I had been exchanging pedals back and forth with Fuzzrocious founder, Ryan Ratajski (pronounced ‘ruh-tie-skee’), about doing a review of Fuzzrocious’ ZUUL pedal and this is that review.
I had first come across the ZUUL pedal, also known as the There Is No Dana…only ZUUL, at the time I first started exchanging emails with Ryan, while skimming No Treble. I ran a Youtube search of the pedal where I saw this pedal doing some really cool stuff in the demo-er’s pedalboard. The pedal has since changed it’s design a bit from a solely grey pedal with a painting of Zuul from Ghostbusters into a painting of Harold Ramis as Egon Spangler from Ghostbusters series with different colored knobs.
The ZUUL pedal is an oscillator pedal with overdrive possibilities. The pedal has three controls: Volume, Blend and Oscillator. Turned to the left, the Blend knob mixes your signal in with the oscillator. Turning it to the right makes the oscillator take over to run the pedal strictly as an oscillator.
This review is my experience with the pedal from start to finish: from the unboxing of the pedal, to plugging it in and working with the controls. The opinions and experiences in this piece are entirely my own.
I received a medium sized USPS box from the Fuzzrocious headquarters in New Jersey and inside was a medium sized silver brick pedal with that painting of Harold Ramis looking right at me.
At first glance, I was struck by the simplicity of the pedal. No fancy bells or whistles or over the top branding. Just 3 knobs, a red light, a footswitch and a handmade painting and the word FUZZROCIOUS printed along the front end of the pedal. That was it.
I also noticed that the pedal is surprisingly lightweight. I would have guessed at first glance that the pedal would have weighted a pound or two given that the pedal case looks to be made from steel or iron. But it only came out to a few ounces. Lightweight material (aluminum?) for the win.
Also inside the box was a small ziplock bag with some Fuzzrocious stickers and the company’s business card:
While inspecting the pedal before getting down and plugging it in, I noticed that the pedal doesn’t take batteries at all. The pedal works with only a 9volt adapter. It’s either a 9Volt adapter or nothing with the ZUUL so be sure to have a power supply ready to go for this pedal.
I also noticed that the knobs on the pedal were not labelled. I checked the box again to make sure that I wasn’t missing some kind of instruction manual that would explain the pedal. I even contacted Ryan to ask what the pedal controls were and he directed me to the site where there was a PDF available for download explaining what each of the knobs did. While I’m thankful the solution was so apparent, it did seem a little strange not to have these knobs outright labeled. A small thing, but worth noting none the less.
Here are the 3 controls on the pedal from left to right:
Volume: a master volume control for the pedal
Blend: a knob to control the blend of clean signal/oscillator balance
Oscillator: the master knob to control the rate of tremolo and oscillation that the pedal will deliver to the incoming signal.
One thing I found particularly interesting was the placement of the Input and Output jacks. Most pedals will have their Input and Output jacks on the left and right sides of the pedal respectfully making for a logical connection from one pedal to the next. The ZUUL on the other hand has both of theirs on the front of the pedal. Though there was no issue on my end getting the pedal chain made and squared away when all my pedals were on the outside of the gig bag, again, for those that worry about continuity in their pedal chains, this is something to take note of.
Demoing the ZUUL
When the pedal chain was all setup and I activated the pedal, I was a little confused. The first thing that caught my ear was a tick-tock clicking sound that was coming out of my amp. At first I thought I was doing something wrong with the pedal for it to make that sound. I tried turning the knobs, changing up the order of pedals in the chain but the clicking sound was still there. I contacted Ryan about this and he said to me that that was in fact correct and one of the features of the pedal. This is not a quiet pedal, he assured me.
It turns out that the clicking sound to the pedal is an indicator that the oscillator effect in the pedal is active and that that is a feature of the pedal.
The Oscillator knob took the most time to understand. The clicking sound of the oscillator through the amp kept throwing me off. Even though I was playing, I couldn’t help but catch myself focusing too much on the actual clicking sound and less on what was being played. However, there were moments when I could get my effects and my playing enough in the forefront of my mind that I forgot about the clicking. It was during those moments that the rewards of this pedal were rich. The playing seemed to gain tremendous depth and dimension with a little bit of shake. While I had trouble imagining the benefits of this pedal working for your run of the mill rock band or funk band, someone in a noise rock band, an experimental band or as a bass player looking for a neat addition to their pedal board for a solo performance, this is the pedal for you.
As I touched on before, the oscillator is not the only effect this pedal has. It’s also a very good overdrive/fuzz pedal as well. With the volume kept at around 7:00 (and believe me – that was MORE than enough), and the blend turned all the way to the left, I was able to get a very dirty, gritty overdrive effect out of the pedal. Think of a BOSS ODB-3 overdrive effect but with fewer tone shaping options. Just bare bones fuzz action.
For this demo, I kept my volume at around 9-10am, my Blend would move from 7am to 1pm and my Oscillator knob swung the whole frequency gamut during this test. With a lot of oscillation, the signal gets pretty hairy pretty quick but between 7:00 and 11:00, the oscillation was more complimentary to the fuzz effect of the pedal and to the integration of other pedals. Moreover, this was a hot pedal and when it comes to Volume through this pedal, a little bit will take you a long way. The rest of the work was done through a combination of the amp and my bass. In conjunction with the wah pedal, I was able to get some very dirty, wonky sounds, like something that Sonic Youth in their heyday or Swans today might make.
When it’s all said and done, this is a pretty neat pedal that any pedal aficionado should work to get their hands on. Oscillator pedals don’t usually offer much more than just plain oscillation to your signal. But with the ZUUL, you’re getting your oscillation effect plus some added fuzz, some killer artwork and a handmade touch.
For someone like me, though I did find working with this pedal frustrating at times, mostly because of the clicking effect that comes from the pedal being active. But beyond that, this pedal has some serious punch. The overdrive is fierce and responsive and the oscillator effect when dialed in right will make for some really cool effects. If you’ve got other effects to play with as well, bring ‘em on. They only make this pedal gets better with company.
Check out Fuzzrocious’ own demo of their ZUUL pedal here: