More lows. More distortion. And the birth of metal guitar tone, IMHO.

      The Cult input cap is relatively large — the pedal is definitely not a treble booster, though the circuit delivers lovely highs (unlike a lot of Screamer-type distortions, which to my ear often have dull, flat treble response). Meanwhile, the pre control on the Cult Germanium Channel fades between a small and a large input cap, so it ranges from traditional treble boost to Iommi+.

  • Oinkus

    Good to see that you are increasing your pedal line , I am currently working on getting a double klon clone from a guy over on the SD forums. Immaculate work and huge attention to detail , not much work lately so no idea when I will manage that pedal or one of yours .

  • Sweet Joe! Glad to see things moving forward with this enterprise. I was out buying an amp last week (Wizard Vintage Classic!) when I met a total pedal nut, and lo and behold, he had just purchased and was raving about his Duh! I’m trying to figure out how to smuggle a Cult past my wife – “What? ANOTHER BOOSTER??!!”

    • joe

      Oh, those Wizard amps are a trip. I forget the name of the dude who makes them, but he’s also done tech work for AC/DC. I once got to watch AC/DC track in the studio on one of their Rick Rubin albums. The Young brothers had their plexi heads on the floor with the tops off, and every once in a while, the Wizard guy would scurry from a corner, adjust the bias, then scurry back. It reminded me of those ball-retrievers in tennis. Coincidentally, Wizard is distributed through Vintage King, who also do my stuff. How do you like the amp?

  • Joystick an flies make me think Frogger., even though I don’t remember flies in that game. Time to start saving up!

  • Colm

    Job well done. Congratulations.

  • soggybag

    Those look great. Secretly I want to redesign that in and put arrow. Not so secretly, I want to clone them!

  • telejazz

    Hey Joe, I love the site and your non talking vids, though I’m sure you would sound real good. I love the sound and concept of the duh and was about to buy one but am now confused by more fuzz, more options! Will you be posting demos of the new pedals soon. How does the duh differ from the cult? keep doing what you doing man

    • joe

      Hi telejazz — thanks for the kind words! I’ll have a proper demo video by the time Cult is released in a few weeks, but you can hear the same circuit built into a couple my guitars in these videos:


      While Duh is uncommonly dynamic for a fuzz, it IS a fuzz, in the sense that it always sounds distorted when engaged. Cult doesn’t get as fuzzy, but it’s so dynamic, it can sound almost identical to your non-Cult tone when you roll back the guitar’s volume. Duh tends to have a consistent sound, regardless of how you set your amp, but Cult is all about interacting with a slightly overdriven amp — it hits your amp input hard, and you need to play with fair amount of amp gain to get the best effect. That’s why Duh has a master volume control, and Cult does not.

      Hope that helps! I’ll have a more focused and detailed Cult demo up soon. Thanks for your interest. 🙂

  • dx

    Man, can’t wait to hear/see that Filth pedal, any rough ideas how far from production it is? I’d actually try to make my own w/ joystick, but I trust your ears a lot better when it comes to fuzzes!

  • Michael Rock

    Hi Joe, is the Duh a germanium fuzz? It’s sounds rad. I’ve got a Hartman but it died. Your pedals sound amazing.

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